Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Apple's Rumored iPhone Could Disrupt Mobile Service Model

I just read a very interesting post at RoughlyDrafted.com titled "Apple's iPhone: Disrupting Mobile Service"(tb) that describes how Apple could shake up the mobile phone industry with their rumored iPhone (or whatever they end up calling it).

The mobile phone market is very fragmented with mobile phone service providers dictating what technology gets implemented in mobile phones. I agree with Daniel that Apple is in a good position to shake things up. The mobile phone service providers will not do anything that will jeopardize their model of charging customers per minute or per MB, and they will certainly not make it easy for customers to switch over to Wi-Fi and the use of VOIP over it. Apple can shake things up by creating a platform and user experience that is seamless between the phone, the Mac/PC, and any other devices that are used to view information and content.

Also, I believe the killer feature on the iPhone would be an embedded version of the Safari web browser. Why? Look at what is driving Web 2.0 on the desktop; AJAX-enabled web browsers, accessible high-speed Internet, and what follows is the flurry of amazing web applications that allow users to replace their desktop applications with online versions. Give web developers the canvas and paint, and they will create their masterpieces for the mobile web 2.0.

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Friday, December 1, 2006

The birth of the mobile web 2.0

Get ready people! In the next few years, we will be witnessing the birth of the mobile web 2.0. The mobile lifestyle will finally become a reality. New business models will emerge, and companies that keep this in mind will flourish.

What I know is that there hasn't been much innovation in the field of pervasive computing or the idea that mobile devices can be used to access your computer applications, anytime, anywhere. There are many software applications that target only specific devices, such as Palm, Windows Mobile, Symbian, etc. Interoperability and device/platform independence has been difficult to attain. Software developers who wanted to write mobile applications had to target specific platforms. However, the web browser is the single application that ties all these devices together.

The notion that the "network is the computer" is starting to become more of a reality. We just didn't see it happening that much till now. The World Wide Web is having a resurgence due in part to "Web 2.0", "AJAX", and all these "community-based", "social-driven" web applications. This is partly because high-speed Internet access has become more ubiquitous and accessible to the masses. Web browsers on non-mobile platforms are commonplace and have recently had some incredible technological capabilities that allow web applications that mimic traditional desktop applications.

In the world of mobile computing, we have had a different experience. Surfing the web on mobile devices was very limited to whether mobile phone vendors would provide the necessary infrastructure and capabilities for these phones. In many ways, this is still the case. Web usage on mobile devices has had a slow rate of adoption due in part to data plans being too expensive, web browser features and support still in its infancy, fragmented web page markup language support (WML, xhtml, etc), and lack of any killer apps. However, in less than a few short years, I believe that will change.

A few years ago, the wireless data infrastructure was still slower than 56kbps. At least today, we can't complain that the wireless data infrastructure is slowing things down, because many of the next-gen networks are capable of some very impressive speeds. I am also starting to see some very good things happen that may usher in the new mobile web 2.0 era that we are about to embark.

This past year, Opera made an announcement that it would start making their mobile web browser more AJAX-friendly and included many Web 2.0 technologies such as RSS feeds, and JavaScript widget support. Opera makes their "paid-version" mobile browser software available on pretty much all the major phone vendors out there, and they even make their "free" Opera Mini browser available as a Java ME midlet application. This means they have their footprint in pretty much all the mobile devices out there. On the Windows Mobile platform, they already ship default with Internet Explorer mobile browser which is already capable of rendering web pages without needing websites to create WAP-friendly versions. The difference between Opera Mobile and Internet Explorer for smartphones, is that Opera is incorporating exciting new features that are key to Web 2.0, while Internet Explorer is stagnant and built for Web 1.0.

What we really need now is to have the web developer community start making those killer apps. Google has taken the lead by making many of their web applications mobile-friendly. Gmail and Google Maps have recently been ported to the Java ME specification. Also, an innovative new company called Soonr leverages the power of Opera's capability for mobile AJAX to create an interesting class of applications used for VOIP communications. Of course, other things need to also happen. These so-called smartphones need to be everywhere. Unlimited data plans from mobile carriers need to be much cheaper. There's nothing worse than getting a huge bill from your provider because you thought the 10 MB data plan was enough.

The other good thing I am seeing is that Apple is readying their rumored iPhone. This smartphone will supposedly have a mobile OS based on their desktop Mac OS X operating system. I can't help but think that this will help explode the smartphone market, in the same way that the iPod has exploded the personal MP3 player market. Imagine a Safari Mobile browser that can render AJAX-enabled web sites. This could be the catalyst needed to usher in the new era of the Mobile Web 2.0.

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