Envisioning the post-iPad world of personal computers…

First, let me start by saying that I’m a big fan of my iPhone & iPad… Is it perfect? No! Not by far!

  • iPad is cumbersome. Holding it in one hand & reading is guaranteed to cause pain. Typing on the iPad for any length of time is sure to aggravate your carpal-tunnel syndrome
  • Viewing movies on iPad is far from satisfying.
  • But it is good enough for consuming small amounts of data regularly. And the iPad is a very capable computing device powerful enough to do most common personal computing tasks – browsing, emails, videos, docs.
So, what will the future post-iPad computers look like?
  • Display & the actual computer will be decoupled.
  • The computer will be the one that accompanies you all the time – your future superphone.
  • The display as well as the keyboard/mouse will be a separate device that is appropriate to the task at hand – either a TV or a projector or a tablet or a laptop or just a small phone display.
  • Your computer will always be connected – Wifi or 4G.
  • But the data on your computer will all come from the cloud –  or atleast be backed up there. So losing your computer wont be as traumatic.
To some extent, the Atrix 4G is a sign of what’s to come in the post-iPad world.

Could we build a true simulation model of the Human Brain?

We have discovered and invented lots of things in computing since Charles Babbage invented his Analytical Engine and Ada Lovelace started programming it. Our quest has been to mimic the human brain and its functions. There are many areas we have gone way past the abilities of the human brain – fast numerical computations, massive data analysis like in internet search, etc.

But we still dont understand how the human brain works.

Lately we have started understanding the fundamental biology, chemistry & function of the neuron (fundamental unit of the brain) much better than ever before.
         – We are able to map the complete neuron structures of small insects
         – We are able to tap into the ends of neurons, sense their signals (audio) and make them control machines (bionic hands)
         – For many decades now, we have used the “postulated” principles of the brain in Neural Networks and Genetic Algorithms. We have even attempted to replicate the human brain as a software model for Machine Vision applications.

Now that we begin to understand the “real” function of the neurons and their connections, the question is:
       – Could we build a true software model of the human brain, provide it some “sensory input” and let it freely “think”
       – Not to solve a specific application. Not to control any robots. Not
       – But just to understand how our own brains “think”

Why would we want to do this? We’ll “know better” once we actually build it. 🙂

Indian Education scene – 3 big changes in 2010

I had blogged earlier about the importance of the current “Deciding Decade” for India’s future. I’ve been looking into small ways that I can personally help in improving Education in India – been prototyping online virtual learning site with Moodle, etc.

Recently there have been 3 big education policy changes that could have far-reaching (+ve or -ve) impact going forward:
       1) Right to Education (RTE)
                  – I was initially sceptical that this is one more “right” that might not get fulfilled. But on closer look some of the provisions might have a huge impact – like 25% reservation of seats in ALL private schools, definition of standards for 1:30 teacher:student ratios and the massive sums allocated for states to implement RTE.
       2) Foreign Universities Bill
                  – This is another controversial bill that allows universities from around the world to setup campuses in India. Ex: Virginia tech setting up campus in Chennai.
       3) Common Syllabus (New in Tamil Nadu)
                  – While this is only in TN, there are rumblings about a common syllabus throughout India. This kind of change can make it easy for the country to develop a common infrastructure to train teachers, to provide online educational resources for children, etc.

While we cannot immediately tell whether these large changes will be positive or negative, one thing is clear. The education scene in India will be quite different in the coming decades.

The Smartphone of 2011 – Can it be your Netbook, eBook reader, digital media receiver (Apple TV, Roku), Digicam as well?

The leading smartphones of 2011 are going to have the following hardware features:
      – Dual Cortex-A9 processors running at 800Mhz to 1Ghz.
      – 32 to 64GBytes of Flash storage and copious amount of RAM memory
      – WVGA (800×480) or larger touchscreen
      – Second Display at 1080p (1920×1080) resolution via HDMI
      – Dual camera support with HD Video recording
      – GSM or CDMA, WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth, USB, FM, mic/speaker/headphone features

The software features will include:
      – Touchscreen capable OS like Android, iPhone, Symbian or Windows Mobile 7
      – Key features: Phone, Internet (HTML5 with Flash), Email, Media player, Camera
      – Support for 3rd party apps via app stores

Chips and development platforms with these features have already been available to OEMs from TI (Blaze MDP), ST-Ericsson (U8500) and others as of late 2009. Early products with these features will likely hit the market for 2010 Christmas sale or many products will be readily available in 2011.

Given these features, can these devices not serve as your Netbook or eBook reader if you had an external display & keyboard like this accessory?
When placed in a dock with a HDMI cable (and perhaps a USB HDD), can these devices not serve as your AppleTV, Roku Netflix streaming player or Boxee Box?

Wouldn’t this “smartphone” become your real “Personal Computer”? Why do you still need a Netbook or basic digital camera or digital media receiver?

Of course, you might still need a Mac and iTunes player to “sync” these devices to your PC. 🙂

Hype Cycle for Digital 3D – Will 3D become mainstream by 2015?

We are now in March 2010 in the post-“Avatar” world. Above timeline is my prediction of a hype cycle for Digital 3D.

We are in the early part of the cycle:
– Avatar released in Dec 2009 has triggered a huge hype and interest in Digital 3D technology, though 3D itself has a long history.
– At this year’s January, 2010 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), lots of companies (technology, entertainment) interested in establishing a new market have announced new products – though there is no accepted standard.
– New standards like HDMI 1.4a announced in March 2010 are critical foundations for real 3D products.
– Early applications like entertainment (movies – Avatar, Alice in Wonderland, ESPN sports) show a lot of promise.
– Early products are too expensive like this $21,000 3D camera.

In the next stage of this hype cycle, real products need to be available. They need to become affordable. Then they will be really adopted by larger number of people.

I for one, hope to see applications like 3D Tourism become popular. I would really like to see Live or Realtime 3D Two-way communication – almost like Teleportation. 🙂

Schizophrenia of Wall Street

If you think about it, a good diagnosis for Wall Street’s “disease” might be Schizophrenia.

Think about the Stock Market and see if the following Wikipedia description is a good match:

“Schizophrenia
from the Greek roots skhizein (σχίζειν, “to split”) and phrēn, phren- (φρήν, φρεν-; “mind”) is a psychiatric diagnosis that describes a neuropsychiatric and mental disorder characterized by abnormalities in the perception or expression of reality. It most commonly manifests as auditory hallucinations, paranoid or bizarre delusions, or disorganized speech and thinking with significant social or occupational dysfunction.”

Here is one good example of a “split mind”:
        – Wall Street loves layoffs done by most well-run companies. Ex: “Microsoft layoffs would be good for stock
        – But, Wall Street wants to see unemployment rate decrease. Ex: “Job creation is fundamentally important

How do you (“Wall Street”) expect the economy to improve and stocks to go up, if you want companies to layoff employees to increase profits?

As soon as the current recession started, lots of companies immediately started huge layoffs to make the stock market happy. And now the stock market wants Jobs to be created magically so that stocks will increase !

On a related note, I was impressed when the Indian Govt (then-FM Chidambaram and PM Manmohan Singh) requested the large companies to “keep your market share, keep your loyal workers with you and take a price cut” and to a large extent major Indian companies did their best. I was surprised Obama never made such an appeal to the US companies to avoid layoffs and is only fighting in the Congress/Senate on a Jobs bill.

iPad as a Thin Client PC for personal or corporate use (via VNC or Citrix GoToMyPC)

I have my own gripes about the iPad launched today – lack of multitasking, front-facing camera, HD video, open APIs for USB/Bluetooth, etc – that would prevent it from being used as an alternate light-weight PC replacement. But I do think in typical Apple style, they would roll out some of these features in future revisions in the coming years.

But in a corporate environment (or personal use for techies), iPad could turn out to be a flexible Thin Client PC if there are good apps for the use case. There are already many VNC clients for iPhone which would probably get updated to iPad promptly. But an app that targets the corporate user with a virtualized desktop & storage on the server – intranet or public cloud – would make the iPad a really useful tool. It already has email, calendar, word, excel, powerpoint and can even support connection to projectors (with the awkward VGA connector). A well-integrated VNC or Citrix GoToMyPC app for the few custom corporate applications could nicely serve the corporate user. Webex already works for the iPhone and if the full features are supported for the iPad it could take care of meetings.

Now if only Apple could give me a nice iChat on iPad with front-camera – Jan 2011??

Update Feb 3, 2010:  Citrix and others are coming out with announcements related to this usemodel for iPhone and potentially for iPad. See this LinuxDevices.com article.