Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 29th Jan 2010 22:42 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless During the iPad presentation, I was rather perplexed by Apple's claim to be the largest mobile device company in the world. Apparently, I wasn't the only one scratching his head, as Nokia itself, and even the Financial Times, is calling Apple out on its juggling with figures and definitions.
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This all started with Steve saying Apple makes a lot of mobile devices, in fact most stuff they sell is mobile and he included MacBooks. Apparently Nokia disagrees and Thom too (but he hates Apple despite buying an iPhone).

The only argument I've read here against a laptop being considered a mobile device is not that it's not a device or not mobile, but that some sort of unofficial definition of "mobile devices" doesn't include laptops.

The thing is, there are mobile devices, and then there are Mobile Devices.

For years, when the phrase "Mobile Device" has been used in the media, or by analysts such as Gartner, IDC or NPD, it has generally referred to a category of handheld computing devices, almost always PDAs and Smart/semi-Smart phones.

Laptops, and now netbooks, have always been categorized as PCs when referring to any discussion of the technology market.

It's not like the phrase "Mobile Device" is trademarked or enforced by an international standard that specifies the exact criteria; rather, it's a phrase that over time and in general usage has come to refer to a specific type of computing device that does not fall under the PC category.

To me "mobile devices" is a very general and broad term and I think you can include anything within this term when it's device and it's mobile.

Now within this broad term you have categories like handhelds, palm tops, netbook, laptops, PDA's, etc...

Right, that's your interpretation and it's not that it's wrong, technically it's correct, it's just that it doesn't fall within the generally accepted "Mobile Devices" category that is most often referred to.

I'm not comparing a laptop with a cell phone, calling a cell phone a computer or pretending an iPhone is a laptop. What I am claiming is that Steve was right when he said laptops are mobile devices.

Why should a laptop not be considered a mobile device? A laptop is even intended to be mobile, that's the whole purpose of it. If you'd never move it you might as well pay less and get higher specced hardware for a desktop computer.

Right, a laptop is a mobile device, not a "Mobile Device". Laptops are designed for casual portability, nothing compared to the mobility of standard hand-held devices. Being able to easily move your system from room to room, or office to conference room, or city to city, is the primary convenience of a laptop.

A Mobile Device would be primarily concerned with ultra-portability and constant availability, with the design considerations and sacrifices that would require compared to a standard laptop, which is comparatively less "portable".

I understand where you're coming from, but the issue is that Mobile Device is a category that is essentially accepted to refer to a specific type of device, and laptops have never been in that category. Whereas a mobile device would simply be any device that can be mobile. Programmable calculators, network test equipment, handheld wireless barcode scanners are also examples of mobile computing equipment, but you would not be likely to see them included in the same category of Mobile Device used to describe smart phones, PDAs, media players etc.

Now, having said all that, the definitions are not concrete and generally evolve overtime to adapt to changes in technology and the market, and certainly the mobile data market is in flux and advancing rapidly, but the terms also evolve through consensus by others in the media and related fields. It's entirely possible, for instance, that if netbooks and smartbooks become even more ubiquitous, with always-on connectivity and more aligned with mobile service provider sales models, they may start being referred to under the Mobile Device category over time.

The real issue is the fact that Steve Jobs arbitrarily chose to "evolve" a generally accepted term for no other reason than to allow Apple to favorably meet that criteria. To get back to my previous example, Nokia sells considerably more digital music players than Apple sells with iPods and iPhones combined. Yet nobody would refer to Nokia being a leader in the digital music player market. Nor would Nokia be referred to as a world leader in the portable computer market despite the fact that they essentially sell portable computers. I'm sure their marketing team and spin doctors would love to be able to position the company that way, but nobody in the general public (media included) would buy into it.

We need to have consensus on some of these categorizations to keep the marketing people in check. And let's face it, Steve Jobs is a marketing person. A brilliantly effective and high profile one, but a marketing person none the less.

Reply Parent Score: 3

Chaos_One Member since:

I understand what you are saying and in general I agree.

But I (and Wikipedia think it's wrong to exclude laptops.

When you say "mobile devices" you are presenting a description, a broad and general one. Excluding stuff that fits this description is just plain confusing. Perhaps not for analysts, but surely for the general public (who Steve was addressing).

If you really want to exclude laptops you can say "small mobile devices" or "handheld mobile devices". People can understand this doesn't include laptops.

I think it would have been really odd if Steve said Apple sold a lot of mobile devices AND laptops. Now he included laptops and nobody raised an eyebrow until Thom dug up Nokia's response. No other sites I follow seem to have found it interesting enough to pick up.

Reply Parent Score: 1

Thom_Holwerda Member since:

The Financial Times did. Engadget did. And those are just the ones I remember. I'm sure Gizmodo handled it too. Heck, I found it via Google News' main tech page.

Edited 2010-01-31 07:59 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 1