"The requirement to do more with less is never going be more real than over the next couple of years," he said. "So people are having to be creative and looking for hosted and other kinds of shared services, which is why I think cloud computing and social media are becoming so attractive."

On the hardware front, Microsoft is making forays into the mobile phone market and expanding the usability of its impressive but bulky Surface computing system.

This year, Microsoft released its Kin line of mobile phones, which are designed for social media lovers, and will release Windows Phone 7, which will feature social media tools but will be aimed at a professional audience.

"[The Windows Phone 7] is an evolution of what Microsoft has learned over the past decade of providing mobile solutions," Shepherd said. "When it's released this fall, it's going to add a native integration of powerful social networking capabilities. It's going to bring a new degree of sophistication to the touch environment. I think it's going to be the first mobile platform to bring a full understanding of the professional needs and rigor that people expect to do work remotely."

Shepherd also said Microsoft Surface - the touchscreen, table-sized computer that has been both admired and mocked - will, along with interfaces in general, start to rapidly evolve.

"We actually see the development of immersive environments coming along much faster than people realize. There will be multiple opportunities to engage in a tactile way with the personal and professional computing experience you want," he said. "In the next couple years, you're going to have Surface-like computing experiences that will fit into the social milieu and the professional environment in very natural ways, as opposed to having to congregate around a particular table."


Government on Demand

Improving mobile technology may bring the government office to you.

It's no secret that citizens want to interact with government electronically. But expectations are continually growing about the kinds of transactions citizens can conduct online and the type of devices they can conduct them on.

Citizens want to be able to interact with government online as thoroughly as they could in an office, said Maury Blackman, president and CEO of Accela. With the growing number of smartphones, demand is increasing for full-scale interactions via these devices.

"Self-service mechanisms need to be in place so citizens can start a transaction, complete it, print, walk away and get a PDF that they can move forward with," Blackman said.

But self-service need not only apply to citizens looking to get a permit or renew their vehicle registration. Self-service for government employees in the field is equally important, especially when trying to maximize resources and return on investment.

"We see technology and mobile devices being able to bring government directly into a community, so that case workers, license issuance, all can be done at job locations," Blackman said. "If you want to renew your business license, someone might show up at your job site and say, 'Hey, we know your license is about to expire in a month. Can I take care of that for you right now?' So you didn't even have to think about it, it's just done."

Blackman added that Apple's new iPad could accelerate development of new mobile services, because the device's form factor lends itself to taking more technology into the field.

"I was fantasizing of a government drive-through where you have government workers in the parking lot with iPads as people are driving through and saying, 'Hey I need a license, I need a permit, I need to schedule an inspection, I need to ask a question.' And someone is standing there with an iPad or similar device. I think

Chad Vander Veen  | 

Chad Vander Veen previously served as the editor of FutureStructure, and the associate editor of Government Technology and Public CIO magazines.