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November 13, 2013
How important is your keyboard to you?

In just over two decades of their existence in the country, mobile phones have evolved from being devices to flaunt your social stature to becoming the bare necessity of life. Launched at an exorbitant cost of more than Rs 50,000 for a basic device which could make and receive calls, today’s mobile phones are no less than super-computers in their own rights.

Today’s mobile phones enable its user to multi-task for which they would have to contend with a dozen equipments earlier. In one smart suave package, today’s mobile phone manufacturers offer gizmos and gadgets which could have made any museum of yesteryears proud.

When first introduced, mobile phones were essentially devices to make and receive calls, which soon diversified into sending and receiving messages. Gradually mobile phone devices incorporated a music player, before moving onto integrating a video player to bring to the consumer his personal hi-fi music cum video output system. Cameras, Wi-Fi, processors and other technological gizmos followed suit and the basic mobile phone device transformed itself from a simple telecommunication device onto a new-age techno warrior.

Diversifying from basic devices to feature embedded phones, to feature rich phones to smartphones; the gradual progression of the innocuous mobile phone device has been fantastic to say the least and has created diverse technological stream which is magnificent in its own sense. It is an insatiable urge of the human race to constantly innovate which is leading towards greater innovations which are constantly improving the already over-arching technological landscape and offering us the very best of technological innovation every day, every moment.

Today this smartphone ecology is becoming one of the bigger attributes of the growth of the mobile phone market of the country and fuelling the reach of mobile phones in the country. Today over 67 million smartphone owners are pushing forward the numbers of 800 million cellular subscribers in the country. Already amongst the top five smartphone usage markets in the world, India will be amongst the top three smartphone markets in the world in the near future.

This growth of smartphone statistics in the market is mainly likened to the intuitive input structure and user interface design which is propelling more consumers to be a part of the ever-growing tribe. From a gadget which connected people on a one-to-one relation in yesteryears, today’s smartphone has become the window to the world, thanks to the great technology which makes connecting to everyone in the world possible.

This mobility landscape which constantly reinvents itself rides upon few inputs which remain ever-permeating all through the mobile phone evolution. Entities like screen, keyboard, processor and battery have gradually evolved overtime and have become more streamlined and more prevailing.  While other constituents have been refined and polished over time, the keyboard is the one which has been neglected in the entire development of things.

The last noted regeneration of the keyboard happened when it graduated from the number and alphabet genre to the QWERTY keyboard generation which quickly caught onto the public imagination, and everybody lined up to buy devices which had QWERTY keyboards attached to them. Since then, much of the smartphone technology has reinvented but not much can be said about the keyboard technology. All that is notable is that from its physical keyboard layout, it has graduated into a more touch oriented technology which is emblazoned inside the glass cabinet itself.While today’s consumers are more inclined towards technological innovations inside their devices, they generally neglect one of the most important ingredients - the keyboard. Well known is that without a touch input the entire smartphone experience will go kaput, but what is appalling is the fact that no consumer looks at his keyboard as serious software, but more as an accessory.

Stock keyboards are the ones which still carry over archaic designs and ancient technologies, and users do not even give a lookout towards the avenues with which their keyboards can be beautified and decorated. Since the inception of smartphone technologies, keyboards have taken a back stand in the design parlance and have been relegated to the back ends of improvements in technologies.

While some mobile phone ecosystems do not let their keyboards being changed or swiped with third-party software, some allow changes with a high degree of cutback. Users cannot change the orientation, look and feel and have to make do with a boring keyboard design which is just in hand. While many third-party applications are now in the market which promises redesigning the keyboard experience, the totality of the keyboard revolution is far from being near.

Tactile keyboards to dome keyboards, and from touch keyboards to gesture keyboards; the development has been significant but the inherent technology remains more or less the same. Today a huge amount of investment goes into developing the keyboard infrastructure, but the eternal question still remains – can it be bettered? With the art of perfecting the already perfected keyboard being in place, phone software and hardware manufacturers need to come together to create the next generation of keyboard development which can lead the keyboard into the vision of the future.

A huge necessity in a culturally and linguistically diverse country like India, language oriented keyboards are becoming an inevitability to further communication in this diverse landscape. In a country where 30 major languages are spoken by over a million speakers each, 122 languages are spoken than more than ten thousand each speakers, and over two hundred other languages being spoken by a significant number of ethnicity, the need for language oriented keyboards become necessary to further pertinent communication.

 To take communications forward, tactile input technology needs to lead the way, where new keyboard technologies need to integrate seamlessly in the entire keyboard experience to take things forward. Today’s modern keyboard which came into focus with the new-generation smartphones are the ones which are building the tactile technology of the future and are driving the innovations of the future.

It is now in the hands of the smartphone users to understand the significance of this keyboard structure which lets them interact with their devices in the most pertinent of manner. From inputing information to generating response, today’s keyboard is standing on the cusp of its next big revolution which will drive the technology of the future. Now, how important is their keyboards to them, is for the user to decide. Till then, the only possibility is to revel in the genius of the technological marvel called the Keyboard and understand its pertinence which changed the entire man-machine communication on its head. From being an input hardware/software, the keyboard has become the most important interactive avenue. What its future can be is on the user to decide.



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