Om Malik's Mobilise Conference was an all day event today in San Francisco, and while there wasn't a ton of gadget news, it managed to gather some powerful mobile electronics execs to talk about the future of mobile gadgets in a public forum. Though many areas of mobility and mobile devices were discussed, there were some definite consistencies of thought between the numerous panelists. Two of the main recurring themes in the discussion revolved around improving software development from beginning to end, and changing the infrastructure of mobile broadband. And it's not just dealing with the raw innovation behind these devices, but how they can be refined to best serve the consumer.
Mobile app development was a hot topic, with numerous speakers running through the past, present and future of the process. Not only did panelists discuss the current problems and limitations surrounding mobile app development, but they also touched on new technologies and uses of those technologies that will remedy the problems in the consumer mobile market.
What I took away from the event as a whole is that the past 8 years has been about how far the cutting edge of mobile technology could be pushed. And now, the challenge and trend will be to take that raw technology, and implement it in way that's usable in people's daily life. Key ideas included...
• Not just shrinking the desktop/laptop experience to the phone, but reconceptualising the experience without oversimplifying the functionality. Nokia's Victor Brilon raised a good point when he said that it's not bandwidth or horsepower that will provide the biggest hurdle, but instead, figuring out how to make the most efficient use of a smaller screen size.
• Making it easier for companies to develop for mobile platforms, using central distribution methods, better development tools, and more shared conventions amongst devices and companies. This means more App Store-style marketplaces, consortium groups, and open standards.
• Working technology into the flow of people's regular lives and tech habits. More specifically, not forcing them to learn entirely new system's and apps, but adding functionality to the programs they already know. Both Jyri Engestrom, who created Jaiku, and Jeff Taylor of Hutchinson Whampoa both said in a User Experience panel that the best mobile apps were the ones people didn't have to think about, or excavate from a complex mobile OS. Adding new functionality to SMS has been a popular example of this.
• Opening up the process to get the best software components from the best developers. Google's Rich Miner, who is heading up the Android project, said he didn't pick Android's partners for reasons of money or politics or friendships, but rather to get the parts that would offer the best User Experience on Android.
• Dockability and cloud computing will allow mobile devices to become our primary computers. Writing software that takes advantage of these features will let users seamlessly compute at home and on the go.
The other topic panelists were eager to talk about was the move towards mobile broadband, especially 4G, and what that means for consumer devices down the road. The general sentiment is that mobile broadband allows users to connect with their mobile gadgets without having it associated with their phone in some form. And as we push forward, separating the user from the data providers will be key. Further more, most industry experts feel 4G is necessary to let companies provide the kind of experience consumers want — mobile video, streaming audio, location-based services.
• In order to separate the user from the providers and become more than an enterprise solution, 4G cannot follow the same business model and structure as the 3G networks have. Nortel CTO John Norese believes the industry must work together through partnerships and provide open architectures.
• 4G has the potential to be focused more around data, as opposed to voice and SMS. In the WiMax vs LTE debate that never really turned into a debate, Jeff Belk (representing LTE via ICT168) and Scott Richardson (talking the side of WiMax via Clearwire), discussed how 3G was never designed with data transmission in mind. It was primarily made to support voice networks. 4G aims to change that, which means more consistent mobile bandwidth.
I think the last idea that sums up these two discussion topics came from Nortel's John Roese when he said that the 4G killer app won't be an app at all — but rather broadband equalisation when the home experience is the same as the mobile one, and we can run the same kinds of data intensive apps anywhere.