Screens, Screens, Everywhere

The last few months it sure has felt like we are hitting one of those technology lift-off moments.  We’ve seen wild innovation in small mobile devices  -  things we used to call phones – with Droids, Nexus Ones and more fighting to keep up with Apple’s slew of path-breaking and super cool offerings.  We’ve seen the emergence of two whole new categories – slate/readers (Kindles, etc) and smartbooks (between a smart phone and netbook).   Twitter use has exploded, AppStores are an every day fixture and Amazon sold more e-books on Christmas day than regular books.  Just as we were all figuring out the last wave a new and even more powerful one has come along, upending everything.  Again.

As we absorb this whole new layer of innovation and change, I think I see where all this could be headed now.  Driven by a great degree by the iphone’s historic touchscreen, which liberated mobile devices from clunky keyboards, the mid-term future will be a world of screens wired to each other through various networks and ultimately all connected together through whatever we ultimately call the single global communications network.  It won’t be computers or phones per se, but intelligent screens.  

These screens will have many uses and be customized.  The one you have for your recipes and cooking video clips will be splatter proof, large and without a keyboard.  The one you carry with you will be small, maybe even roll or fold up, and a keyboard will be optional.  The screen coaches use on the field to talk to their players, show video replays, draw a new play will be built and marketed by Nike.  The screen you use to read your daily stuff and watch your morning video will as big and as powerful as you want it, as it will come in dozens of different options.  The computer you use to write will of course have a screen and a keyboard. 

it is possible these things will no longer be called phones or computers and be called screens because the value added will increasingly be in the screen size, purpose and design and not in the computing, networked part.  The computing, networked part will be (and already is to some degree) commoditized, meaning that it won’t really be an important part of your device.  The important part will be its narrow, intelligent pairing of form and function, ease of use by messy hands, durability and resilience, size, weight, all that.  

The key will be the screen.  Of course it will be mobile, always on, loaded with computing power.  That’s a given.  But what will make it powerful will be the front-end, the consumer interface, its narrow, targeted utility.

Or will it?

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