Wednesday 14 September 2011

Mobile Is About Personal, TV Is About Shared

There are many iPhones, but this one is mine

There’s buzz aplenty in various media worlds about the power of mobile. But the power of mobile isn’t that it’s mobile, it’s that it’s personal. There are certainly a lot of useful things that mobile, personal computers - or phones, as you may know them - can do because they are mobile. GPS, location related offers and services, photography, communications, augmented reality. These things are big and real and will make a bunch of people quite offensively rich. 

However, the bigger and more relevant part of the mobile, personal computer space, is that they are personal and they are computers. There is no mobile internet. There is just the internet. Sure, you have to consider input devices and screen size when making a website useable on mobile phones, and the clever folks out there will add location based stuff where it’s relevant, but the real power of the smartphone is that it belongs to me and is just for me and I can use it whenever I like.

Madam, your pet dog requires immediate medical attention.

The television is not personal, is not mine. I mean, I bought the damn thing, and I spent the price of a shitty car on it, but it’s not mine to do with as I please. It’s a bargaining tool, one which features in regular household debates over the merits of costume dramas and property shows versus hundred hour long Japanese role-playing games and another twenty-seven laps of Le Mans in Gran Turismo.

I would make them eat each other

If I want to play GP Story or Quarrel on my iPhone, then I can do that pretty much whenever I want. And, indeed, aside from tube journeys, the only times I do that are when I’m trying to block out the needlessly jaunty stings of some hideously over-excited screed about how a working-class person has done up their bathroom. 

The television is a shared screen, and when you’re strategising around its place in the living room of the future, that’s the way you should see it. What gets displayed on the television is visible to all. The smartphone’s place in the living room of the future, the bedroom of the future and most importantly of all, the toilet of the future is as a personal screen, with only one set of eyes on it.

But what if Steve Jobs had been a cat?
When you want those two screens to be working together, you need to keep this in mind above all things. The broadly interactive TV shows of the future may well have several people in the same room interacting with them in several different ways at the same time. Or, they may have no-one interacting with them because the people in the room are arguing about which is the best ever episode of Bergerac or what’s the best way to murder Jedward.

I’m not going to keep writing just to stick to a format I invented myself

So those in the TV/games/advertising/can-we-just-admit-these-distinctions-are-growing-more-meaningless-by-the-day/etc businesses should remember that technology doesn’t drive their business, users do. The way a device is used is what defines it, not what it’s designed to do, or what it can do.

Owls about that then?

Your users will have to share whatever is on their TV with everyone else in the room. They can keep whatever is on their smartphone’s screen to themselves. The TV is shared, the smartphone is personal.

As you were.

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