Attached at the hip

July 24th, 2010 in .Blogs
Nick Holland
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I used to own some old crap phone. All I used it for was to phone and text people, and that was that.

Then living in London and working in an office full of techies I succumbed to the pressures of techno-envy and had to get an iPhone 3GS. I know, it’s cliche, but I wanted it for the apps: tube status (trust me, it’s invaluable), news feeds, GPS (again, invaluable because my sense of direction sucks) and watching videos on the train in the way into work.

Except, the love didn’t last and I ended up buying a very nice aluminium shelled HTC Legend instead. The freedom of the Android OS lets me do what I want with it, even though the PC sync software is just as painfully rubbish. Oh well.

But my point is – in the last six months my “mobile phone” usage has shot through the roof. I haven’t just found a new set of friends to call – well, actually they’re on Facebook and twitter *cough*, but I use it for Google maps and the awesome street-view. I can check the quality of restaurants without having to suffer the bad ones or the closest cinema, what’s on and even the prices (!) – with a quick search. If I find myself in a linguistically challenged situation with someone who doesn’t speak English (since I’m completely useless at other languages), I can just show a picture to convey a point.

I was at Intel’s IDF a few years ago when it pre-announced the Atom CPU – at that time Intel was bragging about a future of the personal network and mobile computing. In a sense that has blossomed, although not in the way Intel futurists imagined I expect, since it’s currently trying to somehow shoehorn its Atom core into ARM’s ultra low power space.

Mobile computing – true out and about mobility: more than laptops and netbooks even – is getting ever more important. Not just to business peoples but to consumers. The demand for keeping connected is defining our changing lives. At the most basic level it’s a backup – a fail safe to keep in touch that goes beyond a phone call. For example, we’re not infallible - we forget things and we need routine, so having a single portal of use actually simplifies our lives: drop notes on it, check emails or Facebook events, even check your stocks or banking: “have I been paid yet?”. It can get out of hand – it can get obsessive and anti-social, true, but that’s not limited to just handheld devices.

It’s not all about mobile phones though: VIA has recently developed a $200 7 inch tablet that’s not only affordable, but truly pocketable. As much as I’m drawn the iPad or Eee Pad, in some respects I think they are too big, and my HTC is too small. ASUS’ Eee Tablet is smaller and neater, but it’s design is deliberately geared towards for students – it has no 3/4G option.

A high definition screen in a small display might be impressive on the iPhone 4, but it still doesn’t really rectify the problem of having to squint. Like the evolution of the Eee PC from 7 inch to 8 to 10 and 12 – I think once more tablets are available, people will jump on the variety, use them, and find what they are most comfortable using: either at home or out and about. The Dell Streak attempts this by introducing the 5 inch form factor – slightly larger than your mobile phone, but still not offensive to smaller pockets.

I’ve met people who poo-poo the tablet concept saying “I have a smartphone and a laptop, why do I need one”. Well, great! You’ve found a lifestyle of gadgets that suits you, but it might not suit others. People claim tablets are taking away from the netbook market – that’s also not the case at all. Tablets offer something more than netbooks – choice. Choice of OS, hardware, and the freedom of internet. Netbooks will still have a place where a keyboard and mobility beyond a full size laptop is required, but introducing tablets just offers more freedom. Freedom of choice and freedom to stay connected. That’s never a bad thing.

The product that nails the crossover between the two will be a winner, and we’ll have to wait and see what the future holds.

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