SAN FRANCISCO — In case you didn’t get the memo, the Web is coming to your mobile phone, and both Research in Motion (RIM) and Adobe Systems used the CTIA Wireless IT and Entertainment conference to drive home the point.
Both Jim Balsillie, co-CEO at RIM, and Adobe’s chief, Shantanu Narayen, made it clear during their keynotes here that each had big expectations for the trend.
Yet while Narayen celebrated the surge of application development taking place in mobile, he warned that true innovation on smartphones has sizable obstacles ahead of it. At the same time, Balsillie reiterated that he’s betting much of his company’s future on mobile development.
During his keynote, the first of the day, Balsillie shed more light on RIM’s (NASDAQ: RIMM) aggressive efforts to woo a consumer audience. While the company’s BlackBerry has long been used by businesses for business activities, recent months have seen RIM been pushing hard to parlay its dominance in the workplace into the consumer space.
Balsillie gave no indication that it’s letting up anytime soon, either. He announced plans for a U.S. of the BlackBerry Bold, the firm’s first 3G phone, in October. The Bold is already available in RIM’s native Canada and in the U.K., and is being certified for the U.S. by AT&T for what Balsillie said he hoped would be an October launch.
He also said RIM is teaming up with the social networking giant MySpace to offer a version of MySpace Mobile customized for the BlackBerry.
Unlike the social networking site’s existing MySpace Mobile service, the new version offers features optimized for the BlackBerry, with tight integration between the smartphone and the service. For example, BlackBerry users can push a button to use the site’s instant messenger to talk to other MySpace users.
RIM will also create a BlackBerry community page on MySpace for users to access the latest BlackBerry smartphone news, content, videos, games, ringtones, skins and other features.
The move marks the latest effort RIM to capitalize on social networking as it moves into the consumer space, last year releasing a Facebook application that Balsillie said has been downloaded 2.5 million times — “the fastest take-up of any application that we’ve ever had,” he added.
Balsillie also said RIM would host a BlackBerry Developer Conference in October in Santa Clara, Calif., where he said more content plans would be revealed.
RIM also announced a deal with online music service Slacker, an agreement with Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) to bring the software giant’s ad-supported Live Search to the BlackBerry browser and a partnership with TiVo to allow Blackberry users to program their DVRs through their BlackBerry phone.
Reality check from Adobe
But not everyone is as rosy as Balsillie is about the future of Internet services on mobile phones.
Narayen, during his keynote, talked about how the potential mobile platforms hold for innovation — but Adobe’s (NASDAQ: ADBE) CEO warned about key hurdles the industry must overcome.
While he said the “first Internet revolution” had been on the PC — thanks in part to early technologies including Adobe’s own Flash — rich Internet capabilities are moving to mobile devices as mobility itself is moving beyond simply phone calls.
“We are seeing the second revolution in mobile,” he told the audience. “We saw the voice revolution, now we are seeing the second one — the data and voice and information revolution bringing rich Internet content to consumers. Consumers can see over the wall. They know what’s possible and are clearly demanding more.”
However, he also acknowledged the difficulty in creating these types of experiences, because some rich media just won’t run on a mobile device, frustrating both the consumer and content creator.
“The reality is the cost of experimentation is way too high,” Narayen said. “We are not unleashing the creativity of the developer community and helping them make the experiences available on all these devices. Fragmentation is holding the industry back.”
That leads to an opportunity to defragment the market. Narayen talked about the Open Screen Platform effort that Adobe is spearheading in hopes of creating a single standard for publishing, regardless of device. The platform would allow content creators to “create once and publish anywhere,” he said.
Adobe announced the Open Screen Platform initiative in May, with members like ARM, Chunghwa Telecom, Cisco, Intel, LG Electronics, Marvell, Motorola, Nokia, NTT DoCoMo and many more technology, communications and electronics firms.
Of course, Adobe sees itself as a part of that. For instance, the platform is designed to include Adobe technologies including Flash Player and Adobe AIR.
It seems to be making good on that vision, as well. Narayen said Adobe has shipped Flash on more mobile devices than on PCs — 800 million devices so far — and it expects to hit one billion.