Among all the topics that I have covered in my Tech Talk columns, one of the lesser covered areas has been that dealing with mobile phones. There is a simple explanation for this until recently, the age of my cellphone was 3 years! I lived frozen in time when it came to my mobile phone. For me, it was a useful communications tool but just that. I used it to make and receive voice calls few and far between. I found sending SMS to be major pain. (I may be a two-finger typist on a keyboard, but I am a fast one at that! The cellphone keypad well, I just couldnt find myself writing shorthand English or doing it fast enough.)
Life changed recently in four steps over the past six months: first, when I bought a Nokia 6600; second, when I got the Rs 99 a month GPRS connection from Orange and started reading RSS feeds on my phone; third, when I downloaded and played my first game; and finally, when I upgraded that to the Rs 499 GPRS connection which allowed me Web access.
When I accessed the Web recently on my mobile phone and configured the Nokia email application (and also a ProfiMail mail client) to access my corporate email account, I could not but feel the same sense of exhilaration that I had sensed when I first browsed the Internet more than a decade ago over a Netcom connection using Mosaic from a friends house in the US. This is another new world that is emerging, and for all that has been talked and written about the world of mobility, we are at the start of a revolution which will have far-reaching implications.
This is not just about voice and communications, and the freedom to do talk and SMS from anywhere. Just like the functionality and use of PCs was completely transformed with the emergence of the Internet, so it will be with mobile phones. Until now, for the vast majority, the phone has been a communications device. In fact, even more than the personal computer, it is the mobile phone that is the truly personal device. There is nary a place that owners go without their phone. I have seen people walk into my office for meetings carrying only a phone and nothing else (not even a pen or a watch, leave alone a writing pad).
From a time when I was barely connected (a computer at home and office; no notebook) to now when I have become arguably one of the most connected people has been a short ride. I have a Fujitsu S Series Lifebook notebook running Windows XP and Linux. It has three forms of in-built connectivity: Ethernet, dial-up and Wi-Fi.
To these, I have now added two more connectivity options. There is a Reliance R-Connect card which works as both a CDMA modem and phone, though I dont use the phone capability. The Sierra Wireless card cost Rs 14,700 ($300) and the monthly service costs Rs 650 ($14) for 1 GB data transfer. (There is also a Rs 1,500 unlimited data transfer option). The Reliance network is present across hundreds of towns and cities in India and it is possible to get 30-40 Kbps connectivity speeds for the most part. Not great, but it is a good start. In addition, my Orange mobile phone now can also work as a GPRS modem via a USB-Bluetooth dongle. So, talk of being ultimately connected.
But before we get to the mobile phone and its future, let us delve a little into our lives and look at the three screens that permeate our world.
Tomorrow: The Three Screens