Thursday, April 1, 2010

Monodevicism Vs. Polydevicism

Long before the most recent smartphone craze, I was confident that, in the future, all our computing needs would be satisfied by a single tiny personal device. I certainly had no doubt that smaller devices' processing speeds would continue to increase, almost indefinitely. However, I overlooked or assumed that portable power supplies would either get better and hold up to the developing technologies or perhaps end up not even being necessary.

I or anyone else can observe or learn about the increase of processing power from one CPU to the next. However, I am not so sure of battery technology. Is it improving? Has it reached a plateau? If not, does it keep up with Moore's Law?

As many more peoples' lives become "wired," particularly with the inclusion of smartphones, we are starting to experience the ever present inconvenience of limited portable power. If a better energy source is not discovered, we will never experience the single device future I felt so certain we would happen.

I liked the way that Steve Wozniak described the iPod: as a satellite device. I assume he meant it would never replace your computer at home, but would remain as our constant link to that computer back home, syncing our portable activities when we get back home--to recharge.

However, smartphones provide almost unlimited connectedness. We are no longer required to dock our satellite devices to our computers at home. We are becoming a truly mobile information society. In fact, syncing data from our computer is not necessary, as even our home computer will sync all its data over the Internet. But the battery is our ball and chain. Just as one weighs us down, we make up for it by carrying yet another.

I recently have gotten a dedicated ebook reader. I had tried several times to use my smartphone for reading. But doing so would leave me in situations where I could no longer use the phone as a phone at all. At the end of the week, I now have to nurse another device, in addition to my laptop and smartphone.

My dream of a single do it all device is fading, as I begin to accept my computing energy enslavement. Now my question is how many personal mobile devices should I have or what is a reasonable number to use at one time.

None of these devices alone are allowed to be the perfect device, each one doing a single task better than the others.

Today I realized that if we do always have multiple personal computing devices, there is one that we will certainly not have: a smartphone. We may still use a phone, but it and all the devices will communicate to a central, Internet capable, device. If our most personal Internet ready satellite device is always on, there will be no reason to have any other devices at all--it will uniquely drive any public device you come in contact with, such as your car, television, movie theatre, or bathroom.