Thursday, June 08, 2006

Dean Bubley: From Dynamic UI, to on-device portal, to....?

Dean Bubley posts at the Disruptive Wireless blog about a recent meeting he had with SurfKitchen, which "is one of a cluster of firms that have software to enable improved user-interfaces on mobile phones. The general idea is to work around the limitations of mobile browsers, and the inconsistency between the way data applications are implemented on different phones. Operators (and maybe others) will implement these extra software layers on devices in order to make it easier for users to access (and spend money on) new services like music downloads, as well as offering "themes" for the overall handset look-and-feel."

Bubley notes some of the other companies in this space such as Action Engine, Qualcomm's UIone division (formerly Trigenix), Adobe/Macromedia and OpenWave's MIDAS product." He says that about 2.5 years ago, "at least 15 separate companies all declared that their product would own the "top layer" of the phone and the whole phone will be inside the browser / dynamic UI / Java / application suite etc. Frankly, it was unrealistic - not least because none of these products worked across a decent array of devices."

He states "now, the focus is on "On-Device Portals", where the software solves one or two specific problems: how to make downloads easier, or driving the "music" section of the phone. Less ambitious, but much more realistic than an unproven all-or-nothing approach. I also see this functionality being driven further "down" - and being used almost as a browser plug-in, to improve the "real Internet" experience, when appropriate." Bubley is "still a big believer in the web browser being the optimal user interface, with other tools masking its limitations where required."

Bubley believes "using this type of software to improve operators' revenues in...... voice. This strikes me as completely obvious - why just try & improve the user experience (& revenue) from what is a tiny % of data applications.... when you could also try & improve usage of mainstream apps like voice & SMS." Bubley concludes that:

Bottom line - now that this type of product has gotten over some of its more gradiose, unrealistic visions, it now seems to be gaining traction on making specific aspects of the handset work better. I'm waiting for a version to help make phones better at doing FMC - or, more importantly, switching between "public service-oriented" and "consumer device" modes.