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Five ways mobile changes the world. Forever.

In the late 1990's, at the beginning of the broadband era, Strategic News Service chief Mark Anderson coined the term Always On, Real Time Access (AORTA) to describe always connected access to the internet. Mark's vision is just now becoming real, although perhaps not the way he thought it would. Although PC's may be always on and always connected, PC's are only useful when you are near them.  Mobile devices are with you at all times.  It's the experience of the mobile device that is the realization of Marks' AORTA vision. 

The Twitter vs Jaiku brouhaha is a useful conversation in as much as it highlights the differences between mobile experiences and desktop experiences and the people creating them.  Joi Ito characterizes the differences as:

Jaiku is a bunch of Helsinki mobile jocks getting into the Web 2.0 of it all whereas Twitter is the Web 2.0 crowd "getting" co-presence.

Not enough people really get it, however.  I chatted with an individual at Microsoft last week, for instance, who bemoaned the lack of depth in their mobile presence experience.  Too PC-like, was the implied message. Another handset manufacturer opined that mobile presence was really "Google Talk on the handset". At the other end of the spectrum were the team from an unnamed large portal player who dined with me on Thursday night, and offered the view that mobile presence was gathering and displaying all of the carrier "presence" information available.  Think Twitter or Jaiku with the addition of location, on-hook / off-hook, on-net / off-net and so on.

I'm fairly certain that none of these is an experience that I want. I need to be able to dip into and step out of the presence flow, as Stowe Boyd refers to it, on an as needed basis.  In fact, I want my phone to do that for me automatically, and I want it to highlight the important stuff.  I don't want a repeat of my experience over dinner last Thursday night, when I had to shut my phone down as the torrent of tweets from Twitter became unmanageable.  It was just an annoyance.  Twitter works for me with GoogleTalk on my desktop, but it's very intrusive on my phone. Before I can use it on my phone, I have to have better tools for managing it.

At iotum, we've described that mobile presence vision as New Presence. The Twitter / Jaiku concept of message flow has a place in that vision, to be sure.  One of the key ideas of New Presence, however, is managing that flow of presence intelligently instead of downloading the interpretation of that mass of data to the user.  It's that management capability that makes iotum's Talk-Now application attractive to the people use it.

The technologies of mobile devices and desktop devices are becoming more similar, to be sure. For example, the Nokia N95, which I've been playing with all weekend, has a large and bright screen, and Wifi or HSDPA connectivity.  The applications in it include a media player, photography, mapping, games, a small office suite, calendar, address book, and so on. It's an integrated content consumption and creation tool, with productivity features, and you can talk on it.  You can do the same with a PC, right?  But a PC isn't mobile, and mobility really does differ from the desktop.

Here are five ways that mobility will change our world, forever.

  1. Although social networking applications emerged on the web, they belong on mobile handsets.  Mobile handsets are the natural choice for creating communities, and user generated content.  Mobile presence is going to be a key element.
  2. Search is going to be a key feature of mobile handsets as well.  Yes, today you can jump to your favorite search engine using whatever browser is on the handset, but web search is a pain to use from a handset. What's really needed is the ability to intelligently sort and manage that data directly from the handset.  How much more ad revenue could Google generate if it delivered a compelling search experience at the point of purchase?
  3. Handsets, applications and services, because they are with the user at all times, will become aware of the users environment and activity, and adapt themselves with that knowledge.  You see simple examples of this today.  The RIM BlackBerry, for instance, knows when it has been holstered, and automatically sets itself to another profile.  When will a handset know that the most appropriate modality for a conversation at a particular time is text rather than voice, or that voice commands are the best interaction mode while you're in your car?  Answer: when that handset is tied to an intelligent mobile presence engine.  It's the world Jim Courtney describes in his Interruption 2.0 Manifesto
  4. Similarly, the context information available from the handset is now a driver for a whole new generation of services. How much richer the context information that exists in your handset compared to anything that Google exploits today! How long until we have a carrier dependent on advertising revenue?  Prediction: it will take a carrier with a strong presence infrastructure (think beyond OMA IMPS, please) before this can happen. 
  5. And what will be the impact of billions of embedded nodes attached to the global internet? Think content creation / consumption and sharing on a scale that the web has never conceived.  And imagine what that world will be like without intelligent ways to manage that flow.  The minor annoyances of being hyper-tweeted over dinner the other night will be small, compared to this new world. 

New Presence is a vision for presence in a mobile world, as distinct from the desktop.  Twitter vs Jaiku is merely the opening act, and whether it's the Helsinki geeks or the Silicon Valley geeks driving,  mobility will redefine the experience of the web in ways that we've only just begun to imagine.

{ 4 comments… add one }

  • Teemu Kurppa April 9, 2007, 10:50 am

    Hi Alec.

    I read your "New Presence" article with great delight. It has many parallels to visions that we in Jaiku have. If you try out Jaiku Mobile beta for S60 phones, you can see that it already does many of the things that you list as Context Information" of "New Presence". It shares your location (via network cells), Calendar event, people nearby you (via Bluetooth device ids) and your phone's ringing profile. We have called it "Rich Presence". In fact, there's already infrastructure in Jaiku to support much more rich presence information (both "online" and "real-life" presence) to and from mobile client, that current client and web site shows.

    However, I think that so called automatic presence information is not powerful enough alone, but it has a add-on value in context of more active communication. In Jaiku Mobile, we augment normal phonebook information with rich presence information. In messaging with "jaikus" we enrich messages with automatic location information.

    One thing that both Jaiku and Twitter are lacking is a better profile managent as you call it. It's interesting to see to which direction these services evolve regarding it.

    Teemu from Jaiku

  • Alec April 9, 2007, 11:04 am

    Thanks for the comment Teemu! As it happens, I am already a Jaiku member — http://alecs.jaiku.com/. I haven't tried the S60 version yet, though.

  • PaulSweeney April 11, 2007, 11:36 am

    Alec, what I like about this is the "inter-device context". Who makes this possible? Wouldn't it be the chipmakers themselves? And who should decide what "profile" each device has in the context of other devices, and the particular real world context, well, you the user should. I used to work for a car parts company back in the early 90's. Volvo had a seat that had a number of settings to best position the driver with regards the steering wheel, and the mirror settings. On a cold day, the car set would warm up (tied to temperature readings?). When it becomes cheap enough to put sensors everywhere, and their are wireless standards that make inter-device messaging appropriate (i.e. http://www.ipunplugged.com) well, then your "presence stream" and "life stream" intermingle…… beam me up scotty 😉

  • Alec April 11, 2007, 12:00 pm

    😉 It needs a central intelligence to really make it work, in my opinion. Peer systems are simply too easy to bamboozle.

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