Three Screens and Some Natural Light

Much of my day today has been spent looking outside of the window towards clouds and rain. It causes reflection and a few naps if you aren’t careful. At the moment, the reflectioned thoughts center around the three screens that I use and how they all aren’t as necessary as I once thought.

Three Screens?
For many people that I know online and personally, we have several screens that we look at, or interact with throughout the day. There’s the TV (1), the mobile phone (2), a laptop or workstation (3), the automotive windshield (4) and car radio (5), a watch (6), and sometimes an additonal music player such as an iPod (6).

I’ve been very deliberate over the years toward trying to reduce the amount of screens that are around me so that I could live with a bit less friction and just enjoy life. These days, my screens mirror the above except that I don’t have a laptop/workstation – I have an occasional PC – and I don’t have an additonal music player outside of what’s on my smarpthone.

Screen #1: TV
The largest of these screens that I deal with isn’t my car’s windshield, it is my TV. And it is one of those screens that I’m actively trying to merge with my mobile phone.

TVs are interesting, but really they do a lot of just sitting there to present. My TV needs a DVD player or my mobile phone connected to it in order to be useful for me (I don’t do cable or network TV). I can’t argue with the results though. For what I paid for it when I moved into this apartment, this has been one of the better ol’school TVs that I’ve had the pleasure of watching and listening to.

It is just passive and energy eating.

Screen #2: Smartphone
The screen that I interact with the most on the other hand is that of my smartphone – the Nokia N97. The screen is pretty versatile in that I can tap and swipe my way through just about anything. And when the mood fits me, I can connect it to my TV and do some of my more computing-like tasks (such as how I’m currently typing this post) on that larger screen.

When I first realized that a mobile’s screen could be extended like that, it started making me think why other media couldn’t easily come to this device. And as I looked around at solutions for downloading movies and such here, and then playing them on a larger screen, I started to realize something – this screen is about as private as things get, and leaves very little space to be intruded.

I like this screen. But, am not sure that current content marketing fits how these screens work best.

Screen #3: iPad/PC
My iPad and PC share the distinction of the second-most used screens around me. These are essentially extensions of my mobile computing approach, but offer less in terms of interactivity, and a bit more in terms of what I can see with the content. If you will, with these devices, I’m not looking at the universe through a keyhole. And this is good, I read a lot and having something in front of my face that’s comfy to the eyes is a good thing.

The problem is that these aren’t primary screens, and so their use comes with the kind of friction that I don’t particularly care for. What would be better is for my mobile/smartphone to be able to extend its screen and abilities to either a PC-like mode (I’m doing that now to the TV) or expandable to a reading-friendly mode in the case of an iPad or Kindle. As a user, I don’t want to have to play computer administrator to several platforms, but to manage several form factors and the platforms that I choose can grow and expand with me.

It is this area of computing that has the potential to stretch and grow, but not in terms of market, in terms of effectiveness.

Screens #4 and #5: Car Windshield and Radio
My car windshield is great for keeping bugs away and me dry, horrible for letting me know what else is on the road. Yes, there are heads-up display technologies for more expensive autos, but for what I have (a Honda Civic), there’s no solution to that shield without several layers of bulky accessories.

The same could be said for the thin LED strip that is the screen to my car radio. While it is great for telling me the track number of the CD playing or the time of day, that’s about all it offers. Some newer audios do things like tell you the song/artist that’s playing, but there’s little more they do. That’s kind of sad. With a connected information strip like that, where’s the traffic information? Or, for that matter, where’s the car status information beyond the pasted icons near the speedometer? Totally underutilized.

Is it any wonder that I chose the mobile device that can also play as my car radio (via FM transmitter) and not just show me music, but caller/SMS information, mapping, speed, and POI information as well.

Fewer Screens, Better Stictching Needed
Specifically in my boat, I can see how there is a need for fewer screens. I don’t need the TV one – that could be addressed with the mobile playing projector or the PC/iPad becoming the TV, serving content from the mobile (playing web-cable box).

Screens inside of the car could be better utilized, and I think we’ll see that soonish (re: TAT’s Open Innovation Discussion), but it needs to be more than just mimicing what we know from the mobile/PC world – there’s got to be relevant information stiched between the devices we have and the content that makes sense.

As I sit here in my apartment, the cloudy day’s light sheds just a bit of light onto my smartphone as I type this. I’m typing this to my phone, but using my TV as an extension of the phone. It isn’t me trying to manage multiple screens, but using one screen that’s fully capable to make another one more functional for my needs. I’d argue that we need to see more of this, and maybe then the future of screens and tech would look less cloudy and improbably, and refreshing more sunny and compatible.