Friday, December 28, 2012

When former luxuries become necessities (editing my #APMP profile)

Perhaps this post is better suited for my tymshft blog, but it's an interesting business issue that deserves some attention.

I was recently updating my profile at the website of a certain professional organization. I will not reveal the name of the organization, but its initials are APMP. After I completed my updates, I saved my changes and was informed of an error.

The error? The mobile phone number fields (area code, number) were blank.

Yes, for this particular professional organization, entry of a mobile phone number was REQUIRED.

This requirement is not exclusive to business. A couple of years ago I was talking with a college student. The student had an 11:00 class one day, and arrived at class to find no one there. This mystified the student, since a morning check of email had not included any announcement of a class change. It turned out that the professor had TEXTED the class to inform the students of the change.

While people in the tech industry sometimes make unrealistic assumptions about the population as a whole - something I'll address later in this post - it turns out that the tech perception that "everyone has a cell phone" isn't far from the truth, at least in the United States. In fact, a recent survey indicates that 90.6 percent of households have access to wireless service, with only 9.4 percent of households being landline-only. Compare this to the 1970s, when 90 percent of households had landline service, and only 10 percent didn't. (Our country has never had 100% phone service, and it probably never will.)

So now it's safe for companies, professional associations, universities, and most other organizations to assume that their employees, members, and clients have cell phones.

The next barrier - when will 90% of the population have SMARTPHONES? For that to happen, data prices will need to drop dramatically. While Milja Gillespie may be surprised to run across someone without a smartphone, there is a real world in which people use their mobile phones to...make voice telephone calls. And, as Milja's co-worker demonstrated, it's entirely possible to share baby pictures with a non-smartphone. In fact - sit down for this - it's entirely possible to share baby pictures without using any electronic display device at all.
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