What does “Always On” really mean to us?

A couple of years ago I gave up my Windows Mobile based Smartphone for the greater good, and in return joined the Blackberry “crew”. For weeks I was lost, the WM device may not have had all the bells & whistles of the Blackberry but what it did do, it did properly. I used it for getting my email on the move and the email functionality had none of the quirks that afflict the Blackberry, even today.

I now have one of the better Blackberry devices, have loaded a few more applications, and it’s now usable-ish but typing on that little keyboard is a pain. It’s great for senior managers sending one word emails, but if you’ve been asked a detailed question then sitting at Leeds railway station on a frosty morning trying to type a detailed response takes some doing.

It’s my choice to use the Blackberry, a colleague insists on using his massive laptop with a 3G connection but hoisting that lot around defeats the object of mobile devices. I have a netbook that I use when out and about and that works well plus I don’t have to annoy fellow travellers with my wheeled briefcase that gets in the way in crowds and won’t go through the ticket barriers.

Now I’ve been given one of Mr Job’s new tablet devices to use, we’re testing security software to see if we could use them as corporate email units.

Where I work I wrote a tongue in cheek blog entry about versions of software. In it I commented that early versions are rushed out and don’t do everything; later versions are better but push the limits on the technology; and the final versions (if they’re worthwhile) get swallowed up by the big companies.

The iPad feels very much like V1.0 software: there are lots of applications but, like the Blackberry, they don’t do everything. This got me thinking about where we are going in future, something dangerous for a strategist to do, eh?

If I look at the telecommunications space with the emerging standards around IP based services, the whole telephone concept is going to change. The multiple telephone numbers that you have today will, I believe, disappear. Instead you will have a SIP contact point that is always there, and you will connect to it with whatever device you have to hand. Of course the device will dictate what you can & can’t do when you connect, but then translation services will help. Find a voice message left for you but you’ve only got text access so your phone service will translate the voice to test and show you the transcript.

This isn’t a particularly wild prediction, much of this is around today, it just needs stringing together and making commercially viable. But the main barrier to adoption is our acceptance of this style of communication, it doesn’t fit with our current views of how our world operates.

Back to the iPad, and the same will apply. We talk about “Cloud Computing” but in essence it will be the same model as our telephony. I like Zoho, an online office suite which is now getting mature. Want to word process, point your browser at Zoho and fire up Writer. That’s how we’re going to work in future: you’ll use one service in place of your PC today, and simply access it from whatever device you have at that moment. Again the barrier to adoption is simply the mindset we have today.

My current frustration with the iPad is the fact that it doesn’t give me full PC capabilities, but it’s not meant to, it’s my thinking that is wrong. If I adjust to think of it, and the Blackberry, as connectivity devices of varying capability then it starts to make sense.

So back to the question asked in the title. Always on is the service we’re going to use, and the fact that contacting someone, or using compute services will become a 24×7 offering that we will choose to dip into at our choosing. At the moment we’re in version 1.0 which is why I get one word email answers, but that will change come the next version. Promise!

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