For the odd moments I can manage to think of something.

As a standard….

Singing..."All of these things are not like the others..."
*Singing*…”All of these things are not like the others…”

Standardisation in mobile feels as though it is a long way away. But in technology time seems to pass like dog years on amphetamines, so by the time I write this – maybe the solutions will already be apparent. She says – optimistically….

In an interesting chat with a VP in San Francisco, we came to the topic of mobile devices. He stated the obvious so succinctly that it felt like a revelation. He said he could not wait until mobile was standardised. With data in the cloud – the object you hold in your hand, the small computing and telecommunications device, would be so cheap that when you lose yours or dunk it in a toilet, you can head to the corner store and pick up a new device or portal and download the same settings as before.

This seems like an elegant solution to me. It has many very appealing aspects to it. Not only would it mean that standardisation is key, it would also go some way to democratising the technology involved so that more people would be able to be connected. But there are also a lot of questions that I still have about this scenario. Things that would become associated with that tale and progression.

At the moment, being charged an arm and a leg for a smart phone is not a barrel of fun. At time of writing to buy a new iPhone at Tesco would cost £479 – and they’re out of stock online just now too. That’s a lot of money on an average wage to those who are not so tech obsessed.

Sim free HTC Desire – £429 unlocked on Amazon. Nokia N900 £389. Again these are not exactly cheap and accessible prices. So there’s a starting point – cheaper handsets.

But what does that lead to in a wider picture? For sure it might mean that the strangle hold of the bigger companies making these items will fall away. There may be a truck load of new models created by unheard of companies from all over the world. That seems like a fairer idea to avoid monopolies and other tricky business.

So where does cheaper technology come from? Maybe the same place that cheaper clothing or any sort of manufacturing happens – out of sight, out of mind and at the expense of others. I’m not sure how much I like the idea of an unsustainable product created by blind orphans in impoverished countries. That’s a broad sweep, but I don’t think it is out of the range of speculation. Keeping an eye on where our shiny things are made should be a priority.

Data in the cloud – this also seems key to making this idea work. But there would have to be standardised protocols for connecting to that data from any cheap replacement handset we buy. It also has to perform in an invisible and natural way. Expectations high? Yeah – probably. Most of us are still ignoring apps that force closure four times out of ten for the sake of keeping up with social appearances.

Will we be charged for this? That would seem to make some business sense. I will hold your data, nice and safe away from bad hackers and criminals and let only you have it back when you need it. That’s a service worth paying for. Is it one worth insuring too? I’m not actively promoting that my provider should charge me more by the way – not after my last trip abroad and the following roaming bill.

Closed and open development? The infamous Wired article is still being furiously discussed around the web and beyond and it makes a good point about our relationship with the internet. Mobile applications create many separate silos – does this have an effect on getting our profiles to cross boundaries? Are we really only going for the path of least resistance or should there be a way for mobile developers to offer services without having to be in Ovi, Android market and the iTunes store? Should there be a standardised market for all of these things to be adjusted and offered across Symbian, Android, iOS? Wouldn’t that be beneficial to consumers?

That said – it doesn’t seem so long ago that text messaging was more expensive between networks. So progress comes – eventually. Once providers can maybe no longer put up with complaints.

Pushing ahead

There’s many problems ahead and no doubt anyone reading this can happily list a few more – but getting through those issues toward standardisation still appeals to me. Running briefly through past examples where standardisation has helped us – the industrial revolution is a good one – it’s hard to imagine a time when screws were all different and bullets didn’t fit just any gun other than the specific example (actually -that’s not such a happy example).

In a geekier sense, TCP/IP allowed military and early ARPA development, diversity and won a battle with Telcos. But does the right one always win?

There are still slightly amusing arguments about VHS and Beta Max – which was the better format? But which one became the de facto market choice? Why are we still using Qwerty keyboards if this layout was designed to slow the typist down? Sometimes it’s a matter of the winner being the most accessible, the most common and the easiest to pick up rather than the best.

Lower the entry level of technology and it often becomes the most successful option, even if in hindsight it was not technically the best available.

So in my sketch of happily disposable (maybe biodegradable?) technology with standardised platforms and access – the focus would switch to the content. (Does that make content king again? I forget which current web buzz phrase we are quoting this week, I think that’s an older one.)

I wonder sometimes while researching how we get online and what we use to do it, who we meet and link to on the way if anything has changed in the objective – why we go there. I fall into the camp where I want the quality and timeliness of information to be a high priority.

I want all the right people to be there – my friends, inspiration points, contacts. I want the information available to be correct, presented in the most useful way. That still points to creators, writers, news organisations, program makers, entertainers, musician and artists to be the same fantastic resources they have always been – no matter the business model or portal through which I access them. After all – even if I standardise my access, if there’s no one there and nothing to do, why go there in the first place?

But before I can do all of these things – those data areas do need to be accessible and while the field is so fragmented and companies are still scrapping over this territory, it’s just not going to be easy for consumers – in real years, internet years and probably dog years too.

Arf! Tell me where I’m going wrong….

Add to: Facebook | Digg | | Stumbleupon | Reddit | Blinklist | Twitter | Technorati | Yahoo Buzz | Newsvine

3 Responses to “As a standard….”

  1. James Cridland

    It’s curious that your justification for a standard at the top of this piece is almost exactly what you get when you get an Android phone; your settings and contacts are stored in the cloud, and your bought apps are also always ready for re-downloading.

    The Android microcosm also says why a ‘standard’ might not be the best plan for a consumer: develop only for Android 1.6, and you deny users of the integration benefits of 2.2. Lowest common denominator technology as a standard is bad news for consumers and developers alike.

    The VHS/Betamax argument actually strengthens your point, however: what helped VHS overtake Betamax wasn’t the cheaper cost of technology, nor ‘how easy it was to pick up’, but the content that was available on VHS where it wasn’t available on Betamax. Thank goodness we didn’t standardise on video tape, though!

    Incidentally, while walking through Tesco last weekend, I saw some small and quite decent-looking unlocked mobile phones for sale at £15. No contract, nothing. And an Android tablet has been seen in the wild for $49 – albeit with wifi only. This is made possible by the open nature of the GSM and Android technologies; rather than any desire to stifle innovation by standardising rather than innovating.

    • jemimahknight

      Hi James,

      Indeed I have a Nexus as my personal phone, so yes, Android standards do appeal to me. I think there is a similar process for iphone too when it comes to re-downloading apps.

      I am often stymied though when I want to use apps that are on my ipodtouch on my Android – so standardisation is not cross platform. Or is it that developers are working on the largest market for profit? My common question for great apps is – when is it coming to Android? (often followed by whiny mewling sounds as I whinge on 🙂

      My flatmate has just bought a phone from Tesco. A rather cute Ericsson. But the GUI for getting online is a bit of a taskmaster. I listed the high end phones in this piece as they represent (to me) easier access and low entry level for common usage. You just don’t get that sort of accessibility on $49 phones. I wish that this were not the case and that the handsets would become secondary to the app and content market.

      I do love Android – but I look forward to the time when it won’t matter what is running the machine, just that I can access it.

  2. Gids

    I’ve gone through this over the years and in a way things are getting worse with proprietary services. Back in the day my old Nokia would export contacts to a .csv file. Now it exports them to ‘Ovi Sync’ with no export option.

    The very non-cloud old skool solution is still Microsoft Outlook. The holy grail to which all devices since, well, ages will sync. That’s how I got a pile of data from an old Psion to a new Nokia.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

%d bloggers like this: