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Simple mobile file sharing grows up: Meet the new wave of phone-to-phone apps

Mark Sullivan | July 9, 2013
It's 2013, and we carry little computers in our pockets everywhere we go. We live in a world that's more connected and social than ever before. But, inexplicably, we still can't use our smartphones to share our data, files, and memories with each other easily and seamlessly without using email or some type of formal cloud service like Google Drive or Microsoft's SkyDrive.

App developers like Phrizbe use an SDK from Qualcomm to build AllJoyn into their apps. The chipmaker says that about 40 apps in the Google Play store now include AllJoyn in their code. Qualcomm has released SDKs for Android, iOS, Linux, Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows RT, but not yet for Windows Phone 8 or BlackBerry.

Qualcomm's senior director of business development Lauren Thorpe points out that many of the apps that now use AllJoyn are not specifically about file-sharing, but instead use AllJoyn to add proximal and peer-to-peer sharing capabilities to their apps. Phrizbe, for example, depends on AllJoyn for its direct peer-to-peer capability (without it, users would have to share files from the cloud). Another app, Bizzabo, relies on AllJoyn for its ability to detect other nearby devices that it can share with.

If AllJoyn became a standard, disparate apps could use it as a common sharing language. An AllJoyn-enabled Bump app could swiftly share contact information with an AllJoyn-enabled Phrizbe phone, for example.

IDC analyst John Jackson believes that Qualcomm is already positioning AllJoyn to become a standard. "Qualcomm is hunting around for a standards body to carry the AllJoyn standard forward and make it an open standard instead of just an open-source project," he says. "It's clear that standardization by a recognized and globally accepted standards body would help and put the technology in a position to be universally distributed at some point."

However, Jackson adds that the old walled-garden issue is likely to rear its ugly head again. "Adoption would likely be limited for as long as various incumbent parties pursue proprietary paths," he says.

And there, in a nutshell, is the conundrum that almost all mobile devices, media, and services face. Innovations like the iPhone happen in fiercely competitive--and protective--markets like the one we have today. But that same environment prevents competing companies and ecosystems from adopting standards that would permit their products to work and play well with others in the wild.


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