25 May, 2007

Cell phone problems. Apple providing a possible solution?

First, let me apologize for being gone for so long. I have been involved in several new beta projects which I'm not allowed to discuss at the moment. In addition, a slight accident with my wheelchair meant that I had to wait for my mouth to heal from nearly splitting my lip. During that time as you can imagine, it was very difficult to use my computer, as I could not talk well enough to utilize my speech recognition.
In any event, I'm back now and ready to begin posting once again.

Lately we've been focusing on Windows Vista. As things develop and I'm allowed to discuss the beta projects I've been helping with in more detail, we'll be covering Windows further. There are some potentially exciting developments in this area. For the moment however, it's time to turn our attention to Apple. Yes, I said Apple. Although it may be difficult to tell from this blog, I really do like Apple and its approach to computing. No, I'm not saying that they always have appropriate solutions for my situation, but their approach to what a computer should be is sometimes refreshing. More importantly, that approach influences the rest of the computer industry. One only has to look at how elegantly beautiful Windows Vista really is compared to say Windows 3.1 to see that Apple's influence is keenly felt.

Anyone reading this knows that the cell phone has revolutionized (sometimes for better and sometimes for worse) the way people communicate. I myself carry a cell phone when I go outside in case of situations like the one I mentioned at the top of this page. Cell phones are wonderful devices that have been made possible by the evolution of the microprocessor. Therein boys and girls, lies the issue with cell phones when it comes to accessibility. Microprocessors mean a micro-phone. Micro-phones mean big headaches for those of us with fine motor control problems. Sure, my cell phone is small enough to fit in my nasal cavity, but it's impossible to dial! Sure, the phone has the capability to do text messaging, but the keyboard is so small that you'd need to be a member of that famous cartoon singing group "the Chipmunks" in order to be able to send such a message successfully! At the Windows hardware engineering conference (WinHEC), Microsoft demonstrated the capabilities of tomorrow's telephones. If you're elderly, why should you have to look through a phone book to find what you need? The phone book really should be part of the phone. You should be able to go up to a large screen device and say literally, "I am looking for a plumber in my area. I'm willing to pay between X. and Y. Could you please provide me with a list?" After scanning the list and finding the one you'd like to call, you should just be able to touch the name on the screen and call that person. I know. I hear you saying, "it's just as easy to look it up." Wrong! It's not easy. If you have difficulty dialing a cell phone because of fine motor problems, you have no chance of using the phone book. Yellowbook.com is a good start, but it doesn't go far enough in alleviating the problem. So while Microsoft works out what to do about your telephone, Apple has a potential solution for the cell phone. That's right, it's the iPhone.

At MacWorld, Steve Jobs' keynote was primarily devoted to the iPhone. Why do I care about the iPhone? What's the big deal? The big deal is that this is unlike any cell phone available right now. The entire phone is a touchscreen. I can see some of you shrugging that off. But think for a moment. Think of the implications of that. If the entire device is a touchscreen, that means buttons that are actually easy to see! That means a contact list that's actually usable! Text messaging may still require to much dexterity for me to use effectively but just the promise of a usable cell phone is enough to get me excited. Still not sure why? Watch the introduction of the iPhone for yourself. Now as to how sensitive the screen will be, no one knows. It is possible that I'll have to use a stylus in conjunction with the phone to get the appropriate control. Either way, this is a great potential solution to a very real problem and I will certainly have more on this topic when the iPhone is released. In the meantime, I hope this entry shows that technology isn't just about computers. It's about solutions to everyday problems. And over the next few weeks, I'll be covering issues like this. So stay tuned.