A new phone for every month of the year

How would we change the way we interact with our mobile devices if they became completely disposable?

If the lifestyles of the technology rich and famous are any indication, we're about to enter an age of seriously conspicuous consumption.

Conspicuous, that is, for its wastefulness.

While green computing is all the rage, Infosys' co-founder and CEO, S 'Kris' Gopalakrishnan, told the Financial Times that he "change[s] phones every month."

A new phone. Every month. Really???

Granted, you don't have to be a multimillionaire CEO to cycle through phones on a monthly (or even weekly) basis. But if one assumes that middle-class technology consumers' buying behavior will eventually catch up with the idiosyncrasies of the rich, the era of two-year contracts tied to a specific phone may be nearing an end.

The same thing, incidentally, is happening to the personal computing market, with consumers increasingly turning to low-price Netbooks, increasingly powered by lower-cost Linux, to make computer purchases less painful...and less permanent.

Is this a good or bad trend?

It's obviously bad from the standpoint of the environment. The mobility of these devices may make them easy to trash, but that trash has to go somewhere. Last time I checked, Dell and Lenovo weren't offering specials on biodegradable laptops, and Apple would cringe at the thought of its iPhones filling iLandfills.

But let's assume we were able to get around this issue (perhaps by making it easy to transfer our devices to other markets or new uses, such that they don't endure a month's worth of utility). What then?

Well, it's pretty exciting to think of an industry where the hardware takes a distant second place to the software running it. In fact, in such a massively mobile environment, the software on the device could only serve as a short-lived outpost for the Web.

Sync services, like those enabled by open-source Funambol, would became paramount, because the need to keep the device current with the cloud would be paramount. You'd want to be able to move for the latest, greatest gadget, and would simply expect your data to follow you.

It's a pretty exciting future and, if Infosys' founder's lifestyle is any indication, a future that will soon be available to the digital proletariat, too. I can't wait.

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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