Monday, September 8, 2008

The Information Center

by Mark Hewitt
From my "Ask the Expert" column

During the past decade, we have watched with interest the adoption of mobile phone technology throughout the world. As examples, we have seen remote villages use prepaid phones to exchange money where no banking system exists, and an American Presidential candidate has reached out to millions of supporters with a text message.

As creatures of “Connectivity”, we build networks around ourselves, friends, family, co-workers, and community. The mobile phone has become a critical link in this chain, as it fits naturally into our lifestyles. Since information interlinks human networks, the mobile phone has become an anchor in our daily lives by allowing us to store contact information, schedules, news items, and events that are central to our everyday activities.

The global success of the Blackberry device relies not on its flashy screen, text keypad, or any single application like email (we all remember the Blackberry email crash in April 2007). Instead, Blackberry’s success revolves around RIM’s ability to bridge the “walled garden networks” of the carriers. My Blackberry on Verizon’s network allows me to interact with my co-workers and my enterprise application server, regardless of which network each is connected to.

This is the promise of “Mobile VoIP” -- the future dismantling of barriers between platforms and networks. Any mobile device with software or connectivity to a core platform outside of a “Walled Garden” warrants classification as a Mobile VoIP device. I still include the “V” (as in “Voice”) in this definition, because a communications device that does not support voice transmission is simply not a communications device.

The future of Mobile VoIP lies in the plethora of applications that can “bridge” platforms and networks. These range from enterprise applications that manage medical, mobile, service, repair, and inventory systems, to shopping and social networking possibilities.

In the evolution of mobility, we also need to recognize the anchor for this range of new products and services. Apple has proven the power of the Applications Store. However, the Google Android mobile O/S has more recently announced yet another application anchor -- the Android Market -- with one very critical difference: Google provides developers and consumers with the ability to make their own decisions. The Google Store will not be run like Apple’s iTunes store, as developers can build to their hearts’ content without constant threat of being disconnected.

I predict that Google will achieve the same market dominance in the Mobility market that it has accomplished in the Search Engine world. Apple may soon find itself in the back seat, much like Yahoo did when Google’s “Open” approach provided savvy consumers with the one thing they all want – “Choice”.

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