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Remembering the future


One of my favourite phrases is “remembering the future”, I like the inversion, but it’s really just saying that there is nothing new under the sun. So in this age of the hot new gizmo The Mobile Internet Device we need to pay homage to the Pogo.

Today’s MID, typified by the Nokia N810 is a paperback book sized web browsing device. Pogo was a similar size albeit splat-shaped seven years ago.

They only made 5,000 Pogos which in an industry that’s shipping a billion phones a year makes it a Total Reality Vortex sized speck in mobile annals but unlike most things which failed because they were a bad idea, pogo failed because it was too early and they didn’t have enough money.

That line “too early” is usually used to prop up bad ideas – like combined DECT/GSM or Xelibri, they were an answer to a question no-one ever asked. Pogo was the answer to a question no-one had asked yet.

Today they are asking it. “Why should I be away from the web when I’m away from my computer”. Just as voice, messaging and gaming have gone mobile so will web access. And of course web access is duplex. Blogging, facebooking, if you are working on a mobile internet device or a service targeted at mobile internet use you’d do well to research the Pogo.

It was a touch screen device with a telescopic stylus. There was an SD card slot and it was a reasonable MP3 player. But the most telling thing was that it ran Macromedia (then, Adobe now) Flash. This meant it was easy to develop stunning user interface applications. Pogo never took off and so the ecosystem – which always trails a successful device by three years – never happened, but the foundations were there. But the best thing about it was the usability. The server side compression meant that even at 9600bps web pages downloaded at a decent speed and looked good. There was freezing of animated GIFs, font substitution and a host of clever acceleration technologies all of which went to make this device, eight years ago, something where it was fun to web browse while on the bus.

That last bit is what’s missing from today’s mobile internet: it isn’t fun. It’s not bandwidth, in today’s world of HSDPA there is plenty of that. It’s latency, the time mobile internet sites take to find the data rather than transmit it is a ridiculous overhead. In the days of the Pogo the bandwidth was less but the experience was better. That’s what we need to remember for  the future.

Cat Keynes publishes her thoughts on the mobile phone industry every Sunday at www.catkeynes.com you can read the column  the previous Friday by subscribing here.

Less is more, particularly if that’s mobile operating systems, and a bunch of  Operators agree so much they’ve aligned with the Symbian Foundation. Hmm, shouldn’t that be “fewer is more”.

Isn’t it supposed to be ‘just after you’ve had one Chinese you feel like another one”? Not if you are Vodafone. It appears that it’s “just after you’ve bought one African network you feel like another one” .

Orange has pulled Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Skyrock, Pikeo, Flirtomatic, DailyMotion and Meetic, all into one central portal on Orange World

While the Pogo might have made the web fun eight years ago it’s only now that the Mobile web has reached critical mass  according to survey company Nielson

No text please we’re American

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