Why I Hate Palmtops (was: Re: SGML, XML and SML)

Eric Bohlman ebohlman at netcom.com
Sat Nov 27 19:09:51 GMT 1999

On Sat, 27 Nov 1999, Michael Champion wrote:
> People sitting in traffic jams, taxis, airports, hotel lobbies, waiting
> rooms, etc. where they don't have convenient or affordable access to an
> internet device with a conventional form factor.  I remember sitting in a
> traffic jam in Manila last month, and a colleague in the car had an "a HA!"
> experience where he grokked the concept of cellphone web browsing for the
> first time.... some question came up that we could answer in 30 seconds with
> web access.

I think you've put your finger on it.  The primary usage mode for data
display and transmission on "small" devices is going to be "ask a question
and get an answer," not "load this bunch of narrative prose so I can read
it."  It's going to be "ask the railroad when the last train leaves this
station," not "let me read the railroad's timetable."  It's not going to
be about "viewing Web sites" in the way we currently understand it.  The
"surfing" metaphor isn't applicable here.  It's a query/response scenario,
not a document/view scenario.  It's definitely *not* a "have a
producer-defined experience" scenario.

In short, it's going to be a usage of the Web that has few if any
parallels with existing print and broadcast media.  Existing media are
based on the notion of delivering identical copies of some content to a
mass audience, and most "Web pages" are just variations on this idea.
rev-bob is, IMHO, correct in that trying to use a cellphone or palmtop as
a viewer for such media is at best a novelty.  What we're really talking
about is the on-the-fly creation and/or extraction of customized snippets
of content.  The Real Life analogies for this don't lie in the world of
media and publishing; they lie in the area of "call someone and ask them a

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