Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Versatility is not the panacea

Today I bumped into a video showing the new Dell Streak, or as Dell calls it "the versatile 5-inch Android tablet".

I am very sorry for the Dell employee in the video. I am sure it is not his fault. But I had a hard time not laughing when he put the brick close to his ears to take a phone call. I mean, that thing is HUGE...

Some days, I find myself wondering if all these years of mobile device sales have not taught us anything. Look around you, look at the devices that sell well. They all make you look cool. Anything portable is a fashion item, something that walks with you, that tells everyone around you something about you. You are cool because you have an iPhone. Because you have an iPad. Because you have a Nexus One (kinda cool, with a vibe of geek). Or the Droid (and you wear all black). And so on.

You can't tell me you would not laugh at a guy holding a 5-inch versatile Android tablet close to his ear. Even someone trying to do it with an iPad would make me laugh. probably hard.

Who in the world would do it?

This is the problem with versatile. You can do everything. Like a swiss knife. You have a 5 inch tablet and you can use it to chop vegetables (I saw Stephen Colbert do it with the iPad, it works). Or play ping pong. Or even make a call.

Guess what? It does not make sense.

The race for the perfect device is on. You have a full spectrum of sizes, from the dumbphone to the full tablet. Every size can have its perfect uses and eat some of the ones above and below. With a smartphone, you want to talk. You might want to watch a movie, but it is going to look better with a device slightly bigger. To read a book, you want a book-size device (not 5 inches, more). To listen to music, who cares, a pen would do it. If you have to type a large document, you better have a keyboard. To browse, something in the middle is ok, and maybe you can compromise and do it on a smartphone, in an emergency. And so on, and so on. 

However, just do not try to push it too hard. Versatile is just the wrong goal. Doing more with a device I do not even need is a bad idea. A tablet I can use to make calls? Why? Stick to Skype and video chats, do not give me a phone number on a device which is not made to call.

You know, I want to look cool...