I don’t get to see much TV in this new grand adventure I’m on, not that I ever seemed to have time to watch much before either, so many of you may have seen this before but it was new to me.
Here is great example of why I’ve often suggested that new perspectives are so powerful and valuable and I try to find and create as many as I can. Oh, and yes this is an advertisement; get over it! Great content often comes from the most unlikely sources. This one comes from Nokia.
As you’ll see when you watch the video, they present a fascinating and I think very useful way of seeing the evolution of “screens” and media as moving from:
- Movie theatre screens
- Television screens
- Computer screens
- mobile/smart phone screens
It’s been rather amazing for me to watch how the screen has quietly embedded itself into our understanding of what a “phone” is. Not so many years ago the word phone would have been would have been thought to mean a device for talking only. The notion of “watching a phone” would have sounded ridiculous and still sounds rather funny when you say it like that.
By Any Name; Handy is the Game
They now go by many other names such as mobile, cell, smartphone, PDA, and yes even the iPhone of late. There is even this long list of “Mobile phone terms across the world”. But I think I like the one common in many European countries the best where they are often called a “handy”
Handy (plural form Handys), pronounced /hɛndi/, a pseudo-anglicism that is used in Austria and Germany for a mobile phone (rare alternative spelling: Händi). In German, the word "Handy" has the meaning of "Hand-Telefon" or "handgehaltenes Mobiltelefon" (translated to English: "handheld mobile telephone"). The term possibly derived from the 1940s product name Handie-Talkie for a handheld military radio. (The backpack version was introduced as Walkie-Talkie.) - entry from Wikipedia
Whatever the origin or spelling “handy” is certainly an accurate description of these amazing devices we used to call phones and only use to talk on. And it is this dramatic increase in utility that I think is the really important part of the transformation of these “screens” have brought to our world.
Mashing, Melting and Morphing
More than just the addition of a screen these devices are the mashup or melting pot of a lot of different devices and capabilities from many different directions and original purposes including digital cameras, MP3 or music players, TV and video players, and PCs. This is what I thought was most clever and useful about the way the Nokia Fourth Screen video presented the evolutionary stages, as you can see how each successive screen swallows the one before it.
* Please also note that none of these stages has eliminated the one before it and ALL remain valuable and in great use! As I’ve often pointed out our history is one where technology never really dies and while disruptive, the next new stage does not eliminate the one before it.
While the addition of a screen that is capable of displaying most any kind of content is important, so much more so than the screen it has been the freedom that comes from mobility that has been the game changer. In fact the screen, while necessary is most often quite inferior to the ones that came before. A reverse trend if you notice going through the four screens is that each one has been smaller and arguably inferior in visual quality to the one that came before! However in each case of the steps along the way we gained more freedom, choice and opportunity of both what we could have on the screen, where we could have the screen and our control over the interactions with with other people and their screens.
These new phones have also brought us the closest thing to wireless, untethered and unfettered we’ve ever been. WiFi can be useful when used with things like desktop PCs and laptops for other reasons, but it only really delivers on its true value IMHO when it enables you to be completely free to have what you want whenever and wherever you are. Even with the shrinking size of laptops and the new “netbooks” they are still large enough and cumbersome enough that you often don’t have them in your hands at your fingertips when you need them. The “4th screen”, with it’s ability to slip into your pocket or clip onto your belt or just stay in your hand, is the most likely to be there whenever you need it and brings us closest yet of truly having the world at our fingertips anytime, anywhere.
Evolving the Screen to Death
And will there be fifth screen? I think so and more after that. What I’d see coming next is the further shrinking and transparency of the overall physical devices and the elimination of the fixed nature of the screens and input devices. In the case of the screens what I mean is when there is no limit to the size of the screen and you can view, and you can have whatever size makes sense for the situation you are in. Sometimes all I need is a screen big enough to tell me the time, temperature, a phone number or a factual answer to a question. Some times black and white is fine too. But other times I want screens the size of whole walls or the size of buildings, with very high definition sound and visual fidelity. And I want them to be there when I need them. So for example in a previous post on Coming to our Senses: Touch we saw some advances heading toward having screens that can be stretched to any size you’d like, so you could have one rolled up in your pocket or purse and whenever you needed a screen you could simply stretch it out to whatever size you’d like from postage stamp to a wall. Or perhaps we’ll see mainstream versions of “virtual screens” that might fit on the rim of your glasses or slip over your ear and let you see any size screen in front of you that you’d like.
After that, the Sixth Screen perhaps? By this stage I think there will be no screen at all! Again in my posting Coming to our Senses: Touch in the section on “Digital Clay” I laid out the coming of fully 3D images that might be along the lines of holograms for example and which would also include haptic bi-directional feedback so I can both feel what I see and shape or change it with my hands.
WYSIWYG superceded by WYNIWYG
The trick however to having all this amazing advances in “screens” is not so much in the screens themselves but in the freedom to see who and what I need whenever and wherever I want to. This is all part of the trend I’ve been calling the Snowflake Effect or getting it “just right” and what I believe Gartner first started calling WYNIWYG: What You Need Is What You Get.
“Context driven networks will connect us in new and more meaningful ways than the bandwidth-focused networks of today. The idea is no longer WYSIWYG (What You See is What You Get), but now we look for WYNIWYG (What You NEED Is What You Get)! Networks will be able to anticipate your needs and make information available to you when you need it.”
- Gartner Emerging Trends 2008
For me, the destination of this evolution of the screen is when it disappears completely leaving me free to see (hear, touch and even smell) just what, who, when and where I want. I don’t know or care if this will be the 5th, 6th or 21st “screen” but it will be just right 4me and it will be here much sooner than most people suspect.