Mobile Devices Evolve

Harvey Kaplan
Right now we're on the brink of convergent device technology, where you'll phone, interact via emails and instant messages, view your favorite videos, take and share pictures instantly, cruise around town using its GPS, and of course surf the Internet. The new 3G iPhone and Google's G1 Android phone are changing the way people connect with the world. For those of you who don't know, Android is a software platform and operating system for mobile devices, based on the Linux system and developed by Google, and later, the Open Handset Alliance. The platform allows developers to write managed code in a Java-like language. So if you use Java, you can get the software development kit from the Android site to create your own applications, and upload them to your phone.

Android basically competes in the same marketplace with the iPhone, which started in much the same way. It was essentially a software stack with a software development kit, which was offered as a free resource to developers so they could build applications for hand-held cell phones or PDAs.

The 3G iPhone is a fully digitized mobile convergent device that combines a GPS system similar to what you have in your car with the cell phone capabilities of a great handset, and the Internet capabilities of a touch screen monitor. It also features cameras capable of doing a variety of things other than taking pictures. With a simple software download the cameras will be able to perform two-dimensional bar code reading. You'll be able to wave your cell phone over a bar code once the application is launched, and it will read the information off a piece of paper or a TV screen to decode it and pull back a video or picture of your choice. If the camera is combined with Near Field Communication (NFC), a chip inside the cell phone actually will process a transaction at touchpad checkout services like MobilePay and SpeedPass, which is affiliated with Visa. In other words, you'll be able to make purchases with your phone.

All of these features will be boosted by high speed digital access. Both the 3G iPhone and Google G1 phone have very rich development platforms with which people can interact on a daily basis. You won't have to go to your home PC if you just want to check a simple email, draft an email or check a statistic. I know many people with media rich phones who no longer need to open their laptops at home.

The key thing about these new phones is that they allow developers who crave new and improved device features and functionalities to develop them on their own. With platforms like iPhone and Android, people with a simple Software Development Kit (SDK) are able to build any application their heart's desire, and distribute it for a profit on the Internet. The software development kits are open-source, and can be found for the G1 at, or for the iPhone.

Many people are incredibly intelligent in the software community and with unrestricted access to Development Kits, who knows what the next killer app will be? My advice is that if you have an application idea, it doesn't take much to start developing the application of your dreams and exploring this new and exciting entrepreneurial opportunity. Remember that the first day Apple's 3G iPhone became available; they sold 10 million applications from the iPhone store. With numbers like that you know the audience is there, and if you can build a better mouse trap — which shouldn't take more than a couple of weeks — you can put it up for sale in the iPhone store and start making money.

This changes the whole mobile commerce environment tremendously. For instance, maybe you think, "It would be really nice to network my cell phone into my printer." You can write the application for that on your PC and upload it to your cell phone. You'll get an icon on the deck of your cell phone which you can click, and you'll be able to print from your cell phone. This turns every user into a killer app developer.

The distribution environment that telecommunication companies are providing can't be ignored, either. Device manufacturers have created truly robust platforms-capable convergent device technology. Now it's up to software developers to add their special ingredient to this mix by creating killer apps that keep us buying the latest and greatest phones.

By way of example, I have an 11-year-old staying at my house this weekend, so I downloaded "Call of Duty" to my iPhone, thinking that would be cool to show off. He went to the iPhone store on my phone and downloaded a PSP touch pad application. He launched the game and zipped through it like he was on a real PSP. So the ability to be in a graphically rich environment is now possible for just about anybody. Gamers have a new marketplace where they can reach people, and entrepreneurs suddenly have several ways to reach folks that ordinarily they wouldn't have had. The phones also give media support for audio, stills, and video in every kind of video format you can imagine. Phones are not phones anymore. They have become a living, breathing miniature extension of just about every technological device we interact with every day.

The expense for these phones is usually about $200 with a two year contract. The Google phone will go on sale October 22 on the T-Mobile network exclusively, and will be adapted to the new 3G network available in 21 markets (27 by the end of the year). The 3G iPhone (AT&T version) already has made a huge splash in the U.S., and is now heading overseas. For the service, $99 usually covers people across the board per month for unlimited text, unlimited data and unlimited calling.

These new phones are not the end-all, however. There are ways to use them that have not appeared yet in this country. For instance, in Japan right now they've developed facial recognition capabilities on camera phones, so if you pick up a phone and the facial recognition software doesn't recognize you, it won't allow you to answer the phone or even make a call. This prevents phone thefts, which figures to be a huge problem in years to come.

In the future, I see radar detectors in your cell phone, and Bluetooth receivers implanted in our teeth. You'll be able to keep medical information in your phone, and it will be tied to a vital systems monitor designed to call 911. When the EMT's arrive, your phone will blink and flash to alert emergency services of any illness or allergy. They will then check your phone for the type of insurance you have, and if you have enough money in your account to pay them. In short, the cell phone will become the most important tool in our lives.

Harvey Kaplan is Executive Vice President of Wireless Development for BustBox Media,


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