Going Antisocial with an Unsmart Phone

(Note: This is the edited version of my recent Facebook rant)

It’s more than a month since I went antisocial with my phone! Yes, I decided to break free from the social pressures caused by the phone and this decision was primarily triggered by the misuse of an old smartphone recently provided to my now-teen-son who obviously tried to emulate his parents in terms of the best practices of using a smartphone!

In a sudden attempt to set the right example to him (and prove to the immediate world around as well) I, the self proclaimed role model of my son, uninstalled WhatsApp and Twitter apps in quick succession and then removed Facebook & Google Plus accounts from the phone. This was followed by disabling notifications from all apps except email and text messaging which are like bare necessities for the time being. The phone is now used for basic telephony, text messaging and voluntary reading of news via some apps alone! Of course, there is occasional use of maps, camera, portfolio apps, fitness assistants and web browser – all at will – and hence it’s not competely an Unsmart phone yet.

After the initial phase of violent withdrawal symptoms, I must say that the life is coming back to normalcy and very peaceful right now with no urge to stare at the phone all the time or keep swiping on the screen without any particular intent. However, there is both good and bad attached to drastic decisions such as quitting social apps, under-utilizing the phone and turning the clock back by a few years.

The following are some of the positives that I already see by getting rid of social apps and unwanted alerts on my phone.

(+) Suddenly, I am no more hiding from the co-passengers in the lift with the help of the big smartie and even better – I am able to establish eye contacts with them and even smile at them. Wow! I am still social in real life too.

(+) No more weird movement of my index finger along the imaginary unlock pattern of the phone which used to happen earlier even when the phone was not in hand. This symptom was more like those cricket addicted kids doing an imaginary Rahul Dravid style front foot defense with the full-face blade, at an imaginary ball delivered at them. If the phone was in hand, the indication was primarily a sequence of unlocking the phone, swiping the home screens / launching any app, and then locking the phone.


while (awake) {
/* for no particular reason */

(+) Better interaction with the family while at home or away in an eatery, event or outing. The focus changes back to enjoying the moment than capturing and sharing the moment immediately to get likes from the ones who matter less.

(+) There is no more grinning at the phone or romancing with it which used to happen earlier in public places or even while driving. Now, you are more alert without a smart phone!

(+) Not much contribution to those crowd-sourced apps that make money by fooling you into them – Not as many posts, reviews or comments while on the move and such actions, if at all necessary, happens only on the desktop or laptop.

(+) Your Internet bandwidth usage is reduced drastically with some meaningless media/videos (rated ones too) getting out of the way.

(+) Better judgement and ability to distinguish between necessity and nice-to-have things in life. Now, usage of the social media is back in the desktop world alone and hence there’s a fixed time for doing that. Further, no insomnia caused by the connected phone!

(+) Suddenly, the three year old phone seems to perform like a server! Wow, now I don’t need to support China’s economy every three years (every few months for many?) or live with their plastic dumping terrorism.

(+) No more selfies. I was never a selfie fan but I must confess that I might have taken about half a dozen in my whole life. With no immediate sharing possibility, there is no urge to capture even those rare selfies. This may also result in huge savings in the future as there’s no need to procure those Sergei  Bubka like selfie accessories.

Having said all those, I realize that there are some drawbacks as well when you suddenly decide to go against the social flow…

(-) Firstly, you are a friend or relative to someone only as long as you are connected to them socially on these apps. To be frank, I didn’t receive any wish from anybody during this Onam – via call, text message or in person – because I am no more connected and the Onam was celebrated primarily on WhatsApp. Of course, there were many Facebook wishes similar to radio broadcasts which I reciprocated with my ‘likes’. Being antisocial by choice, I coped with it in no time.

(-) You may miss some focused groups that stood for a specific, meaningful purpose. As a matter of fact, two or three WhatsApp groups out of a dozen that I had, before calling it quits, were really useful.

(-) Your decision to reduce mobile usage is effective only if your dear ones and your connected circle take similar actions. It’s sad to see a driver, typically a husband, toiling through the Bangalore traffic while the insensitive ones – typically a wife, teenage kids or colleagues in a pool – in the car contributing heavily to WhatsApp and Facebook traffic through out the journey.

(-) You are perceived uncool and outdated! Your teenager kid might even try to educate you on topics like ‘what is a mobile app?’ or ‘what is meant by software?’. And at times, it is virtually impossible to convince an adventurous youngster friend that some of us – the Software Industry veterans – had actually worked on the first generation mobile applications at a time when many of them were still in their diapers…

and finally…

(-) You don’t get to play an Arnab Goswamy by breaking a news on your favorite WhatsApp group! Now, that’s a tragedy as you lose the chance to play a hero fighting against all injustice in this world. Well, perhaps one can compensate that with some more detailed analysis on desktop social media…

– Yours Truly ‘Antisocial’

(PS: My sincere apologies to those who weren’t informed about quitting my past cool life)

Mobile computing: Whither?

Ten years back one would not have imagined that the cell phones would become much more than a cordless phone with a wide signal range. From a communication device that can store a few contact numbers it has, over the years, become ‘smarter’ by providing integrated features such as digital camera, FM radio, music/video player, games, multiple connectivity modes for the common user. For the advanced or business user it provides a Personal Information Manager (PIM), mailing features (push or pull), other office products and most importantly the ability to run business applications. There are, however, several other parameters that will dictate the way in which future mobile applications would run on modern mobile devices.

Hardware – PDA v/s Smart Phone

The gap between a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) and a smart phone is getting shorter day by day. Most of the advanced phones these days have QWERTY keyboards, higher form factor, excellent processing power and almost the same memory capacity of comparable PDAs. As smart phones get more and more data-centric, the possibilities of running powerful LoB applications get better. Hence if the current trend continues, the long-term future of mobile computing will be revolving around smart phones.

Online v/s Offline

The bandwidth worries are to become the story of the past! As technologies are being developed to transfer megabytes of data at lower costs and in a matter of seconds, ‘almost-offline’ kind of applications will make way for ‘almost-always-connected’ applications. This would mean that the mobile client technology will run applications that are online with the enterprise backend systems but would not mind even if the connection is disturbed for a while. On restoration of the connection it would continue synchronizing the data that was collected or changed during the disconnected time period. This behaviour is comparable to that of the Microsoft Outlook mail client. Standard client side protocols will be soon available to manage session, state and queue persistence to facilitate the above concept.

Enterprise mobile apps v/s custom build

Built-in mobility would be the theme going forward. This would mean that you build your enterprise or mid-scale applications once and mobilize it using ‘a mobile infrastructure’ without significant effort. The organizations who build such mobility frameworks and build their enterprise applications keeping this flexibility (possible usage modes and channels) in mind would be the leaders in future business computing. These naturally mobilized applications would surpass custom build mobile applications that are difficult to maintain in the long run.

Public v/s Private network

A future mobile application would be able to run within a private corporate network as well as a public wide area network facilitated by a service provider without any difference in behavior at all. However, the usage pattern and the type of mobile applications in reality would vary within a private network and a public network. For example, a mobile service application may use a public network more often than an assembly line monitoring applet that is running within a manufacturing plant. The point here is that the usage pattern and location should not determine the architecture and technology behind the application.


In the future, voice activated NLP commands and touch screen entries will be used more often than keyboard entries. Mail usage will be around templatized content and smarter word fillers would make whatever entries to be made, a lot faster. Probably there is a lot of limitations when it comes to input mechanisms but something really innovative needs to be implemented here. Seamless integration and accessibility between office applications, PIM etc and the mobile enterprise applications will be what power users will be looking for. In order to achieve this the standards for exchanging data between PIM and mobile applications need to be defined.

Which technology – Java v/s .NET v/s ToBeInvented

As long as a standardized mobile platform protocol is available, it will be insignificant to talk about the technology used to write the applications and/or frameworks. Even the operating system may not play a bigger role here. The present problem is that the cool proprietary features that various mobile devices provide are often mistaken as built in O/S features rather than added application features. With conscious effort the integration points (PIM, Enterprise backend connectivity, Media players, Synchronization, Device management etc) can be really standardized. At the moment, open standards such as OSGi is purely talking about a raditional open application architecture that is far away from the current needs and capabilities of mobile computing

Future mobile computing device (MCD)

If the technology grows at the current pace, we would soon get to see devices that have computing power and memory capacity of the current desktops. They will also have foldable LCD/Plasma screens (something like the airport multi-display-monitor hoarding) that can change form factors easily and could substitute a laptop or tablet PC via retractable keyboard mat. Seamless synchronization with other devices (not just computers) will be a reality. Video streaming and recording features will soon be utilized for mobile TVs and video conferencing services while on the move (using 3G or ‘moreG‘). Also, don’t be surprised if all your TV channels are accessible via your smart phone in less than two years from now!

Microsoft and the handheld market

There are not too many desktop or personal computing related opportunities that Microsoft missed out to capitalize in the past twenty five years. In most cases they were early enough to react to the changing market needs by either innovation or adaptation of other cool technologies. However, Microsoft seems to have missed a trick or two when it comes the voice-centric devices and the related platform requirements.

According to Gartner the handheld devices can be broadly categorized into data-centric devices and voice-centric devices. The PDA devices fall into the first category where as the smart phones represent the second category. There could be PDAs that offer cellular connectivity but they are still ‘data-first and voice-next’ devices. PDAs usually have a higher memory, processing power, bigger form-factor as well as keypad compared to the smart-phones. The other differentiator is the usability – PDAs are supposed to be used by both hands where as smart phones are targeted mostly for one hand keyboard/wheel operation.

Microsoft has been the undisputed leader in the PDA operating system market for a while now. According to the sales statistics for the year 2006, they command 56% of the market share where as their nearest competitor Research In Motion (RIM) have got less than 20% of the PDA O/S market. Palm may be a leader in the Americas but overall they get only 12% of the market share. The story is totally different when it comes to the smartphone O/S market.

Microsoft devised a plan five years back to enter the smartphone market but the ground reality is that they were not successful at all in this war field. The Nokia led Symbian O/S commands 67% of the market share in the smartphone category as far as 2006 sales data goes. Blackberry has been a disruptive innovation (Read: Disruptive Innovation Model by Clayton M. Christensen) that thwarted Microsoft and several other market players and going forward probably even Symbian. Probably the Windows Mobile story didn’t click as much in the smartphone market.

Though a little late, Microsoft seems to be realizing their mistake now. Since 2006 they have been a bit more aggressive on stabilizing and positioning Windows Mobile. Year 2006 saw Microsoft market share growing by 200% but still that figure contributes to less than 10% of the market share. Gartner projects that the PDA market is growing at a much slower pace (CAGR of 5%) compared to the smartphone market that is growing at a CAGR of 47% for the next 4-5 years. If Microsoft is smart enough to do a good job with respect to Windows Mobile for smartphone, it is highly likely that they can rule the market by 2010. After all, the success of smartphones is generally governed by the quality of its O/S, usability and accessibility – and Microsoft is good at all these aspects. It is also interesting to read another research report published by the Diffusion Group. They project that Microsoft will have 29% market share, followed by 26% and 22% respectively for Linux and Symbian in the year 2010. This could be true if they continue to grow at the way they did in 2006!

Personally I believe that the success of smartphones will also be driven by the easy to use Personal Information Manager (PIM) features along with accessibility. Since Microsoft is the undisputed leader in office products, they are the ones who should emerge as leaders in the handheld market as well.

Finally, symbian and RIM may be the leaders in the cellphone (smart or otherwise) market purely based on usage. However, both these platforms are
nowhere near Microsoft Windows Mobile based handhelds and smartphones when it comes to running powerful applications for Mobile Sales, Service, Retail or Logistics business scenarios. For that RIM and Nokia smartphones have to be reborn and have to start supporting pure J2ME than limited device profile frameworks that can be used only for small applets, alerts and basic PIM usage.

The beauty of the Microsoft WM platform is that the same .NET application, without any change, will run on a Smart phone as well as PDA device. This is the
area (on top of PIM) where Microsoft will beat their competitors big time as the question of recoding the business applications several times for device types will not arise in the case of Windows Mobile. So my final take on the handheld market is that Microsoft and Linux will be ruling the enterprise mobile business market (including smartphones) in the mid-term future where as Nokia will continue to be the undisputed leader in the cellphone market.