I am a convergence guy by choice in some respects, and by need in a host of others. For me, computing made simple came to be years ago when I first heard of a PDA (Psion Revo) and then even more simply when I heard that a phone could be attached (Kyocera 6035).
It’s been an interesting road, and in many ways, using a converged PDA has given me a unique view of mobile computing in general.
Of course, having said that, I notice that all is not right in mobile computing. Even as I sit at my county library and write this, I realize that Mobile Tech (at least in the U.S.) has a long way to go. Some people are here using their own laptops and the free Wi-Fi. There are others using the many desktops to do their computing tasks. Why aren’t there more people here using PDAs?
And then there are just a slew of books all over the place, many of which I’m sure have not been read in a while and could use some sort of digital archiving and retrieval system.
Plenty of Good
But this is not one of those editorials where I just say what’s wrong with mobile computing. Actually, sitting here gives me a moment to actually see what works and what is working right.
As I mentioned, I am the only one here with a PDA and keyboard. It seems ultimate portability just is not the way most people want to go. Still, many of the laptops here (by my informal estimation) are using 12-inch to 15-inch screens. Not small, but just large enough to feel comfortable using while still being relatively easy to carry around. And, weirdly enough, not everyone is plugged in to a power outlet.
Actually, I am probably being stared at more than I’m looking at anyone else (one kid and mom went “wow” upon seeing me with just the Treo and keyboard sitting on the desk in front of me).
Of those using desktops, a great many are teens. Some of them have their mobile phone right beside the keyboard as they are viewing MySpace or checking email. It’s not like their lives are centered around computing, but they are trying to fit computing in their lives in such a way that life is more enjoyable.
Room for Improvement
Sure, there is a lot in just this library that can improve. Developers of games allowed to be played in libraries (this particular one has designated gaming machines) could provide some integration with a mobile phone or online account so that a teen could game here a while and then continue at home. Ebooks could work too, but probably by replacing the diminishing periodicals section with dedicated readers, rather than taking over the entire library, “Minority Report” style. And these should be in a format that can be read on PDAs and smartphones, not just PCs.
So, what conclusions can I draw from this trip to the library? Computing has become a firm part of our lives, but hasn’t taken over them. Regardless of market expectations and trends, people really do seem to be at some measure of peace as to where things are. Not to say that things won’t get more mobile or invasive, but just that people are a pretty good filter for what technology works. They use what they are comfortable with and ignore the rest, and there’s not much advertising can do to change that.