Developer Creates Nokia N900 Mapping App Using Praized API

The nice thing about having a public API at Praized Media is that people are using it to do all sorts of great “local” projects. Pierre-Luc Beaudoin, a developer from Montreal (Canada)  just launched the first version of a mapping application called “Map Buddy” for the Nokia N900 device using the Praized API.

Nokia N900 Mapping Application Map Buddy Praized Media

He writes about his experience building the application on his blog:

Well, I finally got my hands on a N900 (given as a Christmas gift by Collabora to Gabriel). This gave me the occasion to observe first hand that the Ovi Maps, while having a lot of features, is slow and that the Hildon Emerillon port is less than perfect. It is hard to use with fingers and feels alien to the platform.

To solve this, I created Map Buddy: a map application specifically designed for Maemo 5. It is quite simple to use and works out of the box (no configuration or selection of plug-ins required!). It also has something other apps don’t: it uses web-services to provide business search capabilities.

You can download the app here.

On a related note, the Ovi Store just went live on the N900.

Life Connected

Was reading this summary of last week’s Consumer Electronics Show. Saul Hansell underlines the fact that every new device shown at CES “is becoming a computer connected to the Internet. ” Howard Stringer, CEO of Sony, even predicted that “In two years, 90 percent of all Sony products will connect to the Internet”.

Hansell offers a major insight: “If the most exciting thing about your phone or truck or TV is the Web sites you go to and the software applications you download, then the device itself is less important.” He continues: ” Increasingly what will differentiate one TV from another is the software it runs and the Internet services it connects to.”

Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, chief executive of Nokia, quoted in the same article said: “For a long time, our business was defined as cellphones. Hardware is not enough. We need to have a wider array of services and content. This is a major change for us.”

Jong Woo Park, the president of Samsung’s digital media business, said: “In the next five years, we are not only going to provide hardware, but content through our devices, in an easy, more convenient way. TV is no longer just TV. TV is interactive TV these days. You will use the same TV and the same remote control, but have completely different functionality.”

What it means: as they all realize they need something to differentiate themselves, electronic device manufacturers will be hungry for content and software functionalities in the next three to five years. Content providers will need to watch out for this new trend and try to measure the installed base of a wider variety of electronic devices. But context will be key (screen size, navigation device, etc.). By the way, a television could be a wonderful local search device if executed correctly! It’s also an amazing social network!

This Isn’t About The New iPhone

It seems like everyone is excited about the new iPhone that was introduced by Apple on Monday (many people are actually calling it the Jesusphone) but I think everyone’s missing the big picture.

pile of mobile phones

Flickr photo by nedrichards

What triggered those thoughts was today’s blog post from Mashable, discussing what was really revolutionary about the new iPhone:

And, The Really Big Thing About The New iPhone Is… GPS. Global Positioning System . Geo-anything. Location based services. (…) Why hasn’t all this happened before? Three words: ease of use. While you could have done all these things for the Symbian or Blackberry or Windows ME platforms (provided the device had GPS capabilities), it just took too many clicks and required too much fidgeting for any of it to get mass appeal.

I actually agree with that statement. The iPhone is well designed, it’s very easy to use, it’s now location-aware and the touchscreen navigation is amazing…

BUT…

  • RIM (Blackberry) is working on a similar device
  • Nokia is working on a similar device
  • Samsung is working on a similar device
  • HTC is probably working on a similar device
  • Google might be working on a GooglePhone

I give kudos to Apple for innovating, creating a user-focused device and forcing change in a market that badly needed the kick in the pants but, the same way the social Web is not about Facebook, Friendfeed or Twitter, the mobile Web is not about Apple and the iPhone. It’s about permanent change in the way we access the mobile Web and that’s good. But, it’s certainly not about the iPhone…

Update1: David Pogue from the New York Times reviews the Samsung Instinct.

Top 10 Trends from the Mobile World Congress

As this week’s Mobile World Congress slowly winds down (tomorrow’s the last day), I thought it was appropriate to summarize the top 10 trends of the conference as identified by Infoworld magazine.

Mobile World Congress 2008 Barcelona

  1. GPS on board. Amongst the manufacturers, Nokia “plans to sell 35 million phones with GPS” this year.
  2. Better cameras with “face detection, image stabilization, and the ability to take better pictures in the dark”.
  3. Linux. Google Android prototypes. ’nuff said.
  4. Movies on your phone.
  5. Geotagging that “combines built-in support for navigation and photography. When you take a picture, your location is also saved. Then you can overlay that information on services like Google Maps and see where you’ve been.”
  6. Windows Mobile. “Four out of five of the biggest phone makers have phones based on Microsoft’s Windows Mobile operating system”
  7. High-speed mobile Internet
  8. Wi-Fi on board.
  9. FM transmitters.
  10. Touch-based interfaces.

What it means: phones are becoming more and more like mini-portable computers and trying to be at the center of your mobile life. In addition, more GPS on board and the geotagging functionality are very exciting stuff for a local search freak like me! I was also intrigued by the better face detection. Expect a day where you can take a picture of someone and, with his/her permission, become a “friend” in a social network…

Nokia Launches “Walking Directions” for Series 60 and 40 Phones

Nokia announced this morning at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona the launch of their Maps 2.0 service, for its Series 60 and 40 phones. According to the BBC News Web site,

Nokia has launched navigation tools designed to make the paper street map obsolete for pedestrians. The firm’s next generation of digital maps gives real-time walking directions on the mobile phone screen, just like sat-nav systems which guide drivers. “Nokia is taking navigation services out of the car so it can always be with you,” said Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, president and CEO of the firm. “Struggling with oversized paper maps will become a thing of the past.”

Nokia 6210 Navigator Maps 2.0Nokia_6210_Navigator

What it means: another local application attached to mobile devices. This one is squarely competing against any mapping web site or any site that relies heavily on mapping as a main attraction. It could also be a threat to paper travel guides (see also Travel Guides Still Selling Well, Saved by Portability) (pictures by Nokia)

GPS-Enabled Devices Will Create New Opportunities But Do We Really Have An Even Playing Field

CNET’s News.com reports on a new forecast from Swedish analyst firm Berg Insight predicting that “the number of GPS-enabled handsets is set to more than triple during the next five years”.

Growth in the GPS-handset user base should also lead to more applications that use such information, Malm (a telecommunications analyst at Berg Insight) added, pointing to the success of currently available location-based services like Google Maps. “Perhaps it is not right to call them services, but small apps that use location as a filter or enhancement–we will see a lot of that going forward, once developers and users get more used to using location,” he said.

Berg’s press release adds “The availability of accurate position data in mobile devices creates exciting new opportunities for developers of local search, navigation and social networking applications”, said Mr Malm. “Nokia and Google will be two of the foremost players in this arena but there is a good chance that the development will also give birth to the next Facebook or MySpace.”

GPS

Flickr photo by Jimmy_Joe

What it means: I am truly excited about these numbers as local, social and mobile combined really has the potential to create the next big web phenomenon. But one thing concerns me currently in that space: the creation of an even playing field. In 1995, barriers to entry on the World Wide Web were low (even non-existent) and allowed the creation of Yahoo and eBay (current combined market cap: $67B). Still today, the barriers to entry for new Web projects remain very low. It’s not the same in mobile where there are a lot of gatekeepers. Handset manufacturers and Telcos come to mind, but the position of strength major portals and search engines enjoy through their relationships with the aforementioned gatekeepers make their stranglehold very difficult to break. Because of that, I wonder if we will see a real innovation burst in mobile/local in the short term. It will come, I have no doubt about it, but it might not come as quickly as it potentially could be.

Nokia Bets on Local, Acquires NAVTEQ

(via eWeek and Reuters)

Nokia said on Oct. 1 it will offer $8.1 billion for U.S.-based digital map supplier Navteq in one of its largest takeovers ever, but its shares fell as analysts dubbed the deal “expensive.” The acquisition would give the world’s top cellphone maker—which is looking for new revenue sources as the cellphone industry matures—a stronghold in the navigation business, one of the fastest-growing segments in the technology industry.

What it means: in a deal that underlines the importance of mobile in the local space (and vice-versa!), Nokia makes its biggest bet so far and buys an important piece of the local search ecosystem. I think it confirms some of the things I was writing about last week in my When will Mobile Become the Next Big Thing? post.