For those of us covering the computer industry, each year begins with the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, after which we hop a flight to San Francisco just in time for MacWorld the following week. As an industry analyst, I am in a unique position when I go to these shows, because I get to see a lot of stuff in private rooms that won’t hit the market until later in the year. Seeing the future behind closed doors gives me an understanding of what types of new mobile devices could seriously impact the buying decisions of Mobile Enterprise readers, and so I will continue to share these trends in upcoming columns to make sure you stay ahead of the curve.
The biggest trend so far this year is that almost all of the new devices I saw had either an Internet connection or were connected to each other in some way. There were new digital cameras with Wi-Fi built in, as well as new handheld PDAs that, thanks to Wi-Fi, can become VoIP handsets. This trend makes it clear that if everything is connected, vendors will have to rethink the designs of their products in the future and consumers will have a lot more interesting applications and options available to them.
New smartphones were also in abundance, and three stuck out as real winners. The first is the Palm Treo 700w smartphone running on Windows Mobile 5.0. If you have an Exchange server, it is a very good handheld solution for push e-mail, as well as for working with existing Windows applications. I also got to play with the Motorola Q, another Windows Mobile 5.0 device, which is Motorola’s answer to the Treo. It, too, looks great and has a lot of potential. It should hit the market in Q2 of 2006. And the third phone that caught my eye was the Samsung SPH-V4500, which has a 1-inch Cornice hard drive that can store up to 1.5 gigs of information. As the first mobile phone with an embedded storage solution, the SPH-V4500 represents an entirely new class of mobile phone technology capable of storing hundreds of MP3 files and thousands of images, as well as downloading video content. While initially more directed at consumers, one can imagine its use in business applications.
MacWorld had its share of hot products as well. Apple showed off the new Macs with Intel’s Core Duo chips inside, and although the desktops were a hit, the biggest news came with the introduction of the 15.4-inch MacBook Pro laptop. Apple has long been criticized for not being able to deliver a faster notebook with its original PowerPC Chips, though it was not the fault of Apple itself but of Motorola and Freescale. Their chips ran too hot to use in laptops, which, in the end, was one of the reasons Apple jumped over to the Intel side. I have been playing with this new laptop for a while, and it is four to five times faster than my current PowerBook Titanium. This will make the Mac faithful happy and could entice some PC users to the Mac arena as well.
Regarding this new alliance, a question has come up about the ability to run Windows XP on these new Macs. Interestingly, Apple’s official position is that it is not opposed to this, although it will not do anything to actually support it. I expect to see a third-party application within six months that will allow for some type of dual-booting of the two operating systems. These Macs support Intel’s new Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI). This is a modular, platform-independent architecture that can perform boot and other BIOS functions and will be supported in Microsoft’s new Vista OS when it comes out later this year. At least in theory, because of EFI, Vista should be able to run on these new Macs, as is.