Where will the internet in relation to mobile be in 5 years?


Nokia is holding an event in London tomorrow where they’re inviting a few of the local bloggers to a round table discussion where they’ll discuss the future of mobile handsets, the internet and the direction Nokia needs to be heading in to be prepared for the future. I’m glad to see Rafe Blandford from All About Symbian is going and I hope he sees this before he gets on a train tomorrow and prints it out and gives it to the people at Nokia UK.

Devices will get better cameras, faster processors, longer battery life and snazzier interfaces. What this piece focuses on is the future of the internet in relation to the mobile ecosystem.

The industries that were built around microprocessors, social networks, displays, software and services will intersect within 5 years due to what is currently happening in the mobile telecommunications space. It may not seem obvious right now, but that little device in your pocket will change everything.

It all begins with the chip. Processors today are cut from 300 mm silicon wafers. As the size of transistors decreases from 65 nanometers to 45 nanometers to eventually 32 nanometers, more chips can be extracted per wafer. There is already a push for the companies who participate in this industry to transition to 450 mm wafers; when you combine that with 32 nanometer technology the math says that only 7 fabs will be needed to satisfy the world’s needs for transistors. Where are you going to put those extra processors?

People want to see and manipulate information in rich ways. The number of LCD displays being shipped grows 30% year on year and in 2011 over 165 million units are predicted to be sold according to analyst firm iSuppli. Sharp expects that in 2015 the average size of a television set inside European homes will be 60 inches. The majority of displays today are next to useless without the aid of an external output device or an antenna to display a picture. In 2007 LG introduced the first television with built in WiFi, HP later presented a model that also had wireless networking along with Microsoft’s Windows Media Center Extender software preinstalled. Televisions are starting to become smarter.

The world has never been this small. FaceBook is the most talked about social network today, while MySpace remains the most popular in terms of numbers of users, neither of these services can talk to one another and likewise the other social networks such as LinkedIn and Bebo remain oblivious to the each other’s existence. People today are getting tired of having to declare who they are and restating their relationships to their friends and acquaintances. The trend towards a singular identity is already underway with OpenID and as of July 2007 there are over 120 million people and 4,500 sites using the technology. Defining your relationships is currently being worked on; two possible solutions are FOAF (Friend of a Friend) and XFN (XHTML Friends Network). Why don’t we manage the list of people we know and our relationship to them from one location and let services be created around this information?

HTML, for the most part, is platform independent, now it’s time to bring that same philosophy to other forms of information. Operating Systems are becoming less and less relevant today as software is moving towards becoming but a mere website inside a browser, sadly this method of information delivery doesn’t fully exploit the potential of the hardware underneath. The rich capabilities and experiences that were enjoyed by natively written applications are beginning to come back thanks to the rise of Rich Internet Application runtimes. Adobe, which rules the browser thanks to Flash, is moving on to the desktop space with Air and trying to increase Flash Lite penetration within mobile devices. Microsoft, which rules the desktop arena, is trying to get into the web with Silverlight and into mobile with the same runtime. Nokia purchased Trolltech for their Qt framework which spans Windows, Mac and Linux and will soon bring that runtime to all their S40, S60 and Maemo devices. Write once, run anywhere is being attempted, again, but this time across multiple platforms that each have their own unique experiences.

Tying this all together, the future of all these industries will be impacted by mobile in a way that is too mysterious and grand to currently comprehend, but some general predictions can be made:

Our phone book will manage our single identity and our single list of contacts. When the switch to IP v6 is complete everyone on this planet will have their own namespace and everyone’s mobile phone will act as a server. Everything you do, whether it is in the real world or on the internet, can and will be enhanced by the social element; our social networks will be like air. Displays will surround us everywhere we go and they’ll be connected to not only the internet, but to our mobile devices via a local connection. If one were to walk into a hotel room, a friend’s house or a bar there should be a display that detects your phone, asks you if you would like to initiate a connection and then present you with a stunning interface that can be manipulated with your mobile device. I’m not talking about TV out ladies and gentlemen; I’m talking about a separate user interface created specially for my television using one of the new cross platform runtimes that connects to my mobile and enables the keypad, touch screen or accelerometer inside my mobile device act as an input mechanism.

In the future the content we create will be not be hosted in silos such as FaceBook and LinkedIn, our content will be hosted in the cloud and services will ask us for permission to interact with it in ways we currently can’t imagine. In the long term I’ll be able to go any website or service and see what information my friend added to it; this data will not be hosted on the website’s server however, but instead on my friend’s device and storage space which I have access to since I’m a trusted party. The era of hyper-personalized services begins when the old philosophy of putting data into a system to be aggregated and displayed in a useful fashion collapses and is replaced by the new human centric belief that systems have to ask for permission to interact with our data before presenting it in new and innovative ways that add value to our lives.

Scenario 1: I walk into a bar and bump into a friend of mine I haven’t seen in a while. I ask him for his contact information so we touch our NFC enabled devices for a split second and we’re now in each other’s address book. He not only gets my name and phone number, but a list of all the services I’m currently using and have set to public. All of this data generated via my publicly declared services is pulled down and aggregated onto his device and is listed under my entry in his address book, think of it as FaceBook’s Newsfeed, but open and 100% under my control. Later that night I decide I want to let him access my personal blog so I go into my device and grant him the ability to see my private blog entries. He doesn’t have to do anything since the list of services I use is in my contact card and when I manipulate permission settings they automatically update for the people who have me in their address book. My friends will always knows what I’m up to and I don’t have to tell him to check out a particular website to see my data, it is my data after all, the fact that I have it being displayed on service A versus service B does not and should not make a difference.

Scenario 2: I walk into a bar I regularly enjoy coming to with friends and sit down at a table. Since the bar is in my address book it knows I’m a trusted party, I tap my NFC enabled device to the corner of a display near me and a menu appears with meals and drinks based on my previous orders, not only that, I get to see recommendations and ratings my friends left the last time they were in here. This information isn’t hosted by the servers in the bar, instead the UI pulls data that my friends left for this particular establishment which is either hosted on their devices or in their storage clouds. I can read it because they’ve granted me permission. I use my mobile device as a remote control, the touch screen acts as a trackpad, to order a drink and pay for it. Around 10 seconds after I finish making that purchase the screen fades out and the basketball game with my favorite college team shows up, this is possible because my mobile device is smart enough to know my preferences for the type of media I like to consume and can communicate that information to the display.

What other scenarios can you imagine in the new hyper-connected world that will arise in the next few years that will hopefully put you, the individual, in the center of?

  • Vlad

    What? No comments? Have you left everybody speechless?
    I have to say I do think you’ve seen the future. And depicted it quite accurately. Very interesting stuff and an article I’ll recommend to everyone I know.
    Other usage scenarios? I have to tell you I don’t know. I’m too busy being angry at my tv for not having WiFi. Or my DVD player. I want to use UPnP and DLNA, but am not willing to buy a Playstation. Annoyances like this occupy most of my time. So congratulations on talking about the future! I’ll try to be less trapped by the present and maybe have time to focus on the future. Which I sure hope will come sooner rather than later.

  • mike

    any particular reason you see NFC taking over from bluetooth?
    Nearby friends, permission based contact from companies you have interacted with before etc, could all be done over BT.

    Also won’t somebody remember the old people/tech ludites
    All those people who only have/use the most basic of handsets.

    Another scenario:
    You book a flight, and the when the confirmation SMS comes through it automatically triggers an SMS to all of your friends (who are interested or near), of your travel dates.
    This sounds like a similar idea to Dopplr, but without the website, or your friends subscribing to the service, as your phone knows who your friends are, and their address (the phone might need to reach into the cloud to see if they are near your destination)

  • Stefan Constantinescu

    Mike: NFC compliments Bluetooth, pairing isn’t the easiest thing in the world for a lot of people, a simple tap is much more intuitive.

    Playing with your proposed scenario: you order airline tickets and after you complete your purchase the flight times and dates get added to your personal calender which, depending on your privacy settings, only your closest friends have access to, or anyone else who has subscribed to your publicly published personal calender.

  • Zak

    I am mainly excited to be able to pay via my mobile. This technology is just around the corner.

    Think of your wallet. What purpose does it serve?
    >Carries payment options
    >Carries Government issued ID

    We know that mobiles will soon take the job of wallet by providing funds, but I’m curious to see how they’ll implement government issued ID.

    Imagine getting pulled over for speeding and handing the police officer your cellphone which would contain both, license and registration! 😀

  • Zak

    Companies like Guess and Levis will have to re-invent jeans to eliminate back pockets and have designated mobile pockets (although jeans would look weird without back pockets)

  • Nature Girl

    I love the idea of “the new human centric belief that systems have to ask for permission to interact with our data before presenting it in new and innovative ways that add value to our lives.” But how do we get to that from the current state of Internet consumerism? How do you convince people that they can control their information?

  • Stefan Constantinescu

    Yea it’s going to be hard to market that one, but I think it should be pretty easy once a consumer starts experiencing that every service they go to already knows who their friends are, they’ll start to get it.

  • Rex Anders Borg


    I have to be negative and say I think this is all a bit far fetched. The point you are missing that people outside the industry simply cant be bothered with that type of interactivity. People inside the industry, yes, but ‘joe public’ simply will not be able to be bothered with setting permissions, adding people, touching their phones, ordering food on their mobile, rating their meals so friends can see! Utter nonsense from science fiction books that it will happen in 5 years. It might happen, to an extent, but not for 15+ years.


  • Daniel Harris

    All this stuff You’re describing can happen right now. It’s a case of whether people will actually want to order off a digital menu, rather than a tactile, highly flexible paper menu.

    Will there will always be a problem of digital services not feeling authentic, or nostalgic or embedded?

    It’s a metaphor for any number of ‘future’ services. Unless the experience is has all the nuances, limitations and quirks of analogue services – will they be adopted by the mass market? Technology companies need to work with artists and designers to make this happen.

    The SMS example was interesting because it’s taken 10 years for SMS to become second nature – it’s almost a biological extension of us. Now that’s mass adoption

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