Although many will find Steven Zenith's writeup of his gadget-loving girlfiend's (over on Bayosphere) latest acquisition (a Sony-Ericsson smartphone) to be entertaining, I found it to be incredibly frustrating. Wrote Zenith of his significant other's jubilant honeymoon with her new toy:
...she is all excited as she invests the hours necessary to learn the interface so that she can take digital pictures and movies with it. She now has a picture of her beloved cat as the wallpaper and she is as happy as can be. She spends the remaining time typing in selectively, by hand, all the phone numbers from her old phone, her computer and the relic Nokia that currently serves as her bedside clock.
When trying to warn people about the dangers of proprietary solutions and how they can lock you in by trapping your data, I often have a tough time explaining what the phrase "walled-garden" means. More recently, in the context of the C.R.A.P. I've been making videos about (See why CRAP is a better acronym for DRM than "DRM" is), I've talked about how the music and videos you're paying your hard earned money for can easily end up trapped in one or a couple devices (forcing you to make choices you might not otherwise make). But the pain that Steven's girlfriend is experiencing is another example. Much the same way your cell phone's phone number is very easily transported to not just another phone, but another service, the same should hold true of the information you're storing in it (this is possible for some phones if you're staying with the same wireless carrier -- especially if the information is stored on a SIM card).
And please, if you're one of those third party solution providers that has the silver bullet, don't call or send me e-mail. Much the same way I shouldn't have turn to third party products or services in order to playback iTunes Music Store-bought music on the device of my choosing (as opposed to Apple's choosing), I shouldn't have to do the same to "play" my other data anywhere I choose. Requiring the addition of third party products adds friction to an equation where no friction should exist in the first place. This is a 1990s-class problem that isn't solved in 2006 because it's not in the best interests of the wireless-carriers or the device manufacturers to solve it.
Back in June 2003, EMC CTO Mark Lewis told me about this very same problem:
One of my favorite topics. What's the biggest thing I hate about this damn phone? I must break or lose a phone every week. So, I get a new phone and the first thing that ticks me off is that this should be my phone from the moment it touches my hand. But it's not. It's only my phone after about eight hours of thumb programming and voice recognition and everything..... When I bought this new phone, I should have been able to dial my number, say my name, and have my phone book and all of my other personal settings automatically drop back into my phone from the phone company. Verizon is a big customer of ours and I tell them that all the time that they should be storing my contact list and my address book for each new phone. If I get a new PDA or I lose my phone in Europe, I should be able to walk over to your phone and do the same thing so that your phone becomes my phone.
Yeah, what he said.
So, it's great to see another technology-convert like Steven's girlfriend. But it takes a certain amount of sadomasochism to enjoy the pain she needn't endure (which was probably the point Steven tried to make in describing the way things should work, albeit a little too futuristic from me).