Watching the development of cell phones and smart phones actually might be the same thing as watching the development of future computers. Due to their increasing functionality and high level of convenience, they are actually beginning to take the place of computers for some people.
A good example of this is with the cell phone culture in Japan. Some of the features that are just becoming available in parts of the world with the iPhone have actually been available in Japan for a long time. Features such as GPS, email, and bar code scanning have actually been on cell phones in Japan for years.
The interesting thing about these products is that it seems people are willing to forego some features if it means more portability and usability. The perfect example of this is with Apple’s iPhone. It is a very advanced product, but is definitely without some of the features people would say are necessary on a computer. Despite this fact they are making a pretty strong bid at replacing computers considering how many features they come with and the rapid rate at which people want to develop applications. As someone who has owned (and loved) an iPhone I can say that they are definitely not a computer, but the convenience is very hard to beat.
In fact, a growing trend in Japan are cell phone novels – novels that were written and are read on cell phones. The books are delivered in pieces on the cell phone to allow the convenience of reading them by text message on a morning commute. There are full online communities around these novels and publishers are even beginning to pay large sums of money for the best ones. A measure of the success is that several bestsellers in Japan were originally cell phone novels.
So keep your eyes open for the future computers because they might not be what you would expect. As time has passed the media has loved to show computers of the future as these incredibly complex gadgets with infinite features, but the reality is that their simplicity and convenience might be all that is necessary to take them into the next generation of computer. In reality, we might be venturing into this new land of electronics as we speak.