How Size Matters?
The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus came out in September 2014, with the slogan “bigger than bigger”. Critics talk about how revolutionary this is and some other critics talk about how Samsung was really the foreseer. Hey, it’s only a larger screen, what’s with the fuss?
Other than smartphones varying in size, there are still desktops, laptops, and tablets, from 4 inches to 13.3 inches to 23 inches. A new size is a new category. Steve Jobs once declared: you don’t want your phone to be like a PC. He initially introduced the iPhone seven years ago as “more like iPods than they are like computers”. But look at how far we’ve gone now.
By definition, a computer is a general purpose device that can be programmed to carry out a set of arithmetic or logical operations automatically. The way I see it, we’re trying to get PCs in every category with various sizes, and to turn everything to work like PCs in essence, including TVs, wearables such as smart bands and glasses.
Here are some implications from the digital culture point of view:
Software will eat the world
What I referred to as PCs above are actually a set of software in different cases. As Marc Andreessen’s famous statement says: software will eat the world. Today maybe it’s more like apps that would eat the world. We’re getting more and more accustomed to carrying out a device’s functions through the software inside instead of using the hardware itself. Mobile phone used to be just a phone with pre-provided telecommunication services, and now it’s used in so many ways based on the apps installed by users.
Andreessen also predicted that “web business will live in the cloud”. The reality is every fragment of information are being uploaded and stays in the Cloud now that the content can be shared through the same software among different devices. The cloud service allows people owning several computerized devices to work or get entertained smoothly and flexibly in every environment imagined.
Why every environment? As social animals, people are inclined to seek for the sense of connectivity. Big desktops could only be used at relatively fixed locations, while smartphones can be much more mobile. Smart bands connect people to that Cloud even when they’re sleeping. In a world filled with the Internet of things, we might be able to be always connected to our refrigerators or microwave ovens at home from a far distance.
Generativity, termed by Jonathan L. Zittrain, is a system’s capacity to produce unanticipated change through unfiltered contributions from broad and varied audiences. The iPhone was seen as a dangerous sign of a lockdown for the generative Internet which might gradually kill innovativeness within the ecosystem. We can’t really blame Zittrain as Jobs thought the other way as well. However, it turns out that there are more and more diversified platforms for the audience around the world to generate new and unanticipated things. Again, software / app is the key.
We can hardly find any dedicated technology system these days because we tend to add as many functions as possible into every device of every kind of size, but is it necessary? There’s a tendency for different technological systems to evolve toward performing similar tasks, leading to the technological convergence. According to ZDC, larger smartphones and tablets, smaller laptops and desktops, and larger TVs are likely to be the future trending. I tend to believe that there would be a new round of “case / hardware convergence” awaiting.
 Steve Jobs Walks the Tightrope Again. John Markoff, N.Y. Times, 2007.
 Computer. Wikipedia, 2014.
 Always Early: Marc Andreessen’s Five Big Ideas That Have Shaped the Internet. Forbes, 2012.
 The Future of the Internet: And How to Stop It. Jonathan L. Zittrain, 2008.
 ZDC. zol.com.cn, 2014.