At the CIO dinner I was at last night (more on that later), I had the opportunity to play with a demo model of the Motorola Q Phone running on a Verizon EVDO network. After a few minutes with this device, there is no doubt in my mind that Motorola will have another hit on its hand. It is as thin as the Razr, a little wider than my Blackberry 7100, has a full QWERTY keyboard, digital camera, full audio and video capabilities, and runs on Windows Mobile over Verizon’s high speed network. Trust me-this this device is worth waiting for when it comes out in Q1 2006.
During my demo, one of the founders of a wireless application company showed me a financial trading application streaming with live after-market data. It really looked like any Bloomberg or Reuters 2000 terminal scrunched into a smaller form factor. I also used a variety of other applications which ran seamlessly on the Windows Mobile platform. This led us to a conversation on the "walled gardens" of wireless. Traditionally, consumers have had limited choice with respect to the software and services they are allowed to use on their device based on their wireless carrier. Sure, many carriers offered open web access on their phones but there really has been no point in browsing for information on the web with slow networks. In addition, browsing regular web pages through a small phone sucks. As wireless data networks like EVDO continue to increase their throughput (400-600kb), as devices like the Q get better and become more like mini-computers, the future will be leveraging the open web for downloadable mini-apps. One of the best examples of this is the Google Local for mobile application. Rather than go cut a deal with a carrier or launch its own MVNO (mobile virtual network operator), Google is playing the carrier-neutral angle allowing anyone with open web access from the phone to download the app. It is elegant, functional, and small but its usability is not limited to what a user can access through a browser. While this only runs on J2ME enabled devices, downloadable mini-apps will clearly be a trend that will continue in the future. Why do we need MVNO’s specialized and targeted to every slice of America when we should just be able to download and access what we want, when we want, and from any device. Let’s just hope that as we move into the future device manufacturers, carriers, and software vendors will get smart and find ways to create a truly open platform to break down the walled gardens of wireless, to allow end users to install any software from any vendor on any device, and thereby enable a wireless data explosion bringing lots of revenue to the carriers and lots of happy customers.