The Three-Screen Problem

Om Malik writes:

Walk into any Silicon Valley gathering and all you’ll hear is one person after another pontificating on “the three screens that dominate our digital lives.” The three screens, of course, are television, the personal computer, and the cell phone, which these same people then posit will merge.

One cannot blame the chattering classes for thinking along these lines. After all, phones can display webpages, crusty cable companies are beaming more of their stuff digitally, and affordable HDTV plasma screens display it all with great acuity. There’s only one problem: Companies are thinking about it all backward.

Most companies are trying to impose the PC on the other two screens. But altering the form and function of these devices is just not going to work.

Brian Levin, president of Seattle-based Mobliss, believes that wireless networks need content that’s made specifically for mobile platforms. I couldn’t agree more. Want people to watch TV on tiny screens? Think of new types of content — funny shorts, quick news clips, movie trailers, the JibJab video, and, of course, Barry Bonds’s 800th home run.

My take: We are currently in a device-centred world of computing. What this means is that what we do is decided by the device we are on. For example, the office PC is mostly for office work. The home PC is mostly for personal activities. The mobile is also for personal and social interactions. This was fine so far when connectivity across these devices was not easily possible. Networks (and broadband) change all of this. We need to start thinking of service-centric computing where the devices are used to provide access to services independent of the device we are using.

In fact, this notion of service-centric computing can be extended to all the three screens in our life the PC, TV and mobile. While there will be no convergence across these screens, the convergence will happen at the back-end with respect to the data store. We will have different views to the same set of data across these devices. Today, this is not the case all three devices have their own private worlds they operate on.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.