PCs Are Trucks, But Mobiles & Tablets Aren’t Cars

Ah, the beauty of an analogy is that it can fit, but soon not fit as well. For example, there was a statement that Steve Jobs made upon the introdcution of the iPad that “PCs were trucks.” And to some degree, that part of things will stand true. A PC is a purpose-built machine, needing to traverse unseemingly data terrain, and create or expose the creation of something that will bring some kind of life expereince to others. Given such a description, mobiles and tablets are simpler, are context-specific, and give similar and different functionality. But, they aren’t cars. No, no. They are a lot less the self-propelled machine than the PCs they are in part derived from.

If PCs are trucks, mobiles and tablets are bicycles.

Bicycles are a simpler mode of transportation thana truck. They can do some of the creation-seeking activities that PCs can do. They can even be present in the midst of the traffic caused by PCs (bandwidth, access, health, etc. issues) and figure better ways to success. But, mobiles – at least as they are so esteemed by many who live in and profit from this industry – aren’t freedom seeking devices.

Cellular-enabled mobiles are constrained by the data (voice, messaging, Internet, access, etc.) limitations of service providers. Vertical platforms are constrained by the APIs, market-direction, and vision of their platform owners. Sure, you can root a device and expose a bit more of a world to your device, but you are still working within the confines of a road that was designed for you. And when you are using that 20yr old Schwinn bicycle and your derailur breaks in the middle of a ride, you aren’t getting a replacement part from the origial manufacturer. Nope, you are past the support phase, hope your coding skills are up to par – or you have a team of developers who make “just fit” solutions and live in a country that’s most likely not your home.

“Oh, bicycles can go anywhere,” you say. I disagree. Bicycles are built for certain types of roads. Of course, if you spend more, your two-wheeled transport can traverse faster and more types of terrain. You’ve got an engine, but like a mobile, if you don’t plug into yourself the right food and rest, don’t even think of doing more than a simple commute (or on a mobile, doing more than just the basics because the battery can’t last all day).

Thing is, like a bicycle, a mobile can expose you to a kind of life that should be more indicative of living in full awareness of your community. You should have the librety to share your goals, issues, and make a few bucks from making the gear shift between contexts (work and entertainment for example). You should have your choice of “made in California, Mumbai, Shenzen, Finland, or Brazil.” And as much as you have a right not to have someone tag your bicycle with their ads, or jump on your handlebars in the middle of a ride and dictate your direction or pace, so should mobile be free from secrete and overt advertizers and security concerns.

The roads to use mobile are subsidized. They have to be, there was never a horeless carriage like this that was only designed for people, not goods. PCs are designed for goods. Trucks could care less about the greenway, trail, smooth asphalt, or ride-sharingg moments. You need some of this via mobile, but only alongside the existing infrastructre that was made for PCs. When we start doing things with mobile that are truuly different from PCs, then we can start seeing the automobile model take its full shape. But that disruption isn’t quite here yet…

…I picked up a phrase some time ago that I think applies: “The next big thing is always beneath contempt.” Implication being that it is, of course, until it isn’t. Until it’s too big to ignore. This has happened over and over again in our society. In the middle ages, people assumed that no serious discussion could happen in anything but Latin — the so-called “vulgar” languages had no merit. And writers assumed that nothing interesting or lasting would come from this new medium of television. And, I think, people assume right now that nothing important will be created from a 10” touch screen without a keyboard (let alone a tiny 3.5” screen)… (John’s Tumblr)

When folks stop looking with contempt with cycling in the rain to do grocery shopping, then do a date night, without looking like an extra from Portlanda, then cycling is a bit more than a car-replacement. In the same means, this kind of thinking has to shift for mobile & tablets – and I think it will take a shift in the device, services, and expereinces themselves before that happens. And it will. We are literally right on that cusp of a Henry Ford doing something black and all-fitting.

So, should folks who put cases on their devices can be assumed as the same kinds of folks that require Lycra to be a serious cyclist 😉

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