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Geeks bearing gifts

Apple iPadIf the first PC battle became entrenched into a divide between two proprietary desktop systems, the next will be in mobile computing.

Right now, the conflict between Macs and Windows PCs has settled somewhat into an uneasy truce. Microsoft’s latest clumsy attempts to convince would-be defectors that Windows is the place to stay are wide of the mark: ‘Macs only come in white or silver. PCs are available in a full spectrum of colours’. Or the more side-splitting dig at Macs: ‘the mouse works differently’. But these are the signs of a monopoly in decline, with some half-hearted attempts to shore up the slide.

Yet Apple also knows that the days of Mac/PC hardware’s ubiquity are coming to an end. The future is in computers you can carry with you.

Looking beyond laptops, this area has been confined to the smartphone market – until recently, when the iPad showed you can have an intuitive and powerful PC that works from your fingertips. And keeps working for days at a time.

Spying business tailgating opportunities behind the pathfinder iPad, we see both well-established PC companies and new startups now sidling in with tablet PCs. We recently reviewed the JooJoo, a new Atom-based tablet that’s based around a web browser for its every function. Linux-based, it promises much – although at a launch price close to all-singing iPad, it has much to live up to. We've also examined the Dell Streak, a mini 5in-screen tablet that uses Google Android.

Be warned, though, that the battle for mobile platform supremacy will make the Windows-Mac offensive look like a lovers’ tiff. A personal device that’s carried everywhere, a phone is the perfect platform for advertising. Targeted, personal and highly lucrative advertising. Apple has the iAd framework to insert interactive advertising into its mobile devices. Google, meanwhile, is Google – the world’s largest ad broker.

It’s invested a lot of time and money into Android; then given it away to handset manufacturers for free. Return on investment will come when Android users are counted like website hits, collated with their browsing habits and GPS location – a valuable asset to sell to Google’s customers. That’s not you or I, but commercial companies who want your eyes on their products and services – right under your nose, on your mobile phone or tablet PC. Google was founded by geeks – beware when they bear gifts, such as free phone software.

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