Mobile Meets Internet in 2008

Looking Ahead

The most mobile guy on the planet is Dan Vasser.

Who’s he? If you watch the television show “Journeyman,” you know Vasser well. He’s the lead character in NBC’s weekly time travel saga that’s also my favorite show. Vasser, a San Francisco newspaper reporter, is inexplicably transported back in time each week to right an apparent wrong in the past — like saving the life of someone who wasn’t supposed to die.

And he can’t return to his own time till the job is done. As the series has progressed, Vasser has shown a very creative ability to snow his editor about his unexplained disappearances.

What’s this got to do with trends in mobility? Plenty. While I don’t know anyone out there actually time traveling, it seems like no one is in the office anymore. I expect this trend is far from slowing in 2008, unless the price of gas goes up another couple of bucks per gallon. Let’s hope not.

Like Vasser and his editor, advances in mobile technology can be a management headache for companies used to keeping a close eye on their employees. But smart phones and other Internet-capable devices like the Apple iPhone are ensuring the mobile workforce is least online, if not in view.

The coming year will see more knowledge workers not just checking e-mail, but using the latest instant messenger software to stay live and in touch. And more folks will be ponying up for cellular modems to be sure they can stay connected with the boss, colleagues and clients.

Significantly, a new generation of mobile Internet devices (MID) will emerge in 2008 that promises to make it more practical to a enjoy a full-fledged Web experience while on the go.

As my colleague Andy Patrizio recently reported, chip giant Intel is going to kick off 2008 with a major mobile initiative at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. There’s no shortage of other vendors playing in the space, but when Intel makes a move, it often has wide-ranging impact.

“One of the really significant developments in mobile next year is going to be Intel’s push in MIDs,” Tim Bajarin, president of tech research firm Creative Strategies, told “They’re going to make a really big deal out of it. The other area is flash-based storage for mobile devices.”

Intel’s MID platform is based on a redesigned X86 microarchitecture. Intel also will be unwrapping the Z-P140 PATA Solid-State Drive (SSD) drive, one of the tiniest (smaller than a penny) in the industry, which is aimed at handheld mobile devices.

Expect to see a wave of so-called ultra-small computing devices based on Intel hardware in 2008. Storage capacity on 2GB and 4GB versions of its devices will be enough for mobile operating systems, applications and data such as music or photos. Intel also said higher-end products will be extensible to 16 GB.

The open mobile advantage?

The past year saw pledges of openness aplenty. Specifically in the mobile arena, Google spearheaded the Open Handset Alliance (OHA) and Verizon Wireless transformed from a control freak to freewheeling party host, promising developers relatively unlimited access to its network.

On a related note, we should also find out the winner of the government’s 700MHz spectrum auction in the next few months. The auction is scheduled to begin Jan. 24, but it could take until March before a winner is declared.

It’s sure to be closely watched by consumer advocates and mobile device manufacturers alike. Under the auction’s rules, the winning bidder will be required to make a key portion of this spectrum, enough for a nationwide network, available to customers to download any application they want on their mobile device. Also, customers will have the right to use any device they want on the spectrum.

Next page: Openness for developers in mobile and social networking.

The devil, as always, is in the details. Just how easy it will be for developers and third parties to get new applications on these open networks remains to be seen, but it’s clear mobile users will have far more options in the coming year.

The OHA is based on Google’s Android platform, which includes an integrated software stack of operating system, middleware, user interface and applications. Android’s software development kit (SDK) is available under “one of the most progressive, developer-friendly open source licenses, which gives mobile operators and device manufacturers significant freedom and flexibility to design products,” according to the OHA.

We also won’t have to wait too long into the year to see an SDK for the iPhone, potentially bringing a new wave of innovative applications to the hot-selling device. The announcement that an SDK would be coming in February was a change in direction by Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

Apple had earlier expressed concern about making the iPhone too open, citing security reasons. In announcing the change, Jobs said that Apple planned to take a few more months to get the security angle covered, since the iPhone is “a highly visible target.”

Mobile phone leader Nokia has its own open strategy. Look for the company to expand it Ovi set of Internet Services during the coming year. Ovi, which means “door” in Finnish, is Nokia’s plan to offer mobile consumers an easy way to access social networks and more of Nokia’s services.

Ovi initially includes the company’s Nokia Music Store, N-Gage gaming service and Nokia Maps. Nokia plans to add more features and services within the first half of 2008.

Social networks find their enterprise niche

Social networks like Facebook and MySpace enjoyed a rapid rise in consumer adoption during the past year. Again, openness made the headlines, with Facebook opening its platform to developers, followed this month by MySpace’s similar initiative.

Developers, in turn, are busy creating new applications for the sites’ millions of users. But consumer enthusiasm for social networks has lapped over into the enterprise, leaving IT and management to try and scratch out new rules and regulations.

Startups and established players like IBM are scrambling to offer enterprise-friendly social network tools and solutions. Companies such as Worklight are focused on securing the new breed of Web 2.0 applications, like Facebook, which employees increasingly are bringing into the corporate network.

“Our whole philosophy is that what people use at home, they want to use at work — so why make them use something else?” Worklight marketing executive David Levanda told

But enterprises willing to consider bringing in more Web 2.0 apps will also have plenty of alternatives that may be more suited to their needs than what employees play with in their free time.

Products like Socialtext and Suite Two are examples of Web 2.0 applications built from the ground up with the enterprise customer in mind.

Expect the year ahead to introduce us to plenty of other alternatives to the many already out there. And let’s just hope things turn out all right, because even time travel isn’t looking like it will be able to save anything — the gossip rags say “Journeyman” (sigh) has been canceled.

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