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How Disruptions in Mobile Computing are Redefining Modern IT May 4, 2013

Posted by louloizides in Modern IT.

The use of Mobile Computing has been rising rapidly over the past decade. Smartphone usage, for instance, grew 90% in 2012 alone (Cisco, 2013). But several disruptive technologies had to emerge to cause this to happen. This report explores some of these technologies.

Before smartphones constituted mobile computing, there was already a shift in hardware technology that was moving from desktop to mobile laptop. Two key drivers of this were the shrinking of hardware to fit the smaller form factor and the availability of wireless networking. The Wi-Fi standard was created in 2007 and its adoption was partially driven by Apple (The Economist, 2004). One could argue that Wi-Fi gave consumers their first experience with mobile devices, starting the trend. And Wi-Fi usage correlates well with the rapid growth of these devices. Wi-Fi data consumption will grow 26 times between 2010 and 2015 and will overtake wired network traffic by 2015 (Roettgers, 2011). Furthermore, in places where cellular plans can be unaffordable, people can use Wi-Fi and a mobile device to make calls using services such as Google Voice (Dias & Wilson, 2011).

Further continuing the trend Wi-Fi started to free computing of a fixed location, the usage of cellular data for Internet access has also grown rapidly. Mobile traffic grew by 70% in 2012 and will increase 13 fold between 2012 and 2017 (Cisco, 2013).

While not necessarily a disruption, another factor encouraging the development of the mobile networking is it’s usefulness in emerging markets. Because of the rapid growth of these markets wired infrastructure can’t expand quickly enough. Wireless networking bridges that gab. China, for instance, is dwarfing all other countries with its mobile device growth rate of 293% year over year since 2011 (Farago, 2012). Similarly, countries in the Middle East and Africa have the strongest annual mobile data usage growth at 77 percent compounded (Cisco, 2013). Due to its open source operating system driving lower cost mobile devices, Google’s international market share grew 3x between 2009 and 2010. (Dias & Wilson, 2011).

Wireless networking isn’t the only hardware technology driving mobile computing. Several other innovations exist from OLED screens to higher capacity batteries. But two hardware innovations are extremely disruptive and important. One is flash memory. Flash memory can be produced in a smaller size than a drive with moving components and uses less energy. In addition, it has had the effect of removing the delicateness of computing. A mobile phone with a moving hard drive would be prone to data failure if violently moved, whereas flash memory is robust enough to handle being dropped on the floor (Dias & Wilson, 2011).

The other big innovation is the move towards RISC computing. ARM, a producer of risk devices, built processors for some of the earliest PDAs like the Apple Newton. The company differentiated themselves from other processor giants like Intel by focusing on reduced instruction set (RISC) design (ARM stands for “Advanced RISC Machine”) (Goodwin, 2013). These processors provided an efficient, lower power implementation to allow mobile devices to operate for long periods of time on limited power. Because of this disruption, shares in ARM are rising while PC revenue is falling (Endler, 2013). ARM’s architecture has been so successful that ARM is now producing low powered embedded servers for more efficient data centers (Wittmann, 2013).

In addition to hardware, several software disruptions are also driving mobile technology. At the forefront of this currently is cloud computing. Cloud computing in terms of business impact has enabled rapid application development by essentially removing the need to invest in infrastructure. In addition, revenue models that formerly to start off negative due to investments are now instant and dynamic. In fact, new accounting standards have had to be created because of this dynamic revenue recognition (KPMG, 2012).

As far as the impact to mobile technology, the cloud is disrupting legacy mobile and web application designs. Perhaps most importantly, the use of cloud servers has allowed service providers to build scalable applications that can keep up with rapid mobile device growth.  In addition to this, while files stored on a mobile device can be lost with that device, storage in a cloud won’t. Mobile devices couldn’t exist with the same levels of usage they have today if the users lost all of their data with the loss of a device. And along the same lines, having data in a cloud allows a user to sync their data across several devices (Dias & Wilson, 2011). So information can be mobile when it’s convenient but still accessible through non-mobile methods. This can help aid in someone’s transition to using a mobile device.

The concept of the mobile app itself is another disruption that has driven the mobile industry. The app store sales model has allowed individual developers and small IT firms to achieve exceptional app sales with small amounts of investment. There are expected to have been 55 billion app downloads across app stores by the end of 2013 (Cocotas, 2012). Furthermore, innovations like Gesture based computing are changing the way people interact with computer programs and encouraging software developer to improve their existing software for mobile use (Dias & Wilson, 2011).

While mobile computing itself can be considered a disruption, clearly several other technologies had to disrupt existing technologies to help drive mobile development. These trends will continue until the next set of disruptions shift the paradigm towards an even newer concept in computing that very few people will be able to predict.

Works Cited

Cisco. (2013, Feb 6). Cisco. Retrieved Apr 26, 2013, from Cisco Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update, 2012–2017: http://www.cisco.com/en/US/solutions/collateral/ns341/ns525/ns537/ns705/ns827/white_paper_c11-520862.html

Cocotas, A. (2012, Jan 8). Chart of the Day: The Impressive Growth of App Store Downloads. Retrieved Apr 26, 2013, from Business Insider: http://www.businessinsider.com/chart-of-the-day-apple-app-downloads-2013-1

Dias, R., & Wilson, C. (2011, Jan). Mobile Computing Disruptions for the Connected Era, A Vesselhead Technology Brief. Retrieved Apr 26, 2013, from Vesselhead: http://vesselhead.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/vesselhead_disruptions.pdf

Endler, M. (2013, Apr 23). ARM Earnings Rise As PC Market Falls. Retrieved Apr 25, 2013, from Information Week: http://www.informationweek.com/hardware/processors/arm-earnings-rise-as-pc-market-falls/240153475

Farago, P. (2012, Nov 28). Flurry Blog. Retrieved Apr 26, 2013, from Electric Technology, Apps and The New Global Village: http://blog.flurry.com/bid/91911/Electric-Technology-Apps-and-The-New-Global-Village

Goodwin, R. (2013, Mar 26). Lilliput Slays Gulliver: ARM Vs Intel, And Why Intel Lost The War. Retrieved Apr 26, 2013, from Seeking Alpha: http://seekingalpha.com/article/1300481-lilliput-slays-gulliver-arm-vs-intel-and-why-intel-lost-the-war

KPMG. (2012, Aug). Mobilizing Innovation: The changing landscape of disruptive technologies. Retrieved Apr 26, 2013, from KPMG: http://www.kpmg.com/FR/fr/IssuesAndInsights/ArticlesPublications/Documents/Technology-Innovation-Survey-2012.pdf

Roettgers, J. (2011, Jun 1). Wi-Fi to Overtake Wired Network Traffic by 2015. Retrieved Apr 26, 2013, from Gigaom: http://gigaom.com/2011/06/01/cisco-wifi-vni-report/

The Economist. (2004, Jun 10). A brief history of Wi-Fi. Retrieved Apr 26, 2013, from The Economist: http://www.economist.com/node/2724397

Wittmann, A. (2013, Apr 10). ARM, AppliedMicro Take On Intel In Data Center. Retrieved Apr 25, 2013, from Information Week: http://www.informationweek.com/quickview/arm-appliedmicro-take-on-intel-in-data-c/3064?wc=4&itc=edit_in_body_cross






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