The motor industry of the early 20th century saw hundreds of independent manufacturers spring up, each with its own take on the motor car. Eventually, some fell by the wayside, some flourished and some combined as the consumer demanded ever increasing power, simplicity, lower prices and more sophistication. In those days, to start a car you would need to carry out a complex sequence of operations involving crank handles, chokes, skinned knuckles and brute force.
You might argue that we're at a similar stage with IT: we have PCs that require constant nurturing, software that arrives uninvited and over-complicated applications that sap power, leaving us broken down on the hard shoulder of the information super-highway (sorry).
I'm writing this on a plane. I've switched off wi-fi, turned my screen brightness down, stopped the software that I know is running but I don't need, and still it is debatable whether I will finish this before the battery gives up. A quick glance at task manager shows that I'm running many mystery processes that I would have to consult Wikipedia (the Haynes manual of the PC industry) to find out about.
A maturing industry learns to provide its market with what it needs. If the desktop PC has become the family saloon car, albeit with many extras you don't want or need, laptops are the hot hatch and ultra-mobile PCs (as offered by the likes of Sony and Samsung) are the city cars.
Charities need to choose the right tool for the job. Why invest in laptops when mobile phones can do the job? The Nokia N95, for example, can be used as a barcode reader, a GPS and a simple word processor (Bluetooth keyboard recommended). It might have been a more appropriate tool for this column, with its longer lasting ba ...
- Robin Fisk is managing director of software company Fisk Brett.