If you recognise this title, it is in fact, a term that Motorola have been using to describe the change in the Mobile phone in terms of functionality. Even more important is the change in the use that people are making of the ? Well what should we call it? If we ignore the teleport functionality we are pretty close to the ubiquitous device that all crew members of the Star Ship Enterprise carried on their vital mission to ‘boldly go where no man has gone before’ and knew as ‘the Communicator’. Well done Nokia for thinking ahead, and grabbing the name, for their smart phone some years back!
Actually we are closer than we think to this mission statement, as the definition of this new emerging device does take us where we have not been before, and certain challenges emerge out of this, and they are not technical! The definition of a phone is made on its prime functionality, the ability to support voice calls over a fixed connection between two end points. But what about the new Apple i Phone, from the same people, ie Apple, who have led some other redefinitions of technology objects. Apple seem to specialise in rethinking a recognised technology object around what could be combined to make it more usable rather than provide more technology functionality onto the existing product.
What makes this ‘interface back to processor’ approach interesting is that it looks remarkably like the Web 2.0 characteristics of how Flickr, or anything else is designed. Further if the definition of innovation is taken as being radical change more than evolutionary improvement then Apple seems to have innovated based on the information released.
Has Apple truly re invented the device formally known as the phone in the likeness of something radically different when defined by functionality as a personal life style supporter? Possibly, but we won’t know for sure until the end of the year when we see how it really works out by the way people actually decide it can be used. But it’s a race, other companies are doing the same thing so one way or another a new generation of capability will fit in the pocket, and the new capabilities will support a new range of business services. The whole growth in Web 2.0 on the PC at home, with all the new consumer services suddenly looks to get even more momentum as it can be played on the new ‘device/phones’. But that’s the end of the good news!
I have my concerns about whether we will actually be able to go where no man has been before, not because of the technology, but because of the commercial charge model for access. The sticking point is the telecoms industries acceptance of a new model to provide access at the right price to what could be a massive market in terms of volume. With dismal statistics on their fixed line traditional business, (as an example think of the Australian market, where 40% rely solely on mobile phones and 46% use their fixed lines solely for internet access), the telecommunication providers are more fixated in having to think about short term revenue replacement. My fear is that the charges for using their universal access wireless services will prevent this new market from growing.
However it also could be the opportunity for Wifi, and even WiMax. If the new device/phones are supported hot spot style by new providers using a very different price structure, then a whole paradigm (apologies for the use of the word) shift could happen. Users will learn to differentiate between low bandwidth universal access services at one price point from the existing telecommunication providers, and hot spot low cost high bandwidth services from another, and these new devices mostly support both. This would provide an interesting crossover point for the currently parallel development between alternative wireless formats that has caused speculation as to why we need multiple formats.
The more I think about this, the more I can see it working. The most likely scenario for using high bandwidth entertainment services is when we are sat waiting somewhere, not when we are ‘mobile’ and need to be available to take an incoming call regardless of location. This seems to fit the ‘hotspot’ structure, but it would also allow localised content ‘broadcasting’ on the location in terms of services, much like local FM radio. This starts to produce new and differentiated services that would add value, and this then will further increase the usefulness of the device, to create the circle of high consumer growth. It also leads to a radically different path for the future development of personal devices, or as we know them today, the mobile phones, where the primary function is not to be a phone, this is an additional function to a set of broader capablities.