I spent most of this week at Blackberry Live and couldn't help but wonder just how badly the smartphone got off track when everyone got so excited about the iPhone and smartphones switched from primarily being a business tool to an iPod with phone capabilities.
Traveling drives this point home for me. After years of refusing to get rid of a 14-inch notebook and often carrying 17-inch notebooks because I need a big screen to work effectively, I've recently been carrying a variety of 11-inch hybrid devices that, though fantastic for taking notes, truly suck when it comes to actually writing something. While the devices I carry are certainly trendy, I have a far harder time getting things done-and I don't see that as a real step in the right direction.
Blackberry Live drove home the point that shifting the emphasis of phones from productivity to entertainment was stupid. We should have ignored the siren song of an iPod with a built-in phone.
Don't Be Distracted by Shiny Objects
Perhaps the best analogy is looking at the person you want to marry vs. the person you should marry. I see often with young people as well as CEOs, both of whom are all too willing to choose a partner based on looks, not personal compatibility and find it to be a rather unpleasant experience in the long run. Someone who's more aligned with your interests will be a better long-term asset and partner as you drift through life.
The point is, we're easily distracted with shiny things. Steve Jobs was an expert at showing us shiny things to get excited. There's no doubt that the iPhone remains one of the most beautiful products on the market-but it's far from the most practical, as products that focus on beauty tend to be. It's relatively fragile (you're a fool if you don't put it in a case), expensive (often costing more than twice as much as the next phone), attractive to thieves and insecure.
The iPhone is one of the best-designed consumer entertainment products every created-but that wasn't why we originally bought a smartphone.
Bringing the Smartphone Back to Basics
The original goal of the smartphone-whether it was the Palm Treo, the original Microsoft Phone or the BlackBerry-was to blend the PDA, two-way pager and phone into a single productivity-focused product. A single device that fit in your pocket or purse held your contacts, email, calendar and, in the case of the BlackBerry, a two-way pager.
The two-way pager feature was actually important, since you could quickly receive and respond to an alert. This made the Blackberry Messaging Service even more powerful than iTunes on Apple devices; BlackBerry Messenger provided core value for the smartphone, while iTunes was developed more for connected media players.
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