New smartphones with killer applications could replace PCs

April 4th, 2008 - 9:01 am ICT by admin  

By Andy Goldberg
Las Vegas, April 4 (DPA) Think that cellphone in your pocket is pretty neat? Think again. Spurred by the phenomenal launch of the iPhone, the prospect of a Google phone and open networks, inventors and entrepreneurs around the world are feverishly developing plans to expand what mobile phones can do. “They want to combine the computing power of the latest phones with social networks and location-tracking technologies to create a new generation of cell phones,” says Simon Blitz, who runs a large cell phone wholesale company in the US.

“The new devices could spur a communications revolution as important as the internet. They will make the most current cellphones look as outdated as an old rotary telephone.”

Blitz was speaking from the CTIA 2008 in Las Vegas, where the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association holds the country’s most important cellphone trade show.

According to figures presented at the show, more than 1 billion cellphones were sold worldwide in 2007 including approximately 115 million classified as smartphones, or capable of running multiple applications over a broadband network.

Many analysts believe that as these phones progress they will increasingly compete with laptops.

“This is not just about multiple devices. It’s about knocking aside some other forms of communication,” said Nigel Crawford, chief executive of Symbian, which makes smartphone operating systems.

Compelling new mobile applications will play a key part in that battle.

Take a startup called Mappily, for example. This Silicon Valley company is developing a GPS-based application that will check your calendar for appointments, figure out where you are and check traffic conditions. Then it will alert you when it’s time to leave.

But Mappily has plenty of competition to be the killer “app” of the next generation of smartphones. Many revolve around social networking - identifying local restaurants and shops recommended by your friends, or automatically showing you where your Facebook and MySpace friends are.

Apple is stoking the competition by promising to sanction useful programmes, while Google is offering $10 million in prizes for the best applications. Venture capitalists are also hungrily eyeing opportunities, with the venerable firm of Kleiner Perkins Caulfield and Byers even setting up a $100 million iFund to invest in the sector.

Some entrepreneurs believe that phones need to go back to their voice roots to truly fulfil their potential. Voice recognition company Nuance is working on a hands-free smartphone that will make it easier to surf the web, choose music and dictate text messages and emails.

Other companies are set to debut phones that include virtual keyboards and screens that can project onto any flat surface. Others are working on advanced web browsers that replicate the experience of browsing the Web on a PC, by compressing data-rich content like photos and videos on special servers before streaming them over the network.

Storage service LiveCargo, meanwhile, allows you to store your videos, photos and work documents online and then call them up on your mobile phone. A programme called Qik allows you to stream live video footage from one phone to another. And a Canadian company called Movidity has developed an application that allows you to view footage from a camera positioned at a remote location.

Apple says that well more than 100,000 copies of its software developer kit have been downloaded since it was launched last month. Many thousands of other developers are working on applications for the Google phone.

Together, these statistics point the way to a new paradigm in computing.

“The iPhone is bigger than the personal computer,” said legendary venture capitalist John Doerr when he launched the iFund last month. “If you want to invent the future, the iFund wants to help you build it.”

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