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After a day spent roaming the halls of the Austin Convention Center at South by Southwest listening in on other peoples’ conversations and tracking trends, I am somewhat surprised by the relative scarcity of notebooks. In years past, the halls were lined with people glued to […]

img00003After a day spent roaming the halls of the Austin Convention Center at South by Southwest listening in on other peoples’ conversations and tracking trends, I am somewhat surprised by the relative scarcity of notebooks. In years past, the halls were lined with people glued to the walls, power cords linking their laptops (usually Macs) to the outlets. Others would be clustered around tables working on their notebooks.

They’re still here, but are far fewer. Right now, I can see several open tables and an entire open outlet. Instead, people are clustered around mobile phones, showing off applications, photos or videos. You can see little clusters of them dotting the halls, like this group I photographed here. I’ve even seen one or two people charging their iPhones, rather than charging notebooks, in an outlet. As for netbooks, I haven’t seen many at all.

The folks attending this show are generally ahead of the computing trends in the general population, so while I don’t foresee folks dumping their notebooks in favor of smartphones, I do think people are more comfortable with letting their smartphone be their computer for a longer amount of time. The willingness of these attendees to rely mainly on their phones on the floor of the conference is a shift from years before. I bet it’s a shift that continues as mobile phones get smarter and mobile broadband gets better.

  1. Also has a lot to do with the declining merit of live-blogging sessions and the increasing merit of posting quips and comments via Twitter, which lends itself to mobile phone keyboards much moreso than a blog post. Also, our phones are now our cameras, so we’ve cut out the USB cable and PC in the shoot-upload-share process. Since SXSW is probably more party than panel, burdening onesself with a macbook is a real pain in the ass moving from bar to bar.

    Still, your observations are really interesting. Unplug and have fun!

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  2. You did not see netbooks because Apple does not have a netbook yet.

    Though SxSW has the geek elite, they are not biting on netbooks cause it does not run osx…

    You are absolutely right about the smartphone obeservation though …

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  3. Mobile phones are really getting smarter nowadays that is why I’m more comfortable using them than my laptop.

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  4. passepartout Sunday, March 15, 2009

    My laptop is my desktop and my iPhone is now my laptop. I didn’t bother taking my laptop overseas. I see this more and more at my company. Better wireless and battery life will drive this even faster. And more Web pages designed for ‘mobile’ (ahem).

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  5. [...]  This is done via Twitter as explained, text messages, phone calls and web surfing.  Our own Stacey Higginbotham noticed this, that cell phones are the new notebook at [...]

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  6. In a way I’m not surprised. You can throw your mobile phone in your pocket and still get as much work done – whether you’re answering emails or doing some social networking. You can even logon to your personal webtop to access files and and your uploaded documents! Now you can truly take your work anywhere. Hope you’re having a blast at SXSW, I wish I was there!!

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  7. While I totally believe (and am a part of) the smartphone explosion, we can’t let the Silicon Valley elite lure us into thinking this is a mainstream adoption. For example, my target audience is 13-25 year olds and very few of them have smartphones. Basically, their parents give them the free flip phone and/or upgrade to the SideKick text powerhouse.

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  8. Netbooks are too big to carry around a show. They are relpacing laptops for people who are working in one place (e.g. booth or seminar). An iPhone is good enough most other situations. A few minor changes could make it alot better. See: Link

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  9. [...] Update: Well, people were using smartphones en masse at SXSW, so long as they were not iPhones. At&t apparently dropped the ball in Austin. [GigaOM] [...]

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  10. [...] Update: Well, people were using smartphones en masse at SXSW, so long as they were not iPhones. At&t apparently dropped the ball in Austin. [GigaOM] [...]

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