A lot of buzz about the next generation of technology providing better information and services by being aware of the context in which the device is being used and the location.
Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, president and CEO of Nokia, came to the Mobile World Congress... to declare that Nokia will "reshape the Internet."
Nokia believes it, not Google, can deliver operator-independent, cross-platform phones through new software and services. How does Nokia presume that it can reshape an Internet so firmly established already? Nokia's answer lies in Maps 2.0, which the company claimed enables a "context-aware Internet" that combines multimedia features, Internet and Assisted- GPS, "We can bring more relevant and powerful context" to users browsing on the Internet, claimed Kallasvuo.
Niklas Savander, Nokia's executive vice president of services and software, added: "By adding context--such as time, place and people--to the Internet, the Web will become something very different from the one you have today."
EETimes - Nokia, not Google, sees itself reshaping the Internet - February 11, 2008
Some of those in the thick of battle are resigned to having a lot of company. “If there weren’t competitors, there wouldn’t be a market,” said Dan Harple, founder and chief executive of GyPSii, a mobile social network based in Amsterdam that is a contender. “Maybe there are 30 or more now — in three years, there will be 5 that matter.”
The prize, as these start-ups see it, is the 3.3 billion cellphone subscribers, a number that far surpasses the total of Internet users. The advantage over computer-based communities, they believe, is the ability to know where a cellphone is, thanks to global positioning satellites and related technologies.
Most mobile social networks seek to capitalize on location information. The SpaceMe service from GyPSii, for instance, will show users where friends and other members are in real time.
New York Times - Social Networking Moves to the Cellphone - March 6, 2008
Well established as the business mobile device of choice, the BlackBerry may soon become a much more social smartphone, says the co-CEO of creator Research In Motion Ltd.
Jim Balsillie says RIM wants the BlackBerry positioned to tap into the growing trend of Internet social networking sites such as FaceBook.com that allow consumers to share information about their lives, and access multimedia content, particularly music, on their mobile devices.
"Architecturally, music and the social networking are going to merge," Balsillie said ahead of a Thursday speech to the Canadian Music Week festival in Toronto.
CP - RIM looks to make social networking part of BlackBerry's strategy - March 6, 2008
Although the above is about mobile, Google is already "location aware", to the extent that each country version of Google ranks results in a different order, presumably based on language and click tracking, amongst other things. So e.g. Google Canada will list hits in a different order (for the same search) than Google France.
It gets pretty complex to try to make meaningful context decisions though. If it knows you're in a coffeeshop, should it return higher ranking results for "java" as it relates to coffee? What if you do all your computer programming in coffeeshops?
This applies beyond mobile devices, to context awareness for any app being used on any platform anywhere, whether at work, at home, or on the go.
Of course, there is an extent to which the computer either implicitly or explicitly knowing more about the context and location of your activities is very privacy intrusive (e.g. hypothetical location-aware shopping application "I see you're passing a drug store on the way to your girlfriend's apartment, perhaps you should purchase some prophylactics?")
To rephrase something I wrote in my Twitter, I find my online and mobile walled gardens either have too many walls, or no walls whatsoever. I would like to have a lot more control over the barriers and translucency of those barriers. If my friends want to know my exact location down to the metre, that's fine, but as my circle of acquaintances expands outward, I want the the precision of my location to decrease, so that maybe people I know less well are shown what city I'm in, and people I don't know at all only get to see that I am currently somewhere in the vicinity of planet earth.
In a way, this is old news anyway. The next thing that was supposed to follow on from the e-commerce bubble in 2000 was "m-commerce". The cellphone companies conceived this as the m-commerce "value chain", by which they meant, extracting value FROM you, FOR them, all the way along the chain. So they wanted not only to charge Amazon for placement on their wireless portal, they thought they should get a cut of everything you bought from Amazon.
I thought this was ridiculous when they were talking about it in 2000...
"E-Commerce value chain has many more steps and players than standard"
Notes on Wireless Internet for E-Commerce seminar - April 28, 2000
Accordingly, given people's widely varying expectations of privacy and "value", we are going to need much more granular and much more interoperable tools in order to achieve workable context awareness (including location).
Yahoo`s Fire Eagle is an infrastructure piece, an architecture for sharing location information between applications.
Plus which, this is all very nice in theory, but given that in Canada our mobile providers near-total control over their nextworks, and have data plans that are expensive and/or limited, mostly incomprehensible, and don't cover roaming outside Canada anyway, I think it will be a while before most Canadians are willing to use any sort of advanced mobile applications.
I actually think the carriers are setting themselves up for a fall, because Canada is concentrated in a few cities with lots of WiFi, so as soon as more phones have WiFi, people will use that to the exclusion of wireless data, and may even try to do a lot more VoIP over WiFi as well.