Future of Mobile 2008
I really enjoyed Future of Mobile yesterday.
The day started a little sluggishly with a well-qualified panel discussing the future of mobile operating systems. I didn't feel I learned much here - revenues of the panelists businesses weren't particularly exciting, and aside from an interesting conversation around runtimes I didn't feel I learned a great deal.
For me, things really started to take off with the presentation from Doug Richard of Trutap (disclosure: they're a client of ours). Doug was talking about the rise of a middle class in the developing world that shares aspirations with the middle classes everywhere, and quietly pointed out our arrogance in assuming that it could be otherwise. I particularly liked his notion that Western operators would adopt defensive positions and hence take fewer risks (and be less innovative) than those coming out of India.
I didn't devote much attention to Matt Millar from Adobe, I'm afraid - sorry Matt, but I was doing last-minute panicking about my own presentation. I've not watched the video yet, but whilst I'd spent more time preparing than I ever have in the past (and felt the slides were reasonably polished), I made the mistake of over-planning what I was going to say. Normally I work from bullet points and just chat around them (something I'm comfortable doing) but after my hour-long overrun at the Werks talk a month or so back I tried to restrain myself by planning what I'd say in great depth. The upshot was I felt like I was working from a script, and had to keep checking where I was, staring at a screen instead of talking to the audience. Lesson learned there, but at least I managed to get my macaroons-as-analogy-for-porting slide out.
The bloggers panel was a really good format: 6 bloggers, 6 minutes each, mirroring blogging itself. Really nice to hear Vero Pepperell evangelise a human approach to communication - as an industry we ought to know that stuff, but I can't help feeling we need someone to gently beat it into us on occasion. Helen was righteous - nuff said.
A lunch, or non-lunch, followed. If there was a weak point to the day overall, I'd say it was the facilities. I heard plenty of people complain about a lack of wi-fi (though as a 3 USB dongle owner I managed OK), there was no lunch provided, and no coffee in one of the coffee breaks. Fortunately Kensington is full of restaurants and cafes, but it would've been nice to hang around in a throng during all these breaks. The auditorium itself was excellent - a lovely space, good sound, and power to most seats.
Rich Miner gave a great talk in the afternoon, filling in a bit more detail around Google and their plans, and drawing on his own history launching the Windows SPV Smartphone when he was at Orange. He gave a good if negative insight into the world of operators when he talked about product managers feeling threats from new product developments and derailing them.
Interesting also to hear about his take on mobile web apps - that they fail for reasons of network latency, lack of local storage, and access to device capabilities. Whilst you can see efforts in Android, PhoneGap and OMTP Bondi to address some of these, it's a little way from the "web apps as future of mobile" angle which I'd heard Google were adopting.
And similarly it was good to hear Rich quizzed on the topic of Android and fragmentation by David Wood (who's more qualified to talk about this than he?). Rather than espousing the rather bland "we don't think fragmentation is in the interests of the industry" line I've heard from Google before, Rich talked about the value of having a reference implementation by which to judge others; a conformance test being introduced for OEMs; and the use of challenging and popular reference apps to provide a "Lotus 1-2-3" style evaluation of an Android implementation.
Tomi Ahonen was hilarious and upbeat as usual - full of detailed and slightly threatening stats on the hold that mobile has on us, and case studies of fantastic things launched elsewhere (usually Asia). The Tohato "worlds worst war" was my favourite: purchasers of snack products fighting one another in vast virtual armies, wonderful.
And the day finished with another panel discussion: lots of disagreement from qualified folks who've been doing this stuff for years, including two of our clients. We had some kind words said about us by Carl from Trutap and Alfie of Moblog fame - thanks guys! - and it was particularly interesting to hear the pendulum of fashion swing back towards applications, away from the mobile web. I wonder how permanent this effect, which is surely down to the iPhone App Store, will be?
The evening party followed, carrying on the upbeat atmosphere :)
My slides from the day are online here. The lens-tastic Mr Ribot took video footage of the talk which you can see here, and I heard a rumour that the official footage from the event may go online some time too.
Thanks to Dominic and all the team at Carsonified for the hard work they put into the event - I know all too well from Sophie how much this takes, and they did a cracking job. And a particular yay to Mr Whatley, who stepped in as compere at the last minute and did an excellent job of keeping the audience engaged, even in those sleepy after-lunch slots ;)