May 18, 2010

Mobile phone is the new browser

Internet, especially web has changed our world. It has become a major part of how we shop, have conversations, have relations, learn, teach etc... Web browser has been the principal tool for most of the interaction with Internet. Viola was the first web browser I have ever used. Regardless of many advances on the web technology and many browsers and browser versions that accompany them, the main capability of the web browser stayed constant.

Internet, on the other hand, did not remain constant, continued to be part of our work and leisure life. When we moved into the cloud computing era, a mindset change of how we think about computing also accompanied it. Our interaction with Internet evolved to be two way, creating content, taking part in the social networks became the normal interaction. Using cloud services for all sorts of computing needs started to be the primary choice.
The new Internet experience and cloud services, to enable their full potential, require a new browser. A browser that is not made only for consuming content but also for creating it. One that can be an almost natural part of our daily life. Our current browsers do provide a limited way to participate on the web mostly in a textual manner, It is a better than nothing interim solution. They fail completely on becoming a natural part of our life. I believe, the new browser is the mobile phone, and I do not mean just the mobile browser that comes with your phone.

I think it is easier to understand why we need a new tool for easier content creation. Active contribution has been central to Web 2.0, the concept that has been shaping the web for the last decade. We are at a point, that we expect to be able to contribute to web applications that we use. Most mobile phones already include great content creation tools on board. Camera, video, GPS capabilities already provides opportunities for content creation. Web sites like CNN's iReport do benefit from these capabilities. A quick visit to Flickr's camera finder reveals that at least one of the top five cameras on the Flickr community is a cameraphone. GPS is also another mobile phone built-in feature that is having an impact on content creation. Panaromio, is a good example of how geotagging the content, in this case photos, innovates what can be considered a legacy content. An excellent example of how mobile phones can serve our needs for content creation in new and innovative ways is the Ocarina app. for iPhone. An application that allows you to create music using the sensors of the phone and then share your creation. Applications like Ocarina is a precursor of how our new browser can innovate our latest addiction.

Of course, a mobile phone because it is mobile and with us all the time is already part of our life. However, its communication capabilities is what makes mobile phones eligible to be the browser of our life. Broadband 3G and WLAN is crucial for communicating with the cloud services. Besides its various built-in sensors, its further communication technologies, such as bluetooth and NFC, allows mobile phones to act as a gateway for all kinds of remote sensors. What do I really mean by browsing your life and how it relates to sensors, let me try to explain by some examples. An already widely used example of such applications is the Nike+ products where the data collected by sensors during sports activity is uploaded to a service using a mobile device, in this case iPod. Another similar service that I enjoy using is the sports tracker, where data is collected for outdoor sports through GPS and optionally a heart rate monitor by a mobile phone and uploaded to a cloud service. This technology can easily stretch beyond sports. Another product that consists of a wearable monitor for collecting medical information such as the hearth rate, respiration, body fluid status already exist. The product uses its own separate transmitter to transfer the collected data to the web service for further processing. I think, in the future, this transmitter will be replaced by a mobile phone software and which in turn will make the service more affordable and common. I believe what we see today are just the beginning of the kind of services that will be built around the life browsing capabilities of mobile phones.

I hope this gives another perspective on why the traditional consumer electronics companies are less relevant to mobile phone market. Mobile phones are not about consumer electronics anymore it is about the next and possibly the final round of browser wars.