Friday, December 29, 2006

Improving the performance of social networks with real world data

Today's online social networks have done wonders in connecting you with what matters to you, given that they have very little data to go on. And this data generally requires you to painfully input it at each site, resulting in a proprietary lock-in. We manually add our friends and interests in a binary fashion that ignores the glimpses, hints and nuances of reality. What might be useful here would be to have a 'friendly fly on the wall' - watching you, and allowing these services to understand you better and therefore serve you better. (Note: this would be primarily of interest for those of us who are realists rather than the escapists.)

As far as I see it, there are two types of data that could be useful to capture to improve the performance of these networks: digital and analogue. Google is already doing a rather good job at capturing the first type - starting with your web-browsing clickstream and moving into your email and documents. They are starting to sniff around the second type of data which is naturally harder to come by, with Checkout. However, this is where their exalted web-only existence puts them at a disadvantage against the relative neanderthals with desktop presence and the and the positively jurassic players in the telco space. Desktop apps are much better at collecting non-web data such as what iTunes is playing, and mobiles are the ultimate fly on the wall for capturing and brokering the real life data stream (we've been using the term "Lifestream" for this).

Mobile devices could come closer to improving the equation - they know where you go, who you speak to most, will know what you listen to (if you believe Tomi), what you watch, and the list goes on. In short, they have a better chance of knowing who you are than yet another social network service that is about as smart as a new born chicken. So, what irony that these are the most successful social network services -- making do without access to these multiple rich data streams, but with crumbs from the user's desk.

I've being using this rather crude sketch to illustrate this irony -- by integrating mobile-generated data into social networks, the services could be better. (Btw - this ideal of implicit data is to my mind more of a feature than a new paradigm of the web.) So, while in the PC world I am sitting alone at my desk trying to figure out who are my top 8 friends, a social networking service that I allow to have access to my implicit location, purchase, media and communication service (privacy issues being resolved with a wave of a magic wand...) could do a lot more heavy lifting on the back end and act as a broker to my actual, rather than imaginary friends. Naturally, all the implicit or supplementary data that could be relevant for such a service does not have to be mobile, it's just that much of it is likely to be.
An ohmygod moment I had today brought this home to me. I saw LastFM's events tab -- populated with concerts in London over the next couple of months, most of which i'd really like to go to. Far from this being some happy coincidence, it was purely the result of their site connecting their listings with the filter of my recently scrobbled music. I was immediately drooling at the possibilities -- what else could I listen to, watch, see, and who, could I meet. Hey, life's complicated and busy enough already, and I'm more than happy to outsource short-list making to experts, if they have enough information to go on to make good decisions.
So, what interests me now is how to move from painful, limited, proprietary data entry into every online YASN towards an open model whereby you own your data, and can plug it and to different service providers. Things need to change from the telco side (APIs, walled gardens, data & location tariffs, richer and easier developer environements...) but also greater adoption of microformats, open APIs and clearer transparency on data policies by online sites would be helpful. Will the mobile move from wireless telephone to best friend supplement - a broker to help me navigate news stories, purchase suggestions, places to go and people to see?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Cleaning out my closet; reheating old visions

Taking advantage of the semi-annual quiet time, I've been cleaning out my flat and unearthed my business school application that I made almost exactly 7 years ago. That fact alone is pretty scary. It's always fun to look back and see what one writes on these things. Happily, we're not held accountable to these flowery missives, constructed to flatter and to please - after all, the forward looking statements about ones own future are anything but modest. Heck, this is an American school I was applying for, so darned if I wasn't going to big it up with the best of them.

Anyway, what has struck me as odd is the way that the vision that got me excited way back in 1999, is still pretty accurate as a description of my goals, and is actually getting closer. I bought the URL, and had the idea of an interactive visual / geographic search engine that would let you zoom around the world and then 'rightclick' on a person or place to discover more info, and that would [abracadabra] solve world peace. I wasn't very specific on just how it worked or led to world peace, but the remarkable thing to me is i) that I would still sign up to this vision if I could, and ii) we seem to be very close to reaching it.

Here's what I wrote, as an intro to the "career aspirations" section.

10:00am, Feb 23, 2010
Flying back from New York to London, I receive a call from my 6 year old daughter to my Geva (Global-Eye Virtual Assistant) who shows me her latest toy. Global-Eye, the company I started three years after graduating from Harvard has just reached a partnership agreement with AmericaOnTime - another information company. We have just launched Eye to Eye - a project that promotes understanding and economic development around the world. Citizens, handily equiped with a Geva handset, have unlimited access to data or people, using an interactive visual search engine linked to the virtual world.

I hope that sick bags were provided in the flight, cos it is rather slimey (and that's after I edited out the bit about coming top in my class. Yeuck.) And this shows that I'm clearly failing on the social and professional goals (no kids, no startup, no Big Deals) that I set for myself. But more interestingly, perhaps they're still the right ones. I do find it amusing that I've ended up working on how to innovate around Internet services on mobile devices, and of course creating my own startup, and having kids is still part of the Grand Plan. Up to this point I had absolutely no technology experience, had been working in trade policy for the previous 5 years, and Nokia meant nothing to me apart from a Japanese sounding phone company. I think I'll check back on this aspiration on a regular basis as the time comes for yearly evaluations of my own progress.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Mashups need microformats

Mash potatoes need bangers like mashups need microformats. Ok, not the best analogy in the world, but still. Mashups hold the much-vaunted promise of personalized, tailored services that might conceivably actually be what people want to use a particularly large problem on the mobile. These two posts clearly demonstrated to me the importance of structured data in enabling mashups, and the non-coincidental fact that most mashup examples show Google Maps since the address format is ready structured.

With that in mind, two more promising areas to go next with mashups in my view would use existing structured data: music (CD metadata is abundant) and people (telephone number as contact, until FOAF or similar makes headway). On top of that, general support for open microformats should clearly be seen as an elevated priority.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Making your work seem like the customers' fun

Google's ImageLabeler is a cute game that exploits people's competitive nature - racing to tag an image with the same words as your online partner - for some spurious reward (to be on a score sheet) and results in improving Google's labelling of images. Very smart. In a similar vein, LikeBetter lets you work to divine your true nature for the promise of them acting as an online horoscope reader. In return, they can probably extract tons of useful data about personality types.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Nokia World: Geoffrey Moore on "Dealing with Darwin"

Famous innovation thinker Geoffrey "Crossing the Chasm" Moore gave a lightspeed presentation about some of his more recent innovation ideas, which he has put in his book - Dealing with Darwin. Here are my raw notes:

In today's market: innovation is the key to differentiation. Dialogue around innovation has not been very articulate. Signal to noise ratio is often high with unfocused innovation.

Four new ideas about innovation:
Return on Innovation
Innovation Strategy
Funding Innovaiton
Perpetuating Innovation

Return on Innovation
Innovate to achieve competitive separation from the market.Choice is innovate or get marginalized. Vector of innovation that will set the organization is on track to be separated from the competitors, is CORE. Every other form of innovation is context. Rule for CORE is to be beyond good.

Core competence is different - it is what you are definitely good at. But that is often also what other people to. It's not core business either. It's going to have small revenues to start with.

Return on innovaion results from:
Positive returns: Differentiation (CORE), Neutralization (catching up the leader), Productivity (efficiency)
Negative returns: Failed attempts; Waste (projects that even if they succeed fail to create sustainable competitive advantage). Customers love "waste" - they get genuine innovation for free.
1. Identify a vector of differentiaton
2. Define all other work as context
3. Commit to beyond class outcomes

Innovation strategy
We should not just throw things at the wall. A key to this will be to decide where is the market that you are in in terms of its Maturity Life Cycle. Innovation is different in different parts.
Product Leadership > Customer Intimacy & Operational Excellence Zones > Category Renewal.

Innovating in Growth markets:
1. Disruptive innovation (new category)
2. Application innovation (applying applications in new markets)
3. Product innovation (outperforms competitors)
4. Platform innovation (Google, APIs etc) - this has been the most economically powerful

Innovating in Mature markets: (customer intimacy)
1. Line extension innovation (P&G)
2. Enhancement innovation (Apple)
3. Marketing innovation (Nike iD)
4. Experiential innovation (Cirque du Soeil)

Innovating in Mature markets: (op excellence)
1. Value engineering (Ryanair)
2. Integration (SAP)
3. Process innovation (Dell)
4. Value migration (IBM - products to services)

All of these different innovations require different people.

- Pick a small number of innovation vectors for core - ideally one
- Drive performance beyond category norms
- Declare all other forms of innovation context

The kind of person who they hire at Dell is someone who likes process, and Apple they would like design, even if they work in HR or finance.

Funding Innovation
Nowadays people don't want to give you money to innovate. They want you to cut costs. The key to finding the money is to look to the context. Resources get trapped in Context issues, such as voice and not into the new core (e.g. social networking). "Coins in the couch" extract resources from context to repurpose for Core. Sometimes painful to get this cash but it is important.

V2I3p24.gif (GIF Image, 612x428 pixels)

Four phases: invent, deploy, manager, ofload

The problem is that there is nobody in place to deploy the graduating core issues that move from non-mission critical to mission critical. How to solve the problem with the resources getting stuck (top right) box? Six Levers:
1. Centralize: single authority to reduce costs and create single decision making authority. New individual will make everybody angy. Profile of this person: Neofascist.
2. Standardize
3. Modularize: Deceonsruct
4. Optimize: Eliminate redundant steps
5 .Instrument: Quality control, SLA
6. Outsource

Problem is that people leaving the context issues do not have the right skills to go back to the innovaiton. The answer - work is moving clockwise, and people move counter clockwise.

People's profile roles:
- Optimizers (quadrant 3&4):
- Deployers (quadrant 2&3): these people do mission critical things for a living
- Innovators (quadrant 1&2):

Executives role is to manage the handoffs between the different types of people.

Summary of growing human capital:
- Focus on bulding role expertise
- Avoid overvaluing task expertise
- Be cautious about asking people to change roles.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Nokia World: OPK: Just call me Mr Internet

The two themes that dominated CEO OPK's presentation were "Internet", followed closely by "consumer benefits". In line with Keith Pardy's evocative description in the introduction of our vision to 'connect people with what matters to them', this first keynote was a fairly powerful message (to customers, partners and I suspect employees themselves) that the Internet is now a fundamental bedrock of the company's strategy going forward.

A smattering of stats shows that this game (which is still being called "mobile internet" but needs a bette name) has only just started. By end 2006 *only* 41% of people globally will own a mobile phone and *only* 13% will use them to connect to Internet. However, 1.3m new subscribers are joining a day (that's 15 per second) and most of these will be in emerging markets. Nokia now expects 3bn subscriptions to be reached by 2007 and 4bn by 2010, powered by selling almost 1bn phones (970m) this year. Conecting this idea - that the new growth is from developing markets, together with our Internet vision (OPK calls it "the third wave" of the Internet) is extremely motivating for me personally -- how much more interesting than downloading ringtones to spoilt kids?

On a less substantive level, I couldn't help being amused by the megawats of blaring music and funky video clips of leaping parkour hipsters that signalled his arrival on stage and interstitials. For all his many talents, OPK's USP is not exactly "youthful cool" - he admitted as much when talking about how David Bowie - the front man for the new Music Recommender Service - is one of his generation's heroes. So maybe his handlers are seeking to redefine his positioning, in line with that Internet thing? OPK meaning Oh Par Kour? What next, trainers, rollneck jumpers and a ponytail? I wouldn't bother. Shifting a couple of hundred million phones a year takes a fairly firm hand on the tiller and good delegation skills, so OPK's no-nonsense, not that cool approach works for me.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Nokia World: Counting down to quite a party

[I've been asked to be an 'official Nokia blogger' at the forthcoming Nokia World blog in Amsterdam on 28&29 November. Will cross-post those posts to this blog too.]

Despite having been at Nokia three years, this is my first time attending what used to be known as NMC (Nokia Mobility Conference) and I'm looking forward to what promises to be quite a spectacle.

This joint blog idea is a new innovation - bringing together internals and external bloggers, and I guess we'll just have to see how it works. One issue could be multiple people posting about the same thing - I guess it's First to Post wins?

Anyway, in that spirit, here's a quick post with some thoughts about the event, before it's kicked off and we're in Frenzy mode. Impressions so far are good - the speaker lineup includes not only our top people announcing new&shiny things but some thoughtfully chosen externals such as Clive Anderson, Bruce Mau and Geoffrey Moore. They'll no doubt add some colourful perspectives to the 'consumer insight' agenda.


The logistics and technology seems promsing - who doesn't love Amsterdam?, and the ability to create your own personalized agenda and display this on your phone is cute, and works well. (This kind of functionality IMO can actually justify Flash on websites, which otherwise destroys 'linkability').

The third thing, and if I'm honest, what I expect to be the highlight, is the party on Wed evening; these are legendary. So expect light posting on Thursday morning.

As I'm just hitting Post I got a call from Oliver who's just arrived at Schipol and as excited as ever -- so it now really feels like the party is finally starting to kick off.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Apple can sleep soundly in Chicago

Chicago SunTimes' Andy Ihnatko takes his gloves off in reviewing Zune:

Yes, Microsoft's new Zune digital music player is just plain dreadful. I've spent a week setting this thing up and using it, and the overall experience is about as pleasant as having an airbag deploy in your face. "Avoid," is my general message. The Zune is a square wheel, a product that's so absurd and so obviously immune to success that it evokes something akin to a sense of pity.

You'll find that the Zune Planet orbits the music industry's Bizarro World, where users aren't allowed to do anything that isn't in the industry\'s direct interests.


Result: The Zune will be dead and gone within six months. Good riddance.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Nokia web2mobile competition

I rather like the title, and the motivation behind this event, launched to coincide with new Nokia Research Center location opened up in Palo Alto. I visited it 2 weeks ago - very chic, and a stone's throw from Stanford Uni.

Monday, November 20, 2006

MARA: Filtering real world via the screen

Technology Review: Hyperlinking Reality via Phones

From Technology Review:

A Nokia research project could one day make it easier to navigate the real world by superimposing virtual information on an image of your surroundings. The new software, called Mobile Augmented Reality Applications (MARA), is designed to identify objects viewed on the screen of a camera phone. The Nokia research team has demonstrated a prototype phone equipped with MARA software and the appropriate hardware: a global positioning system (GPS), an accelerometer, and a compass. The souped-up phone is able to identify restaurants, hotels, and landmarks and provide Web links and basic information about these objects on the phone's screen. In addition, says David Murphy, an engineer at Nokia Research Center, in Helsinki, Finland, who works on the project, the system can also be used to find nearby friends who have phones with GPS and the appropriate software.

Kudos to David - this is a project that deserves to be picked up and generate some real excitement. Less about the technology though, this seems to be more about what kind of alternative reality do we use to populate this information? With the 3d physical world, there's only one thing allowed in any one place. But multiple different databases in the virtual world will just fragment things. One thing is clear however, no proprietary solution will succeed here.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

No dotmobi love songs from Opera

Opera CEO says DotMobi is a 'total waste of time', according to,

Von Tetzchner thinks that's stupid. He told me that the site and the browser
should work together to present Web content optimized for whatever device you're
using. "There should be one Internet," he says. "What if you're using another
device? Should we have .gameconsole? .car? .fridge? .plane? We don't need .mobi
at all." Besides, he says, "There are capabilities for sites to query the
browser to figure out exactly what you're using. That's a much more elegant
solution than having the user choose which site to go to."

I'm generally a one-web techno optimist, but there are a lot of people who have been very successful, and arguably delivered lots of value by being pragmatic. Many of us have written off the ringtone market each year for the past few years, as it continues its meteoric rise, and is now worth billions. But that's dumb we say, we could easily rip our own ring tones. Same with iTunes - who would pay for music, when it's free on P2P? Well, having just bought another song on iTunes this morning, I guess I'm proof that even the techno optimists can be targets for short term pragmatism, which is what I think is the key to dotMobi.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

So this is what Marko's been up to

Former colleague and head of design strategy for Nokia Marko Ahtisaari left a few weeks ago, and has now re-emerged in this interesting sounding startup:

Blyk is a pan-European free mobile operator for young people, funded by advertising. We're launching first in the UK market in mid-2007, with other markets to follow.
Blyk is an innovative mobile media channel for advertisers. We offer brands an opportunity for direct engagement with a young audience with real-time feedback.
Blyk has been in development since January 2006. As we are now finalizing our offering with our UK brand partners, we feel the time is right to go public on Blyk.

Doesn't say much, apart from ticking the right jargon-filled boxes (free, advertising, media, youth) but I like the team, and what I see so far. Will watch with interest.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Bringing three dimensional back people to life

I've long harboured an ambition to do more with this rather moribund blog, and some recent conversations, together with a wealth of interesting activities going on right now means I'm going to try and be a bit more regular.

First thing I did was to consolidate to this blog some other posts I'd had in other places. Second thing I did was to invite my old friend and co-conspirator Rob Neild to join on this blog as an author - he's one of the most creative people I know and him and I have spent many hours in recent months putting the world to rights and coming up with all sorts of killer apps in this space where the internet and real world merge. The original ambitions of this blog are still valid - to report on how mobiles are becoming Internet devices and the Intenret is becoming mobile. I hope Rob will post some of his thoughts from time to time - he now has an account, so no excuse.

Third thing I'm doing is actually planning to more systematically add new content - part aide memoire, part advertising unofficially some of the things that we're doing at Nokia that can be put in the public arena, and part because I think these issues are far to big to keep internal. Rather fittingly, this post will conclude with a point to a couple of new applications for Symbian whch are the poster childs of the Internet - BitTorrent and Gnutella. New versions have just been announced by Budapest University of SymTorrent and Symella. So, a bit of fun for those with generous bosses, data plans or wifi phones and big memory cards - all those open source speeches you've been meaning to download can be yours. I must admit, I've found them a bit buggy on my E70, but imagine that'll be ironed out soon.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

extWeb Conference: Europe can do web2.0 too

Carolina - one of our charming Dutch hosts

A rather last minute decision to attend The Next Web conference in Amsterdam on July 7th paid off handsomely. A colorful cross section of about 160 European entrepreneurs, bloggers, academics - and corporate schmucks like me - were treated to sparking Dutch hospitality, flawless logistics and an excellent old-new venue (NH Hotel). This note summarizes some of my higlights:

Transparent, low flat fees needed before mobile social networking will take off. Hyves are YASNS, but from Netherlands this time, and have some success with going mainstream - most interestingly with cabinet-level politicians joining up and collecting thousands of 'friends'. I asked a question to the “Chief Hyves Officer” (CEO) what needs to be done to improve the mobile experience and he indicated two priorities: first, make the pricing cheaper and second make it more transparent – so low, flat fees for data in a nutshell. He didn’t seem too concerned about platform issues or porting problems to different handsets. 

Brand Arrington releases his 10 Commandments. Michael A. - pin-up of the web2.0 chattering classes – blessed and dismissed in equal measure. Refreshing to see that his opinions are not moderated despite having 80,000 feed readers hanging on his every word. He promised to deliver a top ten of European web2.0 companies, and in fact delivered two  - a  B team also. 

His “almost picks” included openBC, cocomment, ebuddy, spotback, licketttship, esnips,, pageflicks, feeds2.0, fleick.

His top 10 were:

  • Allpeers - Private p2p network

  • Bebo – Next MySpace – founders have moved from UK to San Francisco

  • Facebook – 75% of college kids use this daily, and it has more page views than Google. They (foolishly) turned down $1billion

  • – collaborative music recommendations. Turned down €30m offer

  • Netvibes – popular french Ajaxy – make-your-own-portal

  • Riya – Scarily powerful facial recognition, a tech story. Turned down Yahoo!, almost acquired by Google, but deal fell through at last minute.

  • Wikio - best European hope against digg

  • Youtube – video success story - $1m bandwidth bills per month

  • Zlango – Israel start up using SMS icons to create a new language

  • And at #1: Digg - $1200 dollars to start up this company. Now 9m page views per day, similar audience to NYTimes. Very disrputive to media. Rather ironic in a way - a bottom up voting site receving top marks from the top down Mr. A.

He also spawned a meme-let - as is his wont - with his boycot of the phrase Web2.0 due to the legal attack dogs kerfuffle.

Communities as big as email. Nielsen didn't tell us a great deal new - and conspicuosly didn't have any figures on mobile internet usage - but it was interesting that while 71% of European Internet users use email, the number's almost matched by those who participate in some from of 'member communities' (69.3%). He didn't define the term further.

Companies mentioned that seemed interesting: shopzilla, neuf telecom, videolan, kijij, ogame, buycentral, measuremap, truveo, la fraise (selling customer-made t shirts), red hot tomatoes, feedo,

Guy who backed Skype places his next bets in 5 areas. Mark Tluczsz, co-Founder and Partner of Mangrove Partners identified five areas that he was most excited about new opportunities. His investment rationale was the easy-sounding – thing BIG and follow your passion.

1. Search. Most search engines return similar results, and only 25% of people ever look beyond page 3. Despite Google and Y!’s PhDs, he feels this area is ripe for innovation in user experience, in particular around the empty white box.

2. Human service makes a come back. Customer service: automation has resulted in a broken link between customer and supplier. CRM strategies that include the human touch will become a “business necessity”. Avatars will be big. E.g. Ikea’s Anna.

3. Eastern Europe.  Big, hungry and shedding their socialist tendencies quicker than you can say Polish plumber. 

4. Mobile experience. Derision and disgust for today’s expensive, patchy and uninnovative mobile experience.. “Look at WAP - we are paying for the industry’s R&D”. The one thing they’ve done well is to embed the address book. 2bn phone uses vs. 1bn Internet users = opportunity.

5. Power of the many. How to benefit from the collective intelligence of a group. collective power. Digg etc..

Kevin Kelly - da man. The founder of Wired was on great form. My favourite quote - "The Web is only 4000 days old! Give it a chance." Andy Grove apparently said that, already “everything ever said about the internet is happening”. Physical production is growing 7% per annum, while information is growing at 66%. So, information about X increases at the rate of 10X. The next web will be the convergence of real and virtual. E.g. RFID tags in clothes, place notes, PLAZES embedding info. Any screen will look into the web. Managers should do well to treat every product or service as if it was free. The hyperlink and the tag are two of the greatest inventions of the 20th Century. We now need an open source “hardware” phone, camera, TV, car.

Overall - a great success. A lot was packed into a few hours. The organizers of the event are onto something – an appetite for European innovation and slightly more homely, relaxed feel than similar conferences in the US - I hope this remains. Nokia was there with its Widsets venture, and I hope we'll be back next year in force.

Bumptop desktop - bringing real world back to the virtual world


I'm interested in how we can get our computing experiences to recognize the fact that most of the time we're in the real world. But how about bringing some of the richness of the real world into the otherwise flat PC experience. This project from the dynamic grpahics project introduces some interesting concepts:

This is an extension of the classic desktop metaphor such that files can beloosely arranged, piled, sorted, flipped through like pages of a book,etc. objects can be casually dragged & tossed around, influenced byphysical characteristics such as friction & mass, much like wewould manipulate lightweight objects in the real world.Bumptop allows users to use the strategies they employ in the realworld to convey information about the objects they own. another goal isto support casual organization of information in a manner where usersare not forced to commit to categorization, such as the immediatenaming & filing of documents.

bumptop physical desktop - data visualization & visual culture - information aesthetics

technorati tags:

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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Bittorrent on Symbian

Now, in addition to Gnutella on Symbian, we have BitTorrent on S60. Ever get the feeling that technology doesn't care about legislation?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

One's grey and one's pink. PC vs mobiles

This extract from the Communities Dominate Brands blog suggests four distinct differences between PC and mobile phone, in a post suggesting (correctly IMO) that mobile access to the Internet is going to be bigger than the PC:

First of all, a mobile phone based internet is totally personalized. Our PC is often shared - such as a university campus computer, or a family computer, or the PC owned by the employer with its limitations and at times access by the IT department etc. But our mobile phone is totally personal.

Secondly the mobile phone is always on. It means that any alerts, urgent news etc can be delivered. With laptops we need to find our access, connect to a WiFi etc network, but mobile phones are always connected and can for example be reached via SMS text messaging for alerts at any time.

Thirdly the mobile phone is always within hand's reach of its users. No other technology is so close to us physically at all times. We don't take our computers to bed with us (well, most don't do that), but over 60% of all mobile phone users take their cellphone physically to bed with them at night. We notice we've lost our wallet in 26 hours. But we notice we're missing our mobile phone in 68 minutes.

Finally - and most importantly - the mobile phone offers a built-in payment mechanism. The PC based internet does not have that. On the traditional internet we need to set up a payment system like Paypal, or we need to submit credit card info etc. But on the mobile phone we can (if our carrier/operator has enabled it) handle any payments at the click of a button."

I think this is a useful exercise, and these are good, but am not convinced that this is the definitive list. First, in developing countries, mobile phones can be, and are, shared. I don't know of much shared ownership being enabled at the software level yet unfortunately. Second, 'always on' is dependent on cellular operators and some of the best next gen mobile apps will have intermittent or time dependent connectivity, such as location specific podcasts delivered over wifi. Third - proximity to user. Absolutely agree. That's the key, and undervalue point of mobiles. Fourth easy payment. Well, again dependent on mobile operators. Mobile PayPal is here, and operator billing won't be the only game in town. More importantly, if we help make the Internet go mobile, then the expectation of paying for everything just because it is mobile will be eroded. New business models based on advertising and commerce rev share will not require direct payment by end users.

I do like this list, but am wondering if there's more? One that I'm missing is the possibility for easier user data input. In particular multi-media input (e.g. camera phone, BT, RFID). We should not be stuck with current limited text input when we've got a veritable magic wand with multiple features.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Wikis at Nokia

Info Week interviewed me about wikis at Nokia :

At Nokia, the first wiki was brought in as an experiment by the Corporate Strategy team without consulting the IT department. Stephen Johnston, our contact in the department, told us, "After installing it we were told that it was probably against company policy." According to Johnston, resistance from the IT team stemmed from misgivings about overhead costs, the delegation of control to users, and the fear that wikis were a fad. However, the wiki (built on an open-source platform) quickly proved to be an effective means of saving time and effort previously dedicated to the task of distributing and storing corporate intelligence.

Johnston says wikis have proliferated within Nokia since the initial test. The company has purchased 200 seats of Socialtext, and four wikis, on both open-source and proprietary platforms, are being used by between 1,000 and 1,500 employees. As a result of the wikis' success, Nokia has agreed to fund and support a companywide wiki as well as a host of other collaborative tools. A skunkworks, or new technology project team, has also been established "to provide new tools such as wikis within days to business groups that ask to test new tools," says Johnston.
According Nokia's Johnston, the test wiki implemented by the Corporate Strategy department was part of a larger initiative to harness the power of social software – blogs, for example, are also very popular within the department. Nokia's wikis are part of a long-term transition to two-way communication, what Johnston calls "a world of read-write rather than just read." His comment highlights one of the raisons d'être of the social software movement – the desire to use computers to create a means of open discourse and introduce feedback into formerly static environments.

Read the whole story.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Making phones work for non-literate people

Jan 20

Jan Chipchase from Nokia Research Center, Tokyo makes some practical suggestions about modifications to the phone, ecosystem and infrastructure that can be used to improve the mobile experience of non-literate people:

Menus could have additional iconic support and hardware buttons other than soft keys should as much as possible be reserved to one button for one task. A two-way rocker button can confuse and may be perceived as one button. Wherever possible, phone settings should be automated to avoid the need for editing - for example, by default setting the time and date on the phone from the network.

Successful outcomes can be reinforced with audio feedback including for example playing back the number that was dialed prior to calling. Another option is spoken menus, though again this is a non-trivial understaking given the scale of languages and dialects to support. One radical approach could be to replace the digital contact management tool with a physical/digital hybrid that the user could annotate by pen or pencil.

A mobile phone equipped with a sufficiently high quality camera and display would enable the capturing and location shifting of written text, for example taking a photo of a hazardous materials sign at work and showing it to a literate relative at home.

This is on the new info portal for Nokia Research center which also has links to the Nokia opensource site.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Still So So MoSoSo

As mobiles, and the people who carry them, finally start to become part of the Internet I expect that one of the first killer apps will be mobile social networking. Unfortunately, today, it's still waiting for takeoff.

Social networking on the web has reached mainstream. I heard stats today that 40% of UK singles use online dating (and that's probably 90% of all singles with internet access then); 10% of newly weds in the USA in 2004 met on the Internet; and a UK divorce counselling service said that "Internet adultery" accounted for fully half of all reasons for divorce in their survey.

However, people have to switch off their digital prosthetic and go out into the rain and the real world to make do. Their urbane banter on IM or Orkut gives way to the rather more difficult task of meeting and speaking with real people. This is a pain point for many, and one that a mobile version of social networking tools could get right. The missing link is location information, and the operators are rather protective about giving up this information for other people to make money with. There is progress, especially in the US, which has implemented the E911 rule.

I predict that the transition path to a breakout success will not be a mobile startup with a great technology reaching critical mass, but will be an existing group of people deciding to integrate with a pre-existing mobile technology. I think aSmallWorld would be a great candidate, since there is a high homogenity across members - most members are happy to meet others, as it's still got an early adopter cachet; and there is respect for top-down proposals. These will make it easier to reach critical mass of adoption - always the problem with new networking services.