There’s a lot of hot air being blasted into the tech blogosphere bubble trying to make it seem that the future of computing is mobile and how important this shift is to the user.
Mobile computing is only about one thing – making bucket loads of money before the users get fed up with having to carry multiple devices and pay outrageous fees in order to keep up with where they are being told their wired lives are headed. If it truly was about making our digital lives easier the iPhone would be available for any network you wanted to connect to in any country you were in. The Palm Pre wouldn’t be making deals to have single providers in the US and Canada.
The problem is that we – as users – haven’t wrapped our heads around the fact that mobile computing, if it is to become ubiquitous, has to start being looked at as a single communication pipeline. This isn’t a matter of what operating systems are powering these computing handsets. It is a matter the networks that tie them all together and who controls them. It is a matter of the manufacturers of the devices that tie us increasingly to our digital world and them making deals with network providers that don’t benefit the users.
When Apple released the iPhone on the world there was a lot of press being written about the deal that they cut with AT&T being their sole supplier. This wasn’t to benefit the users, it was to benefit Apple with a single profitable delivery channel and it was a benefit to AT&T because they got to make a shitload of money. What did the users get out of the deal? they got an expensive first generation phone, that dropped in price not long after hitting the market, on a network that still to this day provides questionable service.
Now we have the Palm Pre going the same route. Just as Apple cut a deal with Rogers in Canada, Palm is making Bell Canada their exclusive provider for the Pre (get the Vaseline ready folks). Where are the users in all this deal making? getting shafted at one point or another.
Back when rail was king there was a period when it was a confusing mess of different types of rail for the trains to run on being used. This created inconsistencies in service with different companies providing service to different areas. It caused incredible expense because of duplication of everything from the rail being laid to the engines and train cars being built. Once they were forced to consolidate onto one size of track everything changed. Rail travel exploded and as a result businesses exploded.
Now fast forward to the day when mobile networks are the new tracks and the device manufacturers are the new train car builders. Except now there is no ideal of making the users world better by creating a level playing field that benefits them. Instead we have device manufacturers colluding with the transporters of our mobile communications and digital lives to keep the tracks a different size.
Just as we saw a boom when the railways had to all use the same size track I believe we would see one of the most incredible booms if instead of mobile computing being geared to benefit the providers it benefitted the users. To do this our mobile devices need to be available at a cost everyone could afford and with access that is equitable worldwide. These devices would need to be able to be used anywhere in the world and on any network and with a quality of service that isn’t controlled by corporate boardrooms and shareholder greed.
Then we would see a different world.