Friday, September 28, 2007

Linux on the Mobile Phone – Predictions coming true this year

As I blogged about two weeks ago, there’s no shortage of devices running Linux. This is one trend that seems to hold promise for customizing the mobile phone to specific application requirements often found in the world of virtual instrumentation. There’s a wealth of code and information on how to run Linux on a specific mobile phone. The collaborative nature of Linux users makes information sharing quite extensive. This site is just one example.

Linux is now on 31% of smartphones growing at 75% per year according to this source. This growth rate is faster than Symbian or Windows Mobile. Another sign of adoption is the existence of standards. A new LiPS document outlines technical standards for Linux implementations on mobile phones.

The Linux Mobile standards group continues to grow. Motorola recently announced it had shipped over 9 million Linux-based mobile devices.

Market forecasts from ABI predict the number of Linux-based mobile phones will grow from 9M units in 2007 to 127 million in 2012.

The startup community is seeing action in the Mobile phone Linux space. Purple Labs the first vendor of a Linux-based mobile phone recently secured over $14M in financing.

The predictions of Linux coming to the mobile phone are coming true this year. All the signs point to it as the next “standard”.

Best regards,
Hall T.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Mobile Phone Keeps the Innovation Juices Flowing – this week the Google Phone

Someone asked me the other day, why are you focused on the mobile phone so much? I replied, that’s where the innovation is taking place. The only real news from the PC world is Dell restating its financial statements and consolidation among the also rans in that industry – hardly the stuff of innovation.
On the other hand, you can’t pick up a newspaper or a magazine and not hear about some development in the mobile phone world such as Apple’s iPhone, or the Google phone. In fact, it’s not so much about the mobile phone as it is about the PC to mobile phone connectivity. That’s where the action is taking place. How the phone connects to the web and how data is shared, stored, and displayed is what gets the innovation juices flowing in today.

Engadget posts about the rumored Google phone which they consider to be an iPhone killer. Called “the Switch” it is reported to be a Blackberry-like device running Java and Linux. Nothing earth shaking there. But what is interesting is the price model. Instead of charging for the service, Google plans to make the service free, but will use advertisements to cover the cost. While most bloggers search for clues about the specs and the look of the phone, it’s clear that it’s going to happen. Even the Wall Street Journal is writing about it.

From a technical point of view, the Linux capability seems to be one of the more interesting points to review. Apples’ iPhone is relatively closed – no access to the OS. Developers must code within the confines of the Safari web browser. A Linux-based phone gives the developer more access to the OS. The closed, easy to use applications from Apple will standoff against Google providing a rich set of development tools to third party developers operating on an open playing field.

Best regards,
Hall T.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Mobile phone Growth Rates – Geographies, Platforms, and Applications

The PC turned 25 last year and now moves about 260M units per year. The growth increasingly comes from China and India and in particular the consumer market. The overall growth rate for the PC is 12% per year. Back in the day, it was over double that rate. By comparison, the mobile phone enjoys a much high growth rate around 40% per year worldwide with 60% to 70% growth in the emerging markets of India and China.

What people are doing with their mobile phones continues to expand into new areas. Mobile data is one interesting area. SMS remains the key application accounting for 75% of mobile data services according to this report. In the US it’s clear that we’re at the beginning of mobile data usage. The lack of easy to use and compelling services and applications holds back further adoption.

In this blog the author predicts everyone in the USA will have a mobile phone by 2013. That’s 100% usage compared to 84% at the end of 2007.

In researching this topic, I find it interesting that there’s a growth rate forecast for just about every geography (i.e. Africa, Pakistan, India, China, USA, etc) and just about every application such as music download, business productivity, etc and just about every platform including smartphone, Linux-based, and so forth. It appears there’s enough growth such that vendors can segment the market based on geography, application, and platform.

One trend that seems to be relevant to virtual instrumentation is the growth of the Linux-based Smartphone. There’s quite a range of choices on the market today. In fact, Linux now ships on over 20 million mobile phones. By overcoming several technical challenges such as boot-up time, memory footprint, and better performance than traditional RTOSes, Linux now offers a competitive alternative to Symbian and Windows-based platforms.

Best regards,
Hall T.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Mobile Phone Projections—what will the mobile phone look like in 5 years?

Last week I blogged on the current state of the mobile phone and declared it the platform for “innovation attention.” This week, I look ahead and at what may come to the mobile phone next.

Up first is IBM. No stranger to strange fiction, IBM proposes five trends for the mobile phone:
1. Remote healthcare prognosis
2. Real-time speech translation
3. 3-D internet
4. Micromanaging the Environment
5. Mind-reading phones

The first, remote healthcare, means your mobile phone will provide access to healthcare. In fact, it already does, in a limited way. Implanted pacemakers wirelessly communicate through your telephone to send updated information to the patient’s doctor. This will only increase with the addition of glucose monitoring for diabetics, blood pressure monitoring, and more. This trend is well underway now. UCLA has an Telehealth initiative focusing on this area.

Real-time speech translation is already underway. With the spread of mobile phones and the need to communicate with others throughout the globe, translations will become more important.

IBM predicts the use of 3-D visualization, but I’m a little skeptical of this one as it’s been touted before (remember the “virtual reality” buzz of the early 90’s?) It’s a technology looking for a problem to solve.

The last bullet, “mind-reading phones” basically means the phone “learns” from your usage and location and can start to make simple decisions for you. If you’re near the grocery store, the phone may pop up a message with your “grocery list” on it.

There are issues that must be resolved to realize the full potential of the mobile phone. The biggest obstacle is network standards. Standards such as WiMax and Super 3G are vying for the top spot, currently.

One of the most intriguing ideas out there is the concept of an “Open Mobile Phone” or rather a phone that runs open source to allow the user to modify it to whatever he wants. OpenMoko proposes developing a Linux-based phone which they call Neo1973 (Neo stands for “new”, and 1973 was the year the first mobile phone call was made). Users can then customize the phone’s code to do whatever they want. Current phones are too “fixed-function” and so developers give up trying to get their task done because the screen is too small, the memory too limited, the keyset too disabling. But what if you had a “blank slate” of a phone that let you build your own application? What would you build?

Best regards,
Hall T.