Phones According to Microsoft

What is it with young people and their phones?  They walk around with eyes glued to their phones as they text hugely important messages such as “I’m bored” to equally boring friends.  They no longer seem capable of walking upright, eyes focused on the middle distance, taking in the hues of sunsets and listening to birdsong.

OK, I’ll admit, I wish the implications of this phenomenon had been more apparent to me as I walked upright, eyes focused on the middle distance, since I would have purchased huge blocks of stock in the companies that make smart phones and the other companies that do mysterious electronic stuff that allows them to work.

Some years ago, I noticed that the first thing a student did upon exiting a classroom or a building on the college campus where I taught, was to produce a cell phone and call someone.  When I scooped up discourse with my very big ears, I heard fascinating conversations involving the speaker’s location, the fact that they had just finished class, and that, oh yeah, they were bored.  (When we were kids, my parents used to tell us that if we were bored, we weren’t trying hard enough to find anything interesting to do, or to read, etc; the message that stuck was not that we were bored, but that we were boring.)  The lesson learned by this observer was that the phones were in constant use.

Also interesting is that a theoretically average student didn’t carry their phone in their pocket, purse, back-pack or briefcase – no, the phone was always in their hand.  The phone was so important to them that to keep it elsewhere would amount to milliseconds lost of precious time getting it out!  “Take it out of my pocket?  Are you kidding?  Why would I put it in my pocket?”  Since then, talking to someone on the phone is no longer critical; it’s texting that counts.  When the latest text comes in, they have to look at it right away, no matter how banal or dull.  The message itself is not what is important; it is the connectedness that counts.

After lurking hungrily in the shadows, Microsoft has finally come to the party – wanting to be the main guest, of course – with their take on what smart phone software should be.

Microsoft’s commercials emphasize this, but I’m not so sure they are as effective as they intend, and these commercials still strike me as creepy.  For example, for those who have not yet seen the “Really” commercial, people go about their business, eyes glued to phones and walking heedlessly like technically advanced zombies.  Inevitably, like billiard balls put into play, these people collide, crashing into one another like dominos, if dominos could wear sweat suits, cocktail dresses or business apparel.  Many phoners are so distracted they miss out on important things: the guy in bed who misses the vision of his lovely wife presenting herself in a little negligee; the surgeon who doesn’t notice his patient; the diver oblivious to the shark approaching yummy dangling feet.

One guy is in a bathroom, using a cell phone while standing at a urinal — I have actually seen this happen — and he drops his phone you-know-where.  The guy standing next to him looks at the guy with disgust and says, “Really?”

As related to me by a friend who attended the Microsoft product introduction at a Boston hotel this week, Microsoft’s intention is to tell us that their phone software is so much more intuitive, and so much better than the competition’s, that you’ll be in and out more quickly, allowing you to come back up to the real world’s surface, where you’ll be able to resume a life.  But aren’t they still just encouraging us to use their phones?  So users are still going to be walking along, eyes glued to their phones, until they hit a phone pole, disappear down a manhole, or crash into me.

My money is on a much-rumored new application for smart phones, the “killer app” that shows you on your phone, with crystal clarity, what is in front of you.


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