With all the discussion about broadband's increasing speeds and applications, it's easy to take for granted the life-style changes that an always-on service makes. It's hard to figure out when our behavior changed, but it was well over a year ago that we made the Web our reference point for virtually everything. Search tools like Google and the Web's vast resources, plus an always on connection, made it a "no-brainer".
A sampling from this past weekend included: finding a great way to whiten a yellowed synthetic blouse (http://www.havennook.com/Household%20Hints/laundry_hints.htm), planting tips for a new Heuchera Snow Angel for the garden (http://www.mobot.org/gardeninghelp/plantfinder/codem/S170.shtml), and an on-line audiology test (http://www.handtronix.com/webdata/flash/onlinescreener.htm).
In each case, "always-on" was more important than broadband speed; what made it useful was the fact that we could access the Web immediately and find the answer. Now "always-there" devices like Microsoft's Smart Display (see the article elsewhere in this issue) help users take the next step and have the information right at hand, helping to reinforce the behavior.
The problem for service providers is that there's virtually no way to get this across to anyone who isn't experiencing it. It's exactly the same problem that PVR companies like TiVo have. Anyone who has it can't live without it and won't give it up; anyone who doesn't, can't understand what all the fuss is about. But world of mouth and viral spread make it inevitable that both will reach and pass the tipping point--just like voice mail and answering machines did many years ago.