The Future of Hand-Held Devices – How Microsoft Can Beat Apple

By | October 26, 2012

The chances of Microsoft reading this blog are one in a billion. That’s too bad.

There are very few companies in the world that actually innovate. Apple is actually one of the only companies creating new and exciting products and bringing those products to market. We live in a world where Apple creates and the world follows. Sure, you get spin-offs here and there with improvements, but you really don’t get anything new unless Apple decides they’re gonna bring it to market. This isn’t a rant on the issues I have with only one company in the entire world innovating technologies. It’s simply a request for an Apple competitor to step back and examine the big picture. People salivate over new car prototypes, but rarely does the manufacturer bring it to market. I guess in today’s economy the safe play is the best bet. If you look at Apple though, you’ll see that the risk takers bring in the big money for their investors. Microsoft seems to have lost its edge on all its leading products. I’m positive Microsoft has the brains to do something amazing. I just don’t think they have the balls. So, here’s the future of mobile computing on a shitty blog that no one reads. When it happens I want to be able to call Microsoft and tell them, “I told you so!”

Technology has advanced the same way for decades. A new product goes to market and others build off that product and expand the features. Generally, once a product is a “hit” in the market there are few major changes to that product. Products usually go through iterations of improvements for a long period of time. I liken this to a game of chess and how an opponent’s move can distract you from the best move. If an opponent makes a move on the right side of the board you are much more likely to counter that move on the right side of the board because your attention has been drawn away from the best move (which may or may not be on the right side of the board). So, when an improvement is made on a device the competition instantly reacts with another improvement instead of looking at where the product is going and working toward an innovative solution. Recently I’ve asked myself why this is. Why do we have a slow progression of improvements instead of real breakthroughs with innovative products? Is it because manufacturers want to drag every last day out of the lifespan of a product and get every last cent they can or is it because there is knee-jerk reaction to the competition? I think some manufactures want to drag out every ounce of profit in a product, but the successful ones – the really, really successful ones – move on.

Moving on is what Apple does extremely well. Apple asks “What are these consumers really looking for?” Look at the huge impact iTunes made in the world of music. Apple didn’t invent music downloads – they simply made it quick and easy because that’s ultimately what people wanted. I pirated music for years because I was too poor to buy it and I had plenty of time on my hands. Now if I want music I just go buy the damn mp3 on iTunes. It’s easy and reliable and I can have it on my phone or ipod in 20 seconds. How about the changes in cell phones since the iPhone was released? Apple was the only company that actually took the idea to infinity and did their best to get their iPhone there. How about the explosion of handheld tablets and the creation of the iPad. Apple didn’t invent the tablet or any of the things mentioned. They simply asked themselves why do people want to download music, talk on a cell phone, or have a tablet? They challenged themselves to take the idea to infinity and then created a product based on that vision.

Though Apple seems to get it right most of the time, I think the great minds in the technology industry today have missed the boat on a few ideas. I think that the issue of iterations of technology and “chess game distractions” are at play. Today’s market is a search for smaller, faster, and lighter. Every year things get smaller, faster and lighter with small iterations of new features. Though I think there’s a place for this technology, we’ve reached a point where making things smaller, faster, and lighter really doesn’t give the consumer something incredibly exciting. Somewhat like my current cell phone (the Droid RAZR) – it’s more of an iteration of what the last version was like, but a little faster. As of 2012, I feel that we have sufficient technology to create something far better than what we’re using today in regards to hand-held computing devices. We don’t need smaller and lighter. We need more power, more features, and better battery life. Every consumer today knows what he or she wants. We want it ALL in an easy-to-carry, light-weight, pretty, sexy, smart, easy-to-use device. We will never get there unless there is a breakthrough in how things are done. This is where Microsoft can redefine their brand and image!

Remember when bluetooth headsets for cell phones became popular? I do. I was one of the first people to adopt this technology and it cost me a small fortune. It was SO cool! I could talk without having to hold my cell phone! Now that bulky phone could stay in my pocket and not in my hand. That was a real innovation because it worked and made life easier.

So, here it is Microsoft – handed to you on a silver platter.

Simply put all the “brains” of a device in a wearable form and export the display to a flexible LCD screen over bluetooth. Now a hand-held device can be worn comfortably (in a variety of ways further discussed below) and weight isn’t an issue. Audio is sent to the user via bluetooth and separated from the “brains” and battery of the device. The display is done the same way. The ideal way to conceal all the “brains” of the device is to put the components in a belt, small fitted backpack, or even in your car. You could stuff the belt with every possible mobile need any user would require including GPS, Bluetooth, and cell signal. The amount of space given in the belt would easily allow for multiple large batteries. The belt buckle could account for any part of the device that required “bulk” like bigger batteries or larger components.

Other advantages of Belts:

You don’t often forget your belt at a restaurant or bar.
Belts aren’t easily stolen.
You could make the belts in all kinds of different looks / styles.
The belt buckle could double as an antenna or tons of other various useful things.
You never drop your belt and shatter the screen.
You could store a week’s worth of battery life in a belt.
Pockets are free for keys and wallets (and flexible LCD screen).
When you get home you could simply take your belt off, slap it on the handy-dandy charger wall by the door, and the belt would recharge its batteries and still give you all the function of your phone.

As for the external bluetooth screen. A flexible screen allows you do everything other screens do, but you don’t have to worry about breaking it when it falls. You can easily slip it in your back pocket and sit on it without noticing it is even there. It syncs with your Belt CPU so if you lose your screen you just buy another one.  Even if the flexible screens aren’t affordable yet, it would be much easier to hold a lightweight, thin screen with an enormous battery that is easily replaceable if it is dropped, etc.

I have no prototype of this technology, but I think it would really easy to do and much better than the current devices we have now.   First to do this wins.  Microsoft can do it.