Every tech company under the sun seems to be pushing new variants of the computer experience on us at CES this year. Smartbooks, Tablets, E-Readers, Smartphones, Netbooks and Notebooks, by the end of 2010 there will cease to be a segmented computing market and consumers are going to have a continuous spectrum to choose from.
Leaving aside how this will muddy the waters when it comes to purchasing decisions, I’d like to concentrate on the most established of the new computing paradigms – the ‘smartphone’. Google can call it a ‘superphone’ all they like, but if its true, then a fruit themed Cupertino company were flying over Metropolis long before they were. The company I work for, Codethink, are considering purchasing smartphones for some of their employees, which has left me wondering if it will make us any happier, healthier or more productive.
Previous size reductions of computing technology have completely shaped the way I work. Over the past two years I have done a full weeks work in: Berlin, Rochester MN, Cambridge UK, North Wales, Manchester, Brighton, and Edinburgh. This is thanks to the availability of small, powerful laptops. It has enabled a whole class of mobile web-workers and I fell for it almost immediately.
I can’t say that hasn’t come without a price, its a ball and chain thats always with you. As software-engineers we tend to love our jobs, take it home with us, sometimes to bed with us, often to the detriment of our well-being. I know that open-source companies have to be pretty mindful of losing people to expectation-stress.
Until now, the smartphone that has become most embedded in business culture is the Blackberry. This has me worried. The Blackberry has so-far been a tool for extending work-hours, convincing employees to stay connected, and stay interrupted. Open-source engineers are already in a state of hyper-connectivity. The moments away from our laptops give us the peace we need for the next day, and extending the flow of information in to that time will lead to a very quick burn-out for us all.
So how will the ‘superphone’ enable me to give-up my laptop? What can I do with it during work hours that will help to streamline my day? As an organisational tool I can’t imagine it will perform better than the computer on my desk, but I may be surprised. Perhaps software for un-obtrusive note-taking will help us ditch the laptop during meetings. Codethink already has a habit of some rather long lunches, maybe this can be turned in to a more productive, but still creative and fun time of the day. Does anyone use some great software that we can’t miss out on?
I know Collabora had the mother-lode of N900’s shipped to them the other week. Collaborans – Is it working out well? 🙂
well – the better the phone, the more games you can play, the more unproductive u get? lets start a study 😀
Very interesting question.
Especially: “What can I do with it during work hours that will help to streamline my day?”
I share this view with you. When they’re company phones (and your boss and colleagues have the number), they just extend your working hours to 24/7.
We over at AnySoftKeyboard (and by ‘we’ I mean mostly Menny) are working hard to bridge the text input gap between full sized keyboards and touchscreen keyboards.
I’m doing it with Colemak. I can already type faster on that screen than I believe is physically possible with a slideout keyboard (even though my Droid has one, I basically never use it.)
I am wondering about modifying colemak to increase the hand alternation though– because with two thumbs, ‘finger alternation’ disappears entirely and hand alternation takes its place. During this semester I intend to try to use it for taking notes a couple times, once I get my muscle memory up to touch typing speed.
It’s lighter, it’s smaller, it’s ARM, runs Android, and it has internet EVERYWHERE. What’s not to like? Can’t wait to leave my Inspiron 1420N and power cord at home 😀
One thing I’ve found having a Palm Pre is that it makes using calendars and to-do lists a much more natural process than it is on a laptop. If someone texts me asking me to hang out at 5 o’clock Saturday, I can add it to my calendar and be confident that I’ll remember, something I was never certain of before.
As long as you aren’t constantly pulling out your phone to check every email or to read blogs, they aren’t so much a ball and chain as a buoy. They keep you afloat, but you can rely on them as much or as little as you need.
I can see this being true, calendars have been a pretty bad experience for me on the desktop. I think Google Calendar has improved this a-lot. Perhaps its even better on a small device.
When I get my hands on an android device I’ll try it out. I can’t see myself jumping into full-on programming mode though. That would be a miracle.
About the only way my N900 makes me more productive is that I can read my blogs on it during lunch, and so waste less of my work time on them 😉
As a (part-time) sysadmin I also appreciate a full-featured browser, xterm and keyboard. If an emergency strikes at an inconvenient time, I can ssh into my server and fix it without having to leave the party to go home and drive somewhere to get to a computer.
Overall, a N900 is more of a laptop replacement than a phone. It fits into your pocket and lets you do things. I like having it with me always.
Then again my work doesn’t intrude into my life 24/7 in ways that other commenters mention. I like being far away from USian work ethics.
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