What will actually happen

If you listen to the VC that Tim Bray is discussing, you’re going to lose all your money.

One of the advantages of experience — though it is overrated in many ways* — is that you see the same things happen over and over again.

Back in the 90s, the “network is the computer” was the conventional wisdom. That was of course completely wrong and many people collectively lost billions of dollars following this fallacious line of thought.

It’s about to happen again with mobile.

No, I don’t think mobile is going away, though I mostly wish it would.

It’s just that a tiny-ass cell phone screen with no truly usable keyboard is not going to replace for people who actually need to get work done a fully-loaded workstation with two 24+ inch monitors. Not gonna happen. Ever.

What will happen as it has many times in the past is that the market will bifurcate, and it will largely bifurcate along lines of intelligence/socioeconomic opportunity (which often reinforce one another positively and negatively).

What I mean is that people who are intelligent enough to handle it will still use a keyboard and a real computer and thus be vastly more productive than those who never learn to do so. Hell, it’s already happening. I see interns come in already who can barely use a computer and they are pretty hobbled compared to those who can. And slow and unproductive. And no, they can’t and never will be able to get their work done on a cell phone. Most of the tools I use in my daily job cannot and never, ever will run on any phone.

So unfortunately what the future will bring is probably 70-80% of the population who can really only use a phone and have even fewer real-world job skills than they do now. They can’t type. Can’t really use a spreadsheet. Can’t code (as coding on a phone is impossible and again, always will be) and have hardly anything to bring to a workplace besides their manual labor.

The corporate office will again resemble the 1990s, where those with real computer skills had huge and measurable advantages over those who did not (and no, using “mobile” to do things won’t fill this role; any moron can learn to use mobile apps in 10 minutes or less).

There will again be the 20-30% who can use a real computer and a useful keyboard. Who understand spreadsheets and maybe even how to write a script or even how to develop software (even if it’s just macros in Excel). Who can adapt quickly to new tasks and not wait for some brain-dead “app” to baby them along.

In other words, the drooling masses will have their mobile phones and be basically skill-less in the corporate world. And the rest will be able to get useful work done in the real economy.

Which group do you want to be in?

*Experience is overrated because most people have experiences but don’t learn a damn thing from them.