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View Full Version : Are Smartphones Appliances or Computers?

Jason Dunn
01-09-2004, 08:09 PM
Smartphone Thoughts reader <i>Luzerman</i> posted a comment in a <a href="http://www.smartphonethoughts.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=4731&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=0">recent discussion about Motorola and upgrades</a>, and I thought it would spark an interesting discussion:<i>"There is a difference between the WMPPC/PPCPE and WMSP devices and a desktop. The HHCs are appliances. How often do you update the software on your Heating/AC controller? How often do you update the software in your car? your radio? TV? VCR? DVD player? These devices are meant to be sold and forgotten or at least only repaired when something physically breaks. With the low/no margins on many of the PPC/SP devices it makes no sense for most companies to put the development money into supporting a new OS after the device has already been released."</i>The issue of whether or not Smartphones are appliances is a very interesting one to me, and I can see some of the logic in the idea of thinking of it as an appliance - I've seen some Pocket PC OEMs take the same stance. "It does the same functions as the day you bought it, so if you want new functions, buy a new device." That approach breaks down when you really start to compare it to a true appliance: I don't need to upgrade the firmware on my DVD player because it works 100% of the time and does what it's supposed to do. DVD players also have universal features: stop, play, chapter skip, etc. No one would think of releasing a DVD player on the market that couldn't pause a DVD, right?Can the same be said of a Smartphone? Absolutely not - they have bugs and bad design issues that prevent users from using them the way they want to. You can't even watch a video in full screen mode! The very nature of a Smartphone is so complicated compared to a microwave, that it's impossible to "get right" in the same way a microwave or DVD player can be created. The basics are still not perfected in a Smartphone - it's like buying a DVD player that plays DVDs most of the time, but every so often it would lock up and you'd have to reboot it.Beyond the technical reasons though, I think that most powerful one is perception: it's running a Microsoft operating system, which to everyone in the computer industry means "This is a a computer". Microsoft's own marketing trumpets the fact that it's a powerful personal computer that you can put in your pocket - they don't promote it as a disposable appliance. So, like it or not, the public doesn't perceive Smartphones as being appliances, and as such they expect bug fixes and upgrades like they would for any other computer. That's the nature of the beast...

01-11-2004, 09:31 PM
Very interesting point.

Personally I think that since Smartphones are as difficult to update as DVD-players, they should work flawlessly their entire lifespan.

01-11-2004, 09:56 PM
I think part of the problem comes from the notion that an applliance has a permanent set of features that never change from day to day. Pocket PCs and Smartphones are as flexible as a full blown computer with so many options, custimizations, and add-ons that they become a complete extension of one's digital life. We invest more time in working with these devices than we invest in an appliance (which we only use, not work with).

I would say that a Smartphone should act like an appliance (execute its standard features everytime), but be supported like a full desktop.

01-11-2004, 11:51 PM
Yes, if MS want to market Smartphones more or less like portable computers, they will have to support them as such.

How about "Windows update for embedded"? Wouldn't it be great to install your tested apps, update the device over the Internet and then "re-burn" the ROM, making it possible to reset the device to your own configuration?