Should Your Mobile Be A Portal To Your Desktop?
By Mike Masnick, Wed Jan 19 02:00:00 GMT 2005

Toshiba has launched an application to let mobile phone users access their desktop machine and control it remotely. While it's getting a lot of attention, how many people really want their desktop on their mobile phone?

The idea of a mobile device being a remote terminal into a desktop machine isn't all that new. Realistically, the only new thing in this particular implementation is that it gives users more complete access to their desktop machines and all its functions from their mobiles, rather than just access to files. It sounds like typical remote PC control software, but moved to a mobile phone. It's going to be launched in Japan in March on certain KDDI EV-DO phones. The application Toshiba showed off runs on BREW, but the company made it clear that future versions can be created for other networks and platforms.

There are some obvious challenges. Mobile phones and desktop machines have extremely different form factors. While Toshiba tries to compensate for this by creating a virtual keyboard and mouse to work with the desktop access, it's clearly not optimal. Advancement's like F-Origin's ability to tilt and scroll using a mobile phone could also make the screen size question less of a challenge -- but still something of a limiting factor.

There are, however, much bigger questions about this offering. The whole idea is based on the belief that the desktop is still the center of a user's world, and that access to that desktop machine is going to be the most important thing. While that is true in some cases, it's rapidly changing for many users. More and more content, applications and services are all on servers, rather than back at a desktop machine somewhere. Furthermore, if you are going to access content and applications via mobile phone, wouldn't it make sense not to simply recreate the desktop, but to better optimize for the entire mobile environment?

While connecting to the entire desktop might make sense in a few instances, for most issues, optimizing the content will be much more useful. For example, getting access to information on the desktop can be built into desktop search tools where the application can be designed to present content more appropriately for a mobile user. Meanwhile, other forms of content are increasingly device agnostic. It shouldn't matter if the content is on a server, a desktop, a portable hard drive or a mobile device. The offering should fit what the user wants right then, and simply assuming that the desktop interface is king is the wrong way to go about things. It's solving a problem from the past, and not keeping up with the ways in which people are accessing data, applications and services today and in the future.