SAN JOSE, Calif. Cellphones will become broadband devices with built-in TV projectors and fast charging-batteries, while Wi-Fi handsets could someday become an alternative for cellular. Those were two long-term visions from venture capitalist Vinod Khosla and Skype chief executive Niklas Zennstrom who gave back-to-back talks at the VON conference here Tuesday (March 20).
"Network growth has never stopped. It didn't even stop in 2001 for the dotcom bust, so don't count on it stopping anytime soon," said Khosla who tipped work by some of the startups in which he has invested.
"There's so much more to do. The platform of the Net will enable all sorts of new ways of communicating," said Zennstrom, who detailed new projects in the works at Skype.
In a keynote titled "the device that used to be your phone," Khosla sketched out the notion of a future handset using ultrawideband links based on wireless USB to deliver I/O capability of a Gbit/second. Startup Artimi is working on low power UWB chips that could lead to such capabilities linking phones to cameras, MP3 players and TVs, he said.
Separately multiple companies are working on low power embedded projectors based on MEMS technology similar to Texas Instruments' digital light processors. The projectors could be used to create a full color, 12-inch display, although he refused to provide names of the startups because it is "too early in the development cycle, Khosla said.
"The mobile device will become a full fledged TV projector," he said.
Although batteries are "an inhibitor" because the technology evolves slowly, multiple companies are developing ways to give a handset 80 percent of a full charge in as little as one or two minutes, Khosla said. "Lots of people are working on this and it will change the use model," he said.
Another big shift coming for the handset is one that moves processing off to computers in the network, letting the device handle just I/O and user interface jobs. One of his startups, Moka 5, already packs an individual's PC profile on a USB drive.
"I've always believed you really want a virtual view of your PC and phone in the Net. It can carry your wallet, your PC and profiles for several fixed function devices," said Khosla. "Then people will carry one or two devices depending on their context and whenever you go your PC and phone are there with you," he added.