We are increasingly mobile and connected. It is easier now than ever to access people or content using one of the many available wireless mobile devices. For example, global smartphone sales topped $69 million in 2006, with projected sales of $190 million by 2011. The number of cellular subscribers worldwide is expected to grow from 2 billion in 2005 to 3.2 billion by 2010. Europe and North America are reaching nearsaturation points, and China had the highest number of subscribers with 400 million at the end of 2005. In addition, the global market for mobile-phone content, including music, gaming, and video, is expected to expand to more than $43 billion by 2010 (Computer Industry Almanac, 2005, 2006). The evolution from mainframes to wired desktops and now wireless mobile devices has caused fundamental changes in the ways in which we communicate with others or access, process, create, and share information (e.g., Castells, Fernandez-Ardevol, & Sey, 2007; Ito, Okabe, & Matsuda, 2005; Roush, 2005). Just like the introduction of the mechanical clock altered our perceptions of time and the invention of the magnetic compass changed our view of physical space, continuous and wireless access to digital resources is redefining the ways in which we perceive and use our dimensions of social time and space.
Background: A Brief History Of Highly Mobile Devices
The development of handheld computers (excluding calculators) can be traced back to the Dynabook concept in the 1970s, followed by attempts such as the Psion I (1984), GRiDPaD (1988), Amstrad’s PenPad and Tandy’s Zoomer (1993), the Apple Newton (1993-1995), and the eMate (1997-1998). US Robotics introduced the Palm Pilot in 1996, the first personal digital assistant (PDA) to feature a graphical user interface, text input using handwriting recognition software, and data exchange with a desktop computer. This device became the forerunner of several generations of devices powered by the Palm OS (Williams, 2004), manufactured by Palm, Handspring, and Sony. At the same time, Microsoft pursued the development of a Windows-based portable device. This resulted in the release of Windows CE 2.0 in 1997, followed by the Handheld PC Professional and Windows Mobile 2003 and version 5 Operating Systems (HPC Factor, 2004). Windows-based handhelds and ultra mobile personal computers (UMPCs) have been produced by companies like HP, Compaq, Dell, and more recently Fujitsu Siemens.
The development of mobile and smart phones has followed a similar path, starting with mobile rigs in taxicabs and police cars and early attempts by Ericsson and Motorola. However, the form factor did not proliferate until the development of first-generation cellular (1G) in the early 1980s, soon followed by second (2G) (1990s), and third (3G) (2000s) generation mobile phone systems such as global system for mobile communications (GSM) and universal mobile telecommunications service (UMTS). Today, a wide variety of mobile phones and services is available. Besides voice calls, mobile phones can be used for text messaging, Internet browsing, e-mail, photo and video creation, and watching TV. In addition, cell phones are increasingly used to create and share Web-based content (Hamill & Lasen, 2005).
A third and increasingly popular mobile tool is the portable game console. While many mobile devices such as handhelds and mobile phones can be used for games, it is not their primary function. Currently available systems such as the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP have wireless capabilities and can therefore be networked locally for peer-to-peer gaming or used to access the Internet (Parika & Suominen, 2006).
Key Terms in this Chapter
PDA: Personal digital assistants are handheld computers that were originally designed as personal organizers but have quickly developed into full-functioning portable computers. They are characterized by a touch screen for data entry, a memory card slot, and various types of wireless connectivity for data backup and sharing.
GSM: Global system for mobile communications (GSM) is the most popular standard for mobile phones providing higher digital voice quality, global roaming, and low cost alternatives to making calls such as text messaging. The advantage for network operators has been the ability to deploy equipment from different vendors because the open standard allows easy interoperability
IEEE 802.11: Also known as Wi-Fi, 802.11x denotes a set of wireless LAN/WLAN standards developed by Working Group 11 of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers LAN/MAN Standards Committee. The most common standards currently used include 802.11a, b, and g.
WAN: Wireless area network. Linking two or more computing devices by way of radio-wave technology. Examples include wireless wide area network (WWAN), wireless local area network (WLAN), and personal area network (PAN).
IR: Infrared. Electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths longer than visible light but shorter than radio waves, which can be used for the short range exchange of data.
Highly Mobile Device: Digital device that has high mobility, a small footprint, the computational and display capabilities to access, view, collect, or otherwise use representations and/or large amounts of data, and the ability to support collaboration and/or data sharing.
Smartphone: A full-featured mobile phone with personal computer like functionality, including cameras, e-mail, enhanced data processing, and connectivity.
UMPC: Ultra-Mobile PC. Specification for a small form-factor tablet PC.
M-Learning: “The processes of coming to know through conversations across multiple contexts amongst people and personal interactive technologies” (Sharples et al., 2007).