The Journey of Mobile Computing – Yesterday, Today, And Tomorrow

“The Journey of Mobile Computing – Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow” with Anthony Yung, Group Manager, Product Management, Intel

by Dan Galatin

November 2011 Event

Anthony Yung, Group Manager of Product Management at Intel, presented at the November 2nd meeting of the SVPMA.  Mr. Yung discussed the history of mobile computing, major milestones over the years, and some of the lessons learned from notable product successes and failures.  Although he focused his analysis on mobile computing, many of the themes he introduced naturally apply to other quickly-evolving sectors as well.

Mr. Yung demonstrated the usefulness of taking a “big history” approach in understanding the development of mobile computing over the decades.  In this approach, one identifies major thresholds that represent discrete, crucial advances in the field.  Over the long term, these include advances such as the first HP pocket calculator, the first portable computer from Osborne, and the first PDA from Palm, as well as more recent products such as the iPhone and iPad.

When television was first introduced, experiencing it as a family in the living room was similar in many ways to listening to the radio, albeit with a visual component.  Likewise, not all new classes of mobile computing devices delivered a radically different experience from what had come before.  For example, using the Osborne was fundamentally the same experience as using a desktop PC.  Talking on the first Motorola cell phone in the early 1980s was the much the same as using a land line.  These are examples of mobile devices that delivered the same basic experience as their non-mobile analogues; with additional compromises to boot (e.g. small screen size and limited talk time, respectively).

There are several approaches that Mr. Yung argued could be used to deliver a better experience for customers.  These include mitigating or eliminating compromises; borrowing functionality from other classes of devices (such as video from TV or GPS from portal navigation devices); adding brand-new functionality (e.g. wireless connectivity in portal computers); and evolving or revolutionizing existing classes of devices in order to take them in a new direction.

Mr. Yung then presented a couple of case studies of mobile computing devices: the Apple Newton and the original iPhone.  He led a discussion in which the devices were analyzed across the dimensions of baseline experience; compromises that are mitigated or eliminated; functionality added from other types of devices; new functionality; and platform evolution.  It was interesting to observe that the original iPhone ad featured an incoming phone call at the end of the spot, almost as an afterthought; the baseline functionality was a given, and more emphasis was placed on the evolution from the iPod.  Finally, Mr. Yung demonstrated how to use this framework to consider possibilities for future mobile computing devices by presenting videos of types of devices that are not yet on the market.

In summary, Mr. Yung reiterated that mobile devices are based on a previous baseline experience, with necessary compromises.  Ultimately, the success of mobile devices depends on delivering a better, broader experience than what came before, as well as timing the market correctly.

Dan Galatin has 19 years combined experience in product management and software engineering.  He is currently a Senior Product Manager at Keynote Systems and can be contacted at