On Friday I had an interesting discussion about the origin of mobile applications. What was the first application that were made for mobile phones? As in most discussions like this we never came to a conclusion. I’m curious of nature and could not let this question be left with out an answer.
During the discussion we narrowed down the definition of a mobile application to be:
An application developed and distributed not by the phone manufactures but by a third party developer and installed on the phone by the owner.
This way we could rule out the basic built in applications like phone book, sms writer etc.
First I started to do some reasearch on the technologies I know and have used myself for developing mobile applications. Some history about these:
Java 2 Micro Edition (J2ME)
Java ME technology was originally created in order to deal with the constraints associated with building applications for small devices. For this purpose Sun defined the basics for Java ME technology to fit such a limited environment and make it possible to create Java applications running on small devices with limited memory, display and power capacity. In 1998 Sun Microsystems released PersonalJava (pJava) which was followed by J2ME in 1999. J2ME is still the preferred technology for developing mobile applications with Java.
Pocket PC 2000 (codename Rapier) was released 19th April 2000 and was based on Windows CE 3.0, followed by Pocket PC 2002 (codename Merlin) in 2001. The Windows Mobile 2003 was released 23th June 2003 as the first release under the Windows Mobile banner. The latest stable release today is Windows Mobile 6.1, but version 6.5 is expected to be released next month. Windows Mobile 7 is a major upgrade with a planned release in 2010.
24th June 1998, Symbian Ltd. was formed as a partnership between Ericsson, Nokia, Motorola and Psion, to exploit the convergence between PDAs and mobile phones. Psion was founded in 1980 and developed EPOC a graphical operation system for portable devices like PDA. The first open Symbian OS phone was released in 2001 (the Nokia 9210 Communicator).
BREW (Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless)
Was released in September 2001 by QUALCOMM as an application development platform for mobile phones.
I have been trying to find info about the first applications and what I find is that services for SMS , ring tones and mobile payment were the first to go commercial. Mobile payments were first trialled in Finland in 1998 when two Coca-Cola vending machines in Espoo were enabled to work with SMS payments. But than again can we really call that an application?
I think that the first mobile application fitting my earlier definition must be a J2ME application since the first open Symbian OS phone came in 2001 and J2ME came in 1999-2000. It would be fun to find out what the first application did and who developed it. Anyone?