At Your Fingertips

9 Dec, 2004 | Science And TechnologyTdp

Having had my internet access cut off again at the hotel (this time because my 30 days were up, rather than technical failure), it occurred to me just how much I use it. I use the net for all sorts of stuff, not just updating my blog (despite what you all think). I use the net to check cinema times (don’t get me started), company addresses, route maps, buying presents, paying bills, checking my bank statement, staying in touch with people, sharing my photos, doing research, checking my spelling, reading the latest news, watching trailers for new movies, downloading songs (legally) and so much more besides. I have become accustomed to having constant, instant, fast access to all that information. I can easily see why people are predicting that internet access will become a utility, something we take for granted, something that’s just always there, part of the design of any new home as electricity and running water are. I can also understand why Science Fiction writers constantly mention things like ‘datapools’ (Neil Hamilton) – global networks where everything is connected and stored and which anyone can access. I think this might be 3G’s ‘killer app’.

How often have you been out and about and had a question about something? How often have you phoned directory enquiries, or a friend, to check an address, a phone number or opening hours? How often have you been down the pub and had an argument with a mate over who it was that stared in that movie? Well, high-speed net access on the move would solve that, instantly. It was tried with WAP. It didn’t work because it was expensive, it was slow, it was hard to use and it was ugly. Well, colour screens are becoming the norm, and while phone usability needs a lot of work, speed is no longer an issue, but price may well be, as would coverage. I’m not sure the mobile phone is the ideal device for delivering mobile content though. Vodafone started their 3G services with data cards for laptops. Great idea. But laptops are too big and bulky to lug around everyday and no one seems to offer it even in a PDA-sized package. What’s needed is something that has a screen bigger than a phone (bigger even than most PDAs), that’s fairly cheap, uses a stylus or touch screen, is easy to operate, reliable and either has direct internet access but remains portable (no one wants to go back to the days of lugging bricks around). Being able to link it together with other devices (i.e. to a full-size keyboard, monitor, mouse, etc) would be useful too. Then you’d have a platform that could compete with landline broadband access. Imagine being able to check your email when you’re on holiday overseas, being able to tune in to your own regional radio stations, TV stations, watch movies, access your files, search the net. Of course, this needn’t be just 3G, having wi-fi cover a decent range would work too, you could even offer calls using VOIP. Either way, internet-anywhere (as I'm calling it) would get the punters adopting the new technologies. That's my prediction. I'd certainly be interested in this sort of service.