Invasion Of The Hand Computers

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We have to give up on the idea that there’s a difference between being "online" and what we’re experiencing on our mobile devices.

They’re both "online" and it’s only going to be a short while where the experiences of being online via a computer (be it desktop, laptop or netbook) is that much different from our mobile devices. Afterall, where does Apple‘s iPad fit in the mix? Is it a mobile device or is it closer to a netbook? (Julien Smith, co-author with Chris Brogan of Trust Agents, and one of the regular co-hosts of the Media Hacks Podcast, half-jokingly remarked that the iPad was nothing more than nine iPhones stapled together).

We also need to ditch the term "smartphone"… and fast!

"Although only 21% of American wireless subscribers were using a smartphone as of Q4 2009 compared to 19% in Q3 2009 and 14% at the end of 2008, Nielsen expects smartphones to account for more than half of the US mobile phone market by 2011. Nielsen predicts smartphones will account for 24% of the US mobile phone market in Q1 2010 and rise to about 33% market share by Q4 2010. Growth will then accelerate in 2011, hitting 40% in Q1 2011 and about 50% by Q3 2011. Based on this rapid increase, smartphones should pass the 50% mark during Q4 2011."

That was the big news from Marketing Charts on March 26th, 2010 in the news item, Smartphones Projected to Overtake Feature Phones Next Year. Without even looking at the news item, it’s not hard to imagine that people are doing way more things than just using their mobile devices for talking. These are no longer phones. These are no longer remote controls for our personal lives. These are computers. Just like that thing on your desk or that laptop you schlep around.

This is the year of mobile (that was a joke).

There will be no "year of mobile" and if there is one, it has probably already passed us by. We’re inching ever-closer to a moment in time where you won’t/don’t need to take both a laptop and an iPhone (BlackBerry, Android, whatever) on your business trip – you’ll just take one computer (and odds are it will be the one that can fit in the palm of your hand). I’ve Blogged about this before (The Lines Continue To Blur (At Breakneck Speed), Game Changer – Game Over, What Will Be, The Google Phone Is Really About This…, etc…), but Marketers are still focused on saying "online" and "mobile" and keeping those walls far and wide apart.

Mobile and Online are not separate things. They’re the same thing, we’re just not comfortable with the pace of change.


  1. I really am starting to adopt to thoughts that future is all about invisible computers. Recently, MIT released an article on nano helicopters that could create something like virtual screen without any surface and in the air. That’s what I see the future in. Tablets have a future, but tiny.

  2. The phrase “smartphone” does really have to go. The iPhone has truly made that word, “smartphone”, obsolete.
    With apps like MobileRSS, Digg, WordPress, LinkedIn, and Facebook on my iPhone, I can fill my social media obsession all thru my phone … ohh … and it does email too (but, who uses email?).

  3. I agree. One iPad feature few have commented on is it will run Apple’s Pages, Numbers and Keynote programs using simple UX and keypads that morph based on your modality — that is, the Numbers (Excel replacement) program will shift the keypad if you are entering formulas vs. numbers vs. text.
    Really, we’re talking a smaller, more elegant, more simple computer. I think such devices could take off. Imagine a college student with a choice between a $1,500 laptop or $500 tablet, with an Apple OS that does everything a computer can.
    Computers have been too complicated for years. Apple is brilliant at building operating systems that require no instructions and make things accessible to the masses; and others will emulate the same designs. I see a sea change coming where the world is filled with cheap glass screens. The real question is how will such mobile proliferation shift society.

  4. I think we are getting ahead of ourselves with banishing laptops/desktops. Tablets are the new netbook. Great in theory but terrible in application.
    Tablets would be great for the following for business and students
    – Reading material digitally
    – Taking notes on powerpoints or reading material
    – Watching video of lectures/presentations
    Where we still need laptops
    – Running multiple applications (email, word processor, etc)
    – Producing work – quickly, efficiently and ergonomically
    – Presenting to groups of over 3-4 (need VGA or S-video output)
    I think we can banish out laptops when tablets have enough processing power to hook up wirelessly to a large monitor or projector with a wireless keyboard & mouse.
    Yes we are inching towards a time we will travel with one mobile computer or will it mean we will travel with a complicated tablet and a very simple mobile phone?

  5. I love portability, no matter the brand. Gadgets like PSP, iPad, iPhone make our lives easier because of accessible information and fun while you are doing other stuff. I may not be the year of mobile but it’s certainly the year when they all get more interesting. Nice post Mitch.

  6. Mitch, have you been to SE Asia recently re. “smart-phones”? 10 years ago my nephew was working in Singapore designing website — for mobile. “The year of the mobile” is so North-American-centric. We are years behind.

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