One really interesting conversation that emerged at the Mobile 2.0 Europe conference last week was about the emerging Apps culture. Clearly, mobile apps (applications, widgets, webapps whatever you want to call them – I’m talking about data-driven experiences on the phone here, irrespective of platform and technology) are in the midst of a renaissance. However, I have also been hearing a lot of critical voices recently talking about “useless” apps and questioning “how many apps do people really use on their phones?” So I made a point at the Developer Day portion of the event that Apps are like Songs which I didn’t actually think was terribly original but people there seemed to jibe with it. Why are apps like songs? Someone else commented that you can “use them once and throw them away” but I’m not sure that captures it – because you don’t throw songs away really. They might stay in your music library unplayed for months or even years only to resurface at the right time. I was reminded of this today when someone challenged me to find an app that made effective use of the “shake” feature. I immediacy called up the “shotgun” app on the iPhone, which is kind of a “one joke app” like the Zippo lighter or the Carling beer. It doesn’t mean they’re any less worthy – and in the case of the Zippo or the Carling (ugh – I hate Carling — but I love the app!) you can see the marketing potential of apps as songs. …

Apps are like Songs Read more »

Osney Media’s Mobile Web 2.0 Summit has wrapped up. In all, it was a good opportunity to discuss the trends and technologies in the mobile industry, mobile social networking, etc… For me, it was a good opportunity to talk about the convergence that I see happening between the mobile and Web industries and communities. It was also a great opportunity to talk about the opportunities I see opening up in the mobile widget space, and the vital importance that we converge on a single standard for mobile (and desktop) widgets across the industry. Judging from the response to my talk, there is still a lot of misunderstanding of this space in the industry and a lot more education and evangelism required. So be it! If you want to find out more about these topics and others vitally important to the future of the mobile and Web industries, come join me in Barcelona on June 18th and 19th for Mobile 2.0 Europe. Day one will be a developer day featuring presentations, tutorials (and unstructured sessions) on key software technologies and innovations in the mobile and mobile Web space and day two will be more strategic, focusing on disruptive innovation in the mobile space and featuring startups and innovators from across the spectrum. It’s going to be an exciting two days.

On U.S. election day last year, November 4th, I co-organized with Katrin Verclas of MobileActive a Barcamp style event we called “Mobile Tech 4 Social Change” focusing on the increasing role mobile technology is having in social activism, grass-roots organization, social development, and in the developing world. It’s possible we started a movement because MobileActive has gone on to run two more camps since then, in New York and Washington DC. Now Mobile Tech 4 Social Change is coming to London. I’ll be hosting this event on May 23rd in at Vodafone’s offices in London. For all the details and to register, go to MobileActive.org’s page on the event. If you’re interesting in helping to build a bridge between the mobile industry and the social activism / social development space then I encourage you to attend!

Betavine (Vodafone R&D’s developer community portal), with some help from the inimitable folks at Carsonified, have laucnhed a new blog dedicated to Mobile Widgets and Web Apps.  The idea is to get as much information out as possible about what Betavine and Vodafone are doing in the widget space and what’s going on with the latest widget standardization efforts. We’ll also be featuring information on upcoming events, like the W3C widget camp at WWW2009 in Madrid next week and the upcoming Vodafone Mobile Widget Camp in Amsterdam on May 2nd. We’ll also be posting on Twitter on @MobileWidgets on Twitter. Stay tuned!

It’s that time again!  With 2008 in the bag, what will be the key themes for 2009 (as far things “mobile 2.0” go anyway). Alan Kay famously quipped that the best way to predict the future is to invent it. In that spirit: if I have anything to say about it, 2009 will bring with it increasing convergence between the mobile and Web communities. Right now, these communities are miles apart. I can attest to that because I’m often stuck in the middle of this clash of civilizations. I believe the mobile and Web ecosystems are going to converge, but a prerequisite for this to happen is that these communities need to converge. As long as mobile people only talk to other mobile people and Web people only talk to other Web people, there will be no convergence. At Mobile 2.0 in November, we successfully brought together these communities, at least in part, to talk about the future of both mediums. Watch out for more of this in 2009. Prediction two: mobile widgets and Web applications will rule the day.  W3C-standard Web widget platforms and downloadable widgets will proliferate and begin to eclipse the current proprietary platforms for downloadable mobile applications. This will be accompanied by increasingly capable Web and widgets platforms (with hooks into device capabilities and functions like the camera, location, etc…). Yes, there will be fragmentation in this space that will have to be reigned in. Nobody said reinventing the Web was easy. All the best for 2009!

One of the most interesting discussions I had in San Francisco two weeks ago (where I was co-presenting Mobile 2.0 and the Mobie Tech 4 Social Change camp) was with Brian Fling on the unlikely subject of email. We both agreed that we hate email (a common sentiment these days) and that something needed to be done. I don’t know a single person who actually doesn’t roll their eyes these days when the subject of email comes up. Kids these days already refer to email is “something I use when I want to communicate with old people.” Ouch! Email as a medium is not keeping up with how we interact, how we do our jobs, how we live in the modern world. It’s overtaken by spam (encouraged by its nature as an open and free medium and the relatively little it costs to send out emails in bulk). It has no intrinsic trust mechanism (and developments like sender policy framework are basically a band-aid and do not address personal trust circles, only whether an email is from where it purports to come from). Email has no intrinsic semantics that allow email clients to do anything useful with them. Even advanced email clients can do little to help with this mess. Email is actually follows a typical trajectory for innovation. In the book Why Things Bite Back, Edward Tenner takes us through a history of technological innovation and why some innovations have “unintended consequences.” The unintended consequences of Email have become all-to-clear: lost time, “inbox anxiety,” spam …

Can We Kill Email? Read more »

First of all, for the third year in a row, I’m running (along with Mike Rowehl, Gregory Gorman, Rudy de Waele and Peter Vesterbacka) Mobile 2.0, a “one-day event focusing on new Mobile Applications and Services, the Mobile Web and Disruptive Mobile Innovation.” The event will be held on November 3rd and will once again be taking place at the Grand Hyatt off of San Francisco’s Union Square. This year we have some really fantastic speakers and panelists and we’re also trying something slightly different: running a “builder track” in the afternoon, along-side our regular track, that will focus on hands-on mobile development, user experience and design. That track will feature mini-tutorial sessions on topics such as Gears Mobile, Nokia Web Runtime, Yahoo! blueprint, iPhone web development and mobile user experience and design topics (with a focus on case studies). This is all in line with my view that when it comes to mobile innovation, it is time to stop talking about it and start doing it. Registration is now open, so reserve your seat today by visiting http://mobile2event.com. Full program will also be posted soon. On the next day, November 4th, against the back-drop of the U.S. election, I’ll be helping to run a bar-camp type event focusing on how mobile technology is being used as a lever of social change. This is a topic that I’ve been working at the fringes of for some time. I’m very privileged to be working with the folks at MobileActive.org (who will be fresh from running their own …

Mobile 2.0 and Mobile Tech for Social Change Read more »

Since upgrading my iPhone to the 2.0 software, I’ve dived into Apple’s app store and I’ve been making a point of trying out apps from across the store but focusing on content creation tools (such as the excellent WordPress app which I’m using to write this post). At the same time, I’ve continued to make use of all the great iphone webapps and mobile Web sites I’ve come to know and love. Increasingly, across many platforms (not just iPhone) application developers and content providers will  face this choice: to build a webapp or to build a native app. There are advantages to both approaches, and some work that’s just getting started that I believe will significantly change the face of mobile development over the next 2 years. The rush of content and application developers to develop iPhone apps has been impressive and somewhat predictable. The app store is the next big thing. Google, Microsoft and others are now jumping on the bandwagon (probably much to the dismay of the folks at Handango who can rightly claim they’ve been doing an app store since before app stores were cool). Many of the apps in the Apple app store are really good and could not (currently) be written as web apps because they either take advantage of device capabilities (such a location) or because they need direct access to graphics or sound capabilities (3D gaming) not available to the browser engine. However – discounting this need to access the platform functions, there’s nothing about, say, the iPhone Facebook …

Mobile Web Apps will Beat Native Apps Read more »

I’ve recently been trying out Zipiko, a very simple but powerful social tool for organizing events and ad-hoc get-togethers. Zipiko has a really good mobile Web UI through which you can develop your network by inviting friends to events via their phone numbers. Your friends get an SMS which they can respond to with a simple “YES” or “NO” to let you know if they’re coming or not. Unlike some mobile Web apps comming onto the market, Zipiko seems to realize that not everyone lives in the United States and has thankfully enabled international phone numbers – thanks! Zipiko is an example of a really great mobile Web app: it’s simple, it’s well designed, it’s well suited to the mobile use case and it integrates well with text messaging. Unfortunately it does NOT work well with low-spec browsers. I tested it on iPhone and on Windows Mobile (mobile IE) where it seemed to work well. On Blackberry (my “low bar” for mobile browsers) it was a disaster. But what really struck me was how much better Zipiko could be if had access to device capabilities and information stored in your device. Instead of asking me to type in the phone numbers of my friends, it could simply look them up in my address book. Instead of asking me where I am, it could look up my location. It could automatically syncronize events with my device’s calendar. This is a comon theme, particularly for social web apps. This access to device capabilities from the browser or “web …

Zipiko: A Great WebApp that Could be Even Better Read more »