Business Today

That Syncing Feeling

Joel Rai        Print Edition: Nov 25, 2012

{mosimage}Around two decades ago, the buzz in the world of personal technology was "convergence". Everyone speculated about the byte being repurposed for disparate functions in a single device. Of course, that was the era when we had a chunky computer sitting on our desks, a voice-only mobile phone at hand and an Internet modem beeping laboriously from somewhere amid the rubbish on the work table.

Today, more Indians own a mobile phone than have a toilet at home, and this statistic is probably due to the cell phone being the most useful and most accessible "converged" device.

With a mobile phone around, you do not need a separate computer and Internet modem - or a landline phone, navigator, media player, document reader, camera, audio/video recorder, photo editor. Add to these the tasks the phone can do with the help of downloaded apps, and you know you have something in your hands that outdoes the Swiss Army knife in its versatility.

With a mobile phone you can easily sync your work imperatives - calendar, contacts, documents and the like. Why, a union minister even writes poetry on his phone.

With phone use proliferating - it has to be without doubt the most bountiful harvest of the opening up of the Indian economy in the early 1990s - it is a challenge for mobile makers to keep up with the needs of a vast clientele.

Indeed, service operators are even contemplating the introduction of 12-digit phone numbers with the current protocols facing pressure from a bloating user base. The services too are being rejigged. We began with technology that allowed painfully slow WAP (wireless application protocol) access to the Net.

With GPRS (general packet radio service) and EDGE (enhanced data rates for global evolution) technologies, the phone began to take on more muscle as a converged device. Then 3G came, and though this technology still has not matured to its full potential, there is already talk of LTE (Long Term Evolution) or 4G, with exploratory 4G bunches in a couple of cities.

Phones that meet the consumers' manifold expectations are certain to flourish.

Take the iPhone and the Android phones. Their success has inspired other companies to bridge the gap between the mobile computer (the tablet) and the phone with a new species that is being called the 'phablet'. This device has the capabilities of a tablet in a form that is closer to a phone.

Samsung's Galaxy Note proved a runaway success and LG has now unveiled its Optimus Vu. Even Apple's iPad Mini veers in this direction. Microsoft has designed its new operating system, Windows 8, for compatibility with both computers and tablets. One would think Windows Phone 8, its mobile version, will work wonderfully on a phablet.

Needless to say, phones that are not in sync with the times are literally sinking, the prime examples being the once-loved Research in Motion's (RIM) BlackBerry and Nokia. Today's phone is a sprightly creature that acquires instant powers by downloading apps.

To RIM's chagrin, many government agencies in the US have curtailed their contracts for BlackBerry phones and have instead turned to the now more secure iPhone and the Androids. The BlackBerry has become, as a story in The New York Times noted recently, an embarrassment in boardrooms.

Of course, with the spread of the mobile phone - the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India puts the figure of subscribers in the country at 943.5 million - there will always be unwanted hassles associated with its use. Not the least of these is what are quaintly called 'pesky' SMS ads.

How do I deal with these now that the regulator's grand plan of corralling them has failed so spectacularly? An app, of course. I have downloaded smsBlocker, developed by Pune's Optinno Mobitech. It does a handsome job of gatekeeping what should gain entry to my SMS folder.

The writer is Executive Editor, Gadgets & Gizmos

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