IBM on Wednesday announced plans for a $100 million investment over the next five years into a major mobile research effort to create technology to bring services to people who have bypassed PCs for mobile phones as their primary method of accessing the Internet.
There are three focus areas for IBM's research investment: mobile enterprise enablement, emerging market mobility and enterprise end-user mobile experiences. Analytics, security, privacy and user interface, and navigation will also be studied.
The ubiquity and relative affordability of mobile phones as an information platform, combined with increases in processing power and accessibility, serves as a basis for the investment. According to IBM, the number of mobile users will grow by 191 percent from 2006 to 2011 to reach approximately one billion users.
For business and the enterprise, that means examining how to deploy and manage mobile devices and applications to a large force of enterprise field workers. It also means altering how the enterprise interacts with end-users, such as gaining insight into customer preferences and collecting historical data.
For emerging markets -- in particular the 83 percent of the world that does not have easy access to the Web, IBM says -- it means building technological and language literacy, infrastructure and the exchange of information, such as public transit schedules, weather, product prices, advertisements and financial transactions.
For the Average Joe, that means being able to eventually monitor energy consumption in the home, personalize shopping experiences, facilitate financial transactions, gain accuracy in personal health records and keep in touch with contacts.