Mobile Google: All Knowledge in your Pocket

by Mike Shea on 22 August 2003

One time I picked up a girl by quoting Shakespeare to her over email. She wasn't real swift on internet technologies and at the time Google wasn't yet a verb. Needless to say she broke up with me a short while later, but thats not the point. Google has made us smarter. We can answer just about any question. We can read thousands of pages on almost every subject. We can find things we would never have found. I am able to hear my fathers voice ten years after he died because of Google.

As powerful as Google is for learning about anything, it has still been tied to our desktop PCs. This has probably been around for some time, but now that I am officially a mobile surfer, the only thing more powerful than Google is <a href="http://www.google.com/options/wireless.html">Google in your pocket</a>. <a href="http://www.google.com/imode">Google's mobile interface</a> not only gives you a tiny search engine tied to three billion web pages, but also <a href="http://wmlproxy.google.com/chtmltrans/h=en/p=i/s=0/u=http@3A@2F@2Fmikeshea.net@2Fwhy@5Fcomputers@5Fsuck.html/c=0">reformats those pages</a> so you can view them on a screen the size of a matchbook.

This reformatting teaches us a valuable lesson about a failing of the web. The web should be unformatted. It should be flexible and usable on a thousand different devices. The mobile Google engine shows that even my own design-less archive pages are too long to be displayed all at once. With the limited character download available on a cellphone, even a well formed XHTML page may be too long. Luckily we have Google around to fix this.

A current failing in cellular technology are the pricing models. Charging per byte downloaded is too restrictive for most useful browsing. Limited charging models at all are too restrictive. Fixed cost, unlimited pricing plans are the best choice, but only T-mobile seems to hit the $30 price mark. Coverage is another big problem as pointed out by Jakob Neilson's article, <a href="http://www.useit.com/alertbox/20030818.html">Mobile Devices: One Generation from Useful</a>. Still, we are very close. Unlimited large coverage high speed cheap wireless internet connectivity is the key to future technology.

There is almost nothing we cannot learn from Google and now there is almost nowhere where we can't get it. Yes, the majority of the world isn't connected. This <a href="http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Newsroom/NewImages/Images/earth_lights_lrg.jpg">satellite image of the lights of the world</a> shows how unconnected most of us are. Still, I can go almost anywhere on the east, midwest, or west coasts and find out just about any bit of information I would need.

In the Wired article <a href="http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/1.03/clarke_pr.html">Arthur C. Clarke On Life (and Death)</a>, Clarke mentions the mobile phone and the portable CD-ROM as being two great technologies of our time. Yes, I found that article on Google. Being able to store anything and communicate with anyone. An internet phone and mobile Google seems to condense that into a single device.

In the book <a href="http://www.google.com/search?q=William+Gibson+Book+Mona+Lisa+Overdrive&amp;btnI=1">Mona Lisa Overdive</a> by <a href="http://www.google.com/search?q=william+gibson&amp;btnI=1">William Gibson</a>, himself a great lover of Google even using the word as a verb in <a href="http://www.google.com/search?q=William+Gibson+Book+Pattern+Recognition&amp;btnI=1">Pattern Recognition</a>, a little girl, the daughter of a Yakuza boss, is given a small black box with no buttons. The device projects a holographic boy who is connected to cyberspace. She can ask him anything and he will give her the answer. Aside from the perfect usability of that device, I have that right now with my <a href="http://www.google.com/search?q=Nokia+6800&amp;btnI=1">Nokia 6800</a> and Mobile Google.

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