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The Value of Paying Someone Else

One benefit of having wealth is the ability to pay someone else to do your dirty work. In technology, dirty work could be considered those tasks such as organizing music collections, data entry chores, installing software, finding drivers for that Linux distribution, or securing your computer against unwanted activity.

This outsourcing of dull chores is one reason the iPod and iTunes became such a hot item long before the iTunes clickety-crack music store arrived. It took care of your song tags, dynamically rated songs based on play count or date, and kept all this synchronized with your iPod. And it did it with a minimal amount of day to day user interaction. As I don’t write technology articles for a living, I haven’t explored the “competition” to see how far other music asset management software has come, but that isn’t really the point of this post. The point is – I pay good money (and I’m not alone) to have Apple’s engineers and staff manage my music. And they do it very well indeed. I also pay them good money to have a general purpose computer which requires little of my day to day attention for upkeep. The Mac with its wonderfully engineered operating system is expensive (less so than in the past, yes,) but I make back the investment in the time that I don’t spend maintaining it.

Taking a step in another direction, over here to my mobile phones and my PDA collection, we find that this trend in outsourcing has not taken hold. Perhaps there is a business opportunity here for some enterprising college kid or high school nerd to run a business pre-loading PDAs. After a firmware update last night to my Nokia n770 Internet Tablet, I spent a few hours reloading and hunting down newer applications to make this fairly useful device my own. The factory-default state of the device is good, but there is always more to do. The same problems plague my T-Mobile SDA smartphone, and my Dell Axim x50v Pocket PC. The only two devices that don’t require such attention are my Sony PSP and my Nintendo DS, but they tend to be purpose-limited devices whereas the PDAs are more flexible.

I am not typical of the market in electronic technology. I tend to buy a lot of different devices, largely to appease some “new toy” desire. I’m still seeking the device that really “does it all ‘good'” and expect that when that day comes I’ll finally stop buying new devices every year. The market is ripe for a player who can manage your devices. A business which can provide that perfect synchrony between your desktop and work resources and the myriad of aftermarket software for your PDA-of-the-month.

One cost of an open platform such as the Nokia n770 Internet Tablet is substantial time on the part of the user. I believe the open platform is noble and required for rapid evolution in mobile technology. The counter to that cost, I think, is a business model based on greasing the rails for those who want to focus on the consumption side of PDA features and avoid the investment (and continual expense) of time spent loading and configuring applications (or keeping them upgraded.)

In short, I want my open source cake and I also want to have time to eat it. I think, applied to devices across the spectrum, that this would benefit rapid adoption of technology.

Let us then, perhaps, consider a framework approach to open source services? Perhaps a software framework that describes interoperability guidelines, application programming interface customs, and centralized daemon architectures which enable a reusable and modular approach. Something like this probably exists, but it certainly hasn’t made it far out.

Something to consider.

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