Sunday, August 24, 2008

Smartphones and Touch Screens Changing the Game

Well, 3D is still cool and pretty amazing, but it looks like the Touch Screen might be the next big thing that's going on now.

From the Jeff Han demo at TED in 2007 to Microsoft's Surface display, we've been on the cusp of even more fun things with touch displays for a little while. The success of the iPhone and other products getting these devices out to wide ranges of users is really changing the game.
(btw... if you're interested in similar start-up development, you might also checkout the Albuquerque BarCamp coming up soon.)

From the New York Times:

Turning Point for Touch Screens
BREAKTHROUGHS often beget other breakthroughs, and Apple’s slick use of touch technology on its iPhone has set touch-screen makers to salivating. An industry once relegated to niches now sees the potential for riches.

The market for touch screens has grown quietly for years, both in commercial applications like restaurant point-of-sale systems, credit card signature readers or automated teller machines, and in consumer devices like global positioning systems and game platforms. But touch screens haven’t created much excitement as the main way for people to use things like phones or computers or other consumer electronics — until now.

Apple changed everybody’s mind about touch,” says Geoff Walker, global director of product management at Tyco Electronics’ Elo TouchSystems unit, a big seller of touch screens. That iPhone users can so easily resize photos with just a pinch or a flick of their fingertips is “supercool,” he says.

In particular, Apple changed minds about what is called multitouch technology. A multitouch screen is exactly what it sounds like: a screen that can accept input from multiple touches at once. If you haven’t seen an iPhone in action, you might have seen CNN commentators zipping around the “Magic Wall” during election coverage; the wall uses technology developed by Perceptive Pixel, a start-up in New York.

Apple uses multitouch screens in which a slight electrical charge reacts to the human body’s own electrical field, rather than pressure. There are other kinds of multitouch technology, but all are among the more expensive types of touch technology, industry observers say. High prices had caused multitouch to languish before the iPhone’s introduction.

...more at Turning Point for Touch Screens

One of the things helping push touchscreen development into hyperdrive though is a range of opportunities for funding for developers. There are lots of mini events and funds, but check out this at the New York Times:

Smartphone Start-Ups Have a Friend in This Fund

MENLO PARK, Calif. — Matt Murphy eats at expensive steakhouses, likes to watch his kids play soccer and is a loyal fan of Peet’s Coffee and Tea. And if he has his way, mobile phone users will know as much about each other as readers now know about him.

Mr. Murphy is a venture capitalist overseeing the iFund, a $100 million investment fund created earlier this year byKleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers Byers to invest in start-ups specializing in iPhone applications. One is Whrrl, a mobile location-based service where users can be tracked on their iPhone by friends, who can also critique and share their favorite restaurants or events.

Kleiner is hoping to tap into the popularity of the Apple iPhone, whose owners have already downloaded 60 million applications from Apple’s App Store. So far this year, Mr. Murphy and his partners at Kleiner have received 2,500 business plans for potential iPhone application start-ups and they have invested in four.

Mr. Murphy, 41, has for the last seven years focused on finding hot mobile start-ups. But until the iPhone emerged, it had not been easy. Much of the control over what is on a cellphone has been in the hands of the wireless carriers, not entrepreneurs. The iPhone, of course, and other smartphones on the horizon like the T-Mobile Dream, powered by Google’s new Android operating system, are sparking creativity among software developers.

“I was frustrated along with everyone else about how slowly everything was moving,” Mr. Murphy said in an interview at his office on Sand Hill Road not far from Stanford, where he attended business school in the 1990s. “Until the iPhone came out and you got to use one, it was hard to imagine how impactful it could be,” he said.

So far iFund has financed the companies Ngmoco and Gogii, a company called iControl that makes it easier to monitor homes while away and a soon-to-be-announced company that creates virtual worlds that one enters through the phone. (Kleiner made a pre-iFund investment in Pelago, Whrrl’s parent, but follow-on financing will come from the iFund, Mr. Murphy said.)

Three companies — Gogii, Ngmoco and the unnamed company — are expected to begin selling products in the fall. IControl’s applications are likely to come early next year.

The popularity of the App Store has spurred other investors and phone makers to advocate funds of their own. Research in Motion is expected to announce soon a fund for those developers who want to create applications for the BlackBerry. JLA Ventures, which is based in Canada, along with RBC Venture Partners, is co-managing the $150 million BlackBerry Partners Fund. Google announced a $10 million challenge for software using its Android operating system.

More at: Smartphone Start-Ups Have a Friend in This Fund

And even more in depth analysis of the business opportunities here at Jack
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