What I Learned From Dinklage

Sadly, this column is NOT about me and Peter Dinklage on a road trip where we learn valuable life lessons.  OK, that would probably be pretty cool (“He’s a Project Manager!  He is constructing a house entirely out of Emmys!  They’re on a trip to wackiness!”), but no, Dinklage is my phone.

I got a Droid Razr Max HD, and since it’s small and powerful and gorgeous,  I nicknamed it Dinklage for obvious reasons.

The phone has taught me some valuable lessons.  Without a road trip.  I share them because this phone is an example of buying a personal device based on what my friend Doug calls “Use Cases” – what we want to do and what we buy or make to address it.  In turn there’s a lot of lessons for technology and those of us who use it and work in it.

See, awhile ago I had to make some strategic decisions on my devices.

I needed a new phone.  My old Motorola Droid was getting old, though frankly it was a damn good purchase.

I needed a portable device.  I had writing to do, I wanted to travel more when I worked on my books, and I wanted access to media remotely.  That left me between tablet and laptop – which is a peculiar place because the two are very different use cases; they solve different problems.

Of course I could buy a new phone, a tablet, and a laptop, but let’s face it, that’d be a waste of money.  When it came down to it what I needed was a new phone and a computer that let me write and have access to, well, computing power anywhere.  In short, I didn’t really need a tablet.

But I did want something that kept me from having to take the laptop everywhere when I needed access to a web page or some information.  So the real result is I got a phone with a nice visual footprint and a lot of power – the Razr Maxx HD.

Really, what I did was buy a very tiny tablet that happens to be a phone.  So I didn’t need a tablet anyway as my laptop was being part of what my tablet would have been.  Yeah.  I know, that’s confusing, but that’s the point.

Now frankly it is a sweet device.  It looks great.  It’s powerful.  It covers probably over half the things I’d do with a tablet it not more, and anything else is covered by having a laptop.

And of course, it taught me a lot.  Thinking over the WHY of devices, purchasing them, was pretty insightful:

First, we treat devices as very atomistic, but really they’re not.  Remember Netbooks as a distinct class – which then just blended into laptops and tablets?  There’s always some new special device out there – but we can’t act like it’s forever.

Secondly, there’s an exact opposite trend; putting more into devices.  Half the time we’re trying to buy a new gizmo for a new reason, half the time a gizmo replacing an old gadget now does everything we need.

Third, this is a distinct and obvious conflict and it means constant change.  This means that you have to be both an active consumer in choosing the right device for your needs, but it also means that if you work in consumer electronics that you need to really ask what is needed and what will work.  I myself am concerned that we’re entering a serious phase of device-for-device’s sake.

Fourth, this change is rapid enough to be very confusing.  I recall when desktops were for home, laptops were the clunky portable option, and phones were just phones.  Laptops are now desktops, tablets are now laptops, and phones are tablets.  There’s no reason to assume that among this change the rational decision will be made by consumers . . . or companies.  Some pretty distinct meltdowns are possible.

Fifth, if you are involved in development of tools, apps, websites etc. that people will access via these devices, you’re going to have to watch the use case changes to keep up.  What sells your app or your tool may not always be the long-term rational choice . . . but may be a short term one to keep your sales up.

Sixth, don’t rely on any one device or device trend.  They’re too unreliable – and as noted I think we’re getting into dangerous fad territory right now.

Seventh, and finally, as you build your life, your career, and your own business, you’re going to have to think Use Cases just like any other business.  The market is that confusing and ever-changing.  You don’t want to blow a grand on something you won’t use or need.

All that from a few phone and computer choices.

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at http://www.fantopro.com/, nerd and geek culture at http://www.nerdcaliber.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at https://www.stevensavage.com/.