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Nokia predicts IBM 360 of mobile phones

'I've seen that movie too'

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SOFCON 2008 Nokia's chief technology officer believes the mobile phone industry will soon have a standard platform.

Speaking at SOFCON, a Silicon Valley conference dedicated to "The Mobile Future," Nokia Research Center head Bob Iannucci argued that the mobile world will follow the same pattern as the mainframe business of the 1960s, the minicomputer market of the 70s, and the PC revolution of the 80s.

"I feel like I'm been watching a movie I've seen three times before," he said. Just as the IBM 360, the Digital VAX, and the IBM PC delivered standard platforms to hardware industries of yesteryear, Iannucci argued, some unseen mobile platform will deliver a standard in the age of handhelds.

"Today, in the world of mobility, there's a huge diversity of hardware, the devices are largely incompatible, the notion of someone writing a piece of software that runs across all devices does not exist yet," he said. "The rest of the story hasn't been written yet. We're really only at the beginning, waiting for a standard platform."

But in this case, he argued, the standard platform will not come from a single hardware manufacturer. "There's probably going to be something more than just some company making a declarative statement that there will be one architecture and have application developers follow." We think he means Apple.

Instead, he believes that this uber-platform will be built from the net down. "We're seeing a shift towards developers developing for the web," he said. "This notion of cross platform will be some combination of software on devices - enablers and programming tools - and something in the cloud."

And he's sure that this mega-mobile standard will take a special interest in GPSes, accelerometers, and other technologies that give handhelds an understanding of where you are and what you're doing. "We're adding more and more to phones that give them an innate ability to sense the environment," he said. "The open question is, How can we decipher - make some interesting inferences from that? That's where mobility is going. It will be less and less about the device and more and more about what the device is sensing."

As an example, he pointed to Nokia's fledgling TrafficWorks project, an application that reads GPS data from countless phones as they drive down the road and then uses that data to predict traffic congestion. These predictions can then be pushed back down to phones to help people avoid congestion.

"Your phone could tell you that according to your calendar you're supposed to be at a birthday party in an hour, but the road you'd normally take is congested and you better leave now and take an alternate route."

So, Nokia is advocating an open mobile platform with a bunch of sensors thrown in. That's all well and good. But it should be noted that Nokia does not advocate the openness of Google Android.

Bootnote

Today’s conference began with a song-and-dance performance from New York Times columnist/Jesus Phone disciple David Pogue. First, he plugged products from companies like T-Mobile, GrandCentral, Google, and Callwave. "The bottom line is that these are life changers," he said of Callwave and other voice-to-text services. "They changed my life."

Then he hit the play button on "iPhone: The Musical", a July 2007 online video in which he sings the Jesus Phone's praises to the tune of Frank Sinatra's "My Way." These praises include:

But God, this thing is sweet,

A multitouch iPod Wi-Fi phone,

You had me from "hello,"

I want an iPhone.

I want to touch that precious screen,

I want to rub the smudges clean,

I want my friends to look and drool,

I want to say, "Look, now I’m cool!"

I stood in line, and I’ll get mine:

I’ll get an iPhone!

But the video stopped in mid-stream. And Pogue couldn't restart it. So he sang the rest live. ®

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