I surround myself with Alpha Geeks because they do a fine job of keeping me abreast to the latest trends which keeps me pleasantly on the bleeding edge. It’s a simple process, just listen to the Alpha Geeks. See what is floating their respective boats and when you see enough boat floatage, you jump on board.
We’ll call it Alpha Geek Trend Detection, but that’s another column.
The current buzz amongst my selection of Alpha Geeks is the PDA. There are two pieces of hardware sitting on the respective hips of the geeks, the Treo 600 and the Danger’s Sidekick.
None of this hardly news. Both PDAs have been exhaustively described elsewhere. What’s unique about this particular buzz is that I have no absolutely desire to join their geeks in their PDA exploration because I’ve been there before… many times.
Literally, right this second, I have a drawer filled with various incarnations of the PDA. You see, the Alpha Geeks identified the original Palm as the “thing”. This was followed by the various other Palm form factors (thin! color! more memory!) which, after a few months of usage, ended in exactly the same spot as their predecessor… unused… sitting in their drawer… praying for a second life via Ebay.
The Alpha Geeks followed up by convincing me that the Blackberry solved of the problems I had with my plethora of Palms by… wait for it… getting rid of functionality and elegance. The insanity of such reasoning should have been a clue, but I bought it hook, line, and sinker because the value of having an always-on network connection really did offset the fact the Blackberry looked like crap.
The Blackberry’s usefulness window was longer than that of the Palm, but when I switched jobs and the new gig didn’t provide me with Blackberry service, I didn’t miss it because I knew I’d be traveling less, so the need to have all-the-time access to my email decreased.
Present day. The Alpha Geeks are out in droves, sending me mail, cornering me at parties, and instant messaging me. MY PDA IS THE SHIT. I’m sure it is. Yes, yes… the Sidekick has a fascinating form factor. Yes, it has all the apps I’d expect from my desktop. Gosh, it’s pretty. No, no, no, you Treo folks are cool too. It’s shiny! It’s got a camera? Well, isn’t that fancy. Yes, I want one.
Yes, I reeeeeeeeeeeeeally want one.
The problem is, I’m going to buy one, I’m going to dance around the house in anticipation until it arrives and when it does, the dancing will turn into jumping up and down. I’ll unpack it, load it up with all my content, and head off to the closest Alpha Geek and they’ll nod approvingly.
… and then I’m going to feel like a total boob because I was duped again.
See, I thought I’d learned my lesson regarding the Alpha Geeks almost fifteen years ago. The Geeks were all in a tizzy about Compaq’s latest and greatest portable computer. It looked like this:
Yes, folks, a 286, 12Mhz portable feature an orange plasma monochrome display weighing in at over 20 pounds. Sweeeeeet. It’s the Alpha Geeks that got this on my desk over a decade ago and that failed promise was followed by subsequent disasters from HP, Dell… the list goes on and on… and this was before Ebay when a boob-like-purchase could hope for a recouping of losses.
The point is this: There’s an adoption curve on new technology. At the peak of that curve, the technology has sufficient value that it will appeal to a significant population that will make it successful. Alpha Geeks will have you believe the time to jump on the curve is as soon as possible because, really, you don’t want to miss a thing, right? You’ve got N.A.D.D.… that means there’s no difference between ignorance and a lobotomy.
To me, for now, the PDA feature set still lags. I have a large list of contradictory demands that only make partial sense. They are:
- Broadband network access. There should be no difference between my office connection and my connection sitting in the car on the way to work.
Big fat screen. Pixel real estate is key for me. I don’t need 17″, but I want more than is currently provided.
Accessibility. Blackberry made strides here with the QWERTY keyboard, but the design still forced most users into writing their emails in Blackberry-ese meaning “Im writing briefly bcuz this keybrd iz smll”. I want zero restrictions on my ability to get my bits over the wire.
Phenomenal application support. I’ve got the same list of requirements that made of my Mac. I want easy access to all my usual business apps (Word, Excel), I want access to all of my various communication mediums (Terminal, AIM/iChat), and I want a burgeoning developer community who are actively seeking new ways of exploiting the PDA platform.
You’d think I’d not want amazing 3D games on this mythical PDA, well, I do. Some needs to figure out how to jam stellar graphics performance into one of these babies because Solitaire ain’t going to cut it.
Sounds like a portable, right? Wrong. I have a portable. Portables have evolved to pretty much meet all the requirements above without apologies. PDAs have not. Portable computing was a niche player until it matched desktop computing feature for feature and PDAs have the same burden.
And… yes, my strict list of requirements is motivated by a financial defensive mechanism which allows me to keep my dollars on my pocket and not in a drawer… gathering dust.