August 25, 2004, 5:08 PM —
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Analyst: Craig Mathias, Farpoint Group
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Takeaway: It's hard to build a mobile device that incorporates all of the functions we might like to have while out and about. After a while, it's going to be just too complex for most people to operate, and too hard to design and manufacture.
Welcome to the analyst briefing on the Evolution of the Personal Communicator. I'm Craig Mathias, a Principal with the wireless and mobile advisory firm Farpoint Group, and what we're going to explore is one of the most interest issues facing the wireless world today - and that's the form your mobile communications device, or devices, will take.
If you're like me, you want to minimize the number of mobile voice, data, and computing products that you carry, and ideally get it down to a single unit. As it turns out, this is one of the most difficult problems out there; so great, in fact, that we've given it a name - The Single-Device Paradox.
What's so paradoxical? Well, it seems that given the technology available today it shouldn't be all that hard to get everything we need into one small box. After all, it's primarily a matter of voice, which should be pretty easy, and data, which is mostly the Web and wireless IP-based networking.
But look at all the other possibilities - pretty soon one begins to run into some fundamental limitations. It's hard to build a mobile device that incorporates all of the functions we might like to have while out and about. After a while, it's going to be just too complex for most people to operate, and too hard to design and manufacture.
Why? Because most of these features work against one another. Mobile, of course, means small, but we'd like the screen to be as big as possible. But big screens not only make the device less portable, they also consume more battery power, which is perhaps the biggest limitation of all.
And while, size and weight become real concerns, as does how rugged the device is - everyone drops their cell phone eventually, often with disastrous results. No single user interface or input device works well for everyone.
And, of course, at some point cost becomes the gating item for most buyers. It's far easier to justify $200 on a mobile communicator than $500, especially when one considers that productivity, not more features, is usually the primary goal.