Saturday, November 03, 2012

What victims will Smartphones claim?

When television was introduced, initially, there was no impact. Then, there was a seconday impact on our social habits - we stopped visiting relatives and friends as often, lest we disturb their watching Chhayageet or the Sunday movie. Apart from that, the generation gap between children and their parents grew wider - with TV viewing being the commonest friction point.

When Desktop Publishing arrived, for some time, it was a curiosity - because only 2 fonts were available and the software was terribly slow on PCs. But within 3-4 years, jobs of "Cut-and-Paste Artists" at phototypesetting units disappeared totally. Of course, they were replaced by KPO Companies offering Pre-Print Services.

Similarly, when the Internet and mobile telephony was upon us, we did not initially realise the impact. Then several impacts happened:

  • Email went from being an esoteric, nerdy mode of communication, to an absolute essential (What?! You don't have an email account?!) in less than 5 years.
  • The Post Office lost one major source of revenue - post, now pejoratively dubbed "snail-mail" - almost for ever. In the same period of time.
  • Porn - an deluge of it - was upon us. The parents of teens among us either remained blissfully unaware, but kept wondering why their wards had become so withdrawn or rebellious; or wrung their hands with worry about the warping influence that it could have on our kids. Now, it has become so commonplace that few parents, if any, worry so much anymore.
  • When adoption of mobile phones (more or less contemporaneous with the Internet) exploded, the Post Office got another body blow - how many send greeting cards today? We use SMS or MMS or e-Mail. We innovated the "missed call". 
Now, smartphones, phablets and tablets are well and truly upon us. They have already washed away the PDAs - PIM devices that were not mobile phones. Now, I am counting what else has been washed away (at least as far as I am concerned) by the computing revolution that the smartphone represents:
  • No more "mobile stereo music devices" like Walkman, Discman, or Radio. Even iPods are on their way out. 
  • No more radios or even Car FM Radios for music - we can choose what we want to hear on a 16GB USB stick that can carry a zillion songs. And we can get FM Radio on some of our smartphones. 
  • For important news on the go, now, there is Twitter - anything that I really need to know will be on Twitter quicker than I can hear it on radio. 
  • No more wristwatches except as a style statement. 
  • No more alarm clocks. Anyway, I can no longer imagine leaving home without my Google Nexus 7. 
  • If there is a choice, today, I would choose e-Books over physical books. Imagine book that can be read at night with the lights off, without disturbing your spouse! And that does not burden you any more? I am now reading more books than since my college days - due to the sheer convenience. A book often weighs more than a Tablet.  
  • Newspapers and Magazines will die out too. Newsweek, and Martha Graham are two big marquees that have gone online only. There are several online-only publications like Huffington Post (which recently bagged a Pulitzer) and Business Insider.  I am still to wean myself off newspapers, it is too ingrained a habit - but that can happen, very, very soon. Already, I don't remember when I last bought a magazine at a newsstand. Not because I don't read them -  but because I get a host of Indian and foreign newspapers and magazines on Flipboard or Google Current; updated automatically every time I open it. Sameeer and Vineet Jain need to really worry - their huge, profitable franchise is likely to decline, but before they do, almost the entire newspaper industry in India may wither away. 
  • I now use my Netbook (already written off by many as a dodo, but still surprisingly useful and convenient) only to write - and rarely to read. That includes work-related reading as well. So probably, PCs and laptops will fade from my memory. Already, all working in my office have their own tablets and smartphones. They often share documents using Google Drive, which could be done using a Tablet as well. 
  • Much less spending on movies - with smartphones capable of HD video, Teenagers will watch movies in cinema theatres only for the company, or for new movies that they cannot download and watch. For the older generation, it is easier to watch old movies or song clips, or listen to old songs on the Internet; and what can be more convenient than watching it on a tablet in Hi-Def? 
  • The jobs of watchmen and security personnel will disappear - but not so fast - what with cheap DVRs and security cameras with output viewable on a Tab wherever you are, proving to be more efficacious - my friend, an industrialist, keeps tabs on his factory using his Tab over wi-fi or using a SIM-based Internet connection, no matter where he is. He actually caught one of his security guards stealing copper wire by playing back CCTV footage; and nabbed the thief before he reached home!  
Can you add to this list of possible victims of smartphones? 

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