November 7, 2008

I have all my information, but can I read (and interact with) it?

Original Post from May 31st 2007
Increasingly you are able to have all your information with you physically, and/or have access to it, while mobile.

Personally I do this via carrying my iPod and my iPaq Mobile Messenger.
I have an 80G iPod where I store ALL my data, allowing it to double as a back-up for my PC.
It has:
  • all my photos, those taken digitally and older ones scanned (low-res to view via the iPod photo browsing UI and high-resolution versions on the disk to share)
  • all my music, this is what the iPod is all about
  • I don't have many movies, but could carry a few if I wanted
  • all my data (files, e-mail archives etc)
  • synced copies of my complete contact list
  • I could sync my calendar too, but that changes too frequently and I don't need it as I have my iPaq
and as it's a USB drive with no software install required to read the info, I can use it on any PC anywhere I go.

With the iPod digital camera connector gadget I can connect my digital camera via a USB connector to the iPod and download to the iPod hard disk all the photos taken and stored in the camera flash - no PC involved. This is great when on trips that you don't want to take a laptop with you on.
As Flash sizes increase greatly this is less of a must have, but it's nice to have a back-up, and on a long trip you can still fill a flash card on the digital camera and need to "off-load" images somewhere to allow you to continue taking more.

I carry my iPaq, mainly as a communication device + agenda. Although you can now get big flash cards it still wouldn't get me to the 60G+ of data I have on my iPod. So, it doesn't replace the iPod as a large storage device.
I use it "to connect" via phone, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPRS. This in a pinch allows you to access information "on the net".

So, simplifying, with that combination you could say I either carry with me, or have access to, all my data when on the move.

The problem is viewing it!
The iPod works for viewing some photos, agenda entries, music, movies but for the other data types (word, pdf, powerpoint, e-mail etc) it's just a storage device. The iPaq has a larger screen, but for those data types it still doesn't cut the mustard, for me at least.

Thus, the challenge is: now that people have all their information "available", what can be done to allow them to view and interact with it.

The very day I was thinking on this subject and preparing this post Palm announced the new Foleo product. They are tackling this issue, that is manifested with the Treo mobile phone (with e-mail etc) and other similar devices. One of their one-liners is "Put your inbox on the big screen", which is what I am talking about above.

They are tacking business use, e-mails, excels, documents etc and they highlight two major shortcomings of (there own!) mobile devices:-
  • Small screen
  • Small keyboard
Now that storage and communications have advanced so much and enabled such mobile data access/carrying, the Man-Machine-Interface has become the bottleneck.

I suspect however that this particular device will not be a success.
In my opinion 5 hours of battery life is not enough, and the size and usage is too similar to a laptop - yet it lacks the applications of a laptop. Even in their own presentations they mention that you will also have to carry a laptop with you.

Whether it succeeds or fails, I think they are tackling the remaining shortcoming of mobile information access: viewing and interaction. Stay tuned and I will try and cover future events and evolution in technology addressing that fairly fundamental problem.

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