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“The Biggest Tech Platform In History": HP mobility guru Jon Rubinstein on the future of wireless

A full house Tuesday night at San Jose’s Churchill Club got to hear HP mobility exec Jon Rubinstein and Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs pondering the future of wireless computing, a technology the event billed as “the biggest tech platform in history."


So what is next for wireless, event moderator and AllThingsD co-founder Kara Swisher  wanted to know.  


Resisting Swisher's legendary ability to wring out information, Rubinstein was cagy about product details.  But he argued that the hit mobile products and services of the future will only result from offering a first-rate user experience and from moving fully into the cloud.


“What enables breakthroughs,” said Rubinstein, “is the convergence of technology, product vision and software.” HP and Palm, he suggested, are well positioned to integrate across that entire spectrum, unlike some other players in the mobile space that account for individual elements of the user experience.


Qualcomm’s Jacobs predicted that before too long we’ll see smartphones able to sense much more than their locations, that will be remote controls for manipulating the environment around us and that will offer us new ways to share.  We’ll point phones at signs in a foreign language and get an instant translation, he suggested.  And we’ll be using sensors attached to phones to remotely diagnose health problems, especially in nations where heath care is the least developed.


When Swisher pushed for some for really futuristic predictions, Rubinstein imagined that we’ll one day sleep with mobile devices in our ears.  Our pillows, he said, might then “recharge the electronics in your head."


What could hold wireless back? Both execs agreed that power (i.e. battery life) and the limited availability of cellular bandwidth present the two biggest technical challenges right now. 


How about market fragmentation, asked Swisher?  Is it a problem to have seven different mobile OSs to choose from?  “We’re only at the very beginning of this,” Rubinstein replied, a point born out by news yesterday that Apple’s share of the mobile OS market has slipped from 51.9% to 33% in the last year. Data released yesterday morning by Neilsen further suggests that the smartphone battle is only just starting to heat up.  


Some barriers to wireless growth will be more social than technical. Both Jacobs and Rubinstein argued that before we can exploit all that wireless has to offer we’ve got habits that need to be unlearned and fears that need to be overcome.


Rubinstein said he has a ready reply when people worry about sharing data with cloud-based services.  “Where do you keep your money?” he asks.  For most, of course, it’s in a bank.  “See,” says Rubinstein, “it’s already in the cloud.”


That comment was much retweeted by members of last night's tech-heavy audience, many of whom offered real-time event commentary under the #Churchillclub hashtag -- a reminder that whatever cool stuff is on the horizon, the biggest tech platform in history has already seriously reshaped our world.


Labels: Innovation
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