NPR’s Morning Edition program declared that text messaging was the best technology of 2008; specifically the use of text messaging by the political campaigns this year. It’s probably not a surprise that boring ol’ NPR would pick something so staid, but is this perhaps an indication that the gadgets we love are less important than the services they provide?
There’s long been a trend in the technology world toward convergence. Devices do more, and generally do things better than ever before. But even as gadgets advance, they’re still usually just gateways to a service. Consider the global positioning system. It used to be a clunky stand-alone device that gave you just your latitude and longitude; then it became a stand-alone device that offered a full-color street level map, followed by turn-by-turn driving directions. Now you can have all of that in your phone! The phone is just the interface to the GPS service.
Likewise, text messaging is a service that can be leveraged from nearly any phone today. It doesn’t matter which cellular provider you use, or which handset you use: it’s the service that is valuable to you. You might select a specific handset for features you find useful, but most smartphones provide sufficiently similar functionality now that the real distinctions are mostly cosmetic.
Yes, of course I’m over-simplifying the distinctions between the various application delivery mechanisms between Blackberries, iPhones and Android phones, but in a way that too proves the point I’m making. You select a smartphone not just because of the features it provides you at the time of purchase but because of the service offerings available to you over the long haul, in the terms of app stores, a robust development community, and the like.
Sound off, readers! Are services more important than gadgets? Are gadgets more important than services?