Wednesday, September 09, 2009


The pace of mobile convergence continues to accelerate. A camera is now a common feature on mobile phones. Smartphones have gone further with integration of PDA and MP3 player functionality. Tom Tom is now available as an downloadable application on the iPhone signaling the convergence of Personal Navigation Devices (PNDs) with smartphones. Gaming is already immensely popular on smartphones cutting into the portable gaming market. Mobile payments are still limited to specific regions of the world. In Japan, mobile payments have been a standard feature for some time and mobile micro payments for public transportation is emerging especially in developing countries.

"According to Inside Facebook, the social network is working with mobile payments provider Zong on a test allowing a small number of users to sample the mobile payment option in its virtual gift shop". Social networking is already a major activity on smartphones so Facebook's test with Zong is a significant development towards the mobile wallet.

So what does this all mean for the travel industry? The bottom line is this: labeling the device in the frequent travelers' pocket as a phone is not only naive but misses the true opportunity for innovation that can enhance the travel experience.
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In the short term, downloaded apps provide the best way for consumers to enjoy fast, convenient resolution of specific tasks.

Most mobile versions of websites either suffer from usability issues or fail to provide any value specific to the road warrior.

I believe simple apps like UrbanSpoon will be overtaken by mobile web versions within 2-3 years, but more sophisticated apps like Tom-Tom's GPS and Layar's augmented reality apps will have 3-5 year headstart.

When considering the potential uses of tomorrow's mobile phone, consider the following:

- Interactive voice response (IVR) technologies are not standing still and will open the door for voice-based commands. Not only will the phone be able to speed-dial for you, but network technology will allow the network - and nascent services like - to respond to your voice commands as you prefer.

- It is only a matter of time before the projection screen technology that is only now being added to cameras finds its way to the phone. Over the long haul, expect the phone to become a kind of "cable set-top box" that is able to accept a broadband TV signal and redirect that signal to a television monitor.

- Speaking of video, a recent FCC ruling enables Comcast and other TV distribution companies to cache content at their headends. Today TV programing is made more convenient by TiVo. The FCC ruling opens the door for hotels to have greater rights and more choices: expect to partner with hotels to provide guests with mobile video.

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