The Information Age is here. There is little doubt about that. A major question remains: "How long will it continue and what are the costs?"
Here is a look at the future of smart devices. Keep in mind that it is only one side-without any consideration of the raw materials needed, environmental/cultural impact, health issues, etc.
Tim Cook, the new CEO of Apple Computers, recently said in an interview that in two years, Apple sold 55 million iPads. To put that into context it took Apple three years to sell as many iPhones, five years to sell as many iPods and 22 years to sell as many Macs. "I will always love the Mac, but the future is in smart devices, be it a smart phone or a tablet."
Many people today feel that they do not need one of these devices, and perhaps they are correct. But how long can people afford to be on the outside looking in?
As businesses look for ways to compete, company issued smart devices have become the norm rather than the exception. Every lawyer, doctor, accountant or middle-manager has one. Why should it be limited to these groups only? What company would not want their employees to have all the information, immediately, necessary for a negotiation? Or to be able to tell a customer exactly where their product is by tracking it? Or to be able to send them a picture or video of their product during the different stages of completion?
According to Dailytech.com, "...the United Nations predicts that the world population will hit 7.3 billion in 2016. Cisco predicts boldly that the mobile device population will be 10 billion by then." Again those are absolute mind-boggling numbers. Certainly some people will use them mostly for entertainment purposes. Others may use it mostly for social media like Facebook or Xing. Some simply like to use it for news. But for a growing part of the business sector, smart devices are a way to have multiple presentations at an employee's fingertips, or stored biographies with name/face recognition apps, up to date stock prices, patient's histories at hospitals, etc.
TIME magazine recently reported that kindergarteners who used iPads in instruction scored significantly higher in literacy tests. Few could argue that for today's children, moving pictures are simply the only way to learn. Most toddlers today would shudder at the idea of chalk and a blackboard. Many schools have already begun to think of how they can integrate smart devices into their curriculum.
In 1965, Gordon E. Moore developed a theory that the processor speed and size will double approximately every two years. Astoundingly, his idea, Moore's Law, is still true today (though chip-maker Intel says by 2015 it may take 3 years to double). By 2014, many smartphones or Tablet PC's may hold up to 128GB of storage which is equivalent to all the books you have ever read, a movie a week and about 25 different songs a day for a year. And there will be plenty of space left over.
Though many questions remain about what exactly is the complete impact on us of smart devices, some things are clear. The segment of the population in the developed world that will be able to continue to say "I don't need a smartphone," is surely going to decrease. The ability to get information in seconds can be quite stimulating.
The Information Age, as much as or more than the Industrial Revolution, the Enlightenment, etc., will transform our lives and the world we live in. See the Arab Spring. Or Russia. Even China. Immense calculations that may bring us closer to a cure for cancer, malaria or some other debilitating disease. Or finding another planet with intelligent life. And even some anonymous person may hold the key and with his device share some info that could be game-changing.
And for anybody who has ever purchased a smart device it becomes quite clear: "Why did I wait so long?"
In my next column, I would like to look at some of the ramifications and negative side-effects of being so connected.