I wrote my views on Modu when it launched its handset in July. Since then, I’ve had the time to continue and ponder about it, most recently during the World Innovation Summit 09 I attended here in Israel. One of the keynotes was given by Dov Moran – Founder, Chairman and CEO of modu – who provided his views on the future innovation in the mobile arena in general, as well as the innovation by modu.
Basically, Modu’s innovation according to Moran means more jackets. As with the last time, I have to disagree.
modu: The Jacket as a Personalized Device
The slides from Dov Moran’s talk aren’t available (yet?), but it seems like modu 2.0 is focused on providing jackets that are unrelated to the mobile phone directly. A few I remember are:
- MID jacket, providing touch capabilities with a large display – something between a smartphone and a netbook.
- External JBL speakers, to be used for playing music at home.
- Digital Photo Frame, to view images out of your phone.
This concept of having all of my personal data on one device isn’t new. In fact, Dov Moran became a millionaire thanks to the same idea (M-Systems’ Disk-On-Chip). modu wants the device to be my mobile phone, but that isn’t really new either. They simply take the old concept to the next level of actually trying to have their phone plug into other consumer electronic devices and, in a way, breathe new life into them.
But my problems with this concept aren’t revolving around it’s novelty. They are more around usability:
- If I plug my personal phone into the photo frame, how will I be able to answer incoming calls? Or dial out?
- These new non-phone jackets are just that – they don’t have their own processing capabilities. If the modu phone isn’t inside – they probably can’t function at all. So I can’t hear music and see photos at the same time, as I’ll have to put my phone into 2 different jackets.
The Flash Drive as The Personal Device
When Dov Moran founded M-Systems, he practically invented the flash drive (or disk-on-chip). At the time, they were trying to make the flash drive our personal computer by storing the operating system on it. Dov Moran had the vision of making the flash drive our personalized device, that can be hooked up into anything.
Mind you that while the flash drive made it big, as it can be placed in any device as either an SD Card or a USB stick, it is not personalized in any way – it just holds information.
The Smartphone as My Personality
You could say that mobile phones, and mainly smartphones, are our new personalized devices. We take them everywhere, we customize them to our needs and we also download stupid amounts of useless applications onto them (just look at the Apple’s AppStore statistics).
But it is still limited – these devices don’t really communicate out of the device to anything other than other mobile handsets. And when they do, it’s through a third party application that hooks it up (and needs to be downloaded).
The Cloud to the Rescue of Personalization?
It seems like the cloud is also rushing into this new space of personalization. “Virtually” speaking, the cloud today knows more about some of us than our own laptops. People hold their email accounts on Gmail, share documents through Google Docs, use instant messaging services that have their servers in the “cloud”. Hell – I have all of my digital images hosted on Flickr – I trust their service more than I trust the hard drive of my laptop.
Another interesting presentation during World Innovation Summit 09 was given by Dr Zvi Schreiber, g.ho.st‘s CEO. G.ho.st is a cloud computing company that has its sights on becoming our “operating system in the cloud”. You login to your g.ho.st account from any web browser and gain access your virtual desktop.
It’s again a game of software and hardware. Flash drives and modu are trying to reach personalization by hardware means – having a physical device which personalizes our life. While the mobile phone is a great choice, hooking it up physically to other devices seems a bit of a stretch to me.
A better way to do it is by software. Have consumer electronic devices linked to the network – through WiFi, Bluetooth or any other access means; and have them communicate with other devices when necessary. For instance, have my mobile phone send images to the photo frame, preferably from my online Flickr account and not directly.
Hooking up devices to one another physically is so ’90s. It’s time to bring in the internet of things.