I remember my first cell phone very vividly. I was working at my first IT job in the mid-90's at a small engineering company in the town where I went to college. The pay was bad, but the job and the domain I was working within was very interesting so I got a ton of great experience there. Not too long after starting there, they asked me to wear a pager. Someone told me about a deal that a local company had that included a car phone and - gasp! - a detachable handset that didn't come with a briefcase to power it. I approached my boss with the idea and the cost was about the same as a pager would be, so he agreed to let me get the phone.
Back then, all I expected out of my phone was to be able to receive calls regarding work emergencies. I made a few personal calls from time to time - that I had to reimburse - but they were few and far between. Of course, there was the one time right after I got it that I took it on the golf course with me and called a friend stuck at work so I could put it down next to the ball and torture him with the sound of me hitting a perfectly struck 5-iron into the breeze to nestle next to the pin. But I digress. The rest of the time I got mundane calls about server issues or how someone just deleted a set of data and needed help recovering from their mistake.
It didn't have an email client. Nor did it have a PDF reader, an SSH client, a Web browser, a camera or an image viewer. It didn't even have SMS capabilities and it certainly didn't have Angry Birds available for it. It feels like I'm talking about how I used to hike 10 miles uphill in the snow both ways to school every morning, but this beast was used for one thing - phone calls. And it did its job well. When I had a signal, I remember how stable and reliable it was. Of course, the coverage map wasn't exactly the equal of today's carriers, but I could be in most places across the area where I worked and know that I could receive a call just fine.
Fast forward to today. In today's world, a smartphone allows you to work on documents, handle expenses on the road, handle your email, VPN into your work computer and basically work on things in a manner that is within sight of a laptop or other computer. There are limitations but they are getting fewer and further between with the advent of peripherals such as the webtop docks for Android phones or other keyboards that connect to your phone. We put up with dropped calls and less than stellar battery life because the functionality we get with our phones seems like a pretty good trade-off. Except for the times we find ourself sitting in our car with a dead battery in our car AND phone.
It looks like the future of the cell phone is to be more of a device that happens to make phone calls. This device will integrate with content and push it to your TV, sync with the proverbial cloud to make every byte you've ever collected available to you and figure out what information you want to consume and collect it for you to browse at your leisure. My phone is much more powerful than my computer was at that first job and it's not even one of the latest models that are out that are more powerful still.
This doesn't even take tablets into consideration. These devices, though not much more powerful - if at all - than the most powerful smart phones, offer a tremendous experience because of their larger screen size and subsequently better Web browsing experience. I have an Android tablet that I bought cheaply on eBay to throw a custom ROM on and play with. When the right tablet at the right price point that I've been waiting for comes along, I'll most likely get one but for now this works well for most tasks when I'm traveling.
We've been thinking about this new connected world and the devices that do the connecting for a long while here on the Track-It! team. Most of us here are heavy users of smart phones and tablets. A colleague of mine even used to go up to the Apple store near us at lunch and play with the iPads there to test our new Track-It! Web interface well before we announced or released Track-It! 10. They might have even left a bookmark or two on the devices to a Track-It! Web demo install so that we could see if anyone checked it out and contacted us. I really couldn't say one way or the other.
We are excited about where we're going with Track-It! and how it fits into this new world. I think everyone will be happy with the things we are working on and I know we're using our experience in this realm along with feedback we get from customers to drive what we're doing. The Track-It! family is all about providing solutions for customers and not just throwing some pieces of technology together to see what sticks. I think our customers in the Track-It! beta program are already seeing this in what they're testing. If you'd like to sign up and become a beta tester, you can connect with us on the BMC Track-It! Community to find out how to sign up - we'd love to have you in the program!
Well, I'd better run - my cell just chirped at me. I just got an email from work. And a DM from Twitter. And a couple of Google+ messages. Plus, I've got to check my RSS feeds. I think there's a new show in my Hulu Plus queue and someone just sent me a link on Facebook to a movie that I need to add to my Netflix queue - or maybe I'll just stream it on my phone.
Sigh. I've got a lot to catch up on.