Yesterday I left a comment on Brian Kelly's post, Is That A Pistol In Your Pocket?, where I explained how the iPhone had changed my mind about preferring to carry several dedicated devices which inter-operate, as opposed to carrying one integrated device. At one time I was determined to pursue the former approach, making connections with Bluetooth and, later, WI-FI. Essentially, I expected to create a responsive peer-to-peer network of devices, what has been termed a Personal Area Network.

I've given up, probably temporarily, on this approach - the sheer ease-of-use of the iPhone trumps my other concerns at this stage in my career/life/biorhythms. But as we approach a world of ubiquitous, networked computing, it seems to me that a new model is emerging. Where once the personal network of peer-to-peer devices seemed an obvious approach, now we might observe that this can be unnecessary: each of our devices is going to be, if it isn't already, capable of communicating with the global 'interweb' at usable speeds.

To give a concrete example: I once aspired to use my PDA (with it's larger screen) to act as the pocket display device for photographs I had taken with my mobile phone. Both devices had a Bluetooth interface, so this was the channel to use. I did get this working, but it was never a convenient operation and I eventually stopped bothering.

With today's equivalent devices, I might do something different: use the mobile phone's internet connection to post photographs to flickr for instance, and, on my PDA, directly download the ones I want to display there. Of course with my iPhone, I can go a little step further - I have sufficiently robust access to the web to be able to be able to leave some resources on the web and just view them from there when I want to.

Now, there are plenty of use-cases where one might want one's devices to inter-operate, and where the web might not provide an easier solution than a short-range, peer-to-peer approach. But some common requirements, particularly around the using and sharing of resources (photos, video, bookmark lists, contacts databases etc.) are ideally served by the web.

So, it seems that it is the area in personal area networks which is diminished in importance: the networking remains, but the very local area has been supplanted by the cloud in some respects.