I've been grinding my teeth recently about Terminal Mode. Presented as the next generation of car kits for mobiles, this Nokia headed initiative will allow modern smartphones to be used smartly in cars.
The "terminal" is essentially a large touchscreen in the car that connects via Bluetooth or USB to a device and shows the device information on it's screen and play sounds through it's speakers while allowing you to control that device via the touchscreen itself. This means of course that navigation applications will have a larger screen real estate to display themselves on, which can be essential while driving. The real innovation however comes not from what the terminal displays, but what it doesn't. The design of the Terminal Mode initiative means that the terminal can hide certain applications that aren't suitable to use while driving (text messaging, video calling and Youtube are three that come to mind based on recent accident reports), and that the terminal can be programmed to obey the different laws in different countries about what is allowed and what isn't. As Nokia designed this as a system for use with all smartphone operating systems (Windows Mobile and Blackberry OS are on board already with Microsoft and RIM embracing the collaberation as the future) this should be something that will be as commonplace in a couple of years as the car kit is now. All in all, a good idea as I'm sure you can see, which is why you're probably wondering why I'm grinding my teeth over it…
Well, here's the thing. For about five or six years I've been pushing for some company to come out with the following design. A small terminal with a seven to ten inch colour screen, a full QWERTY keyboard, a trackpad for control and a hard drive. On it's own the terminal wouldn't do much but a smartphone would be able to be plugged into it, acting as a data connection device as well as the CPU of the terminal. The entire smartphone operating system would be displayed on the screen of the terminal along with a few extra options specific to the terminal itself. A set of speakers would play any sounds from the phone, while a built-in microphone and camera would allow both voice and video calls while connected. The hard drive wouldn't have to be too large, perhaps between forty and eighty gigabytes, and would store local copies of the contacts, calendar, messages and everything else on the phone which would be synchronised both ways when the phone was connected to the terminal. Users would be able to build optional profiles consisting of a set of specific applications and have them automatically applied to the phone when needed to minimise phone storage taken up, even linking these profiles to days of the week or specific dates. The terminal would plug directly into the mains and charge the phone or run off the phone's battery when not plugged in.
So yeah, that's my design for a future home terminal for smartphones, something that is even more important now that touchscreen phones are so widespread. Nokia's Terminal Mode is a step towards that design but still no-one in the western world has seen the potential of such a feature (Japan has had this for about a year now). When will these people realise that I know best?