Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What "phone", "watch" and "computer" really mean

Just thinking out loud here...

We use the term "phone" to refer to many more devices than we did a few years ago.


When referring to phones we now, more typically, mean the devices we carry in our pockets and may try to differentiate them by calling them "mobile phones", "cell phones" or maybe even "smart phones"*.
In reality though there's only a very small part of these devices that are to do with making a phone call. The name is more of historical consequence and an aid to differentiation. It's easier to say than "handheld computing device". (Although that's how they describe them on board aircraft.)

We're now starting to hear a lot about "wearables" and "smart watches". Aren't these just small computers that are easily worn on the wrist?

We, typically(?), still think of computers as those devices with a large screen, keyboard and a box on, or under, a desk. And sometimes maybe we think of a laptop when we think of "computer".
I suspect this thinking is limiting our ideas about what certain devices are and what we should be thinking about them as being capable of.

Everything is becoming a computer. More things than you realise probably already are.

What happens when we stop talking about "smart phones" and "smart watches" and instead talk about "computers we carry in our pockets" or "computers we wear on our wrists"?
Yes, it's slightly more wordy but will changing the language we use change the software and experiences we envisage and create?

When we're planning the future where our use of technology is even more integrated with our lives and our experiences with technology crosses over a wider range of devices this will become increasingly important.

Terms like "computer", "laptop", "tablet", "[smart]phone" and "[smart]watch" are helpful, at some level, for differentiation but risk limiting our thinking. Building the technology of a better future means we need to avoid limiting our thinking and push things forward.

* I'm ignoring any smart phone vs feature phone differentiation


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