Nokia CEO: Near-Universal Web Access Near

By Joseph Palenchar On Jan 19 2009 - 8:00am

The world is on the threshold of a profound social change in which wireless phones turn into "indispensable personal assistants" and become the most common way to access the Internet, Nokia president/CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo told CE industry leaders.

During the Consumer Electronics Association's Leaders in Technology dinner, the president of the world's largest cellphone maker urged attending government officials and industry executives to promote the change by embracing open cellphone platforms. Open platforms, he explained, will unleash the creativity of independent developers to write a multitude of applications that people can use "to turn the Internet into your Internet." If openness and consumer choice remain "bedrock principles," consumers will be "free to personalize the Internet to suit their own needs," he said.

"We know our vision will be realized sooner if the technology is in the hands of a diverse, global community of users and developers," Kallasvuo continued. "We know great ideas do not come from our labs alone. That's why, unlike some of our competitors, we are committed to building a truly open ecosystem to extend the reach of our services business."

Kallasvuo said he sees "promising signs that openness will prevail in the wireless Internet."

The ability to personalize the mobile Internet experience could become a reality for almost everyone in the world in as little as a decade, he told the audience. "Now we're at the point where one day very soon, 4 billion of the world's 6.5 billion people will be using a mobile device." Within a decade, "it's possible that virtually the entire planet will be connected wirelessly," he added.

What Kallasvuo called "this little screen" will "eventually become the most common way in the world to access the Internet, the biggest personal media distribution channel and the largest advertising vehicle."

For many consumers, he added, the cellphone has already replaced the MP3 player, digital camera and personal navigation device. Eventually, he added, "it may replace the need to carry a wallet."

The mobile Internet experience will be unlike the Internet experience in the home or office, he added. Kallasvuo said he wants to "unleash the possibilities of the Internet in entirely new ways," and he said he foresees "a world where your mobile device, linked to the Internet and aware of your location and preferences, constantly adapts to your surroundings."

"Just imagine a device that truly anticipates what you want and need, a device that automatically lets you avoid traffic jams, long lines or crowds," he said. Such a device will become "an indispensable personal assistant."

The potential business opportunities are huge, he continued. "We anticipate that the Internet services market for maps, media, messaging, music and games alone will total nearly $60 billion in 2011."

Even without Internet connections, mobile phones are "transforming the global economy in ways we are only beginning to understand," Kallasvuo said. Phones have unleashed "many small improvements in human efficiency" multiplied by billions of people, he explained.

The London School of Economics measured the economic impact of 10 mobile phones per 100 people on a developing nation's gross domestic product and found that the phones contributed as much as 8 percent of GDP, he said.

A cellphone "means a fisherman in India can now call ahead to find the port where he can get the best price for his catch," he said. "It means a mother in Africa with a sick child can call the doctor in a far-off village for treatment advice and potentially avoid a hard, three-day journey."

"Now just think of the impact that universal Internet access will have as the cost of Web-enabled phones declines," he said. This year, he said, Nokia will launch a range of services for people in rural Africa, India and Asia to bring them important information such as crop prices and weather updates as well as educational services.

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