Archive for December, 2009

Smartphone technology: where is it leading us?

December 19, 2009

Feature phones used to be what we all got excited about not so long ago.  These were immensely limited in their ‘sticky’ attractiveness and ability to engage the user for the simple reason that most were not connected to the Internet, or at least not easily and definitely not cost effectively.  Roll on to 2009 and the world has changed dramatically.

The Internet-connected Smartphone has us all engaged and is growing meteorically.  The main reasons are the ability to keep adding features and functions that excite us via the already ubiquitous App stores, the ever decreasing cost and increasing speed of mobile Internet connectivity and the ever improving user interfaces being served up by the mobile phone manufacturers.  We have Steve Jobs and Apple to thank for most of this rapid advance, but lets no go there now (in case you’re wondering, no I’m not a fanboy)!

So the range and depth of Apps will continue to develop, Android is fuelling a new set of App developers and encouraging a new wave of Smartphone consumer take-up.  But is this all we can expect of the Smartphone in two years time?  Most definitely not.  Before I tell you what glorious new stuff  I think is heading our way, I guess I should introduce myself and justify my credentials for claiming to understand this technology and business.

I am 51 (I know!!), a graduate engineer by profession and have spent many years designing technologies and products for the wireless marketplace.  I worked my way to running international businesses at senior level in several countries.  Having worked in large blue chips for numerous years, a colleague and I decided to jump into the start-up world back in 1998.  We quit our jobs and set up our first company: the mission was simply to design the world’s smallest, lightest GSM phone (68g/68cc our target when everyone else was doing 110g/110cc).  Back in 1998/1999, size mattered.  Remember those were the Motorola StarTac days, when everyman and his dog strove for 98g/98cc mobiles!  Well, we produced our promised phone and sold our 60-person company in 2001.  Since then start-ups have been my life and passion and I am now on number five. Stressful, but hugely rewarding and great fun.  Over the years, therefore, I have built up technology and business acumen in the telecommunications arena, which I love.  So, back to the Smartphones.

It is not rocket science to predict what technology will deliver within a Smartphone in two year’s time.  Faster processors, better displays, quadrupling of Internet access speeds, more accurate geo-location, up to 100Gb storage capacity, 10 megapixel cameras as the norm. Outside the handset, the mobile networks will simply deliver more data carrying capacity and speeds by investing massive amounts in infrastructure.  It is inevitable that increasingly the consumer will loose any interest in the network itself, fuelling the amalgamation of networks into increasingly brand-less infrastructure behemoths: rather like the electric and water utilities today.

With this backdrop, the scene is set for the fast, immediate, real-time creation, sharing and consumption of vast quantities of mobile data. This data will be social, loacation-based, video, audio, text, search and so on.  But we have all this today.  Just fragmented and slower. So what really is heading our way?  Put simply, live presence.  What we all hanker for is immediacy of information. If I want to call my best friend John, in an instant I want to know where he is, what he is doing and what the best number to call him on is.  I also want to be told when he happens to be at a location near me so I can suggest we meet for a coffee in half an hour, not having had any idea this opportunity would present itself today. These things are not anywhere near seamlessly possible today.  To even get close, you have to open and close countless applications on your Smartphone, at very regular intervals.  For you to strike lucky, one of your friend’s nearby needs to be doing exactly the same thing on the same application at the same time.  Not yet practical and definitely not yet seamless mass appeal.  Roll forward two or three years and my presence-driven immediacy scenario becomes real.  This presence will change our lives, change the way we go out in the evening, who we meet and how we set appointments.  This is truly exciting and thrilling.

In my opinion this is the life altering change that Smartphone technology will bring us.  Sure there will be countless innovative applications, features and functions. But none will change our lives dramatically.  The availability of realtime, immediate presence on all Smartphone based communication will.

I can’t wait!

Hello world!

December 19, 2009

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