From Smartphone vs PDA to Device vs Infrastructure

The PDA has won the fight with the smartphone. The infrastructure is going to win over the PDA.

The iPhone is anything but a phone:


Call drops per manufacturer (From Alan Qyale’s blog)

This is why I can easily say that I had my first smartphone 14 years ago: the Palm III. It wasn’t a phone at all – only a PDA – a digital device with a stylus that fits into a… palm. I worshiped it. Much like some of my colleagues worship their iPhones.

During the years, there was an ongoing debate as to the future of the PDA. The question was usually this one: Will the mobile phone improve with additional PDA functions, or will the PDA add phone capabilities and eat up the mobile phone market?

The answer might seem easy – it is the smartphone that has won the day. But if you look at the dismal 13% (!!!) call drop ratio of Apple’s smartphones, it begs a question: is it ancestry a PDA one or a mobile phone one?

Fast forward to today, people usually debate is the iPhone going to outlive Android or will Android outlive the iPhone.

I think there’s a more interesting play now: is the device going to eat up the infrastructure, or will the infrastructure eat up the device?

iPhone, Android, even Windows Phone: these are all INFRASTRUCTURE and not devices. The iPhone invented the App Store as we know it today. They are building into their phone every conceivable server-side service:

  • App Store
  • Game canter
  • iCloud
  • iMessage
  • iAds
  • FaceTime
  • Siri

(I probably missed a few)

And if you have owned more than a single Android phone, you already know that switching from one to the next is just too easy – Google remembers it all: your contacts, settings, applications you’ve downloaded.

And Amazon? The only non-iPad tablet that got any reasonable market share? That’s an infrastructure play of bringing content closer to the users.

The rest of the players are in devices, who are trying to add infrastructure capabilities by investing or acquiring cloud companies. These are HTC, Samsung, LG. Nokia went for the shadow of the Windows Phone operating system and infrastructure.

Who will win the day? Device manufacturers who bring solid infrastructure to play, or infrastructure that just happens to have devices?

I vote for the infrastructure.

Where are the telcos in all this? Where were they in the phone/PDA debate last decade?

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