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Ernest Miller Ernest Miller pursues research and writing on cyberlaw, intellectual property, and First Amendment issues. Mr. Miller attended the U.S. Naval Academy before attending Yale Law School, where he was president and co-founder of the Law and Technology Society, and founded the technology law and policy news site LawMeme. He is a fellow of the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. Ernest Miller's blog postings can also be found @

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June 21, 2005

Die Cellphone. Die! Die! Die!

Posted by Ernest Miller

Paul Resnikoff of Digital Music News muses about the future of the iPod in a world where cellular phones have increasing music carrying capabilities (Resnikoff's Parting Shot: The Future of the iPod). He doesn't think the iPod has much to worry about it, yet.

This is a variation of a question that is always asked. Will mobile gaming devices be swamped by cellphone/game consoles? Will digital cameras be made irrelevant by cellphones/cameras? Will MP3 players be made irrelevant by cellphone/MP3 players? No. No. And No.

Why not ask instead, will the cellphone be able to survive domination by combination game console/phones? Will cameraphones be made irrelevant by cameras with phone capability? Will MP3 players that let you call out destroy the market for phones with MP3 capability?

Cellphones aren't going to go away, but they're only a tool for communication. There is nothing particularly special about them that makes them the only form factor for communication. At base, they're a commodity device. Why are cellphone manufacturers so darn busy creating things to do with a cellphone other than communicate? Because, otherwise, there isn't much to distinguish the darn things.

My life doesn't revolve around my cellphone. My life is about the other things I do. I want to have a digital camera that takes good pictures, a game console that is designed to play cool games, and an MP3 player designed to handle thousands of songs, playlists and podcasts. And, oh yeah, I want connectivity. I don't want a "cellphone."

Stop pretending to sell me cellphones. Honestly, the cellphone companies aren't really selling cellphones. That is just the sales pitch. The cellphone companies are essentially selling commodity connectivity and trying hard to hide that fact with fancy cellphone capabilities.

Data is data. Sell me connectivity and let me pick my own darn devices to take advantage of it.

That's right, I said "devices." I'm paying for the connectivity, so why should it matter how many devices I can use to take advantage of that connectivity? Sometimes I want to take my camera to the park. Sometimes I want to take my game console when I anticipate a wait at the doctor's. And I want to take my MP3 player for the workday commute.

Used to be that you could only get your landline phone from AT&T. They decided what equipment you could use on their network. We got rid of this foolish requirement and the internet was able to bloom.

Why do we continue to tolerate similar foolishness for cellular?

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Open Access | Telecomm | Tools


1. reuben on June 24, 2005 07:22 AM writes...

Perhaps it has more to do with grubby service providers who want to lock you into tedious long term contracts and get great deals from cell phone manufacturers. Plus, the tech framework in the US for cell phones is built on antiquated technology. Maybe you should take a few cue's from Asia. Why don't you chaps switch to GSM and take advantage of all that it offers?

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