Core Use Cases for a Smartphone (or Tablet)

I may be missing something — in fact, in today’s info-overload world, I’m sure I’m missing many things — but I haven’t seen a good discussion of use cases for a smartphone beyond calendar and email.

Here are a few I’ve thought about.  Would appreciate feedback about others:

  • “Recalculating route”… The other morning I was driving my rental car to BOS when my faithful Droid Bionic said “Droid”.  I managed to read the text message (at considerable danger to myself and others, of course) and found out that my USAir Shuttle flight to NYC had been cancelled.  What to do?  I ended up going to the near-ish Amtrak station and parking outside while I figured things out on my iPad (bigger form factor).  I looked up the Amtrak train schedule, thought I didn’t have enough time to return the rental car to the station instead of the airport and catch the train, so I looked up Delta Shuttle schedules, USAir schedules, and decided to stick with USAir in hopes of catching the next flight.  I should have been able to do this all while still driving using voice and audio, or at least had some higher-level app or app-style workflow to make this an easier project.  This kind of mid-course correction over multiple data sources while in motion is a key smartphone use case.  If Siri could do this I’d jump ship.
  • Multi-app workflows  It’s reasonably hard on most mobile platforms (smartphone or tablet) to read an attachment to an email, which has got to be the most rudimentary kind of multi-app workflow.  My password manager RoboForm (and its cousin LastPass as well, as I recall) doesn’t work well on my Droid or iPad, and needs basically copy and paste do do what happens automatically on my PC.  Imagine transferring information back and forth between a web site and a spreadsheet, working with a calendar and a map at the same time, etc etc, and you can see what’s missing from the mobile client.
  • Integrated Messaging  On neither of my platforms can you view in the same “inbox” your email, text messages, and various IM and social-networking client outputs.  Sad, but true.  I even remember fondly the Blackberry integration of at least texts and emails.  One place with a message timeline, like what Google is moving towards online.

Any others?



Zero-latency apps I would love to see, Part 7

A facility for musicians to virtually jam on the Intnernet.  “Licks with Friends” or the like.

Not sure where things are at with the platform this would require, but I think we’re probably still a ways.

What’s the latency below which you are all playing in rhythm?  Actually, half that latency I guess, since I have to react to your cue and play something back.  That’s what we would need.

Plus it would be a nice-to-have to see the rest of the group as we play, although I’d settle for audio-only in R1.

Then and Now

I was talking with our senior partner Art Marks this morning about tech predictions for 2012, and he made a couple of interesting observations.

Back in the day Art used to run GE’s time-sharing service.  At the time, some of his main headaches were:

  • Finding points of presence, on-ramps to the GE network.  This involved painful and protracted negotiations with postal and telephone authorities, who viewed time-sharing as both a nuisance and a competitive disruption
  • Training users how to use the computer.  Time-sharing terminals were unintuitive, inflexible, and unforgiving.  Users had to supply all of these.
  • Finding and integrating applications for the GE service in order to incent users to sign up and to differentiate GE from other service providers.

Fast forward to today’s network:

  • With wireless connectivity shared between cellular radios and WiFi, points of presence are almost ubiquitous.  Most carriers accept the fact that they must carry both “open system” and proprietary traffic, although there’s still some fear and loathing about that.
  • Users today train the computer how they want to communicate with it.  OK, not quite, but we’re getting there.  New services like Siri on the iPhone, voice search on Android phones, and location-aware services on all platforms, work with the user and attempt to be intuitive, flexible, and forgiving.
  • Instead of a few huge applications which are bears to maintain and integrate, users today use a multiplicity of small single-purpose apps which are increasingly mashing up dynamically to produce larger-scale results.

Who says there’s no such thing as progress?

Video as the New Text

I gave a talk in Atlanta last spring featuring some of my “hot things” for tech going forward.

This slide — a bit tongue-in-cheek, but fundamentally serious — tried to slice history into three eras, one pre-dating Gutenberg, one from Gutenberg to now, and one going forward.  The one going forward uses video a lot of places where we use text today.

Not implausible.  But what will go along with text?  I think sometimes the Enlightenment was predicated on following long text arguments rather than “short-form” video.  We’re certainly going to lose our privacy in the coming era.  Will we lose the whole Enlightenment sense of “self” as well?