A few months ago something trivial happened to me that changed how I look at technology.
It was Friday evening. FedEx was supposed to deliver a package that day, but since I wasn’t home, they took it back to the facility. I didn’t want to wait until Monday, so I drove over there, but forgot to print the tracking number.
For some reason, they couldn’t find my name or address in their computer. So I pulled out my cell phone, found the e-mail with the tracking number, and handed it over to the clerk.
If you have a smartphone that synchronizes with your Outlook or Exchange, or maybe a BlackBerry, you won’t find this story ground breaking. But like most people, I don’t have a smartphone. In fact, I refuse to carry anything in my pocket that’s bigger than a credit card, costs more than $100 and requires maintenance and upkeep.
I have a Razr, and like most people I got it for free as part of my service contract, and like most people I never synchronize it with anything, and the most upkeep I do is charging the battery and wiping the screen clean.
But like every cell phone sold in the past couple of years, it has a Web browser. And you can check your GMail over the Web. It costs nothing, fits in a pocket and has 2GB of e-mail storage.
It made me realize the world we live in has a few smartphones, and a lot of cell phone browsers. And that’s not about to change. Most people need a cell phone to make calls and send messages, but will use its browser in a pinch. We’re not going to have more smartphones, but we are going to have more Web-ready cell phones.
If you’re building for the next platform of smartphones, you’re missing on the population of cell phone users. You’re designing smart clients that can do data synchronization with smart services, all really interesting technologies. But really all you need is basic HTML.
Sometimes through our love for complexity and gadgetry, we fail to see the utility in simplicity.
I learned an interesting lesson that night. That there’s no need to invent a platform for smart mobile devices, that there’s no real market for new type of software applications that run on those devices. We needed those when cell phones were stupid and Palm was the most computing you can do in a pocket device.
But today all you need is basic HTML.