Saturday, September 10, 2011

Time for Mobile!

Update 10/05/2011: Steve Jobs just passed away, my deep admiration for his work and legacy will always be alive. People like him have made working in Silicon Valley a dream for people like me.

Some years back there was a time when people thought it was time for mobile! but it wasn't. It was around 2002 when developers were being lured to creating wap applications for the new generation of more capable phones. Java had already gained popularity and it was finally serving its purpose of being a language designed to run on top of anything. J2ME applications were a hot topic, at least among developers. But I was always more attracted to web application development and so selectively chose not to go into the mobile arena. I never coded any J2ME or wap application or anything that runs on a cellphone even though most of my peers would "wow!" such developments. And of course this is my personal opinion and you should understand I'm biased on this topic but I know some people will agree and I have some good reasons product of my own experience to think that time for mobile is now and it wasn't quite ready before.

When I say time for mobile I mean time for developers to create applications and really start making profit and embracing powers that go beyond the typical desktop application. Technology has made a lot of progress of course. Now a smartphone can run stuff on the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) that go beyond drawing things on the screen. You can take not only full advantage of the web but also other multimodal sources of information like GPS and information coming from various sensors: proximity, orientation, etc. But the more important changes are the not very technical ones, now you have a more clear model for distributing applications massively (Apple Appstore, Android market), and devices are more third party application centric than before. More importantly you have a more clear model for monetizing applications!, you can create the new big hit $1 app or you can go big with advertisements. You have already been listening for some time on the news about kids making $1 applications and going big and you might think I'm writing this way too late. I think this is partially true but while one-big-hit-wonders happened in the previous years, the success of those were in a lot of cases hard to predict. Today you can start a more principled entrepreneurial project and gain some reasonable success even if you don't happen to become a big hit.

The establishment of Social has powered the establishment of Mobile and also the other way around. Social networking applications bring people even closer when they incorporate mobile, for instance Foursquare lets you see whom of your friends is around you at a given time by using your mobile device location and the location of your friends (see my previous post mentioning Foursquare). You can engage users in a more personal level connection using mobile.

Finally, there are a lot of other things I would like to write about mobile, for instance Computer Vision for mobile since I work in Computer Vision and I spent the last summer working with images at the Multimedia Content Analysis team at Android. I gladly noticed how much people from everywhere inside Google especially from research teams were willing to contribute to Android and what cool applications are out there from third party developers taking advantage of Computer Vision both for Android and iPhone. One thing I will not write about is the controversy on which one is better or their legal problems on patents and the like. I really admire Steve Jobs and I think without his vision and the iPhone coming into the mobile scene things wouldn't have moved so fast, taking the idea of multi-touch to mainstream usage in a product for the first time was a big hit but the technological advances have been the sum of the knowledge of so many people and I think the world is a more colorful place with competition that fits the needs of several groups of users.