Godfather's Crystal Ball

If Europe had a godfather of technology, it would be Hermann Hauser. The entrepreneur and venture capitalist started Amadeus Capital Partners; Acorn Computers, Britain's answer to Apple; and ARM Holdings, which dominates in chips for mobile phones. NEWSWEEK's Rana Foroohar asked him what's coming next:

NEWSWEEK: What big breakthroughs do you anticipate in the next few years?

HAUSER: They won't be in computing; they'll be in the mobile arena. It's all about what kind of phone or handheld device you have. Does it have RIM [Research in Motion] for e-mail? Can you send photos? Is the photo quality good? There's so much growth from a consumer angle.

When will mobiles replace PCs as the devices of choice?

My kids would say it happened five years ago. But they're European, and they're sending SMS. (American kids are still rushing home to get onto chat groups via their PC.) There are also these new flexible plastic displays coming out that are something like e-paper. Slightly hard, but still flexible. They would allow you to do things with the computer that you don't necessarily want to do now, like take it into bed with you, or on the bus. Of course, there's a five- to 10-year time horizon on this becoming mainstream.

What will the next killer app be?

Voice. It's already transmitted via the Internet--kids using Xbox or PS2 live can play the game and chat with other kids.

What about information overload?

Coping with complexity is a major challenge right now. Computer science isn't very good at it, but biology is. Because of the rise of genomics and proteomics, and the flood of information from decoding the genome, computer science is coming into closer contact with biology.

Whose work do you most admire?

Sir Richard Friend's. He's a Cambridge-based researcher working on light-emitting polymers that process information. It's about plastic replacing silicon as the basis of computing. Plastic is more flexible, environmentally friendly and potentially a lot cheaper. It could be revolutionary.