One of the things that I’m fascinated with about smartphones in particular is their growing ability to be contextually aware. It’s something Nokia is pushing towards, and I know the iPhone and Android phones do it, too. For instance, with a few 3rd party applications, I can set my Nokia N79 to automatically switch to the ‘Night’ profile at 10pm, and launch Mobbler, which allows me to stream Last.FM stations over my home WiFi network. I can also set it to switch to silent when I arrive at church, so that I’m not ‘that guy’ whose phone goes off in the middle of service.
This is awesome for phones, but what about laptops and netbooks? I boot my computer up in different situations all the time, but yet it is not aware of those changing situations, and can’t react to them.
For instance, my Dell XPS M1330 boots up the same, with the same startup applications, whether it’s connected to a power outlet or not. It isn’t able to detect whether or not I have the external monitor, keyboard, and mouse hooked up, nor if I’m booting up in a coffee shop. Why does it need to know that?
Well, if I’m booting up at home, in my office, with all the external peripherals hooked up, I would like it to automatically start Firefox, Digsby, Skype, MediaMonkey, and Photoshop, since I use those for work. However, if I’m at Starbucks, I’d likely rather choose which applications start on boot, and I’d also like it to automatically mute the speakers, so that I don’t accidentally blast the place with my startup sounds.
I’d like similar intelligence in my netbook. If I boot up on my home network, I’d like it to go ahead and launch Seesmic Desktop, and probably Last.FM, too. If I have Bluetooth disabled, I’d also like for Nokia’s PC Suite to not bother launching – but when I turn Bluetooth on, I’d like that to also launch PC Suite, so I can connect my phone.
As my computer – be it laptop or netbook – gets more advanced, there’s no reason it shouldn’t get a little bit more intelligent, as well. Eventually, I’d like to have a learning system – it might notice that somewhere around 9pm every weeknight, I launch Firefox and go to MSN Games to play a little online poker. How cool would it be if my computer could learn that behaviour, and automatically do it for me (with some settings so I could maintain control)?
Am I asking too much, or is this something you think computers should be able to do, as well? Why do phones get all the glory when it comes to contextual awareness?