The next killer app

When Nick goes looking for coconuts, it almost always pays to follow the trail. Today he found Ronald’s honest take on politics, Philippine style. (As I’ve written before, I’ve always thought of the rejuvenated Liberal party as one of the principal casualties of President Arroyo’s crisis of legitimacy.)

Reading Ronald reminded me of something he had written after we both guested, together with Sassy Lawyer, on Che-Che Lazaro’s media issues show. He had recapped his "interventions" in the discussion (something I wanted to do, too, but never got around to doing). His third point, in particular, was especially thought-provoking.

The mass market may well be in podcasting. With more or less every Philippine family the owner of a cell phone, the moment the convergence of the Internet and mobile telephony is there, audio blogging in this part of the world with its oral traditions will explode.

I do share Ronald’s view of Philippine culture as strongly oral (in all its bewildering variety); I doubt, however, whether this characteristic will necessarily make podcasting digital media’s new killer application. I think the convenience of the new "texting" culture has made "print" a much more attractive and a much more potent option. In part this is because of the ease in which the new language of texting has been adopted and is continuously being reinvented. But I also think that this is, in part, because of the sheer economics of texting. Today’s bestselling promotion, I have reason to think, is the P15-a-day unlimited texting offer; I know users who do not buy "load" every day, but wait for that one time of the week or that special occasion when they spend P15 for the privilege of texting away to their heart’s content.

The result, in part, belabors the obvious: Economic constraints — or, to be more precise, the now-ingrained habits of being economical — determine the use of cellphones. Making and listening to podcasts on our cellphones may be in our future, but they cannot be as economical as texting. (For one thing, they’d take up more time, more bandwidth, more memory.) For my money, I think the next killer app would be instant messaging. In fact, I think Sun is showing the way here, and if chatting on Yahoo or a similar service is any indication, IM on cellphones would prove both deeply addicting and highly economical.

That, at least, is the view from my window, where I can follow the trail of anyone looking for coconuts.

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