(Sorry for the delay in writing a post-MoMo (Mobile Monday) London update)
So, on Monday evening I attended MoMo London at Vodafone’s London office in Strand. The event was ‘nice enough’ I guess, but for me it just didn’t have any spark.
To begin with, the three speakers (one of which was a BBC person) spoke for too long. 15mins would have done fine, but they each had about 30 minutes each. Clearly, people in the audience wanted this to be a networking event, and networking is hard to do when you’re sat in seats listening to a drawn-out presentation.
The two non-BBC presentations were not particularly inspiring either. The first chap spoke about his company’s spotcode system (there are many competing ones, even though there is a ubiquitous standard in Japan… “Internationalism, anyone?”). Despite saying he had been told he should not do a sales pitch he did, yes, a sales pitch.
The second guy was the CEO of a company that sold a product that let you track your child’s location based on their cell-location data. He didn’t do a sales pitch, thank god, but instead talked at length at the regulatory constraints of using location data in your application (such as regularly SMS’ing the mobile being tracked so that the end-user was aware of being tracked).
Sure, that was fairly useful and interesting but most of the questions afterwards were about how operators and application vendors could find ways to circumvent the regulation (Grrrr – we need protection on this stuff not circumvention).
After the presentations there was some networking, but I found a lot of the mobile people who were there to be, well, like mobile people often are (!). Most were individualists – people who had come up with some crazy idea and were digging away in the hope that it would be bought out by a mobile phone company. The dotcom shakeout still hasn’t reached the mobile world.
The whole event also reminded me why I never fully got into the mobile software engineering scene, despite some dabbling in J2ME and also some work on the BBC News PDA site.
As a developer, you need as stable platform on which to build your product. Mobile phones just don’t have a stable platform (no shit, Shirlock). The problem is that some of the building blocks of a stable and functional platform are currently commoditised. They are not part of the phone, they’re something you have to download or perhaps even buy as an add on.
When I build an application for the web or even a PC, I know what that platform can do. I know what functionality is available, etc. With a mobile phone, you simply don’t. There’s not even much of a “lowest common denominator”, not even now. Well, the lowest common denominator in phones is SMS and voice call – that’s it. Who knows what else an arbitrary phone might do.
As one person astutely observed:
In successful mobile markets, such as Japan, it’s the mobile operators who come up with the ‘standardised’ feature set they would like to see. They then commission the phone manufactures to deliver devices that match those features. Here in the western world, it’s the other way around – it’s every man (well, operator) for himself. Mobile phones have to have levels of “up-sell” between models and so by design they all function differently.
Suffice to say, I don’t think I’ll be attending the next one. But if you work in the mobile space, it’s probably is a “required attendance” event (which reminds me, it’s “Google London’s, Open House” tomorrow…).