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Will Laptops Get Out-Evolved?

Today's smartphones are at the earliest stages of a computing-paradigm shift that may push aside laptops as a must-have device for mobile employees. With advances in computing power and storage, as well as high-speed wireless networks, it should be possible by the end of this decade to have a small handheld device that can run most of the applications you need and that has constant broadband connectivity.

Here are some of the developments that make it possible for many people to travel on shorter trips without a laptop more often.

First is general ease of use. RIM recently introduced the BlackBerry Pearl, which boasts a trackball that is the fastest and most effective navigation tool I've ever used on a phone. Conventional controls, such as touchscreens and five-way navigation pads, also are effective.

Another huge area of innovation is dealing with documents. For instance, version 9 of Documents to Go from Dataviz lets users view and edit Microsoft Office documents on Palm OS or Symbian devices.

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