Thursday, 4 December 2008

Nokia N97 - the start of local social?

Amid all the hype about the unveiling of the N97, which mostly runs along the lines of 'is it a phone that does computing or a laptop that makes calls?' there's one question that I'm a bit unsure of. I obviously want one - full QWERTY keyboard, 32GB, N-GAGE functionality, 5mb camera and all, but the A-GPS integration is being promoted as a social networking tool. It's a great concept - the phone keeps track of your GPS location, and that of all your friends, and lets you know where they are etc. Remember (if you're over 25) how much planning used to go into meeting friends in the days before mobiles - you'd have to specifiy a time and place and all that. And stick to it! Then SMS took over the planning for you. And A-GPS enabled social networking has the potential to take this to a new level - to keep everyone in the loop about where you are. It becomes even more interesting as people move beyond 'real life friends' through networks like Twitter, and will mean that genuinely location-based apps like BrightKite will come of age. It is also potentially the start of a future I've written about before (okay, badly organised post, so look at theory 18!) where devices communicate amongst themselves and only warn you of people or places that might interest you.

We will move towards this, but I'd question the impact that the N97 will have itself.... the power of a network is in the number of connections in it, and A-GPS tracking and social network integration will only be useful when enough people have enabled phones. Which will eventually happen, but proprietry technology surely can't be way to go. In the past, developers needed to protect their early mover R&D-funded advantage. Now, they need to scale it as quickly as possible before Google gets there. As Google is already in the mobile market, and as open, networked and scaleable as everything else Google does, surely the bold move would be to base the next N-series on Android, and make sure that it talks to every other Android phone, no matter who makes it or what network it is on?


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