Cellphone as Swiss Army Knife

Most Monday’s, I publish a post called “Converged Products” which is a collection of links that I’ve titled “Cellphone as…” These posts demonstrate how creative businesses are capturing the power of mobility by making their products available to their customers wherever they go by “building” the product into the cellphone. The Law of Mobility was originally developed with this example in mind – products (like cameraphones) become more valuable through mobility simply because they are available all the time.

However, one of my favorite ideas of the past year, which I’ve shamelessly stolen from Atish Gude, is the shortcomings of the Cellphone as Swiss Army Knife.

I frequently use this analogy when speaking to different audiences. I usually tell the story of how, before 9/11, I would always carry a small knife with me. The knife had a small pair of scissors, a small screwdriver, a tiny pair of tweezers, and even a plastic toothpick. It was incredibly valuable to me to have these things, for example, if I were helping set up a trade show booth and needed to strip a wire or screw down a terminal post. Having these tools with me all the time, wherever I went created tremendous value – it’s a low-tech example of the Law of Mobility in action.

However, if I were in my office and needed scissors, I wouldn’t use that tiny, low power, poor user interface pair in my pocket, I’d reach for a real pair in my desk drawer.

The concept of Cellphone as Swiss Army Knife both amplifies the value of building products into a cellphone to reap the value promised by the Law of Mobility, but also calls out the value of building mobility into “real” products such as those I feature monthly in my “Beyond the Phone” posts.

The camera is a great example that we can all relate to. Building a camera into a cellphone is a great thing. A few months ago I switched phones to a Blackberry that isn’t a cameraphone, and there have been several times over those months when I’d wished my phone had a camera built in. Even a low-quality photo using a limited user interface would be better than missing the moment entirely.

However, most of us reach for a “real” camera when one is available. What we all long for (and manufacturers continue to try to deliver) is a “real” camera with mobile broadband built-in. We’ve become accustomed to the immediacy provided by cameraphones – the ability to easily and immediately share the moment with distant friends, and easily and immediately move photos into our computers without wires or syncing-procedures.

As the Mobility Revolution continues, businesses need to understand both models and determine whether to build a “blade” for the knife, or build mobile broadband into a full product, or both!

Capture the Power!

Now playing: Sara Groves – The One Thing I Know

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