Personal Digital Ecosystem

I don't understand the current craze for monolithic smartphones. It seems, to me, the wrong direction to go. It just seems silly to me when I'm wandering around with 3 cameras on me, 2 of which I'm not going to use because they're so inferior to the want I want to use. It's such a waste. If I were running a company like Sony, here's what I'd do.

I'd start with a series of pocket computers, all doing basically the same thing but with different performance and sizes. There would be tiny ones, about iPhone sized, middle ones, something as small as the Nokia N810 all the way up to the iPad, and even bigger netbook sized ones. They would have options for built-in hardware keyboards if people wanted them. All would have WiFi and Bluetooth, none would have GPS, accelerometers or fancy cameras. Sure, maybe something like the N810 webcam, but nothing more.

Next, I'd have a wristwatch voice-controlled cellphone with built-in GPS. In stand-alone mode, it would offer basic voice communication and direction-finding. It might even tell the time. However, it should tether to the computer and give it full Internet access over the cellular network. The computer should be able to call people on the contact list or allow typing and reading SMS communication. It should also be able to display full navigation maps and other GPS features.

Next, I'd have a camera, maybe a little point&shoot, maybe a full DSLR. Whatever I want to use and am willing to pay for. This too should be tethered to the pocket computer. If I take a picture, it should automatically geo-reference from the wristwatch GPS data. It should transfer pictures to the pocket computer with a touch of a button. The pocket computer should allow full remote-control of the camera, with a full remote-viewfinder.

Next, I'd have a TV at home. If I tether the pocket computer to the TV, the TV should become the monitor for the pocket computer. Maybe this TV has a keyboard/mouse interface attached as well. Movies could be played from the pocket computer on the TV or, alternatively, the pocket computer could be the remote control for the TV with other media sources.

Next, I'd have similar TVs in the hotel room when I'm traveling. Maybe, this TV is in an airport kiosk and I pay by the minute via my cellphone contract to use it. Thus, all my personal computing goes with me, all my media, all my contacts, everything, yet I have access to a full monitor and keyboard when I want to get something done. Why should I have to lug around a screen and monitor while traveling? All I need is the computer, and maybe a little screen for casual use while I'm waiting around.

Next, I'd have a mass-storage device that tethers to the pocket computer. Maybe it's a cheap hardrive, or maybe it's the latest in solid-state. Again, my choice, any size I want and easy to upgrade.

Next, I'd have little I/O modules and sensors: Maybe a cheap accelerometer inside a tennis ball, maybe a weather-station. Whatever I want to buy, sort of like Wii game controls. The more to choose from the better. After all, while there is an iPhone app that allows you to see who can toss the iPhone up the highest, do you really want to do this with your expensive monolithic smartphone? Why not put the stupid little sensor in something that costs $20 and tether it to the expensive part? Put it inside a baseball and see how hard batters are hitting it, whatever comes to mind.

Next, I'd have some motion-powered battery chargers. I'd make all of these devices use the same small batteries, small enough to fit in the GPS watch. Larger devices would just use packs of them. These batteries would go in the motion-powered battery chargers that are worn on the wrists. Yes, they would be heavy, but that's the point. They are for exercise. As you exercise, you charge your batteries. It wouldn't have to be that practical, as most of the battery charging would be done at home on a base charger, but the idea would get people moving.

The basic idea is to break up the monolithic smartphones into individual devices. The advantages of doing this are many:
  • People can build the exact system they want. If photography is important, get the expensive camera, if movies are important, get the better screen, or more processing horsepower, or smaller size, or... Rather than trying to find the perfect smartphone, and settling for deficiencies as there can never be perfection for everyone, all the best components can be put together as desired.
  • Individual components could be upgraded as the user wants. Rather than forking out big-bucks for a new monolithic device, each component could be replaced as something better comes along. New sensors or game controllers can be bought whenever they come out.
  • People don't have to carry everything if they don't want to. If they're going for a jog, do they really want to carry a pocket computer just because they need a cellphone? If they're not planning on taking pictures, maybe they won't carry the DSLR, maybe they'll slip a cheap point&shoot in their pocket instead.
  • Companies can keep selling devices, over and over again, as each component won't be too expensive. Alternatively, really expensive components can be sold as they won't become obsolete like a monolithic package would. The fabulously-expensive DSLR could outlast several pocket computers, for example. Thus, discriminating customers would be willing to pay quite a lot more for some of the components.

This idea is now published and, as such, is free to the world. Feel free to take this idea and do with it as you wish. I expect no remuneration, but do expect attribution. Please tell people where this idea came from.

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