The standard architecture that will realize the promise of mobile phones won't be hardware or software but a cloud-based platform that lets users navigate their contacts and content related to them, according to a former Nokia executive.
Because the people we know are at the center of most of what we do with mobile phones, the real operating system of phones should be built around those people, said Bob Iannucci, who stepped down as Nokia's CTO last month. He's now talking with venture capitalists and developers about building such a platform in an open way that transcends handset operating systems and carriers. Iannucci described his concept to scholars and industry professionals at the Stanford Computing Forum on Tuesday.
Iannucci envisions a web of names, pictures, video and information that would be linked like friends and related content in a social networking tool. As demonstrated at Stanford, this “social graph” was just a set of boxes linked by lines, which a user could navigate from one person or thing to another along logical connections. It would be a more natural way of organizing items than alphabetical lists of phone numbers and content, he said.
But the social graph wouldn't be an information base hosted by a specific carrier or a presentation method specific to one device OS. In Iannucci's vision, it would be data stored in a cloud and accessible on any device, over any carrier network.
This would help mobile communications finally become a mature technology like mainframes, minicomputers and PCs, said Iannucci, who once headed the Nokia Research Center and has led researchers at Compaq, IBM and other companies. It requires a standard platform that's widely understood, around which third-party vendors can develop software and services, he said.
The mobile industry is still in a phase much like the PC industry before the marriage of Windows and Intel processors, with a plethora of different platforms, Iannucci said. As a result, users struggle with phones in a way they don't with computers.
“It is still the case that no matter what device you give to someone who's never had a cell phone, it's easy for them to think about making calls and it's dramatically harder for them to use most of the other functionality in your device,” Iannucci said. That includes the handsets made by his former employer, such as the Nokia N95 smartphone.