Usage models! The most important aspect of any device is not its technical specifications, blasphemy as that may seem. The most important aspect is whether it does what I need it to do. The problem is not the 800MHz Pentium 3 in my old laptop – the problem is that it won’t run the software I need. But if I install a small Linux distribution, I suddenly have a useful system again. It fulfills my usage models once more.
When I was talking with Kirt Bailey, President and CEO of Celio Corporation, and Brad Warnock, VP of Marketing, we talked a lot about how the features and capabilities of the REDFLY translate into usage models that really make sense to me.
Let’s look at the Celio REDFLY and how it would change some of my daily tasks.
- Email. Far and away my greatest time on a computer is spent reading and replying to email. I already use my trusty Windows Mobile phone, an AT&T 8525 running WM5 (WM6 upgrade in the works). Pocket Outlook fulfils the majority of my email requirements, so this will suffice for me most of the time. I am also investigating other email applications for WM5 and WM6 that support HTML email since that is the biggest missing element.
When I wake up in the morning, one of the first things I do is check my email on my phone. There are usually a few HTML emails that I can’t read in Pocket Outlook, but I can get 95% of my email done in a couple of minutes.
Verdict: Yes, the REDFLY will improve my experience through better screen real estate while maintaining my current usage model. I’ll still have my instant-on capability that makes my phone so attractive to me so many times during the day.
- Web browsing: Let’s face it, Pocket Internet Explorer leaves a lot to be desired. However, Opera Mobile is a great application and the forthcoming version sounds like a great step forward. Kirt mentioned that he leaves his notebook at the office and just takes home his REDFLY. While at home, he can connect to the Internet either via 3G or WiFi and surf at 800×480 resolution on the REDFLY. Given the 8 hour battery life, that sounds like an easy option.
Verdict: I’m optimistic, but I’d have to try it to be sure. I’ve had great success browsing on my phone with Opera Mobile, so I think it might work for me. Given the new Opera Mobile 9.5, this could even become more likely.
- Office applications: My primary Office applications are Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. I’m typically not doing anything exotic – simple documents and spreadsheets most of the time, either reading or editing. So far, the mobile versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint have all been adequate for my tasks. However, if you use macros or do complex or large documents, then you’ll likely have problems with the pockets versions of the Office applications. (There are third party applications that allow you to edit PowerPoint files on a Windows Mobile phone.)
Verdict: Given that the Pocket versions of the Office applications can mostly fill my needs now, the REDFLY will only make things better.
- Phone: Yes, I use my phone as a phone in addition to my data services. This is where I think I could really benefit from the REDFLY. When I’m on the phone, even with a good headset, it can be irritating to try to do real work on the phone while talking. The handset is too small and I always seem to hang up on people accidentally. The REDFLY has dedicated keys on the keyboard for common phone functions, so I can answer the phone, talk, and keep working just like I do on my laptop. This is a major bonus.
Verdict: Major improvement with the REDFLY. I really want to try this.
- Posting to GBM: Here’s where the phone fails me. I have yet to find a good way to post new articles on GottaBeMobile without using a real computer. There are ways to post photos with a short blurb, but a full-fledged article requires a computer, preferably with Windows Live Writer.
Verdict: No, I still won’t be able to do this, since my phone can’t do it either. This will remain a limitation until it is solved for WM5 or WM6.
That brings me to the biggest feature and usage model of the REDFLY. It does everything my phone can do, except that it scales the screen resolution up to 800×480 and makes it all look better and bigger. As I’ve been researching information for the REDFLY it has made me really appreciate what my phone can do. There is a wealth of free and inexpensive applications available for the Windows Mobile platform, so I can enjoy the benefits of the Windows Mobile development base on a REDFLY automatically. And the same applies to Microsoft enhancements to Windows Mobile. This is the kind of device I could see buying and using for 3-4 years over the course of 4-5 phones. Since every phone upgrade automatically “upgrades” my experience with the REDFLY, I could keep it while upgrading my phone for each new whizzy feature.
I’m not even the target market and I can see where this could be a very useful device. Brad mentioned a property management group that already uses PDAs as part of a task management system. By moving up to the REDFLY, that group can expand its capabilities while still using the same OS and applications that it already knows.
Looking forward to when this device hits mainstream consumers, think about a family. In many families today, nearly every family member over the age of 12 has a cell phone. With only one REDFLY, every family member could share the extended usage experience while still having all customizations on their individual phones. That seems like a really useful idea.
In Part 3, I’ll cover the target markets, availability, and pricing, as well as my take on how this could effect the mobile market.