What do you want your cell phone to be able to do?
Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Hal Abelson put that question to about 20 computer science students this semester when he gave them one assignment: Design a software program for cell phones that use Google Inc.'s upcoming Android mobile operating system.
In the process, they revealed the power of an open system like Android to shake up the mobile phone industry, where wireless companies are being pressured to loosen the control they have maintained over what devices do. If the brainstorms of these MIT students are an indication, phones will soon challenge the Internet as a source of innovation.
For these students at least, cell phones should be all about location, location, location. Most of the projects produced by the seven teams of students involved programs that let phones track people's physical place — or that of their friends — to help them do things and meet up.
Wife: Where you last evening, dear?
Husband: At the office, doing a big project.
Wife: Since when is your office in a private home?
Personally, I'm of two minds about this.
1) I really don't want anyone to know where I am.
2) But if I'm passing a store, I would like it to woo my business by telling me I could have ginormous discount on something I want.
What about you?