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TheStreet Open House

Welcome to the Asynchronous Economy

Stocks in this article: BBYLXK

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- I was watching an episode of USA Network's "Burn Notice" from 2008 and it suddenly seemed antique.

Star Jeffrey Donovan was talking on a flip phone with that 10,000-mile stare that was such a feature of the last decade. (That and the "Bluetooth Crazy" -- someone on the street motioning wildly and talking loudly into the air while you walk by -- good times.)

Point is people don't do that much anymore. Now we're all hunched over smartphones like vultures, heads stuck out and down, bumping into things while our two thumbs peck madly at the screen.

It's not just how we use technology that has changed, but how we deal with one another. A telephone call is synchronous -- both parties on the same line at the same time. A smartphone interaction is asynchronous -- you play with your machine and later I play with mine.

News that the "device revolution" of smartphone and tablets is advancing at 10 times the rate of the PC era, twice the rate of the Internet era, as I mentioned Wednesday, adds to the urgency of what I need to say today. Because that device isn't a phone at all. It's a computer, a full-fledged broadband-connected PC, with everything that implies.

It used to be, back in the 2000s, that at least when a merchant had a customer in the store, they had them. They could make their pitch, they could reassure on price, they had some control. No more. Now we can double-check every claim you make standing in front of you, even order it from Amazon for a few dollars less while you watch helplessly.

Want to know why Best Buy (BBY) is in such a world of hurt? The big boxes no longer control their own destiny. We can bypass them with our thumbs.

Or consider business communication. No one calls anymore. They send email. The boss writes when he wants to, and I read it some time later. I don't follow up that email with a phone call, because I don't know where the boss is.

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