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HP Predicts End of Today's Cell Phones

The tech giant's researchers foresee the development of a hub device separate from the wireless gadgets for which it will provide connectivity

According to HP, the future of cell phones won't be cellular.

The devices will do without 3G, 2G - any other kind of G, in fact - and they won't be packing WiMax or wi-fi either.

Instead, HP predicts, the mobile will become just one of a number of gadgets in your personal area network that will get its connectivity via your watch, or a magic box in your pocket, probably using Ultrawideband (UWB) wireless technology.

Phil McKinney, CTO of HP's personal systems group, predicts that in future hardware manufacturers will stop cramming devices with all manner of radios.

Instead they will have all the gadgets connect by UWB to one stand-alone radio-stuffed hub device, which will then provide whichever type of wireless communications the other gadgets need.

McKinney said: "A year ago I sat down with a team in HP and said what will the future be like? More powerful, more memory, more radios... It will get complex for the users, insanely complex to design."

The team came up with the idea of ditching the radios inside the devices. Currently digital gadgets such as mobile phones, laptops and digital cameras can contain many different radios for their communication needs.

HP's idea is to take the radios that would have previously sat inside each device and house them instead in a 'personal hub', which the users will carry with them every day.

The personal hub will be able to detect the appropriate wireless for each device and hand over between them if needs be.

It will also store a personal profile to make sure the user only gets access to the right devices and content - in a family network, an MP3 player will only get updated with its user's playlist, for example.

Ideally, McKinney believes, the device will end up in a watch form-factor - a small device that the user will never leave the house without. But that's by 2016, when the 'personal hub' has gone through an iteration or two. It will probably start life as a box, credit-card-sized and several millimetres thick.

So why less wireless? McKinney believes stripping out the connectivity will boost the rate at which consumers update their gadgets.

He said: "Radios are on a three-year [refresh] cycle, we're seeing the device cycle at nine months... By disconnecting them, you can maintain [radio] innovation rate and accelerate it on the devices."

HP has also been having a think about what else could connect to the personal hub. In the future, the company expects devices - once they come in contact with a personal network - to see any other devices on that network, to know immediately which of them they can each interact with and for each device to update itself accordingly.

A digital wallet, roll-up laptops, smart shelves and a digital table top are all among the concept designs. McKinney said: "We're leaning towards what we call a mobile thin client - there's a lot of research underway."

Currently the digital table is the device voted 'most likely to make it to market'. McKinney revealed: "The early prototype has been built. The feedback has been pretty positive." See the photos here.

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