Friday, March 13, 2009

Mobile cloud capabilities VS mobile applications

Lately, there is some "buzz" about 2 debates, initially independent but finally related. First one is related to the innovating capabilities around "the voice" in mobile and web services, and the other one is about the mobile application trend.
When discussing the topic of using "voice" to enhance user experience in mobile services people inmediately think in adding ASR/TTS capabilities to the handsets. This aproach in our opinion has 2 weaknesses: a) you are restricting "rich user experience" capabilities only to smartphones and it means reducing the critical mass of potential users and b) ASR/TTS capabilities as mobile app are far away less capable than server based. For navigate the mobile menu, address book, etc, could be ok, but not to be used in complex multimodal browsing by users using a "close to natural language".
The internet trend is reducing device capacities (less HD storage, slower processor, small display, RAM memory reduced) and using a common interface well known (the browser) to run most of "applications" needed in the cloud. (it took time but finally the Richard Ellison prediction comes true once the "network availability, bandwidth and prices are ok").
A lot of services can be offered as a service, using network infrastructure and making really simple launching services, because nothing to install at computer, no compatibility issues, etc. Companies with successful offering capacities or frameworks in the cloud include Amazon (EC2),, Voxeo, Google, etc...
In the other hand, mobility, the trend is just the opposite, identifying "rich user experience" with high tier smartphones (iPhone, Windows Mobile, Symbian, RIM, Palm, Android) and downloadable application from mobile stores. Why ????
If the mid tier devices are capable enough, with normal mobile enablers (voice, video, sms, browsing and ptt) properly combined you can create amazing use cases, and the price plans are becoming flat rate, we think mobility trend may align the personal computing trend as soon as possible.
If you can send live video to the web from a low tier 3G device why using an external application only available for smartphones?
If you can use your voice to browse you mobile banking site or google search combining voice call + browser using cloud services (Voxeo cloud IVR/ASR/TTS in this case using CCXML/VXML), why installing a thick client only available to few smartphone devices ?
Even being aware of amazing success of Apple Store, and next to be launched by RIM and Microsoft and Android, we encourage people to think about making things easier, and providing best mobile user experience to the big masses. We believe in the Henry Ford approach, give most of people the chance of becoming drivers, we want to deliver the "rich mobile user experience and capabilities" to everybody, not depending on choosing the expensive handsets. Is that disruptive?


Ralf Rottmann said...

Hmm. I disagree. (This is not a bad thing per se...)

I believe you're massively underrating the change in consumer expectations. I've got a 9 years old son. It's absolutely fascinating watching him how he handles YouTube, his WiFi enabled Nintendo DS, his mobile and his Xbox 360.

Tomorrow's customers will demand a smoothly animated, integrated and personalized user experience. There is absolutely no doubt that we will not see SMS, PTT and other services die in the foreseeable future. Is this a proof that these are ideal user centric frontends? It's not. It's merely proving the fact that the industry managed to shrink (current) customer expectations to an absolute minimum. Everybody hates IVRs. This has not lead to significant innovation in this area – yet. Instead the industry still claims everything is getting better.

I'm sure if you present a great smartphone user interface to mobile banking customers and oppose it with state-of-the-art voice driven user interface, the vast majority is not going to DECIDE for the voice based solution.

Apple's iPhone is a game changer. In tandem with all the other great devices and services that our children grow up with, there's no other way than addressing the increased demand for a multi-modal, multi-media and user-centric design and experience.

I believe you are talking two fundamentally different markets. There is a wide field for USSD, SMS and text based stuff. This is a market. No doubt.

But it does not compete against the new channels which will define how the NEXT GENERATION of customers are going to define a sophisticated user experience.

juan said...

Ralf, you are invited to disagree and start the conversation.
Of course people hates IVR's but in the future once natural language ASR capabilities will be enhanced enough, you will not have IVR at the other site but capable ASR without permanent connection.
The matter being discussed is we want mobile "computing demanding needs for rich experiencies" handle "on the cloud" and work fine with mass market devices or just we want to take the most of enhanced processor and capabilities of few devices, and based mobile solutions in a one by one apps to be download, installed, etc.
The lesson learnt from personal computing is how finally netbooks (simple 250 u$ hw) and very capable browser is enough to fullfill 95% of average users needs.
Our goal is just handset manufacturers improving the mobile browsers, and common carrier services enablers, to provide richer experiencies for everybody based on the "cloud solutions".

Anonymous said...

You have raised some very good points.

Clearly you do not live in a developing or emerging country - where in fact, most of those 4 billion cellphone users live.

What are your thoughts about mobile-enabled cloud payments?

juan said...

Anonymous, thanks for visiting our blog and the comment, hope to see you often :-)
Regarding m-payments, it is incredible how in developing countries as India, the banking in a lot of rural areas are being "conceived" linked to mobility, amazing companies as mChek are making feasible the banking for a lot of people, and using for that affordable devices.

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