Rich sensor interfaces the future for mobile?

By December 11, 2008 2 Comments

Occasionally my feed reader personalisation algorithm throws up an old post I wish I had seen sooner – and today that was Tim O’Reilly’s Voice in the Google Mobile App: A Tipping Point for the Mobile Web?.

Tim’s post (from November) brings a welcome note of optimism in these dark times:

we can imagine the future of mobile: a sensor-rich device with applications that use those sensors both to feed and interact with cloud services. The location sensor knows you’re here so you don’t need to tell the map server where to start; the microphone knows the sound of your voice, so it unlocks your private data in the cloud; the camera images an object or a person, sends it to a remote application that recognizes it, and retrieves relevant data. All of these things already exist in scattered applications, but eventually, they will be the new normal.

This is an incredibly exciting time in mobile application design. There are breakthroughs waiting to happen. Voice and gesture recognition in the Google Mobile App is just the beginning.

I have been hearing a number of things recently that have gotten me thinking the tipping point for the mobile web might finally be getting close, not least of which was Admob‘s 10x growth in Ads served over the last two years, and this quote brings out some of the cool things that we might see.

I am also reminded of something that John Taysom, (the man who was kind enough to give me my first job in VC back in 1999) used to say about how the evolution of services was driven by variations in the relative costs of local versus server storage, local versus server processing and bandwidth.  We have seen that play out in the desktop arena with trends from thin clients to heavy PC apps and now back towards thinner clients as services move into the cloud.

I think we will see something similar play out on mobile.  At the moment most of the innovation is coming on the back of improved local processing and storage, but once networks improve +/ get cheaper (including more use of wifi and wimax) we will start to be able to run better cloud apps on the mobile.  That is when I expect the things Tim describes to really start to take off.