What’s your most important screen? Which device – regardless of application and information – is most important? Your business has probably spent years developing multi-channel strategies that allow customers to interact with your firm online, offline and by phone. But now, the level of online interaction is changing and organisations need to prepare multi-screen strategies.
Microsoft has clearly been considering such strategies and started talking about a three-screen strategy towards the end of last year. The company’s “three screens and a cloud” vision concentrates on how software experiences will be delivered through cloud-based services across PCs, phones and TVs.
The software giant believes the approach will lead to a programming model that helps create a new generation of applications for businesses and consumers. That belief is spot on. Non-believers only have to think about how providers have worked to ensure the new generation of social apps – Facebook, LinkedIn, Spotify – are accessible online through various platforms with different screens.
As I have mentioned elsewhere, the message for developers is clear: do not make the mistake of creating an application for a single platform. In the future, successful developers will have to accommodate applications to fit more than one screen size.
In fact, the multiplicity of variable screen sizes is such that Microsoft’s three-screen strategy might be a few screens short. While the underlying sentiment behind the theory is right, big name providers are creating new ways to present information.
Apple’s iPad is an obvious example, a device that sits somewhere between the pocket size smart phone and the laptop computer. Other less-hyped innovations are always entering the market. Take Intel’s recently announced Classmate PC, a hybrid device for education that offers the capabilities of a touch screen tablet and the usability of a netbook.
Some developments leave me to conclude that it’s too early to state that the three screens of PCs, phones and TVs will dominate our lives. Information is being provided in a series of ways across a range of forms.
Convergence of screens is still far from a reality. Personally, I think we will be using far more than three screens – and the way that most people use a screen will vary depending on the device, location and a range of other contexts. As I have regularly suggested, context awareness is going to be a crucial element in the ongoing development of devices.
While some people will like the option of having a phone on their watch, other individuals will want a different type of portable device that offers the option of a high quality, rollout screen. The end point, of course, will be convergence. Think forward and you can begin to imagine a situation where information on various screen forms is holographically projected. For now, however, such concepts remain dreams for the next generation.