Mobile World Congress (MWC) is a combination of the world’s largest exhibition for the mobile industry and a conference featuring prominent executives representing mobile operators, device manufacturers, technology providers, vendors and content owners from across the world.
This year none other than Mark Zuckerberg will grace the stage at MWC 2014, highlighting the show’s importance even further – possibly pushing it above the Consumer Electroncs Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Best known as one of five co-founders of the social networking website Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, is the chairman and chief executive (CEO) of Facebook, Inc. and his personal wealth, as of February 2014, is estimated to be US$ 27.9 billion. His one-dollar salary puts him in the elite group of $1 CEOs.
Last year, Facebook announced plans to bring affordable internet to the two-thirds of the world who don’t have it. And according to my sources, a fair amount of the conversation at this year’s MWC 2014 will be centred around that idea.
But helping people gain access to information, connect with each other and share ideas using internet are not new. In fact, a movement called One Laptop per Child (OLPC) which was set up to oversee the creation of affordable educational devices for use in the developing world in 2006.
OLPC foundation, led by Chairman Nicholas Negroponte, currently oversees development of future software and hardware,
At the 2006 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) announced it would back the laptop. UNDP released a statement saying they would work with OLPC to deliver “technology and resources to targeted schools in the least developed countries”.
The project originally aimed for a price of 100 US dollars. In May 2006, Negroponte told the Red Hat’s annual user summit: “It is a floating price. We are a nonprofit organization. We have a target of $100 by 2008, but probably it will be $135, maybe $140.” A BBC news article indicated the price still remains above $140.
Again In 2011, Nokia annouced a corporate strategy with a similar theme which was called “Connecting The Next Billion People” — in other words, Nokia was trying to get web-connected phones into the hands of another billion people who’ve thus far gone without it.
But as high end smartphone become more and more powerful, it raises the perfomance of even low cost smartphones. Therefore, it is has become possible to give everyone a phone with enough power to browse the internet. The next frontier of changes have to happen on the software side. Using smartphones as a computer, it is now finally possible to sell a mobile device for the masses at a $100 USD price point.
Facebook has announced a massive initiative to bring affordable internet to those around the world who are currently unable to get online – that’s 5 billion people. Internet.org marks a partnership between Facebook, Samsung, Ericsson, Nokia, Qualcomm, Opera and MediaTek to create a world completely connected by the internet, bringing the web to developing nations. So how will it work? Currently Mark Zuckerberg says he only has a “rough plan” but one of the primary goals of the group initiative is to reduce the cost of delivering internet services on mobile phones.
Global internet users have increased more than six-fold since 2000 but still only represent about 1/3 of the total world population. Internet users are expected to continue increasing rapidly; while it took twenty years for the first 2 billion people to connect to the Internet, the next 2 billion users will be coming online in only five years. The vast majority of this increased penetration will be in emerging markets where mobile internet is more practical than traditional internet due to much lower infrastructure costs.
They’ll do this by changing the design of phone applications to support data caching and compression, while improving mobile networks to make them more data efficient.
Getting carriers and manufacturers to offer lower prices of access
is also part of the plan because most mobile phone users in developing countries use prepaid plans. and purchase phones under $100 USD price point.
One way to lower cost is to use open source hardware, software and operating systems.
Another way is to compress data transfers to reduce bandwidth costs. Using HTTP compression is a capability that can be built into web servers and web clients to make better use of available bandwidth, and provide greater transmission speeds between both.
HTTP data is compressed before it is sent from the server: compliant browsers will announce what methods are supported to the server before downloading the correct format; browsers that do not support compliant compression method will download uncompressed data.
A third strategy is to use new features in HTML5 to cache data for offline usage. At present moment all browsers can cache pages and resources for long periods if told to do so, but the browser can kick individual items out of the cache at any point to make room for other things. New features in HTML5 addresses some of the annoyances of being offline. The cache manifest in HTML5 is a software storage feature which provides the ability to access a web application even without a network connection. In addiion to Offline Web Storage, HTML5 provides developers with tools such as GeoLocation API, Canvas Drawing, CSS3, and many more.
Cache interface gives your application three advantages:
- Offline browsing – users can navigate your full site when they’re offline
- Speed – resources come straight from disk, no trip to the network.
- Resilience – if your site goes down for “maintenance” (as in, someone accidentally breaks everything), your users will get the offline experience
The Application Cache (or AppCache) allows a developer to specify which files the browser should cache and make available to offline users. Your app will load and work correctly, even if the user presses the refresh button while they’re offline.
Open source mobile operating systems will be used to further reduce end user costs. The competition among open source mobile operating systems are fierce. There are at least 4 contenders.
Firefox OS is a Linux-based open-source operating system for smartphones and tablet computers and is set to be used on smart TVs. It is being developed by Mozilla, the non-profit organization best known for the Firefox web browser.
With all the hype of new product announcements that usually typify a trade show like MWC, it also represents a democratisation of mobile internet smartphone for the masses. Economical price points that will appeal to users who have not upgraded to a smartphone yet.
There is great opportunity to use open source software to support end user privacy to thwart survelliance. That would truly be a mobile revolution. Anything else is more of the same: smaller, lighter and faster mobile devices.