The last few months it sure has felt like we are hitting one of those technology lift-off moments. We’ve seen wild innovation in small mobile devices - things we used to call phones – with Droids, Nexus Ones and more fighting to keep up with Apple’s slew of path-breaking and super cool offerings. We’ve seen the emergence of two whole new categories – slate/readers (Kindles, etc) and smartbooks (between a smart phone and netbook). Twitter use has exploded, AppStores are an every day fixture and Amazon sold more e-books on Christmas day than regular books. Just as we were all figuring out the last wave a new and even more powerful one has come along, upending everything. Again.
As we absorb this whole new layer of innovation and change, I think I see where all this could be headed now. Driven by a great degree by the iphone’s historic touchscreen, which liberated mobile devices from clunky keyboards, the mid-term future will be a world of screens wired to each other through various networks and ultimately all connected together through whatever we ultimately call the single global communications network. It won’t be computers or phones per se, but intelligent screens.
These screens will have many uses and be customized. The one you have for your recipes and cooking video clips will be splatter proof, large and without a keyboard. The one you carry with you will be small, maybe even roll or fold up, and a keyboard will be optional. The screen coaches use on the field to talk to their players, show video replays, draw a new play will be built and marketed by Nike. The screen you use to read your daily stuff and watch your morning video will as big and as powerful as you want it, as it will come in dozens of different options. The computer you use to write will of course have a screen and a keyboard.
it is possible these things will no longer be called phones or computers and be called screens because the value added will increasingly be in the screen size, purpose and design and not in the computing, networked part. The computing, networked part will be (and already is to some degree) commoditized, meaning that it won’t really be an important part of your device. The important part will be its narrow, intelligent pairing of form and function, ease of use by messy hands, durability and resilience, size, weight, all that.
The key will be the screen. Of course it will be mobile, always on, loaded with computing power. That’s a given. But what will make it powerful will be the front-end, the consumer interface, its narrow, targeted utility.
I just watched the video of Steve Jobs' keynote presentation at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco. In it, he unveiled Apple's widely anticipated iPhone G3. Now while I am an unabashed Apple fan, unlike Tim Chambers and Jed Alpert I'm not an expert on mobile media. So some of the specifics of the presentation flew over my head.
But what was obvious was that the product on display is very likely to continue a theme we at NDN and NPI have thoroughly discussed. As Simon recently described in his post, aptly titled "The power of mobile", the role of mobile media in the global communications network cannot be ignored.
Surely that point was on display in San Francisco this afternoon.
Now the iPhone will not have the ability to impact everyone as the price of it alone is a barrier. But after seeing some of the initial applications developed for it, it's obvious that it has extraordinary capability to impact many sectors. Politics is of course no exception. Take for example the applications by TypePad, which allows seamless blogging from your iPhone, and the Associated Press, which lets you both consume and report news.
Pair that potential with the fact that the iPhone 3G will be available in seventy countries and you'll understand why Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers helped launch the iFund. If only every country was able to become connected - through the iPhone or some other device - imagine what that would look like. If nothing else, it would give former Vice President Gore, who was in the audience, another reason to be a proud Board member of Apple.