'SkYPE’, suggested my tech-savvy son, when we were debating over the best way to chat daily with our daughter-in-law and grandchildren in the US. “Dad, this is amazing. Just $ 100 for this phone, connect it to your PC and we can talk all we want, without paying a penny, and it’s legal”. “Cool,” I thought, as we plugged in and started yakking.
"But wouldn’t this hurt the conventional telecom channels?” I voiced my concern. “Sure, that’s what disruptive technologies are all about,” the young man explained painstakingly. “They’ve now allowed use of the Internet on flights. Won’t that kill the sky-phone market, so far monopolised by the airlines?” The younger one chipped in, “Hasn’t the good old mobile seriously hit landline companies.” Not really, I felt.
“Cellular phones had essentially expanded the ‘market’, hadn’t they? Teledensity may have gone up, but has landline use come down?” I argued. But my mind had wandered and I was really thinking of another disruption that mobile phones had created — to peace in life. A long car trip — with the services of a chauffeur — used to be relaxing. No phone calls, no faxes, no nagging... you could comfortably read newspapers, magazines or a book, eat your breakfast... and before you knew it, you were at your destination. But, now...
I live in Gurgaon and the daily morning commute to the office takes about an hour. I’m barely past the state border when the damned thing starts beeping, “You left your lunch basket home” or “Don’t forget to bring diesel for the genset or blue and mauve bay-blade for the grandson.” And, if my phone doesn’t ring for a while, the driver’s invariably will — only to inform me that I had left mine at home.
My secretary likes to start work early. “Sir, there are 29 mails in your inbox, nine of these need to be answered right away. I’ll read them out, so you can dictate replies.” Yes, of course. Before I know it, I’m at work, even though I’m not — you see what I mean.
Disruptive is an apt description of what mobile technology does. There I was, lunching with Olivia from the Ukraine embassy, when my cousin walked up. Introductions over, talk shifted to what we had ordered. No longer than five minutes after he left, ‘it’ beeped. Wife calls up only to enquire if the grilled pomphret I’ve ordered is good. Skyped or spooked?