Tuesday, November 27, 2007

On Nomadism and Thin Clients

Chris Brogan recently posted that we should all be prepared for digital nomadism - i.e. working from anywhere, anytime (although having watched my wife make this transition, I can say with some authority that "anytime" is really "all the time"). I don't disagree that we all need to prepare for the long trek from coffee shop to hotdesk to lunch meeting to bus stop, but I was surprised by the first section after the intro, entitled "Get a Smartphone." His first sentence, "Your regular cellphone won't cut it," strikes me as a bit dire.

It could be that I'm in the dark ages, or else overly concerned about the portability and pocket-friendliness of your average smart phone. It could be that I've had two phones that were irresistibly attracted to water (washing machine, lake, whatever), and don't really want to face the prospect of throwing $500 down the drain on one of my absent-minded moments. Perhaps it's like first class - once you've been there you can never go back. I would like to posit, however, that one can be perfectly nomadic without one. Before iPhone, when all of a sudden our phone really could do everything (bless you iPhone), there was not a single smart phone that held any allure for me whatsoever. It comes down to how I use the phone. I am always able to download a Gmail app for whatever phone I have. Similarly, most phones are able to sync with my computer to share calendar data and contacts. And they have all had longer battery life than the behemoths.

Really, what else do I need? When will the day come that I can't get to a terminal of some type to drop my crucial edits into crucial document X? And how much pleasure will I get out of trying to do that on a smart phone because I can? The point of all this modularity/portability/mobile access is to be able to utilize what amounts to a thin client to retrieve and manipulate centrally stored data. Yes, a smart phone can do! It! All!, but I'll go out on a limb and suggest that a phone is a phone (unless it's an iPhone). My wife checks her email (just like me) but if it's a detailed issue, she closes the email program and calls the person (just like me). Sure, she's become adept at buttonmashing quick replies out to people if needed (just like me), but on the whole the phone is a data device as needed and first and foremost a means of communicating via voce. Just like mine.

Just sayin', nomads travel light and make do with what they have. If you've got the killer tool, by all means. But I'll continue the voyage with an endless succession of little toy phones that end up, mysteriously, in the dishwasher.

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