I’m pleased to announce that we’ve launched a Nestoria Layar application today in partnership with Samsung UK.
For those that don’t know Layar is an innovative new “Augmented Reality" technology that allows you to use your phone to "see" where things (in our case properties to buy or rent) are. It’s a totally new way to explore your environment, and for us it’s another attempt to make finding your next home as easy as possible. We’ll do a post later this week that goes into the nuances of the application (with video - this is a case where seeing is believing), but today we wanted to speak with the Nick Turner-Samuels, Head of Content for Samsung Mobile UK.
Nick has been at Samsung for the last several years in a variety of roles. Prior to that he worked at BBC Online and he has experience in online classifieds in the jobs sector. All of which means he’s uniquely placed to discuss the innovation happening between the mobile and online space and what implications it might have for online classifieds.
Nick, it is great to have you as our newest partner, especially on such a ground-breaking service. Thanks for making the time to speak with us.
1. 2009 seems to be the year mobile internet usage finally took off in a big way. As someone with years of experience in the mobile content business what’s your perspective?
It’s interesting to see the massive changes in how people are using their mobiles. The old models of major portals providing walled gardens (sometimes with good intentions of providing a good experience on a mobile browser, sometimes just to make money) have changed hugely in a short space of time.
On one side, an industry based on ringtones, java games and wallpapers has had to innovate very quickly or risk dying (as well as companies who aggregated such content). People are expecting apps for their mobiles to bring them new features and benefits, not just customisation, and native games for powerful alternatives to the portable gaming market.
On the other side, browsers are now capable of quickly displaying almost any web page (Even showing Flash & Ajax content), making the internet finally accessible with ease. WAP (a major mobile industry platform in itself) is quickly being replaced on medium to high end phones by web. Another interesting aspect is the influx of major web players seeing mobile as the big growth market. Just look at the huge increase in users of Facebook on mobile over the last couple of years, or see how much attention is being paid to mobile by Google (Android Platform, buying AdMob, etc), to get the gist. The power game of who is ‘owning’ the customer is sliding between Operators and Manufacturers to web 2.0 players to OS providers, and it’s not clear just yet who will come out unscathed.
2. The big success story of the mobile internet has been Apple’s iPhone. Now Google’s Android is reaching maturity and several other operating systems seem to be innovating as well. Who will win the Android vs. iPhone battle? Or is that battle even the relevant one?
The success of the iPhone has been without doubt, massive - and has led to a lot of shift within the industry. But it’s currently limited to a few expensive devices and the form factor is not to everyone’s taste (no keys, for example). While the general public may not yet heard of Android (it’s likely they don’t care what platform they are running anyway, just that it works well, and has good apps), those in mobile industry and tech followers know Android is going to be very very big in 2010. It will provide even more competition amongst device makers to produce the best devices, because to a certain extent, it levels the playing field. While the Operating System is very good and cheap to use, everyone knows it is Google’s, and they are making it for a reason. And ultimately, they can change things at any point without anyone else’s say so…
Samsung is currently the world’s second largest phone maker, and sold 40m touch-screen phones in 2009 alone. In 2010, our strategy will be Smartphones for everyone, which means we have opened up our software to developers in much the same way as Apple. We’ll be offering a substantial marketplace for all developers to make money from and expect to bring our first phone to market in the first half of the year. Expect big things in the OS battle…
3. One of the most innovative new mobile applications is Augmented Reality (AR), with the Layar service (with whom Samsung work) being one of the leading innovators in this new field. What can users expect from this new technology?
AR is going to be one of the biggest growth technologies in the next few years, and mobile will play a central part of it. In simple form, it’s about overlaying what you are looking at (like a mobile screen) with extra information, in near-real time (think Terminator, perhaps). Currently, this has been best used in simple form for innovative marketing (hold a basic printed up to your webcam and a product will pop out of the image, which moves as you move your simple image around), but future applications could see you putting on some glasses with and being able to change parts in your car with ease, or help trainees perform surgery. Plenty of examples of AR are on the internet for you to see, but its set to explode.
One fascinating development has already happened. Layar, the world’s first augmented browser, has created a platform for visual search results from the internet. Simply move your phone around you and up will pop the latest property search results from Nestoria, with details and a simple click for more information or directions to the property integrated into Google Maps. There are plenty of other ‘Layers’ too, with lastminute.com, hotels.com, Barclays and more joining up with Samsung, in addition to all the other companies developing for the platform. Visual search will become second nature to mobile users very quickly, and it’s an exciting space to be in at the moment.
4. Before turning to mobile, you worked briefly in the classifieds industry for leading jobs sites like Monster & smartwork.com. What impacts do you predict from mobile innovation for the classifieds industry?
There will be more of a shift to location-aware classified listings. I would expect to see some of the major players in classified general services, automobile and more move into displaying relevant listings and services based on accurately knowing where you are without you needed to do anything. There been too much talk about this sort of thing in the past, but 2010 onwards should finally be where we see this picking up. It’s about how it makes money the most that will really drive the services.
Mobile is the instant, always on, two-way enabler. Not only can you get information and use it straight away, from shopping comparison on a product in store, to finding the nearest cash point/property to rent in your area, or viewing a photo of a prospective builder’s work, but you can review, find directions to, contact or meet other people who use such a service, immediately. And with Open platforms like the new Samsung Bada, the possibilities are endless (shameless plug!).
Thanks Nick. 2010 is certain to be an exciting time for the mobile industry, and most of all for consumers. The technology has finally reached maturity in terms of usability and affordability, and we’re delighted that Nestoria can be a part of the innovation.
For those interested in keeping up with what Nick’s up to, you can follow him on twitter @nickts.
past Nestoria interviews: Josh Devins, Stoycho Vlaykov, and Mark Keating