James Rosewell writes:
Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, presented a compelling vision of a mobile centric future. The phone has become the “high value end point” for Google services enabled by a combination of increasing handset power, mobile data networks and cloud computing. By far the scarcest resource is the bandwidth available through the mobile data networks. Google appear committed to work with Mobile Network Operators (MNO) to maximise bandwidth usage, although several audience questions suggested scepticism from the main stream mobile industry. Eric expressed a need to maintain a harmonious relationship with MNOs stating Google could not operate its service on mobile devices without their co-operation.
Live demonstrations included the use of the phone camera, Optical Character Recognition (OCR), and language translation to rapidly convert sections of a German menu into English. A service I wish had already been deployed several hours later when ordering dinner. Voice recognition for search was also demonstrated in German. All enabled via the combination of the mobile data networks and vast computing power within Google’s Data Centres. Handset power was demonstrated through Adobe Flash, now embedded into the Andriod operating system, being used to play videos and games.
For all the slick elegance of the demonstrations and Eric’s relaxed style the question and answers session created some of the most interesting comment. Customer ownership is envisaged to sit between Google and the MNO. Mandatory activities such as billing residing with the MNO, and optional extras such as profile and search history with Google. There was an open acknowledgment big brands don’t yet understand the mobile model for advertising and that more work was needed. However mobile advertising will continue to erode traditional mediums and accelerate the pace of change. Regarding future revenues we heard a clear admission the next 5 years are unknown but to expect a shift toward subscription models for consumers, and enterprise software as a service in addition to advertising funded services. Concerning mobile banking Google expect MNO to be “doing the work” with their support and lobbying. Throughout we were reminded of Google’s commitments to open standards and open systems.
Google’s vision is persuasive, demonstrable and hard to argue with. Their ability to execute today and scale rapidly places pressure on Microsoft to launch a stable and integrated phone operating system and service. For the good of the technology industry I hope they're successful.