Smart software; dumb hardware

2013-04-24 2 min read

    Last week, three isolated events gave me a glimpse of how powerful mobile can be. Tech pundits have been saying that for a while now but experiencing it firsthand is definitely more convincing.

    • I went for a run with only my phone to keep me company. After my run was done, I wanted to grab a cup of iced coffee and realized that Starbucks gave me a free drink on my birthday. Downloading the app on my phone allowed me to get a drink without having cash or a wallet.
    • While checking out at a grocery store, a friend showed me CardStar which allowed him to store all his loyalty cards on his phone. Since then, I’ve imported all my loyalty cards that have just been sitting in a drawer into my phone.
    • After getting a Raspberry Pi and installing Raspbmc, I was able to use my phone as a remote control just by downloading an app.

    These behaviors are different and yet they’re all converging on the phone. What they have in common is that software is replacing hardware. Hardware doesn’t need to become smarter, it just needs to be able to sync with our phones which can do the heavy lifting. The functionality then becomes limited by software which can be updated more cheaply and quickly than the hardware. It also solves the problem of hardware companies trying to develop software that results in a terrible user experience. Do cars really need the ability to read a Twitter feed? And if they do, why not just do it via a simple Bluetooth connection and an audio streaming app on a phone?