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IBM Unleashes Mobile Web Programs

IBM has unveiled an initiative to bring more functions to mobile devices. The program will entail a number of efforts to bring easy-to-use services to people who have bypassed using personal computers as their primary method of accessing technology, instead using their mobile phone to access the web.

"The world is entering the 'Era of the Mobile Web.' In many countries, the mobile phone has become an electronic wallet, the window to the World Wide Web, an education device and more, and globally, mobile devices outnumber PCs, credit cards, and TVs," said Daniel Dias, Director, IBM India Research laboratory. "Today, we are launching projects that will make a mobile device an even easier to use than the PC, allowing you to do everything you can with a PC and much more."

The projects include the "Spoken Web" project, which aims to transform how people create, build and interact with e-commerce sites on the World Wide Web using the spoken word instead of the written word. The Spoken Web is the World Wide Web in a telecom network, where people can host and browse "VoiceSites," traverse "VoiceLinks," even conduct business transactions, all just by talking over the existing telephone network.

For example, an average person on the street does not need a PC, but needs access to information such as:

  • Fishermen need weather info before heading out to sea
  • Farmers need to look up commodity prices
  • Plumbers can schedule appointments, set up transfers to partners, use advertisements
  • Grocery shops can display catalogues, offer order placement, display personalized targeted advertisements or reminders

Such locally relevant information is not available for a majority of world population. Computer access is not enough because there is a need to know what to look for, how to access it and how to use it.

Other additional innovative mobile web solutions, including:

  • Universal Mobile Translator. IBM's researchers are developing new technology to facilitate speech between individuals who speak no common language with the goal of free-form dialogue facilitated by a PDA. IBM real-time translation technologies will be embedded into mobile phones, handheld devices and cars.
  • Portable Power in Your Pocke. IBM's SoulPad software lets PC users separate a computer's "soul" -- the programs, settings and data it holds -- from its body, the disks, keyboard, screen, processor and other hardware from which it is comprised. Once a computer's soul is stored on a storage device like a portable USB hard drive or iPod with SoulPad software, it can be carried around and reincarnated in any other computer simply by plugging in the storage device and starting the computer up.
  • Social Networks Go Mobile. Consumers can communicate with their social network friends regardless of where they are with voice and SMS from either a PC or a mobile phone. For example, young shoppers looking at purchasing clothes in a store are increasingly looking for immediate feedback via their social networks, and the easiest way to make this happen is via mobile devices.

  • Healthcare Goes Mobile. IBM Research has brought together mobile phones and "presence" technology combined with health records to provide a potential "good samaritan" with information on how to aid people in critical medical situations.

Much of the world's population is looking to mobile devices to tap into online resources to fulfill basic economic needs -- in banking, e-commerce, education, transportation and government.

The World Wide Web (WWW) enabled quick and easy information dissemination and brought about fundamental changes to various aspects of our lives. However, a very large number of people, mostly in developing regions, are still untouched by this revolution.

Compared to PCs, the primary access mechanism to WWW, mobile phones have made a phenomenal penetration into this population segment. Low cost of ownership, the simple user interface consisting of a small keyboard, limited menu and voice-based access contribute to the success of mobile phones with the less literate. However, apart from basic voice communication, these people are not being able to exploit the benefits of information and services available to WWW users.

For the first time ever, more people will have a mobile phone than a regular telephone. Mobile devices outnumber PCs by three to one, credit cards by two to one, and TVs by two to one. IBM predicts the number of mobile Web users will grow by 191 percent from 2006 to 2011 to reach 1 billion. This proliferation of mobile devices and mobile Web users signals an incredibly lucrative growth opportunity for businesses.

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