I was reading http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/20/technology/20cell.html?_r=1&partner=rss&emc=rss&pagewanted=all, which is an interesting article on Japan's cell phone market. While the point of the post was that Japan was ahead of us technically but unable to gain much marketshare outside of Japan, I realized that Japan might be a source for 'foreshadowing' of technology in the US.
In essence, the trend is toward increasingly mobile computing. This should not come as a surprise; it is a well-known fact that laptops are in higher demand than desktops nowadays. I think there are several elements of technology that are encouraging and will continue to encourage this trend:
First, obviously, are laptops. Aside from the drop in demand for desktops, netbooks are also helping the mobility trend. I find it interesting that we have hit a point where we actually demand slow computers that are small. It shows that, to some extent, we have reached a plateau in computing: we can now make computers that are faster than we need. Related to that is that we can now make them cheap enough that people will buy them just as a secondary or tertiary machine. And ultimately they're buying them because they're cheap and small, making it convenient for people to get on the Internet whenever and wherever they want.
Related to the increase in laptop and netbook sales is the growth of free public WiFi. It encourages people to bring their computers with them wherever they're going. People can now head out to a restaurant and, while they're eating, get on their computer and do stuff. As more and more cities consider implementing city-wide WiFi networks, it will most likely reach the point where you won't need a cell phone; you'll just need something like an iPod Touch and a service like Google Voice.
As well, the rise of cloud computing has helped the mobile trend. Peoples' data isn't stored on any one computer now; they can just log into their account on the internet and access all their documents, email, voicemails, and so on. They don't have to worry about syncing their data across computers and to PDAs and cell phones anymore; it's all handled transparently for them. Cloud computing makes netbooks and smartphones feasible to the average user.
Finally, the increase in the smartphone market is encouraging the mobile computing trend. Many people have pointed to the iPhone for opening up the smartphone market to average users instead of just businesses. With more and more phones coming with data contracts, it is becoming easier to depend on a cell phone for emails and web browsing. And with the speed increases in the mobile cell phone market--the average smartphone is approximately twice as fast as my first laptop--it is more and more feasible to use a cell phone as a small computer. To quote the article that sparked this post: "Many Japanese rely on their phones, not a PC, for Internet access." Smartphone manufacturers have and will continue to add features and power to their phones, resulting in something like a 'mini-netbook'. At one point in Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town, Cory Doctorow points out that many 'old' people think of computers in terms of laptops and desktops, while many teens increasingly use their cell phone as a computer.
Ultimately, for any business to 'keep up with the future', they will have to recognize this trend and innovate along it. I think that in the next few years we'll see a lot of advancements in the smartphone and portable computing areas.