Friday, July 26, 2013

Mobile is the Future! Or is it?

I hear this every day: "The future is mobile."  Yahoo is getting on that train now, everybody is getting on board.  I am not so sure this is a smart bet in the long term, unless you're betting against the U.S. economy.  Here's why I think that.

The information economy is a combination of two basic things:

  1. Doing work and producing things.
  2. Talking about work, and talking about producing things.
The United States, as a whole, has been transitioning from (1) to (2) over the past 50 years, although we are also, to some extent, reinventing the ways in which we do work and produce things, in digital terms. But the transition away from production toward "making money as a sir effect of other people producing things" is showing pretty strong.
After everything is said and done, there's always a lot more said than done. 
You can make a case that mortgage-backed securities, insurance, Gmail, Facebook, Goldman Sachs as a whole, and Skype are all Category 2 activities, as are the meetings in which we all spend half our days, talking about what we're going to do.

You can also make a good case that Tesla Motors, Make Magazine, SpaceX, and Google Glass  are proof that we're making a resurgence back to Category 1 production-based roots.

But this is all backdrop against which I am considering the computer industry itself, the purveyor of tools for the information economy: where is the growth market for people using computing technology: Category 1, or Category 2, and which way is it trending?

I believe that real computers -- laptops and desktops -- will hold a firm grip on the part of the economy that actually produces work product, whether it's manufacturing or spreadsheets, images, video, or the written word. You need a real keyboard, a big screen, and a file system to "do work".

Mobile platforms, on the other hand, are great for communication, keeping up in real time, touching base, chatting, updating status, checking in. You just can't actually type a paragraph or edit anything meaningful.

The real reason that Mobile is a high-growth area right now, outselling computers and seeming like a trend, is that people are backfilling a void that has existed, where these tools were not part of the workflow -- and also that the phones/tablets themselves have short-life obsolescence built in, so you need to update them a lot more often.

But I simply do not believe that mobile technology is replacing desktop/laptop technology. I think it is augmenting it, as a better communications platform, which is why the phone itself has proven to be the perfect platform for this: it's communications technology, not work-producing technology.

If you believe that people doing real work and producing things is disappearing and we're all going to just be talking about it on our tablets and phones -- and if you're actually right about that -- then I'm moving to some other country.

No comments: