Why mobiles are no threat to the good old PC



Jack Schofield

Opinion

The leading lights of the mobile phone industry are sunning themselves at the GSM 2000 conference in...



Jack Schofield

Opinion

The leading lights of the mobile phone industry are sunning themselves at the GSM 2000 conference in Cannes this week, and they have lots of reasons to be cheerful. The industry's ability to charge high prices for mediocre performance, patchy availability and variable support even puts parts of the computer industry to shame.

Even better things are promised for the future. Wireless application protocol (Wap) phones have finally started to appear in the UK, and I'm looking forward to millions of people using mobile phones to access the Net. But I don't believe this a threat to the PC industry.

Almost all the information on the Internet is designed to work best with a big, detailed colour screen and a powerful Web browser, not a dim monochrome screen barely good enough to display a decent icon. And that's not going to change in a hurry.

Even people using set-top boxes with colour TV sets quickly realise they will get on much better by upgrading to a PC. And in terms of colour, graphics, sound and usability, the set-top box/WebTV approach is better than a mobile phone.

And the fact that millions of mobile phone users are sending tens of millions of short messages doesn't make SMS a replacement for full-featured e-mail. SMS is better than the alternative, but the alternative is usually no message at all.

In sum, I don't believe the anti-PC hype that some mobile phone marketeers are spreading. And I don't believe portable MP3 players will replace widescreen TVs, or that motorised rollerskates will replace cars, either.

The mobile Internet will be a valuable adjunct to today's computer-based version, and will extend it in lots of useful ways. But anyone who thinks one is a systemic replacement for the other is misguided.

Jack Schofield is techology editor for The Guardian

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