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A richer Internet experience on the move

Many people still tend to think of the Internet as something accessed from a home or office PC. Recent technological innovations, however, are redefining the Web as an increasingly rich and personalised experience that can be enjoyed by consumers via their mobile devices.
Nokia Corporation

Mobile technology has already evolved from being essentially voice- and text-driven to a function-rich environment that friends, families, and colleagues can use to communicate and share multimedia information. Internet services on the move are now emerging as the next major stage in this evolution.

There has been a massive worldwide increase in Web use in recent years, with around 338 million Internet users in Europe alone as of 2007. Hobbies, social life, business communications, and university study are all increasingly dependent on this enormous resource. We have also witnessed a significant rise in Web 2.0 interactive communities, such as MySpace and Facebook.

Mobile device users can now access all of these Internet services with the latest generation of smartphones. Around half of the devices used by Nokia’s customers are configured for the Internet today.

Nokia is playing a growing role in enabling Internet on the move, and was the first company to bring full Web browsing to the mobile world, with a browser for S60 devices. The S60 browser displays Web pages in the same way as a PC, with additional features such as Mini Map, Page Overview, Visual History, and Floating Toolbar to make navigation easier.

Increasing numbers of applications are being developed for mobile devices, using development environments such as Web runtime, which is based on standard Web technologies and breaks down the traditional technical barriers that have existed between the Internet and the mobile world.

Why so much potential?

A major reason why being able to access the Internet while they are on the move is so exciting for people is the added convenience this offers, as mobile phones are typically the one device that people always carry with them.

Nokia predicts that some 4 billion people will be using mobile devices by 2010, and many people in developing countries will have their first experience of the Internet on a mobile device, rather than a PC. Nokia research also indicates that connecting to the Internet via a mobile device appeals to three in four mobile users, a very significant figure, given the early stage of the technology and the continuing dominance of large-screen systems for Internet use.

Other factors helping make the Internet an increasingly integral part of mobile communications include Nokia’s WidSets, which enable consumers to personalise their mobile device for Internet use and connect directly to information without having to open a browser, type an address, or carry out a search.

WLAN driving Internet use

Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) technology is also helping drive the Internet on mobile devices, thanks to its growing use worldwide. Consumer WLAN access options are expanding due to the greater use of wireless routers in the home and the increase in the number of public ‘hotspots’.

Mobile handset manufacturers are releasing more and more WLAN-enabled devices to take advantage of these developments. Nokia already offers a wide range of WLAN-capable devices, as the technology is an ideal complement to cellular technology for high-speed connections.

As data speeds increases, with advances in 3G and wireless broadband, Internet usage via mobile devices will become increasingly seamless and second nature, in the same way that it has become in the PC world..

Adding a new dimension

Unlike a hard-wired PC, an Internet-capable mobile device can offer people many new sources of inspiration, whether they are sightseeing, socialising, or working. You can search for shop locations, information on sites of historic interest, pubs and restaurants, or access data for research proposals or potential customers while on a business trip, for example – all via your mobile.

The high-quality still and video cameras, music players, TV receivers, and GPS positioning systems available on the latest handsets, combined with their inbuilt portability, make them the ideal tool for keeping in touch with social networks. It is easy to take photos of where you are, combine them with words and music, and upload the results to a blog or group website.

A team at the Nokia Research Center is working on new Internet applications to further enhance social interaction on the move, and launched a project known as ‘Point and Find’ in summer 2007. This uses global positioning sensors and digital compasses to enable a Nokia camera-equipped handset to calculate the location of any object it is pointed at and integrate relevant Internet data, such as historical facts, restaurant menus, and upcoming concerts.

Opening more doors

Ovi is another example of what Nokia is doing to make more of the mobile Internet and empower Nokia handset owners to realise the full potential of the Internet on their mobile device.

Ovi, which means ‘door’ in Finnish, is designed to enable consumers to easily access their existing social networks, communities, and content, as well as Nokia services, including the Nokia Music Store, Nokia Maps, and N-Gage games.

Nokia is committed to leading the evolution of the Web and making it a more mobile environment – and to offering the users of its mobile devices all the experiences available via an Internet-connected PC.
> Mark Durrant
(Published in HighTech Finland 2008)