What’s in a Name? Geek vs. Consumer

Mae : Wireless Mobility Blog
| News and views on everything wireless and mobile, from WiFi and WiMAX to 3G and fixed-mobile convergence (FMC).

What’s in a Name? Geek vs. Consumer

I was chatting recently with Art Rosenberg, author of the Unified View column, and he mentioned—as he often has before—that the adoption of new technology could be aided if only those developing said technology could come up with a single term to describe it. Art’s point was that end-users (whether they be enterprises or individuals) tend to get confused when people use several different terms to describe the same technology.

For example: Is it "unified communications" or "unified messaging"? Is it "Voice Over IP," VoIP (abbreviation that takes on its own life), or "Internet telephony"? When two or more terms refer to the same thing, it can make it harder to figure out just exactly what is being talked about, anyway.

It may even be possible that geeky- or boring-sounding names for technological device or topics may chase away people who aren’t technology lovers but just want products or services that make their lives easier. (Geeky: VoIP. Boring: Net Neutrality.)

I agree with Art about the name thing, but I do think it may be a somewhat minor point.  In my opinion, it’s not so much what’s in a name, but what’s in the actual thing being named.

Fixed-mobile convergence (FMC) technology is a good example. In case you’re not familiar, this is what some in the telecommunications industry think is the next big thing: technology that allows a single handset to seamlessly roam between cellular and VoIP/WiFi networks.

For a self-proclaimed geek like me, FMC is just the coolest thing. Imagine it: harnessing the power of the Internet to access cheap minutes while at home, and then picking up a signal from a cellular tower when I leave my house. I mean, isn’t it just amazing that these two kinds of technologies can be tied together in this way?

For the average consumer, though, my fascination with FMC is probably a mystery. Most people just want a phone that works. They’ve gotten used to having a landline at home and a cellphone for elsewhere. Maybe they are interested in saving money or cutting down on the number of electronic devices that clutter up their house, but they really couldn’t care less about the technology that might deliver such functionality.

Actually, I’m a consumer too. I love tech, but I’m busy. I don’t always need to know exactly how every cool device works, but I do want/need to know what that device can do for me.

From this perspective, FMC is also really cool, but for a totally different reason. You mean, I could have one phone and talk on it anywhere, at home or while on the road? That would be sweet. Even better if it saved me money.

What do you think?