The mobile tea party

alice25th“There was a table set out under a tree in front of the house, and the March Hare and the Hatter were having tea at it: a Dormouse was sitting between them, fast asleep, and the other two were using it as a cushion, resting their elbows on it, and talking over its head. `Very uncomfortable for the Dormouse,' thought Alice; `only, as it's asleep, I suppose it doesn't mind.'

The table was a large one, but the three were all crowded together at one corner of it: `No room! No room!' they cried out when they saw Alice coming. `There's plenty of room!' said Alice indignantly, and she sat down in a large arm-chair at one end of the table.”

Last weekend I read Google’s Andy Rubin confidently tell PC Mag that there is simply no need or reason for another mobile operating system. Then yesterday I read a piece by CrunchGear’s Matt Burns in which he explained with a heavy heart that he thought Windows Phone 7 was great but that there was simply no room in the market for an OS that wasn’t by Apple, Google, or RIM.

As I ran those concepts around in my head, I just couldn’t help thinking of Lewis Carroll’s Mad Tea Party. All noise and go and surreal nonsense.

The analogy works quite well (even if I do say so myself) if you cast Apple as the Mad Hatter and Google as the March Hare, or even contrarywise. As for the sleeping Dormouse, that can be either RIM or Nokia. Take your pick. The mobile tea table is laid for 5 billion (and rising) current mobile users worldwide, yet still Apple and Google are saying there is no room, no room!

Of course any sensible person can see that that is stuff and nonsense. The global mobile market is bigger than ten or even a hundred Apples and Googles could ever service. On top of its sheer overwhelming size, the mobile market is also constantly changing.  No company is agile enough to always keep pace with it. Look at Microsoft; look at Palm. They were once the major players. Apple and Google are on top now. Will they still be in ten years? In five? Heck, will they still be dominating the tea party this time next year? No one really knows the companies or the products that we will all be lusting after in just a few months from now, so how can anyone pretend there is no room for new technology?

I know we live in a capitalist world. There is always going to be a desire in the big companies to control the medium, to dominate the market, to own the technology…but they will never quite manage it. Mobile technology is the next stage in a sort of evolution of discoveries that put the power to communicate and reach out to one another into the hands of everyday people. Lightning in a bottle. The horse and saddle, the printing press, the telegraph, television, the very words we write and the languages we speak; they have all been steps in this process amongst countless other steps.

Sure, sometimes one company or technology will be on top for a little while, but there is always room for more, for the next wave, the new idea, the coming storm. That is what I love about mobile technology today, that it is changing so quickly you can watch the storms forming and moving on.

People often read my columns and see all that I rant and rail against and wonder if I like any mobile technology. The answer is simple. I love them all. Each and every one. There are very few I haven’t used in the past or don’t use today. I will scream about Apple and Steve Jobs but I go nowhere without my iPod touch in my pocket, literally nowhere. I will complain bitterly about Windows Mobile and Steve Ballmer’s missteps, but I still use a Treo Pro. I mistrust Google and its founders more than any other company today and think their views on privacy are terrifying, but I love Android and think it is the steampunk superstar of the mobile world, bits and pieces bolted together to form a living, growing system.

I rant and attack because I want them all to be better, want them to live up to their potentials and compete on a level playing field. I squawk because I care.

For me, this tea party isn’t about the Hatter or the Hare, or even the Dormouse or Alice. It is about that table, stretching out to the horizon with 5 billion place settings. We each have a seat there, as does the largest mobile vendor with a vast product lineup or the smallest startup with a crazy idea and their Mom’s life savings. It is all about competition and debate and the conflict of ideas. It is all about evolution.

I think it is great that Microsoft has made it back into the market with a credible new OS. The fact that they were on the sidelines for a couple years had a bad effect on the mobile industry, stunted the growth of things. If Apple and Google were thinking clearly, they would agree. There is always more room.

Now, will someone pass me the butter…my watch is running slow.

[PC Mag | CrunchGear]
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Zealot Benmergui

Zealot is a former contributing editor at Pocketables.

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