Updated: 1/6/2004; 11:10:46 PM.
Jeremy Allaire's Radio
An exploration of media, communications and applications over the Internet.

This is a personal weblog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer.


Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Dave and I caught up last week over lunch at Henrietta's Table, a nice lunch and meeting spot at the Charles Hotel.  He was one of the first victims of my new Nokia 3650 device (left picture was beamed to my PC when I was within range).

As he noted about our conversation, we worked together in the past on the early genesis of "web services" as found in WDDX and XML-RPC.  That was a fun time, and it's rewarding to see these concepts flourish on the Web today.  One thing that both WDDX and XML-RPC had in common was that both used relatively simple data models, which made them more readable, interoperable and easy to implement.

Now that Dave's back east and at Harvard, we've got lots of good connections to make, as he noted.

11:18:15 PM    comment []

Russ raps it out Delineating Devices: Current Generation, Multimedia Mobiles and Intelliphones.

I was struggling to explain to my wife recently what I was working on and the devices I was targeting. In that discussion, I ended up coming up with a sort of categorization that I'll talk about here. It's really helped me understand what I'm working on and for who.

The idea was that I was trying to explain the difference between the super-powerful Nokia 3650 and Jim's new Siemens S55. They have so many things in common that it's hard to differentiate to the non-Mobile-obsessed. I was explaining to Ana that Nokia is doing something very weird in my mind by pushing the 3650, which is a phone with incredible potential and capabilities, as a competitor to phones that have much less power.

Briefly here's how I how deliniated the different phones that are out there. I just divided them into levels, though maybe this is a bad idea because of the confusion with "generations", i.e. 2.5G vs. 3G, etc.

Anyways here's my thoughts:

Level 1: "Current Generation". These are the mobile phones that most everyone has now. They all have grey LCD screens and only support vanilla GSM or CDMA. Some of the later models may have polyphonic ringtones and WAP, but for the most part these phones are used for calls and SMS messages. The advantage of these phones is their simplicity and recently their size. My last phone was an Alcatel m5510 which was sold for less than $100 and weighed only 75g - everything in comparision to that phone seems like a brick. But most of these phones are a bit older and are still pretty hefty. Example phone: Nokia 3310/3330.

Level 1.5: "Current Plus". These are phones that may have some of the features of the next generation phones, but not enough to push them up the ladder. A good example is the Siemens C55 which has GPRS, but a monochrome screen and no MMS.

Level 2: "Multimedia Mobiles". These are the next generation mobiles that are going to be pushed by just about everyone. Vodafone is basing their Vodafone Live! around these phones, which have a minimum functionality of the following:

  • Color Screen
  • Camera: Integrated or Attachment
  • MMS - Multimedia Messaging
  • J2ME - Java games (maybe BREW or Mophun)
  • WAP 1.2.1 (needed for MMS)
  • Tri-band/GPRS/Higher speed CDMA
  • Polyphonic Sound
These phones are generally heavier than the Current Generation, but not as heavy as Symbian phones.

Level 2.5: "Multimedia Plus". I think these are the phones that add a bit more to the package:

  • Bluetooth
  • MP3/FM Radio/Stereo Playback
  • Email Client
  • PC Sync / SyncML / iSync
  • 3G Connection over UMTS/CDMA2000 (i.e. phones from Hutchenson's 3 service).

Level 3: Intelliphones. These mobile phones are more akin to small computers or powerful PDAs than anything that preceeds them. Though they MAY have many or all of the capabilities of Multimedia Phones, these devices normally have an ARM-compatible processor running in the 100s of MHz, a real OS (Symbian, Palm, Linux, M$), a real file system and usually much more memory and/or expansion slots. You can install custom software on these phones like on your PDA, and do everything from play multi-player Bluetooth 3D video games to using a real web browser or viewing streaming video. Example phones: Nokia 3650, SonyEricsson P800.

Level 3.5: "Intelliphone Plus". These don't exist yet - or at least aren't commonly available - but are Intelliphones plus the higher bandwidth of 3G or WiFi or with GPS or with megapixel cameras, etc. Samsung's coming Symbian-based 3G phone will fit this category.

Level 4: "Future Phones". These are phones you usually see mocked up in 3G promotional brochures. You can safely ignore this category for at least 5 years.

So the problem with these classifications is that they're far from absolute. The specs for each phone range all over the place (the SonyEricsson T68i for example has everything it needs to be a Multimedia Plus phone, yet doesn't have Java or Brew). However this is meant just to be a guide and I think it's pretty obvious where the sweet spot is - the same place that Vodafone is aiming right now, at the Multimedia Mobile phone market. MMS, Java, Ringtones, WAP. It'll be interesting to see what great apps arrive for the intelliphones and to see how far they go - and to see if Nokia is able to Trojan Horse enough 3650s into the world so that the intelliphone market gets a major boost...

In general I've decided to target level 3.5 phones with my latest efforts, under the idea that you don't develop for what's available now, but for what's going to be available soon. Otherwise you end up finding work arounds and solutions for hardware that will soon be sitting in someone's drawer somewhere.

-Russ [Russell Beattie Notebook]

I now think of Russ as our 'mobile guy.  He's working on something we ALL can use!  Thanks Russ!

Thanks for finding this Marc.  This is good view of the richness and growth trajectory for mobile phones.  I'd like to add two things to this.  First, I just became an "Intelliphone" convert with the purchase of a Nokia 3650 with ATT Wireless service.  This device is just awesome.  Russ outlines the functionality above.  ATT is subsidizing this with a $150 rebate, so this device is now just $150 in the US, so there really no reason not to buy. :)
The second thing is noting that, presumably, at some point we'll have a version of Flash in all of these devices.  Some people noticed the announcement earlier this month about NTT DoCoMo integrating a light version of Flash into their new phones this year.  We can only assume that that will find its way to all good Symbian devices, just as Flash 5 is in Nokia 9x00 series devices.  I've looked at J2ME apps, and they're gritty and hard to build.  WAP 2.0 and XHTML is just not a great form-factor and viewing experience.  I want vector graphics on these little engines, and a richer model for integrating sound and graphics into content and applications.

5:15:36 PM    comment []

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