Enter the Digital Divide

Posted on Aug 1, 2009 :: Editor
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

When I asked Peter Helander what he does in his leisure, he said he reads. In particular, he reads trade industry journals on information technology. And he loves it.

Coincidentally, at the time I had my new smartphone for about a week. It was still my new baby. I couldn’t wait to play with it from the moment I woke up until … well, even in the middle of the night.

So I didn’t think the Heartland Business Systems chief was all that much of a nerd, as he admitted (unprovoked) more than once during our brief interview for the video that accompanies this month’s cover story by Sean Johnson. I was bursting to find out what he thinks about the future of digital communication.

In the techno world, you have your early adopters who buy up whatever is new and exciting and different, whatever the price. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have those who reluctantly give up their old tools and systems only when they’ve become obsolete.

In the middle are those of us who wait for the technology and the price to fall in line with what we find acceptable. We in this crowd quickly move from feeling like Neanderthals one day to the Jetsons in the next.

A mid-June survey by ChangeWave research found that 37 percent of respondents own a smartphone, and 14 percent said they plan to buy one in the next 90 days.

On the personal level, I was admittedly living in my comfortable cave, with my old used cell phone and its peculiar Japanese ring tones (they could only be changed to bamboo drums or wind chimes or raindrops), when my significant other decided to drag me out of the cave, by my hair with his jet pack, to the cell phone store.

I gave in because it became painfully obvious that I needed a personal assistant – the kind that would fit in my hand.

I could not put it down the first week. I broke my own etiquette rules about when and where to use it. “What’s that you’re doing?” a friend would ask. “Reading the paper,” I would reply. Paper? As if.

I was browsing the web, texting and Tweeting, taking pictures and e-mailing. I was setting up my GPS, checking the weather, downloading live streaming music and watching early Michael Jackson music videos (hey, I was not the only one!). I was ordering accessories for my smartphone, including a car charger and a nifty red “skin.”

One day I realized I had to toss the thing into the backseat whenever I was driving. Walking down the street is still hazardous, but I read there’s a new app (application, you Neanderthals) that allows you to “see” the street through  the camera on your phone, while still e-mailing and texting. I need that!

Another new app helps golfers determine the distance from the tee to the hole. Now this, I thought, could have come in handy when we did this month’s recent “Downtime” feature at Whistling Straits (see page 54).

I also frequently check the Insight website to see how it looks on a smartphone. I can’t wait for flash technology to catch up with all the cool things our digital magazine site can now do. It works real sweet on your laptop or desktop. Check it out: www.insightonbusiness.com.

Now that I’m a Jetson, I can think of lots of things I want my smartphone to be able to do. I would like to be able to plug it into a keyboard and big screen, for example (wireless would be even better).

Which brings me back to Helander. This, he says, is the future: We will use our smartphones for all things related to information and communication. Laptops will become old technology. Desktops will be … for people who live in caves.

In the not-too-distant future, look for cell phones at an antique store near you – along with GPS devices, CDs … and Michael Jackson albums.

About Margaret LeBrun

Co-Publisher, Executive Editor View all posts by Margaret LeBrun →