Tech News World: The Death of the Smartphone
Smartphones and tablets might be the current hot technology, but history says it’s all just another fad. Twenty years from now, almost nobody will own either device. Seems unbelievable, but the same technology that makes them hot today will make them not tomorrow. If this sounds ridiculous, consider what happened to another “must-have” technology that almost nobody uses any more: the fax machine.
Back in 1991, the Baby Bells were predicting an explosion of landlines and a corresponding shortage of phone numbers because “everyone will need a fax machine.” Phone companies offered to lease fax machines for “only (US)$60 a month on a three-year contract.” (Sound familiar?) Newspapers were offering early faxes of their main stories to subscribers for a buck a day. Every office supply store had shelf after shelf of fax machines for home and office use.
All those dreams got trashed by the Internet and cheap computers. Email attachments killed the fax machine boom. Today a fax “machine” is a $1 chip in a laptop, and like the modem chip, nobody even bothers to configure it. Faxing the newspaper? Newspapers are dropping like old news, and paywalls are mostly money-losers. Even those cries of “mom, we need a second line for the Internet” are just a dim memory. Instead of two, three or four landlines, many homes now have none. Indeed, many existing “landlines” are actually VoIP phones.
Holding On for Dear Life
The problem facing the telcos is that they’re in the phone business, not the “find the best way for people to communicate and give it to them at a competitive price” business. Their product is access to the telephone network. Worse, their entire business model hinges on an archaism — the 10-digit phone number monopoly. People increasingly don’t use phone numbers to contact each other, and the telcos are at risk of becoming just another data pipe for when you’re not near a WiFi connection.
Fax machines are just one of many examples of the future not turning out the way the telcos envisioned it. “Sure-thing” premium services like video calling never saw beyond limited use — too expensive, and people were not willing to shell out $600 for a videophone, plus the extra monthly charges — not when there was almost nobody to talk to on the phone network. Now it’s too late. You can have your “videophone of the future” experience via Skype, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) Talk or Google+ Hangouts at no extra charge.
Also dying is the business model of locking customers into long-term contracts by financing expensive mobile phones. Unlocked Android smartphones are going for less than $200 with no contract, and LG makes a nice $60 flip-phone……..Read More
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