Daddy, Where's Your Phone?

I met recently with Vic Gundotra, formerly Microsoft’s head of platform evangelism, and now VP of Engineering at Google, responsible for all their mobile efforts outside of Android. We were talking about Google’s mobile strategy and the insanely cool new voice-activated Google search in the Google Mobile Application for iPhone. But what I really want to share is Vic’s story about why he left Microsoft. It was one of those “wake up, the future is staring you in the face!” moments that we all experience from time to time, but often ignore.

The story goes something like this: Vic was out for dinner with family and friends. The adults were on one side of the table, the kids on the other. The adults were debating some issue, and Vic said, in response to a question from one of his friends, “I don’t know.”

His four-year old daughter Samantha, whom everyone knows as “Tiger,” piped up from the other side of the table: “Daddy, where’s your phone?”

“What do you mean, where’s my phone?” She explained that she’d overheard the question. Why wasn’t he just looking up the answer on his phone?

Out of the mouths of babes. Vic said that he realized in that moment that the era of the PC was over, and that the future belonged to cloud applications accessed via phones.

Kamla Bhatt was busting my chops about the same subject when I did an interview with her last week for Mint, the Indian business site. “Tim, you don’t talk enough about mobile!” she said. “In India and around the world, there is a whole new generation that accesses the internet, and they have never seen a PC. To them, it’s all on their phone.”

It’s not entirely true that I don’t talk about mobile. On Radar, we talk about not just mobile, but all kinds of distributed sensors all the time. And “instrumenting the world” has been a major theme in my talks.

But I plead guilty to Kamla’s charge: I think about the web as experienced on a PC, and then about mobile as an add on. The tipping point has come; that notion has to flip: if we’re trying to get ahead of the curve, we need to think first about the phone, and then think about the PC browser experience as the add-on.

In short, to borrow Accenture’s slogan: “Be a Tiger!” She is the next generation. Always remember her question: “Daddy, where’s your phone?

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