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Mobile Phones as Application Platforms

February 4th, 2004 · No Comments

Boston Globe writes:

In just a few years, cellphones have gone from being just telephones to incorporating the functions of a steadily growing number of other devices. As the daytime UHF television announcer might say: They take pictures. They calculate restaurant tips. They get e-mail. They play video games and music.

For an industry that has grown explosively by a willingness to throw the equivalent of high-tech plates of spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks, the near future may be defined mainly by developing software and services that catch up with and exploit the possibilities of the video, sound, messaging, and color-screen technology breakthroughs achieved so far. One long-awaited and heavily hyped innovation — wireless phones that work like digital wallets, letting people make purchases from vending machines, gas pumps, and convenience stores — has advanced only fitfully in the United States.

Brian Tucker, director of handset and accessories product management for Cingular Wireless LLC, said, “If you think back to what cellphones were a couple of years ago and where they’ve progressed, it’s a huge leap. They’re now little computers that fit right in the palm of your hand. Look at this from the standpoint of `What do we want to do in our PC today that we’d want to do on our handset?’ There’s not a lot left that you can’t do.”

This month, Hong Kong-based Legend Group Ltd. plans to begin selling a “smartphone” that can enable users to change the channels on their TV sets by voice command, an early example of what could be widespread future use of phones to control home electronics, garage-door openers, and security systems.

Closer to home [in the US], most of the immediate focus is on rolling out new software that will take advantage of phones that have color screens and music- and video-playing capability.

One continuing brake on innovation will be the enormous strains new applications can put on the limited battery power capacity of cellphones, which may be able to support two hours of gaming or video-watching at a stretch.

“It’s the Holy Grail for the industry: How do you overcome the input problem?” said Richard J. Geruson, a former top Nokia executive who became Voice Signal’s chief executive in October. “We’re finally at an inflection point where embedded speech recognition is going to take off on the most plentiful consumer device in the world.”

Tags: Telecom

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