COMMENTARY--I was always impressed with my Palm's ability to beam business cards back and forth. You could also beam programs and games. I recently realized I haven't beamed a card in nearly a year; I can't recall the last time I beamed a game. I also used to play more with the download sites. I got tired of it. I believe the download sites are doing well, and I have to assume there's some growth. But how much is from new users? Will everyone finally stop doing it when they get tired of it? I call this "getting tired of it" phenomenon Technology Fatigue Syndrome (TFS).
Keep an eye out for this syndrome. If TFS seriously damages any emerging technology, it will be the upcoming 3G phones. NTT DoCoMo will launch the first official 3G system based on WCDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access) some time this year, although the date may be pushed back. Others will follow, as a worldwide rollout takes place amid squabbling and nay-saying.
According to one 3G FAQ: "Ericsson has been the first company to develop and showcase EDGE, bringing TDMA and GSM operators together. GPRS and EDGEEricsson's speed-increasing air interface solution for existing spectrumare major steps in the common evolution of GSM and TDMA, enabling consumers to access services in both networks and enjoy true global roaming. Ericsson has been researching 3G technologies for more than 10 years, which led to its pioneering of the 3G technology called WCDMA." Just reading the description invites TFS.
Using three modes of operation, including WCDMA and CDMA2000, across a number of spectrums, as well as EDGE (Enhanced Data rates for Global Evolution), these phones should be incredibly powerful. It's further expected that more than a billion folks will be using phones like these, and there's a possibly mistaken belief that they'll want to use them for more than just chatting. This led 3G promoters to talk about multimedia on the phones. You'll watch video clips and exchange photos, they say. But will you really?
I currently use a Motorola StarTAC, and technology fatigue dominates my use of it. With my previous phonea nice NextelI read the manual, entered phone numbers, and learned the innards of the device. I gave up on that with the StarTAC. If a call comes in, I answer it. If I miss a call, I use Caller ID to call the person back. I never bother to put the number in any permanent place. I'm too tired to do it. Unless these 3G phones do it all for you automatically, I don't see people using them for much more than phone calls.
This is the basic problem with technology today. Devices are sold to us on the premise that they'll make things easier, not harder. Having to punch in a phone number on a small phone for someone you may call back once, twice, or never is more trouble than it's worth. There's no payback to a lot of the activity we do regarding this gear.
TFS may play a part in slowing the computer-upgrade cycle, too. I've complained before about the difficulty of migrating applications from one machine to another. This is one reason not to upgrade. Another is the fatigue factor. People haven't been stressing the machines enough to need new performance.
The only thing that gets upgraded is the hard drive for more capacity. Why do we need more capacity? Because disk maintenance is too tiring. It's easier to just let stuff accumulate. This is all part of TFS. We just can't take it anymore.
Marketers haven't come to grips with this problem. They're unveiling products assuming all users are going to enthusiastically embrace all the features. And although some users still manage to avoid the syndrome, most are falling prey.
An interesting aspect of TFS is how people react to it. It's like the reaction to smallpox during the Dark Ages. People feared they were going to get it, so they rejected those who already had it. An example of this was a recent column I wrote complaining about the complexity of TiVo and ReplayTV devices. I've never received so much hate mail, not even after mocking the Macintosh.
There must be a way to roll out a complex technology that doesn't need so much personal attention. The 3G phones will quickly cause TFS, and most people will never use their rich features.
Hopefully, a cure for TFS can be found.