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28 August, 2012 - 14:02 By Tony Quested

Future mobile handsets to revolutionise online interaction

Co-authors Abhi Naha and Peter Whale with their book outside CUP

A whole new world of online interaction will be opened up by futuristic mobile handset design, authors of a new Cambridge book believe.

Mobile technology entrepreneurs Peter Whale and Abhi Naha are confident that “us very analogue human beings” can become masters of a new digital world via a revolution in handset design.

They have co-authored a new book – ‘The Essentials of Mobile Handset Design’ – published by Cambridge University Press in the UK this Thursday (August 30).

In an exclusive preview for Business Weekly, Whale predicts: “Handsets will increasingly become a window into the new world we are constructing online, representing us and allowing us very analogue humans to fully engage with each other and with the growing digital library of human knowledge – and trivia – online.

“Equally because mobile technology allows us to be wherever we want or need to be, we see the future mobile handset helping to enhance our understanding of our immediate surroundings – including augmentation of information from the online world, and interactions with physical objects nearby.

“Innovation is the fuel of the mobile handset industry and, as Apple founder Steve Jobs said, design is the soul.”

But you can’t design in isolation, the authors argue. A key theme of the book is the application of an holistic design approach, which is the inter-connectedness of a wide range of design issues requiring a strong collaboration dynamic between all the different players in the handset ecosystem.

The book captures the experience and know-how of the two Cambridge innovators, who have lived and breathed the mobile phone industry for many years through a number of high-tech enterprises based in the Cambridge area. “We cover all the key ingredients for success in the mobile industry, along with a range of case studies,” says Naha. He added: “We were approached directly by Cambridge University Press and series editor Prof William Webb (the Neul CTO) to write a much needed book, in part because of our pedigree in championing the Handset SIG within Cambridge Wireless, where we have been creating events that explore the latest developments in handset design for several years.

“We put together a brief which CUP were pleased to accept and now the fruit of our labours is about to be harvested, hopefully with lots of sales. Cambridge University Press have such faith in the book that they have already created a lower-cost edition to market in Asian markets, particularly in India.

“The book has some great endorsements including from Prof Andy Hopper from the Cambridge Computer Lab, David Cleevely from Cambridge Wireless and Cherie Blair from the Cherie Blair Foundation, amongst others.

“We think the book is a much needed introduction to all of the key issues involved in designing the world's most advanced, highest volume product ever - the biggest platform in the history of humanity. All that we know and share in the book has been amassed through working in the hi-tech industry in Cambridge and engaging with pretty much every mobile phone designer and manufacturer on the planet.”

The book is targeted at anyone with an interest or stake in the mobile handset industry including designers, engineers, managers, entrepreneurs, app developers, university students, manufacturers, brands etcetera.

Whale said: “Since the invention of the transistor Moore’s Law has led to what we call the “more laws” of: more processing power, more miniaturisation, more complexity, more economies of scale, more market growth, more market diversity, more utility value, more apps – and ever more mobile handsets!

“A counter-balance to these ‘more laws’ are the unbending physical world constraints of limited spectrum availability, limits on information transfer over wireless, limits on the chemistry of batteries, practical limits on human cognitive load and manual dexterity - which affect our ability to successfully interact with small sophisticated physical devices

“Innovation and design thrive in the space between the opportunities created by “more” and the challenges created by the hard limits. There is never time to design a handset completely from the ground up. The market and technology would have changed multiple times in the intervening period and the economics of doing so would never add up.

“Consequently, a platform approach is absolutely critical. This is true for hardware, software, and reference design, but it is just as true for at the test house, in the factory, through the distribution channel, at the retail outlet and through the app store.

“In addition to a small number of successful high-volume manufacturers, there are increasing opportunities for relatively low volume, high value brands to be successful in a large range of market niches. This is possible because of the availability of common handset platforms.”

Part of ‘The Cambridge Wireless Essentials Series,’ the book is hardback, 249 pages and costs £40. It is available from Thursday, August 30 via the Cambridge University Press web store and from all major online book retailers, as well as from the CUP book store in Cambridge. Also check out www.mobilehandsetdesign.com

• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Co-authors Abhi Naha and Peter Whale with their book outside CUP

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