Is it inevitable?

Will the smartphone replace the personal computer/laptop?

Is mobile technology really advancing this rapidly?

Picture this: you set your smartphone into a docking station that's connected to an LCD screen. From there you watch television programs, browse the Internet, etc. It's not far-fetched, and it's apparently not far off. Experts are predicting that possibly within three years smartphones may replace the traditional desktop PC.

In the past five years technology has moved at such a rapid pace. Consider that now:

* Some 94 percent of U.S. Internet users read their news online, and just 38 percent of Americans only obtain news from offline sources.

* Facebook was unveiled to an eagerly-awaiting world in 2006; with Twitter following soon after. In just a few years Facebook has covered the world, with well over 500 million users.

* The iPhone was released in June 2007, and already features some 140,000 apps with more than 3 billion downloads.

Our point? It took about a decade for the clunky personal computer to evolve into a laptop. It took a few years for the slow modem transmissions to become faster broadband connections. But now it is takings just months for technology to evolve into the next phase...and the next...and the next.

Technology forecasters are saying that within three years it is very feasible to see smartphones becoming functional enough to serve as a fully capable computer. Connect it wirelessly to your computer work station and the smartphone will transform into what was once your hard drive, your television and your phone.

From a business standpoint the work station of the near future may include a monitor, keyboard and mouse connected to a box the size of a cable modem. It may look similar to your current work station, but the box would connect each computer to both a nearby mobile devices and to the data center that operates the company’s apps and business data. The smartphones would be able to store the employee’s personal files, apps, photos, computer settings, etc.

What needs to happen in order to advance to this level? The experts say we will need:

* More powerful smartphones (multiple CPU cores and more RAM)
* Low cost LCD screens
* Standardized Bluetooth and/or wireless USB

By the end of this year, dual core CPUs may be standard in many smartphones. Within five years nearly all cell phones will be multi-core smartphones.

Soon there will be little difference between a computer monitor and an LCD TV. Each will just be a screen used to connect to computers and mobile devices.

It has been reported that Apple's next iPhone will be able to connect to a Mac. That may very well be the first incarnation of the smartphone/computer.

One question will loom: how will this change impact iPads and similar devices? Experts say the iPad will survive, since tools will still be needed to access information remotely. Sales professionals, realtors and other business personnel who spend much time on the road will rely even more heavily on these sorts of devices.

Fasten your seatbelts -- it's going to be a very fast ride on the information "autobahn."