Momentum for Mobility

The Seattle Times has an interview with Microsoft’s Michael Wehrs, who is director of technology and standards at the company’s mobile devices division. Excerpts:

We’re looking at alternate user interfaces. Right now, everybody views a phone as a 12-button keypad and that’s all you can really do with it. Some of the newer phones, (the Microsoft) Smartphone being an example, have softkeys which change their function based on what’s on the menu.

There is going to come a time when there’s enough processing power on these devices to actually have a combined interface of input from a keypad but also some level of voice interaction, more than voice dialing.

If you create this new version of .com that will be the .mobi domain, you can do some very interesting things that mobile devices have unique capabilities of doing. …

Today, you can generally browse through a Web site on your phone but no one can access your phone as a Web server. If you have pictures stored on your device, the only way that you could share them with me is to actually send them to me as a message.

But wouldn’t it be easier if from my Web browser I could just browse to your phone and look at them? In order to do those kinds of functions … I need changes to the way the domain naming systems work. I need them to perform at levels that they currently don’t have to perform at.

[Data networks improved a lot because] I think what happened is the operators recognized that voice will increasingly come under pressure pricing-wise, because there’s little differentiation in voice. When was the last advertisement you saw that said, “Our voice quality is better than someone else’s voice quality”?

It’s no longer the position. It’s all good enough. So the features can go along the fashion side of it color screen, customizable ringtone so you get that thread of user demands that will drive certain devices.

The other one is that wireless data is something that enterprises are willing to pay a lot for. And if customers can do more than just send 120 characters of text, that they’ll pay more for it.

The idea that you have to pick up and dial a phone probably will be gone 10 years from now. The mode switching between doing a data thing or a voice thing, that will all be gone. You’ll generally interact with your device via voice or via screen, but the idea that you’re doing either/or will go away. It will just be integrated in.

The devices will become combined and in general much smaller. The idea of personal area networks where devices share their capabilities and leverage each other, 10 years from now that will all work so that you may have a watch that you talk to. You may have just a headset that that becomes your earpiece and microphone. The actual phone will be something in your pocket or in your PC that you have with you, so it’ll find a radio network to use and let you connect.

Half a gigabyte of storage, gigahertz processors, this will all be the norm five years out. Screen technologies and battery technologies that get you at that level of performance through an entire day of use will be the norm. You’ll see multiple radios five years from now where today that’s somewhat of a novelty.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.