5 mobile technologies you have to master

Technologies for your phone, laptop and tablet are leading a revolution in computing. Are you ready?

1. Mobile desktops

Vision: Instead of loading stand-alone applications and data onto smart phones and tablet or laptop PCs, agencies will use the mobile devices as portals to resources housed in internal data centers or cloud services. Workers will be unchained from assigned desks and hard-wired computers, and IT managers will gain greater management control over software, information and security policies on the mobile devices.

Reality: The public-sector push to private clouds is putting IT departments on track to deliver on-demand services — a change from the need to maintain hundreds or thousands of desktop PCs. Server virtualization provides an introduction to desktop virtualization, which can allow for greater control of mobile devices.

2. The new personal computer

Vision: Tomorrow’s super-powered, untethered hardware — including multiprocessor smart phones, tablets and netbooks — will replace traditional PCs for all but a few power users who require maximum processing horsepower right there on their desktop.

Reality: Today’s tricked-out smart phones come with dual-core processors, and quad-core models are expected by the end of the year. MicroSD chips carry 32M or more of memory. When those features are coupled with advancements in operating systems, smart phones and tablet PCs could become viable desktop replacements.

3. Data management and security

Vision: Advanced mobile management tools will make it easier to synchronize data between mobile devices and data centers and make it possible to draw clear separations between business and personal information stored on devices.

Reality: Data synchronization options are available today with commercial products — such as Google Docs, Dropbox and Box.net — that create cloud-based central folders for storing files accessible by mobile and desktop PCs. However, vendors are still in the early stages of introducing products that allow devices to safely double for work and personal use without exposing sensitive agency information or an individual’s personal data.

4. Ubiquitous wireless networks

Vision: Next-generation cellular and Wi-Fi networks will enable wireless connectivity almost everywhere and at data throughput rates that are equivalent to the fastest wired networks.

Reality: Next-generation Long Term Evolution and WiMax — and subsequently LTE Advanced and WiMax 2 — will continue to raise the performance bar for wireless networks. But speed isn’t enough. Service providers are struggling with the more fundamental problem of limited spectrum availability. The solution to that problem will rely on new and creative ways for service providers and enterprises to incorporate Wi-Fi and other wireless technologies in a bandwidth mix that can handle both voice and data traffic.

5. Unified communications

Vision: In addition to providing multiple ways to communicate — including voice, instant messaging, e-mail, and Web and videoconferencing — mobile devices will provide seamless interfaces so users can move from a phone call to a video chat and Web conference without hanging up and reconnecting. Meanwhile, the network transport on that single call could switch without interruption from an in-office wireless local-area network or Wi-Fi hot spot to a cellular network by searching for the most efficient and cost-effective path available.

Reality: Although all the individual channels are available on wireless devices, the underlying technology for unifying them into a seamless whole remains immature in the mobile world. The same goes for bridging Wi-Fi to cellular and voice and data networks in a seamless manner. Some vendors have made progress with forwarding voice-mail messages to e-mail accounts or vice versa, but unified communications is a more complex integration of multiple network transport types and communication channels in real time.

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