Wireless Wonders

No news, just comment about mobile phones and services, from a veteran practitioner...3G, GPRS, WAP, Bluetooth, WiFi, etc...

Monday, July 04, 2005

The 4th and mobile freedom...

It's the 4th July and Americans celebrate their independence from the Brits. The Americans gave us the mobile phone, courtesy of Marty Cooper et al. The mobile is arguably an icon and tool of independence, or freedom - at least from wires in any case. You decide what else. It probably wouldn't have succeeded if The British still ruled (read later). So, we should thank the Americans for our mobile freedom.

'The British Are Coming! The British Are Coming!' That's what William Dawes shouted as he took his midnight ride in 1775. But nobody paid much attention.

When Paul Revere took the same ride at the same time carrying the same message as William Dawes, he mounted enough support to defeat the British in Concord and begin The Revolutionary War.

This story is magically retold in Gladwell's book "Tipping Point". Revere's message went "viral". He had connections and he knew how to make his message heard. Dawes didn't. Viral communications is now the latest intellectual fad that has thousands of would-be entrepreneurs fooled into thinking their 3-cent instant-business is going to go ballastic.

All Dawes needed was text messaging and a well-populated address book linked to a good social-networking website. He could have been the hero of the moment, especially if Revere was one of those old-fashioned types who shunned technology in favour of old-school grit and determination.

Could the mobile phone liberate?

Certainly not from crazy ring-tone annoyance and other "invasion of decency" complaints mounting against it. It brings out the best of hypocrisy in us. We can't do without it, but don't like the constant bother of ringing and text-beeps - and, even more telling, we can't stand it when our calls go unanswered, no matter how often we hit "divert" when a call barges in.

However, perhaps its most telling contribution to the history of mankind, and freedom, is not within in our techno-spoilt Western shores, but has yet to unfold in other lands.

Bill Gates talks about giving everyone on the planet a computer (i.e. a copy of Windows) but perhaps he hasn't noticed that the mobile phone is going to beat him to it. Projections and reality are headed that way. And, the growth in some countries is 40%, including some African countries.

It is here, so Ajit Jaoker argues on his blog, that the mobile phone (actually, he argues, "mobile commerce") will do more for Africans than Live-8 ever could. He might be right.

So, who's going to provide the technology for this nascent African revolution? Well, it seems the Americans, no matter how much people want to fling mud at them for this-that-and-the-other affront to global harmony. Motorola's "Africa Phone" project is attempting to bring a mobile phone to the market for 20 dollars.

Now, no technology story would be complete without mentioning a romantic British contribution to its evolution, which, of course, has to end in the obligatory commercial failure despite its technical Brunel-esque brilliance. Moreover, the ship has to sink off the shores of America. I could go on here forever....

In case you didn't hear via viral text doo-dat, Sendo, Britain's only mobile phone maker hit the dust last week. Without doubt (they're British), they had some really good technology, including their instantly-customisable phone kit. Motorola bought Sendo, or at least their R&D team, just to get their hands on it.

Commentators, like Guy Kewney, have suggested that Sendo's technology will fit well with the Africa Phone project.

Bush might do little at the G8 towards saving the planet, but Motorola might. Come to think of it, G8 sounds like the name of one its new phones. If not, that's idea #70/100 please...(and idea #71, before any other Brit in his shed beats me to it, is to power the phones by wind-up mechanism and idea #72 is to make them out of non-toxic and non-greenhouse-gas inflammable materials for re-cycling as fuel. Patent applications are in the post.)

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