Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The iPhone may be the last jack of all trades

(Everybody's been complaining that my posts are too long, so I'm trying to keep them short and to the point from now on.)

This device is friggin' amazing, I'm still astounded by how it's changed how everybody thinks about ubiquitous computing. Everybody and his brother are stumbling over each other to clone it and improve on it in any way they can.

Still, I was handling a Nikon SLR camera and an Amazon Kindle e-book reader (sadly still a rare sight for me as it remains unavailable outside the US) in the past few days and I've been thinking about how the iPhone and its ilk will be obsolete in a few years. The iPhone (and other similar touchscreen smartphones) is great at being the one device that covers all your needs adequately, but the next few years will see the basics - phone service, a multitouch screen, a micropayment system for content transactions, and a wireless Internet connection - be included in every device, from our digital camera to our large-format e-ink screen. These devices should (and soon will) be interchangeable, with different trade-offs in form factor according to your needs. The only thing that's missing is the software infrastructure that will allow us to carry our Digital SLR or our e-book reader instead of (not as well as) our smartphone depending on what meets our needs better at the moment, the only functionality change we see being whatever is dictated by the physical characteristics of the device. The iPhone makes a particular compromise in the trade-offs of the quality of the camera, the screen, the keyboard, the speakers and the microphone on one side, with the weight, size and battery life on the other. Different times in one's day call for different types of compromise, but now this means carrying a whole bunch of devices around, which most people are loathe to do.

Seriously, the number of people I know who carry around a Blackberry or similar and a "personal" phone is stupefying. They all hate having to do this, too. Don't get them started on the half-dozen chargers that go with this gadgetry.

I want an iPhone built into every device I own! And so does everyone else, even if they don't know it yet.

Of course, a lot of people know this. I'm excited about what they're about to come up with. I think we all know for a fact that Steve Jobs has gone up a mountain, and we all know what the last famous guy who did that brought back with him. Amazon has the right idea with the Kindle, selling a device and a service for other devices with the two loosely coupled. I wonder who will get on the bandwagon with high-quality cameras first? Sony has the right expertise, but with their track record I bet they come up with something that has its own memory, wireless and cable standard that they will try to get everyone else to adopt before you can use their product. Yuck.

Greetings from the sunny Greek islands (which might explain the lack of posts recently).

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