Mobile Access, Mobile Authoring

The latest issue of Music Media Watch (MMW-113) from J@pan Inc (a great email newsletter, btw) has an analysis of the desirability of the iPhone in Japan, and some of the hurdles it might face in adoption.

For starters, it’s hard to imagine anyone in this day and age attempting to release a 2G phone in Japan that can only sideload music from a PC. And while Japanese iPhone customers might be willing to forego some of the features that are now standard on other models, at a minimum they will probably still insist on a good camera (with video capability), a text input method similar to that found on current phones, and the ability to choose their own ringtones. Apple, which has a history of success in Japan, no doubt realizes all of this, and therefore planned from the beginning to spend a little more time and effort on the first Japanese release.

Many have noted that at events such as Foo Camp there is a burgeoning reliance on portable devices for the primary interface to the network; on college campuses, there is clearly more usage of non-voice applications on multi-function phones (as evidenced by the vast number of folks typing madly away on their keyboards or watching video). All of these ponders crept right into an email thread that I was having with a few friends on how mobile phones might be used in the next coming years as media access devices.

In this email thread, my colleague Terry Ehling at Cornell Univ. very eloquently and insightfully said, “[H]and-held computing appliances (the iPhone and its kin) will become the joysticks for the internet; you won’t create on them but you will manage and access content with them.”

I think that is mostly right, and I love the joystick aphorism. Nonetheless I wonder how this distinction will evolve. We are performing authoring on portable devices, just in a way quite distinct from what we (can) do on laptops or larger-display computing platforms. When you consider that video capture, IM, text insertion and annotation, and automated responses are all simple forms of authoring, what is the dividing line between interactive response and control on one hand, and content creation on the other? If I take a picture and post to Flickr, or share on Facebook, or take a video and upload to YouTube, or poke a friend, or tag a web post that I have read on a mobile news reader – that’s all “short-range” authoring. Certainly it will not be the case that I can mash much video, but I suspect those tools will come as smart people figure out the UI challenges, and the phones get swifter, and possessive of more brilliant displays.

It is intriguing, and challenging, to think about the divergences over time of content creation and use between large-screen devices, and hand-sized portable ones. I am a huge mobile advocate (although I am resisting the iPhone and am determined to sit tight with my Nokia N80), and I have to believe that the mobile is increasingly going to be joystick and pen, a lens to both record the world and capture our thoughts.

tags: ,