Trendwatch: Mobile + cloud + personal information management

Nice piece today from Stacey Higginbotham of GigaOm that ties together a number of themes I’ve been following. Her main point is that paired advances in the browser and web-capable mobile devices have opened the to door to a (near) future in which device manufacturers and carriers lose control of the end-user experience, to be supplanted by open-source operating systems (e.g., Android) and independent software vendors (ISVs). In her words:

“…Google used WebKit to separate the software from the machine. If others do the same, that makes it more feasible to use cheaper chips and open-source operating systems to build out mobile computers in a variety of shapes and sizes…

“As consumers become more comfortable accessing programs in the cloud and storing their documents there, the familiarity of the Windows operating system becomes less relevant for the consumer, and developers can instead build programs designed to run in the cloud…

“… for application developers it means they could build an app without paying over a chunk of their revenue to an app store or going through an approval process.”

This is an exciting trend for anyone who loves to see the marketplace of ideas triumph over centrally-controlled models of innovation – the iPhone developer gold rush will become just the tip of the iceberg if this future plays out as projected. But the trend will also add urgency to the problem of personal data mining, or what folks in the storage industry call Information Lifecycle Management (ILM).

As consumers come to rely on an increasingly fragmented array of web-based services to run their personal and professional lives, they’ll need smarter “glue” for pulling all those disparate data stores and transaction histories into a unified view that they can mine for information. The Decho approach assumes that most of this data currently resides on the PC desktop, but rumored services like Google’s MyStuff idea (particularly in its latest iteration) seem like a more logical solution: a meta-index of personal content scattered across the Web that can be analyzed and queried as if it were a unified whole.

I often have to remind myself that the future never arrives as soon as I expect it to, but these intertwined trends feel like they have real momentum, owing largely to Apple’s runaway success with the iPhone, iPod Touch and AppStore. Every web bigco, device maker, mobile carrier and ISV wants a piece of the mobile web opportunity that Apple has blown wide open, and the battle has barely begun.