It was only twelve years ago that Steve Jobs introduced a new device called the Apple iPhone – Hard to believe, isn’t it? Since that time, phones have gotten much smarter and have taken on the functions of not only computing and relaying information around the world but also hosting myriad other functions such as flashlights, games, calculators, and a wide variety of apps:
A note to those who didn’t have one of the first BlackBerrys (as I did), there was a time when smartphones did not host apps. All of these functions are peripheral to the actual function of the smartphone – and are now being co-opted by other devices, from wristwatches that can text emojis, to televisions that can both talk and listen – and the list goes on and on – power to them, I’d say – I’d just as soon wind up with a smartphone that only did the things that I needed it to, like texting, emailing, and phoning – really well. The point that people are making, however, is that there are now far more “connected” (that is, “smart”) devices in operation today, other than smartphones. And, as a result, the smartphone’s singular status as the “go to” device for companies needing to reach mobile users has diminished while the “challenge of ‘smart'” has broadened. There are now a panoply of devices that include voice apps, car infotainment centers, and wearable devices (ref., WSJ article, “Smartphone Overload!”) A research analyst in the field has put it this way: “We may even need another word for whatever the smartphone will become because when ‘smart’ is everywhere, that term becomes almost meaningless.” Hmmm – I’m not sure that I’d agree – when a device that one carries around for the primary purpose of sending emails and texts as well as receiving and transmitting phone conversations – in other words, strictly for business purposes – and that device is more powerful than most laptop computers, why wouldn’t one want to continue to call it a smartphone – because that is just exactly what it is. The tech conference held last week in Las Vegas was apparently considered a “bust” because there weren’t any actual, new earth-shaattering “smart” devices that were displayed. My question would be: “Why is it that we always need something new and different? If we have some of the best that technological science and development can offer, already, why seek some other shiny new toy? Why not just be satisfied with the excellent performance of the toys that we already have? This approach, by the way, is called,”Maturity” and it’s a form of actually growing up – for the information of any millennials reading these posts. Only children keep wanting new and shinier toys; adults, on the other hand, busy themselves with the challenging work at hand, using the excellent equipment that has already been developed to assist in that work. One can understand, however, that the companies that are the developers of these smart devices keep looking for ever more toys to attempt to sell to the gullible. But it’s up to the responsible consumer to push back and say, “No, thanks – I like what I have.” Interestingly enough, this is a similar trajectory to that of the car industry in the mid-60s to 70s. History tells us that during that time, car dealerships attempted to convince anyone who owned a car more than two years old that they were “way of of date” and shamed them into buying a shiny new one. That eventually blew up in their faces, when people became averse to the strange marketing gambits. It’s possible that the same thing could happen in the technology industry. People there are currently dancing around looking for “The Next Big Thing”- it’s possible that consumers will do more of what has already been begun – tell the industry they’re quite content with the device (s) that they already have. Something for the technology folks to keep in mind – it’s possible to push things too far. Think about the out-of-business car dealerships that dot the country. I’d say that the technology industry needs to strive to develop and provide the very best technological devices possible; but that they should avoid the temptation to push things into the marketplace that have no real value – other to them, as sales revenue.