Home EMEAEMEA 2007 Mobilizing the Internet with new handheld devices

Mobilizing the Internet with new handheld devices

by david.nunes
Ari VirtanenIssue:EMEA 2007
Article no.:12
Topic:Mobilizing the Internet with new handheld devices
Author:Ari Virtanen
Title:Vice President, Convergence Products, Multimedia
PDF size:200KB

About author

Ari Virtanen is Nokiaís Vice President of Convergence Products. He heads the Multimedia Business Groupís Convergence Products with the global business responsibility for Nokiaís new Internet optimized multimedia computers. Previously, Mr Virtanen was in charge of Nokiaís Networksí System Technology Unit with the global responsibility for network related end-to-end system functionalities, architectures, R&D and technology strategies as well as the regulatory and standardization activities. Prior to that, he was in charge of Nokiaís Mobile Packet Core and Service Control Systems businesses as well as the Intelligent Content Delivery programme. In the past, Mr Virtanen also had global responsibility for Nokiaís network platforms. Mr Virtanen has a Masterís degree in Computer Science and Industrial Economics.

Article abstract

Convenient mobile access to the Internet will provide business and personal users alike with a variety of new services. Indeed, many observers believe that WiFi or WiMAX enabled handsets might one day take over much of the current mobile voice traffic. Today, neither the laptop, the ultra-mobile PC nor the smartphone is an ideal device for mobile Internet access. The Internet tablet, with open source software, is thought by some to be the most promising device for mobile Internet access.

Full Article

Internet and mobility – there is a huge promise implied in putting these two mega-trends together. Many companies have participated in the race towards creating this holy grail of communications. One camp has tried to use the high volumes of cell phones to convert the Internet into the Mobile Internet. Another camp has claimed that powerful Internet communications applications – such as Voice over IP, VoIP – will eventually dilute the value of the whole cell phone industry. However, for the time being no one can claim the victory – yet. The history of computing is interesting. Mainframes, first built for scientific purposes, were followed later by the mini computers driven by enterprise needs. Then, the PC came and evolved into the desktop and, with time, the laptop. This is where computers are today, but even laptops cannot solve the Internet + Mobility equation. The fundamental demand is still there, simply because people are used to their favourite Internet services, as much as they are used to the seamless mobility of their voice services. The dilemma is that Internet services still largely depend upon the PC environment with its desktop PC legacy, whereas the mobile voice services have their roots in the telecommunication legacy and value chain. Despite the ever-increasing Internet capabilities of cell phones and the improved mobility of PCs, it seems that neither of these product categories can serve as the platform needed for easy, truly mobile Internet access. Both of them will add new functions and advanced form-factors but they tend to remain true to their roots as evolved versions of PCs and cell phones. Mobilizing, making the Internet mobile, requires new computers designed from the very beginning for the Internet. Developing them is challenging, because it is always very difficult to explain the purpose – to market – a new product category. People are used to their current devices and applications, and generally compare new devices to them, without immediately understanding the new value proposition. Decades ago, Henry Ford put it very well, saying: ìIf I had asked people what they want, they would have wanted a faster horse.î Instead, he started manufacturing cars. Ultra Mobile PCs, UMPC, are continuing the PC evolution, and smartphones are doing the same for the cell phone industry. Both product categories will grow and prosper within the usage categories for which they were originally designed. When it comes to ëmobilizingí the Internet – UMPCs and smartphones are only faster horses – we need a car. If we now assume that the Internet is powerful enough to drive a new computer category, what are the key characteristics of these new devices? First, they must handle all the main Internet functions well, including Internet communications, web browsing and reproduce the richness of Internet media. Basically, all the key Internet services that people are accustomed to in the PC environment need to work flawlessly. Second, the mobility needs to be uncompromised, with the emphasis on the right form factor. For example, the display needs be big enough for a great Internet experience, but at the same time the device must be small enough to fit into your pocket. The device also needs to have a lot of computing power for fast response times and a long-lasting battery. Third, connectivity must be ubiquitous. The Internet optimized computer must be able to use available WiFi connections for fast Internet access and, in the absence of WiFi, there needs to be a way to use alternative radios, such as 3G or WiMAX. Finally, the architecture of such a device needs to be as open as possible, enabling all the Internet communities, as well as individuals or enterprises, to implement their own innovation on top of the platform. Looking at the list of requirements, it is quite obvious that neither the UMPC nor the smartphone meets all of the potential userís needs, for the reasons discussed above. What is then left is a product category often called Mobile Internet devices, MID. They run Internet applications and fulfil most mobility requirements as well. There is not yet a dominant MID form factor, and many MIDs are still little more than concepts. Further, they often use proprietary software elements and are not open Internet devices. Our candidate for the next-generation computer would be an Internet tablet, designed from the very beginning solely for the Internet, without any PC or cellular legacy elements. It would have to be a native Internet computer – purpose-built as a mobile Internet device. As a second-generation device, the original Internet tablets were the first, it has a proven form factor and has solved most of the issues related to mobility. It is still in the early stages of its introduction but is catching up with the PC when it comes to the smooth use of all the relevant Internet services; such services are being added rapidly, together with the major Internet Open Source communities, and it is only a matter of time when this mission will be completed. This approach ensures that the product architecture is as open as it gets, and the main principle is to minimize all the proprietary elements from the software. It will also make it possible for anyone to use the Internet tablet as a platform for innovation and, in the fast-growing Maemo open source development community, this sort of development activity is already happening. The Internet is driving many interesting trends that empower the individual. Since anyone can create and publish any content within seconds, the way people are using the Internet has totally changed. People today want to participate and they want to stay connected to their favourite Internet services at all times. Thatís why the fastest-growing communities on the web are not business driven; they reflect the new casual Internet user of instant messaging, chats, the sharing of presence information and so on. People are no longer willing to sit down at their desk with their computer for a couple of hours. They want to have their computer in their pocket and, as needed, take it out, use it, and put it back – 50 times a day, if need be. The new computers, then, will not only look different but they will be used in a very different way than the PC. The next question is – what will happen to the business applications? Currently, most people are content to use their current computers, mostly laptops, to deal with their business needs. In fact, laptops are well designed for the purpose and as long as the current office applications are the dominant ones, there is no immediate need for new computers to run them. However, in the long run it is quite clear that new types of business applications will be made possible by, and be implemented on, the next-generation computers. The new applications, though, will not be new versions of existing applications, but something very new and revolutionary. The new devices, and the new applications, might well change the current distribution of work between the computer and the Internet so that much more of the work will be done not on computer but in the network where much of the intelligence will reside. We are currently living in a very exciting phase in the computer industry. As the open Internet model moves ahead, it will give consumers power. They will be able to decide the devices they want, the connections they prefer and the services they wish to use. This will drive the growth of these new computers – the mobile Internet devices – and the Internet will become a mobile, ever-present part of our lives.

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