During the second-half of the 20th century, one of the most commonly portrayed
visions of the future was that of the wrist-watch video-phone, a device often
used by the comic-strip character Dick Tracy.
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As we well know, you can't actually buy a commercial version of the video-phone
in a wristwatch -- in fact even the regular videophone hasn't become the
ubiquitous device that was suggested by science-fiction writers.
However, when you stop and think about it, we've come a long way towards
Dick Tracy's futureworld -- after all, cellphones are now a "must have"
for a huge percentage of the Western World's population.
Despite my long background in technology I still find it incredible that
I can dial a number and (assuming they have the right
phone with the right roaming capabilities) talk to someone -- no matter
where they are in the developed world.
However, the reason I chose this subject for today's column is the announcement
by Nokia that their profits have been hit hard by the downturn in the US economy.
I guess the question I'm asking is -- are we about to see a stalling in
the advance wireless communications services?
How long will it take before we see those fancy 3G services that have been
promised by cellphone makers and service providers?
Even when they do arrive (for there's no doubting they will), are people
going to be prepared to pay the prices that have to be charged in order
to recover the cost of development and spectrum purchase?
Then there's the issue of whether a cellphone really can function as a
web-browser, email client, and PDA. I don't know about you but from the units
I've seen, the ergonomics of such a device is extremely limited.
With the quest for, and delivery of, ever-smaller cellphones, are consumers
going to be prepared to go back to semi-brick-type phones just to get
enough screen-space and a usable keyboard?
Or are the cellphone manufacturers barking up the wrong tree? Should they
perhaps be keeping cellphones small, light and designed specifically for
voice communications and focusing their wireless data products at the PDA
market where devices are already have larger screens and suitable data-entry
I don't know the answers -- that's why I'm asking you!
Share your thoughts with other Aarvark readers.
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