[Geowanking] geospatial web - published version

Carl Shimer carl at clingfire.net
Thu May 12 11:25:08 PDT 2005


Hi Mike,

 

Thanks for the longer version of your fiery bullet or, dare say, a
geospatial manifesto?

 

I have a couple of comments regarding the issues you raise regarding the
wireless industry.  I have spent the last several years working for a large
European mobile carrier.  To be quite blunt, carriers aren't exactly a hot
bed of innovation and don't exactly reward people for "no-telco" thinking.
It's hard to get the business to focus on things like reliable (and cheap)
mobile IP and positioning technologies when they make oodles of money from
SMS messages.  In Europe positioning is mostly implemented by cell ID (or
some variation of) that is good enough for finding a nearby ATM but not for
directions to the ATM.  And regarding the API's, yes they want to charge
developers on a per transaction basis for location lookups (ugh), similar in
some ways to the mappoint.net web service.

 

The problem in the US is even worse with the dominance of CDMA carriers.
With GSM carriers you have the technical possibility of purchasing your own
handset (with whatever technologies, operating systems, and API's that you
want).  With CDMA you must buy a handset through the carrier (or maybe radio
shack).  The end result is that the carrier owns the mobile device, plain
and simple. And to be quite honest, I don't see how that is going to change
any time soon, especially with knuckleheads like Verizon.  As virtual
monopolies these carriers have no incentive to open up the API's for their
phones or services, especially when they don't understand how to make money
off of location services (a point you do raise).

 

If you believe mobile devices are the key to the masses consuming geospatial
applications AND you believe that the integrated mobile phone is likely the
platform of choice (not mobile phone+ Bluetooth GPS), then I would add to
your call to action:

1)       users must be free to purchase devices that that use wireless
networks and positioning services as they see fit.  This will enable the
market to innovate in producing compelling devices and software.  For
instance: I could build an application that would alert road warriors
(perhaps by vibrating the phone) when they are within 500 ft of a starbucks.
This would be a simple application involving a small database of locations
and a JSR-179 compatible phone.  But to get this kind of application into
customers hands I would need to work with multiple carriers to get access to
the API (or perhaps have my application signed by each individual carrier),
have a reasonable number of JSR-179 handsets in the market, AND most likely
distribute the application through the carrier.  The impediments in place
here are enough to turn off most developers of geospatial apps.

2)       Carriers should be forced to unbundle devices from contracts and
subsidies.  Currently manufacturers treat carriers as the customer instead
of the end user as the customer.  This is broken in so many ways and limits
the market from reflecting the actual desires of the user.

 

Enacting both of these changes would likely require some sort of legislation
:(

 

-Carl

 

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