There’s a lot of discussion these days about mobile devices–phones, iPads, Kindles, netbooks. I suppose a car or truck is a mobile device too. Although it weighs several thousand pounds, put gas in it, start it up and it moves. It’s mobile.
But a fridge is not a mobile device, unless you’ve installed wheels under it and attached a rope. A fridge is a stationary device. Handy, but not too mobile.
We also have a lot of portable things in our lives–maybe too many. Portable radios are nice. You can take them nearly anywhere and they’re functional.
They play music and provide news and information. So’s a hair dryer, I suppose. But unless it’s battery powered, a hair dryer is about three feet portable. It’s neither mobile nor portable. (I know, you can unplug it and take it with you, but play along with me for a bit.)
Where am I going with all this nonsense, you ask? Why is Brian talking about mobility and portability in a wireless age? Well, because I think the distinction is important. Everyone loves their iPhone or Android smartphone. They lug around pretty well…and they’re “mobile”…and pretty portable too.
How about the TV set in your living room? HD and 200 pounds. It’s stationary unless you’re strong and agile enough to carry it with you to the office or your neighbor’s house for the next SuperBowl game. Otherwise, it stays put. (Hard to vacumn around too.)
Has Brian lost his marbles? What’s he mumbling about? Why doesn’t he talk about something sensible like the lack of wireless spectrum or mobiles in Africa or get Patrick Mork back on the phone for another podcast about GetJar? Where’s he going with this piece?
Well, it’s like this. Since everything in the Universe comes in threes–you know, the Trinity, “three’s a crowd,” “The Three Faces of Eve” (that’s a movie for you folks under 20), “Three Coins in a Fountain” (that’s a song for anyone older than 50), and other sets of threes (read the Wikipedia article if you’re into that sort of thing)–why not talk about mobility, portability and accessibility in a wireless age?
Whoa, guy. Slow down. You’ve been playing with your Blackberry too long. Where are you taking me on this word journey?
The point is this. (Aha, I knew he had a point. What blogger doesn’t?) The point is that some things are mobile and portable, like your Verizon Wireless Droid. (Knew he’d talk about phones eventually.) Other things are portable like a flashlight or your wallet. Some things are both mobile and portable–like that semi you nearly hit on the freeway yesterday.
But a lot of things in our wireless age are not accessible, like Google at headquarters on a weekend of after 4 when the staff is playing foosball. Or info on your home computer when you’re on your work computer, unless you’ve agreed to all of Google’s 3,000 page legal agreements to use the Google suite of online calendar, docs, Gmail, Picassa or synced everything in the Cloud.
And that’s my point. (Finally, he gets to the point.) The challenge to existence is not mobility or portability; it’s ACCESSIBILITY. Accessibility of information, things that are not portable, like your 46 inch Hi-Def wall-mounted television hooked to your 300 gig Tivo.
The challenge of our wireless age is to ACCESS THINGS. Find things when we need them, whether those things are information, access to an ATM, knowing where your boss is (forget that one), getting lunch on time so you can return to your office cube (that’s where your boss is), finding a pharmacy that’s open past six on Saturdays (sorry, Walgreens), or figuring out which button to press on your smartphone to launch your mobile barcode reader.
Everyone who touts mobile phones, like moi, drools over the latest, coolest, most awesomeest “mobile device.” We worship mobility and portability while struggling with accessibility. That’s probably what’s kept people away from touch screen smartphones as they cling to their QWERTY devices. (Ah, a real keyboard!)
If mobile handset makers really considered accessibility plus all the other wonderful features and information contained in mobile phones, they wouldn’t have followed Apple’s lead with the iPhone. They would have made a phone really accessible by adding voice recognition to all mobile phones.
For years the nascent voice recognition industry has struggled to get noticed. While text-to-speech is handy, people would buy a phone that understood their voice instructions–better yet, INPUT THEIR VOICES into text, eliminating the God awful experience of having to use one or two fingers to enter letters over-and-over into a touch screen. Then Apple wouldn’t have to sue everyone for ludicrous patents like which direction you swipe your finger on an iPhone.
The point, Brian, the point. What is the point?
In our struggle to mobilize and portabilize our mobile devices, we should be more concerned about turning these marvelous creations into accessible wireless devices. Cloud computing is great. But if you have to struggle with your inaccessible touch-screened, Androided, AT&T’d, iconized mobile, you might as well buy a ruggedized cell phone. At least it has buttons to push so you can call someone to fix a flat tire on your mobile and portable car.