04 Jun

On “Japan as the (mobile) leader, USA as the laggard, Nokia in between” and developers, developers, developers, developers

As discussions and opinions continue at Forxum Oxford on the topic of mobile leadership and Nokia and so forth, the following statement was made by Tomi Ahonen, for which I responded as follows.

Why I am writing about this? Because it is important to understand some of the reasons why some are leaders or are perceived as leaders, or are laggards or are in between….

Tomi Ahonen said:

… that its Japan which is the leader, USA is the laggard – still today – and that Nokia is in between, and in many cases Nokia has led, but Apple does not…”

For which my response was:

Amazing how perception can change everything and even bring a whole global company to the brink of death…

While Japan has indeed been a mobile tech leader, they have remained, in my opinion, very localized geographically. As a consequence, Japan’s global impact has been minute when compared to what Apple, Google and Nokia have all accomplished.

I really don’t get how Apple cannot be seen as a leader in mobile. Apple has definitely led, by taking all the pieces (yes, they learned from others) and creating a new, unique mobile design package like NO other before it. Apple raised the bar for mobile OSes. Gave new meaning to (mobile) web. It gave new meaning to mobile apps. It removed the operator controlled deck. It gave new meaning to developers and ecosystems. It created a new economy for mobile and developers like no other before it. Apple not only brought to market a mobile HW-and-SW package like no other before it, but also changed the playground and the playing rules; the operator is no longer at the center, the ecosystem is. Software (and developers) drive this new mobile economy. And Apple (even if by accident) was the one who figured it out first. If you ask me, Apple was the liberator for mobile developers and the ecosystem. The beneficiaries? The regular user/subscriber.

And there is no turning back. Google, Nokia, Samsung, Palm/HP, Dell, others all understand that it is about the software and the developer ecosystem. Even Ballmer got this right when going Developers, developers, developers, developers crazy:

(for a second I thought he was going into cardiac arrest)

But I digress…

I continued:

Apple introduced its iPhone around 2007. Android ~2008. That is 2-3 years ago! And yet today Nokia has not been able to produce a true match.

The Nokia machine has all the needed parts, but its leadership failed. Today Nokia is struggling for its survival. But Nokia is not dead and will (should) not die; a major reality check this whole experience has been.

Mobile is still a young industry, and anything can happen.


Don’t miss the track by Smixx titled Developers (feat. Steve Ballmer):

Smixx – Developers (feat. Steve Ballmer) by Smixx


19 Aug

Follow up discussion on Apple and NFC; Oh and Nokia

Back at Forum Oxford a lot of interesting debates occur. The topic on Apple and NFC is no exception. Being a European forum is no surprise how many Nokia fans get all ticked off about Apple, because things like NFC has been championed by Nokia (with no real success). One of the forum members is a well respected (no BS) Mobilist that I follow. His name is Dean Bubley. I thought about posting here one of our exchanges at the forum:

Dean>> “I think this is one of those rare occasions where Nokia gets it right (i.e. dropping NFC) and Apple gets it wrong (embracing NFC).”

CEO>> Nokia continues pushing for NFC. Last July they re-iterated their commitment.

Dean>> “Nokia did a bunch of trials, which despite the PR hyperbole were absolutely not “successful”. There is no clear consumer need, no business model, and a myriad of technical and user interaction problems.”

CEO>> Consumer feedback from trials (at least in the USA) have been positive. (note to self: try to find the results for the trials)

Dean>> “Quite rightly, Nokia realised that adding NFC to phones wouldn’t make them any extra money, any time soon (or indeed, probably ever).”

CEO>> See my comment above. The problem is the operator was not distributing (ordering) the Nokia NFC handsets. The problem is the operator wants control via the SIM card. But, Nokia will push forward with the non-Single Wire Protocol (SWP) handsets next year. Nokia and the other handset manufacturers realize that forcing NFC-app enablement via the SIM only will just slow things down/won’t work.

Dean>> “In particular, users would have to be insane to trust mobile payments to an operator rather than a 3rd party.”

CEO>> Again, this is why handset manufacturers will be offering non-SWP NFC handsets as well (via microSD NFC?). This will allow for 3rd party applications vs. operator-centered/controlled, where apps are restricted to a few big-name players.

So let’s see how Apple will approach this; very likely by not using the SIM/SWP approach.

And yes, part of NFC solutions are the services on the cloud. This approach would allow and leverage the developer ecosystem to bring useful apps to the consumer.

About ROI, it will be there via the apps similar today, plus perhaps additional transaction-based revenue.

And let’s not equate NFC to payments only; there are other interesting scenarios we will see once this is made available to the developer ecosystem.


17 Aug

Apple and NFC — iPhone will trigger the Mobile RFID/NFC revolution

There is a lot of noise/rumors about Apple and NFC after Apple’s hiring of NFC expert sparks digital wallet rumors.

NFC is one of those technologies that I have written quite a bit about (see my NFC/Touch page) and that I believe will change how people use their handsets. Unfortunately it has taken forever to hit the mass market; blame the operators…

And as I’ve previously written, I’ll say it again in 2010 — Even though Nokia was first in understanding the power of proximity and had introduced some of the first handsets, it is the iPhone what will drive the NFC revolution…

Related to this see:

09 May

On Reasons Why The Mobile/Wireless Usage Boom is Underway | Part 2

Back in April 2008, around a year after the introduction of the iPhone and Android, I wrote a piece on my blog on the Reasons Why The Mobile/Wireless Usage Boom was Underway, where I introduced the diagram below that highlights the convergence between the mobile lifestyle, advanced handsets and the state of the networks:

Here I argue that such convergence is the basis for the adoption we see today…

But why is that? For years I have focused on “application richness” as a key reason; software that extends and enhances the hardware by providing services and useful utilities, and the richer user experience and functionality the wider the adoption. And for years the topic of native vs. web mobile apps have had continued and while the promise and vision of rich web applications continues to move forward, albeit slowly, native applications have lead the way.

The answer is that (regardless of technology) it is about “monetization” and business models, and mobile is no exception. And that technology is *the* great facilitator to deliver this. After reading Mike Rowehl piece on Opening Up Mobile Monetization, which he wrote in response to John Arne Sæterås’ blog Mobile Web vs. Native Apps. Revisited, I agree that technology and application richness and user experience all by itself are not sufficient, and again, that technology all by itself is just a facilitator, and that business models play a key role.

I’ve to say though, that we have come a long way since I wrote Open ecosystems, closed ecosystems, and the reality of things back in 2006; a post that also refers to another related blog by Mike Rowehl; as you can see, we have been arguing the issue of ecosystems and openness for many years now.

So my diagram above on converge and adoption needs an tweak/update, to include the missing piece that glues it all together — the business models which is the main driver that powers it all.

As I write on My Vision page:

But what has been happening is that three related areas of mobile have been converging over the last decade: 1) the mobile lifestyle where the mobile handset is such a personal social gadget part of our daily lives, 2) the advanced smartphones that provide applications both web and native as never before and 3) the advanced, faster, more reliable and accessible networks that allows for always-on connectivity — all converging closer with business models at the center that promotes a healthy ecosystem.

In this ecosystem we have consumers and we have businesses, some that focuses on creating handsets, others on networks, while others in software services (platforms) and applications. All benefiting — the consumers via improved experiences and businesses via the ecosystem business models. It is this convergence that have enabled the momentum and ecosystem that we are currently seen.

The business models are driven by the ecosystem. And by ecosystem I mean real ecosystems that allows different entities to participate in ways that simplifies trade, the ability to easily author, publish and sell software/applications, on top on other software and infrastructure, benefiting all — the consumer and the “providers”.

The application store showed that the original carrier-based deck was an issue. Even though a business model existed back then, it was flawed. Not a true ecosystem it shows why it was so easy for application stores to lead and show the way. Today the success of application stores is starting to show their weaknesses; thousands and thousands of applications mean finding one is like looking for a needle in a haystack. But discovery today is leaps and bounds better than before; and I am sure better ways to discover will be created.

Back to my convergence diagram vs. adoption above, let’s look at some support data:

On Handset Data Traffic (and Advanced Networks)

Source the Silicon Ally Insider — The above chart shows the consumption of handset data traffic, which correlates to the mobile lifestyle and its relationship to advanced networks behind.

On Advanced Handsets

Source the Silicon Ally Insider — The above chart shows the growth in the adoption of advanced mobile handsets which correlates to the relationship between mobile lifestyle as driver (and relationship) to advanced handsets (and decline of feature-phones).

On Applications (and Business Models)

Source the Silicon Ally Insider — The above chart is about the business model and it shows the growth in the adoption of native applications; see the increase in just one year. This chart shows how the creation of native (rich) applications have increased, in my opinion, thanks to the true ecosystems as allowed by app stores which have facilitated the creation and publishing of applications and the resulting revenues from such software applications economy (business models). Would we see a similar growth once such economy is available for mobile web applications? Or is “application richness” a factor as well? While business models that benefits all in the ecosystem must exist for all this to work, application richness is a secondary factor that certainly drives excitement and adoption.

So It Is Happening

It is great to finally see “the vision” being realized, in large part thanks to Apple and Google who helped shift control and focus into the ecosystem, open systems, the developers and applications. The result has been a tremendous amount of innovation in a relatively short amount of time


13 Nov

Will the iPhone trigger the Mobile RFID/NFC revolution?

Will history repeat itself?

There was/is the 12 keys keypad cellphone.
And few care about Touch.
Then came the iPhone.
Now everyone loves Touch.

There was the operator Deck.
Everyone hated the Deck.
Then came Apple.
And created the App Store.
Now everyone loves the App Stores.
And everyone still hates the Deck.

There was RFID. Then came NFC.
With clear use-cases and business-models.
Yet it has taken forever to deploy this.
Pilots and more pilots, when it is going to end?
Embedded chip-sets or stickers.
But few seem get it. (Nokia does!)
Who is going to take the first big step?
Operators don’t get it. Or do they?
And stuck with pilots they are.
“Hey, this is great!”, the pilots say.
Enablement is expensive! That is what they say.
But guess what?
Proximity support, the iPhone will have.
And all of the sudden, “RFID/NFC on the go” everyone will want.

And I say, if the iPhone introduces support for proximity, it will trigger the mobile RFID/NFC revolution… Wanna bet?

Here, some rumors via the NFC World Blog:

NFC specialist Narian Technologies and who runs the Near Field Communications Group on Linkedin.com, has reported the following:

Had to share this news. A highly reliable source has informed me that Apple has built some prototypes of the next gen iPhone with an RFID reader built in and they have seen it in action. So its not full NFC but its a start for real service discovery and I’m told that the reaction was very positive that we can expect this in the next gen iPhone.

If Apple does it, expect every phone manufacturer and their sister to begin pumping out NFC enabled phones, at least for service discovery and sync.

This just reinforces what we knew based on the two separate patents Apple submitted that had the iPhone enabled to read RFID tags. I’m told that the touch project video and the BT SIG’s specs were all driving forces to push this forward as well as other factors.

Guess I’ll be touching my iPhone to my Mac to link them together to sync iTunes by next year.

01 Oct

On hardware vs. software-based handset differentiation

Is mobile handset differentiation based on hardware coming to an end?

Back in 2007 I wrote a piece on my blog titled: The future of handset design: from hardware to software. And today this is getting more real (and validated) than ever.

When it comes to mobile handsets the rate of innovation introduced via hardware (HW) vs. sofware (SW) is and will be mainly on the SW side.

Differentiation, especially on common platforms (such as Android), will be primarily driven by SW, this is: Innovation on UIs and interface paradigms (on Android we can see this with the introduction of Moto Blur and HTC Sense), better applications (developer ecosystem adding lots of application that in turn adds to the usefulness of the handset), and better services (some phones will be very good at social things, while others at music, and so on). At the end it is SW what makes the handset more dynamic and useful and different.

Today is a great time for those doing R&D in the areas of Human-Computer Interactions (HCI).

Differentiation is necessary. But typically differentiation drives fragmentation. So the follow-up big question is on the fragmentation introduced by the different UI paradigms. Will applications need to be adapted to each new paradigm (i.e. as in many versions?). Yes, very likely.

Developers writing SW for the iPhone only have one paradigm to worry about. On the Android though, as expected we are seeing different UI paradigms (with related APIs) but fortunately the rest of the platform should remain consistent across manufacturers so fragmentation is hopefully localized to the UI only. For mobile Java (beyond Android) fragmentation is yet to be solved. For mobile web and widgets, the same although I am seeing a lot of noise around the JIL Widget SDK.

Fragmentation across platforms will continue. Fragmentation within a single platform shall be localized to the user interface (or the user interactions). Allowing for the UI to be redefined/reconfigured allows for incredible innovation on human to machine interactions which basically redefines the perception for a given handset. The next best thing is re-configurable software and hardware, but for that you will have to go play with platforms such as Bug Labs (which BTW is an extremely cool platform).


(Images sources: PopSci, Nokia, HTC Phones, Benzinga)

21 Sep

On App Stores (Guest Post by Kiran Mudiam)

This week guest post is by Dr. Kiran Mudiam, a long time mobile technologist and a researcher.

Here is my take after reading all the letters sent to the FCC.

We all know that there are positives and negatives to open and closed App Stores. And not everyone is happy with both models. For example, too open, such as the Android platform, we find lots of spam and light-p0rn. On the other side, too close, we have the Apple police, which results of lots of missing apps.

I have seen Google Voice and Google Latitude on the Android platform, and I believe that they need to be similary implemented on the iPhone as well; many, including myself, would want that on their iPhones. And to make it clean, Latitude should be integrated into the current iPhone maps app just like it is done on the Android, and it also makes sense to try to get it running in the background.

I am still hopeful and waiting to see these apps on the iPhone as they fit nicely; but that will only happen as long as they play nice with Apple. If not I would argue that Google can find another app store such as Cydia to release their apps if they want stick to their guns. I already have seen the availbility of the Gooble Voice App through Cydia.

About Dr. Kiran Mudiam


Dr. Kiran Mudiam is a long time mobile technologist and a researcher with several years of experience creating mobile software products and end-to-end mobile computing. He recently was a Mobile Architect at American Express – Technology Strategy and Innovations, driving the next generation Mobile Payments for American Express. He is currently at Trimble Outdoors working on their next generation of GPS based mobile applications.

twitter: @kiranmudiam