Many PC users take it for granted that their desktop will give them the ability to create, communicate, and discover information without regard for interoperability. On the mobile platform, however, many of these capabilities are either nascent or nonexistent. There were a number of new technologies launched at DEMOfall 2006 that will power a new generation of media and content services.
For individual consumers that capture (and share) information
One of the better quotes from this day came from Chris Shipley: "Your mobile phone is a place where photos go to die." Here are some companies that deliver life-saving measures.
- PixSense technology automatically compresses and uploads digital media that is captured using a mobile handset. An ability to automatically blog cameraphone photos is not rocket science - what I found intriguing was the compression, which happens on the phone itself. The company claims that the corresponding reduction in carrier operating costs will be 'up to' 80%. If this proves true, then PixSense could enable phones to become effective media devices.
- scanR. This service turns your cameraphone into a digital scanner, copier, and fax. Take a photo of a business card, for example, and scanR will provide you with a processed file a la Cardscan. The technology grew out of scanR's white board capture service. Realeyes3D demonstrated and launched a substantially similar service. I didn't try either of these services, but I heard other attendees speaking favorably about their scanR trials and I am planning to give them a try when I go through my cards from the show.
- PhotoCrank is targeting young cameraphone users with mobile photo enhancement tools that are controlled via SMS. The editing is not meaningful - you can add captions or overlay graphics - but the general concept of phones providing more substantial desktop functionality is worth consideration.
For would-be mobile publishers
As a part-time blogger and hack, I've often wished that my content could be repurposed automatically for mobile devices. (Hello? Anyone at Six Apart listening?) A couple of offerings in this direction caught my eye:
- 4INFO provides consumers with mobile content search and SMS alerts for blogs and online databases. For publishers, 4INFO serves as a tool for mobile publishing. Set up a unique keyword, and then users can ping 4INFO to pull down the current headlines from your RSS feed. Users can also drill down into any particular headline, getting the full blog text. I compared this to 411Sync, which I saw (and liked) at Mashup Camp, but 411Sync didn't provide access to the full text of the article. If 4INFO's new service works well for blogs with photos and rich media, it could be a winner.
- Fonpods supports mobile access to streaming digital audio content. Fonpod users can search for and subscribe to podcasts, then set up playlists that will be available whenever the user calls in to the Fonpod system. This appears similar to calling in to one's voicemail at the office. Note: The marketing blurb uses the phrase "cost free," but that of course isn't true, unless Fonpod plans to start paying a portion of the minutes on my Sprint PCS bill. Carriers should love this since it will drive up the consumption of minutes.
For mobile service providers and application developers
These mobile development platforms and back-end services aimed directly at leveling the playing field between laptop and cell phone offerings:
- Tao Group launched a platform for
developing mobile games. In the demo, CEO Francis Charig showed both a Nokia phone running Symbian, and a
Windows Mobile phone. A game developed in Tao Group's miniMIXA suite works on
both phones. Amazingly, the developer's binary created on the platform was automatically converted into native binary for both
phones, with no recompiling of code. Given the heavy fragmentation of mobile platforms, Tao could make it more
economical to produce and deploy mobile games. They've been heavily (and I mean heavily) funded by large strategic partners such as Motorola, Sony, NEC, Mitsubishi, and Kyocera. Not to mention their original VCs.
- Cascada Mobile's TAG solution facilitates phone-based, word-of-mouth marketing. If content isn't at the top of a carrier's application menu, the user is unlikely to know that it exists. Mobile content doesn't yet take advantage of the virality that has historically been essential to web site and service adoption. TAG helps to launch mobile storefronts virally; consumers can "tell a friend" about mobile content simply be entering the friend's mobile number. This practice, though common on Web sites, is rare on mobile because of device compatibility issues. TAG is smart, however, and its embedded links will send new visitors to the version of content that is appropriate for their phones.
- Eyespot already provides online video editing and remixing. Consumers edit video at Eyespot, then publish it out to video sharing sites. At DEMOfall, the company launched Eyespot Mobile Share, a mobile video sharing application built for BREW and Java-enabled phones. The service will be private-labeled to vendors providing video services that could (or should) be mobile-enabled.
All of these new product launches help to create a mobile environment in which the user is shielded from the tangle of incompatible technologies and networks. Given that some of this incompatibility is by design from the business side, as versus due to technical challenges, users should hope that carriers will permit these new services to flourish.