Connected Life

january 26, 2006

I was watching Sex and the City with my wife and realized how different life was just a few years ago. Back then, they had answering machines; mobile phones were the size of today's cordless phones. (Powerbooks came in black plastic and the glowing Apple symbol was upside down!) Watching the show and how the characters connected with each other lead me to the conclusion: Today, the tech savvy are more connected to the internet than ever before. But, normal people continue to live almost like it was 1999. I have my collection of smartphones. Each one doing almost the same thing, but in different ways. The similarity between them all is their striking ability to keep me connected at all times. I don't need an answering machine at home because people can call me direct on my mobile phone -- anytime, anywhere. I don't need a notebook because I can check my email on my phone and I can log onto the web from my phone -- anytime, anywhere. I can snap pictures on my phone and send them directly to Flickr from my phone the instant they are taken. I can send a message to my wife from anywhere and she can send one right back. It is scary to see how tech savvy people are hooked up all the time. In early December, my mom's DSL line was acting flakey. The people that were doing the renovation of my parent's place had cut the phone line in one of the bedrooms (now an office). They did not get it hooked back up correctly, so my mom's DSL connection was going up and down -- denying her of her favorite daytime activity: Watching the live stock ticker on Scott Trade. When I stopped by to take a look at things, I told my mom that we'd have to call SBC and have them roll a truck out to the house to take a look at the phone line. How would I get the number for SBC? I would go to their website and get the phone number from the customer service page. Ut-oh. No DSL, no web. Then I realized that my Treo 600 (at that time) was connected to the internet all day long, I fired up the web browser and got the phone number from there. Plain and simple. So why am I making the distinction between regular people and tech savvy people? Because most people will use their regular mobile phones for ... phone calls. If they are a bit more savvy, they will use text messenging. But, has the masses come to the realization that mobile phones can be so much more? That they can be using their phone to do much of what they are using their computers to do? It may not be the quickest thing to surf the web on a mobile phone -- nor the most comfortable with these 2 inch screens -- but, it is convenient for when you need something and you are not near a computer and internet connection. No, I don't think the masses have come to realize just how far mobile technology has come (and how far technology has yet to go). Nor do I think that most large companies come to that realization either. There are a few internet companies that are starting to get the hint. Yahoo! with its Yahoo! Go ("Connected Life") product brings the desktop, TV, and mobile platforms together. Google offers many of its products for mobile devices. MSN offers mobile access to some of their services. Bloglines offers its aggregation service for mobile devices. But, by far, most websites are built for the fat datapipes and large screens of home users -- with no alternative for mobile users. I hope that companies start coming to the realization that people have more choices to connect to the internet. And with this realization, I hope that companies will not only start producing products aimed for the mobile market, but also promote these products. Mobile data will catch on only if there is a kill app and there is no killer app at this point. Along with all of this, I hope that companies will start to integrate the desktop experience with the mobile experience. I do not want to have two different experiences, it needs to be one seamless product. Where I am currently not should not impact how I get my internet services. Yahoo! Go is a great start, the desktop integration is still not there yet, but it is a good showing of what can and should be done. I hope other companies realize this also. Mobile will be big platform once it catches on. At this point though, it is a chicken and the egg situation -- there are no great products for mobile users and not enough mobile users to attract many developers to take the risk of develop applications.