"Think about how stupid the average person is; now realise half of them are dumber than that."
- George Carlin
George seems to have a huge following amongst technology companies of today. They really believe the average person is stupid. Spoilt with choice the consumer is a bum, just package it well and chances are it will sell.
The famous Mark Twain quote "Lies, damn lies and statistics" acquires magnanimous portions in the world of technology today. Consider the example of mobile internet connectivity in India.
The Telecom Lies
Great packaging - nothing inside
Two weeks ago Tata Indicom announced "A Breakthrough Technology in Mobile Communication". With spectrum still a sought after commodity and various pressure groups like Govt of India, BSNL, Defence still fighting it out I wondered from which private ether had Tata Indicom managed getting extra spectrum as to offer faster services.
The next day it turned out Tata Indicom meant the "break through technology" was "country's first Mobile Web Browser, fully optimized for mobile Internet."
Wordweb defines "breakthrough" as 1. A productive insight 2. Making an important discovery 3. A penetration of a barrier such as an enemy's defense. I wonder which of these can be attributed to Tata Indicom's case. Does Opera Mini ring a bell? Do a search for the kind of mobile phone browser you require and you can download as many as you want free of cost.
The issue here isn't of the above co. or the announcement. The problem is industry specific where every week "breakthroughs" "first of its kind" announcements are made without much content inside. Consider the Nokia example.
The Nokia Hype - first of its kind
Nokia on Friday announced "a first of its kind service - 'Video Center' for N95". I wonder if Nokia has ever heard of Apalya TV. You just download a small symbian or java application and you can get to watch quite a few channels on your cell phone.
That's not all. Also there are several apps like My Waves amongst others available today which you can download to your cell phone and download videos on just about any cell phone and not just Nokia. Also as a consumer why is Nokia so interested in making the consumer device dependent? A consumer would ideally want an application driven one so that when one changes phones they still get the service.
If Microsoft can be sued under anti-trust for loading just a few softwares with its operating system why isn't the same happening to cellphone manufacturers who are bent upon exploiting the consumer and making him device dependent. Is this really fair?
The Digital Lifecycle Cost
Companies in India are really lucky. Our laws are anarchic and as consumers we do not understand technology. It's a herd race of possession and companies exploit the weakness.
The Vice President of one of the biggest digital camera companies in India recently said, "We have proudly reduced the digital camera lifecycle to 8 months". From a consumer point of view this means the consumer is a bum who has to shell out an extra sum every 8 months for upgradation to keep this digital camera company in profits.
The iPhone Case
Consider the US example where a woman sued apple for cutting iPhone prices. A woman from New York sued Apple because it reduced the price of the iPhone by $200. The damages she is seeking are $1 million in damages in a lawsuit that claims that Apple violated price discrimination laws by cutting the phone's price just two months after it was introduced.
If the same standards were adopted in India and mobile operators are sued for cutting prices and forcing customers to upgrade, they would probably be bankrupt.
You as a consumer you need to understand this really well. You live in a country where there is a huge spectrum crunch. This means no matter what a cell phone manufacturer or mobile operator promises you DO NOT have access to great speeds in India on a cellphone.
The grand technology choice is between GPRS - Avoid it, EDGE - ok for basic email function, CDMA - ok for email. If you are looking for a multimedia experience on your cellphone forget it for the time being. Wait for 3G and other technologies.
Puneet Mehrotra writes on business and technology issues thebusinessedition.com.