The traditional relationship people have with their mobile phones will soon be a thing of the past. A new generation of devices, all connected to the global wireless network, is set to reshape modern life.
But innovation is not limited to the devices themselves. Third-party service providers offering everything from on-demand movies to live commercial TV, music and travel services, are accessible at the push of a button. WiMAX, WiBro and 3G networks are allowing users to access content at broadband speeds, and various e-commerce models are evolving that make such services both convenient and affordable.
The sheer volume of change points to one inescapable conclusion: a tidal wave of content, comprised of both information and entertainment, is coming. How providers, carriers, device manufacturers and end-users handle and protect that content will ultimately determine the direction and success of this immense revolution.
Driving this new era in content delivery are two important trends. The first, open systems, changes the software platform on which mobile services are built. Until very recently, the handset manufacturer exerted almost dictatorial control over the mobile OS. This is no longer the case. Open source operating systems, such as Google's Android and the platform soon-to-be-released from the Symbian Foundation, have already created upheaval in the mobile ecosystem.
Not only does the open systems approach allow the consumer to download a wider range of applications to the device, but now the OS source code itself is open. And while these new options will undoubtedly benefit users, they also present opportunities for malicious software to enter the device.
The other trend driving the coming content tidal wave is storage. The amount of storage capacity available for mobile devices has increased exponentially – and will continue to grow. Storage in and of itself is useful. However, when combined with the greater computing power of today's devices, the end result is spectacular. “Dumb storage” is instantly transformed into a viable platform for uses ranging from health care and e-commerce to “smart home” remote management and even ID authentication.
So what are the implications of this evolving world of mobile content? Competition will no doubt be fierce among providers and aggregators. Pricing, value, quality-of-service and ease-of-use will drive adoption. At least as important will be the need for strong, systems-level security that will protect content providers while giving third-party application developers the chance to innovate freely in a consistent, standards-based technology environment. Threats ranging from malware to privacy invasions – not to mention integrity of content, ranging from the latest movie to confidential business information – are uppermost in the minds of content providers, carriers and device OEMs alike.
It's clear – given the many, many variations in operating systems, protection standards, content types, applications and distribution methods – that security solutions will never be a one-size-fits-all proposition. OMA (Open Mobile Alliance), the 4C Entity, Marlin, PlayReady and other security protocols must all be addressed. Without adequate onboard protection, the device simply becomes the weakest link in the chain, and business models that depend on that strong device will simply collapse.
Yet, with the right security solutions in place, from encryption or access controls to storage protection, users will be able to download and install third-party apps and content without risking their devices or their content. And all stakeholders in the mobile services marketplace will be protected as well.