Thread: A smartphone narrative and an idea for a product.

A picture named windowsPhone8.jpgThis is not a simple or obvious idea, so if you’re skimming and expect to get it — you probably won’t. Just a caveat from someone who’s accustomed to comments from people who aren’t paying much attention. 🙂

Anyway, here’s a little background for motivation.

The last week I’ve been helping my very good friend NakedJen get started in the world of smartphones. Until now she had a Blackberry that could do SMS, but had email disabled. I don’t really understand why, but it’s not important to the story. She was hard to reach via email, and she couldn’t use any of the apps we all like to use. She didn’t have maps or any of the other cool stuff we’re all playing with these days.

Once I understood where she was, I gave her a phone I wasn’t using, one of the first Google Nexus phones. It was a gift from Google. So it was totally appropriate that I pass it on to NakedJen.

I think she stayed up all night playing with the phone. When I checked in with her, she had done all kinds of customizations. The next day she was installing apps. She was giggling with glee at every revelation. I think she saw that this mode of computer use is actually pretty simple. And she’s taking it back with her to Salt Lake City, where her family there will be very happy I’m sure that Jen will be part of the 21st Century (something I like to kid her about).

Next part of the story. This morning I got a Fedex from a longtime friend at Microsoft. In the package there were two new smartphones, a Nokia 920 and 810. Since I am a T-Mobile guy, I started with the 810. It’s a lovely piece of tech. The performance and color are amazing. It’s also very easy to guess where everything is. I had it set up to work over wifi with my GMail account in about five minutes. A few minutes later I was taking pictures and had installed the Twitter app. I sent a text message. Then we went out for a walk. I took my iPod Touch, iPad LTE and Nexus 4 with me, in addition to the 810, and of course NakedJen and her Android phone. It all worked just fine. Everything that didn’t have its own service plan connected to the net via Bluetooth through the iPad.

When we came back it was time for Jen to go home to Utah. She tried to get Glympse going but for some reason it didn’t work, so I fell back to using text messages to follow her progress to La Guardia and her flight to Milwaukee.

Now finally I’m able to explain the idea.

A picture named jenInNy.jpgWhen I tried to send text messages from my desktop Mac, all of a sudden I was dropped into a horribly complex maze of things that make no sense. I can’t even figure out how to send an SMS without someone sending me one first. I tried reading all of Google’s docs, installed all the software they told me to install, and in the end I went back to the Nexus 4 to communicate with Jen. Later I realized I could do what I needed to with the Voice website. But there were problems there too. I ended up having to enter the number manually, my contacts list was useless in that context.

The idea is this — Google or Microsoft or Apple — create a new app that runs on the desktop that’s designed with the parameters of a smartphone. Leverage the skills I already have. I was able to set up the Windows Phone in a few minutes, on an OS that I had never used. I am a relatively expert Mac user, but failed after a half hour. The lesson is pretty clear. At the very least the desktop has to do what the mobile device does, with the same care of design and simplicity. What I’m left with is a hodgepodge of stuff that wasn’t designed to do this. Time for a fresh look.


About Dave Winer

Dave Winer, 54, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.
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