Memis & Hardware

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POSTED: January 18, 2007

Yesterday I found a very interesting article by Michael Mace at his Mobile Opportunity blog that develops a specification for what he terms the info-pad.

Having worked at Palm and Apple, he has researched into consumer needs for portable electronic devices, and he describes three groups of consumers: entertainment lovers, communication lovers, and information lovers. He then claims that the needs of the third group have never been properly met.

He outlines the device that he thinks will met their needs, placing himself into that category and thus also arguing from disappointed experience.

He describes a device about the size of a large book

that can go with them all the time, and that will function as an extended memory and as a way to capture their ideas. Specifically, they need to capture notes, sketches, and documents; work with databases; and look up information instantly. They need a brain extender, a true information appliance.

I agree entirely with the notion of a brain extender, and this is what the development of the mimi is supposed to do at the software level.

Having thought about Michael’s article I am convinced that the final implementation of the personal information container will necessarily involve both hardware and software.

If one starts where I am, modifying WordPress to act as a personal data repository, then (assuming the process is completed and deemed a success) sooner or later the question will arise: how do I carry this thing around with me? Certainly the memi, as I envisage it, will not fit onto my Clie TH55. Yet, if it is going to function as it should, it will need to be as accessible to me as the data on my Clie, so it won’t work properly on my laptop either.

I will need something like an info-pad to carry it around on, and to connect seamlessly to other data sources on the web.

However, Michael seems to downplay the storage format the the info-pad uses, saying that the

other app we’re going to build into the device is a third party software store. We’ll open up the APIs, and give an on-device store where people can discover new apps and install them directly.

My long-term concern, though, is the long-term viability of my data. So far I have had about four different web-sites working towards this one. One of the was a successful attempt to build an all-Flash site: successful that is in every way except data portability!

Behind the scenes I am not just adding plug-ins to WordPress, I am trying to think through the ways in which the data is stored, keeping it all as standard as possible. I am just about to rewrite the style sheet and replace some styles in the existing entries for this purpose. I need to make certain that the data is held in formats that will remain accessible, or that the data is held in a format that, once rendered obsolete, can easily be converted into the new standard format.

My conclusion is that a full implementation of a memi, a personal data bubble, will need careful and integrated development in terms of both software and hardware, with a view to future-proofing access to whatever is stored.

I am not suggesting that Michael does not believe this, of course. I am merely using his illuminating piece to further clarify my own thoughts.