Mobile10: Diana Stepner

Interviews with key mobile influencers

Diana Stepner
Diana Stepner
Head of Future Technologies
Pearson PLC

Hopefully the app trend will be balanced by the continued rise of APIs, so companies and consumers can continue to access content and create new, open innovations.

  1. What's your app of the moment?

  2. I’m a fan of Chrome on Android. The ability to have a mobile web experience that is almost the same as desktop browsing is quite impressive. While, at the same time, the user interface / design enables nuances that capitalize on the rapid nature of mobile activities.  On iOS, I tend to favor the ‘app of the day’. With SXSW, I started to use Highlight on iOS. The ability to identify individuals in my extended social graph and highlight common attributes is intriguing. At a large event, it’s a good way to connect with like-minded individuals.

  3. What is your primary phone?

  4. It’s the best handset on the market right now - Samsung Galaxy Nexus.  The reviews are true. It’s definitely an iPhone challenger.  The screen resolution is impressive, the speed is computer-like, and Ice Cream Sandwich is a much improved Android o/s.  With the large screen, I find myself bringing out my tablet less and less. It’s just not necessary any longer as the Nexus clearly presents web pages and apps.

  5. Which mobile startups have you got your eye on?

  6. To be honest, there are just too many to name.  There are new ones popping up daily that extend functionality of their predecessors. Thus, it’s probably the mobile ‘start-ups’ that have been around for a year or two that are really worthy of recognition. For example Foursquare, Instagram, and Square.  They created new platforms, new services, and have truly changed the mobile experience.

  7. What is the biggest challenge facing the mobile industry and why?

  8. I’m a fan of open data and the mobile web, thus I see the walled gardens of applications as a potential challenge. Applications closing off data will make it harder and harder for people to truly have the connected experiences digital devices can provide.  Hopefully the app trend will be balanced by the continued rise of APIs, so companies and consumers can continue to access content and create new, open innovations.  I’d also like to see Android handsets receive updates faster, so the fragmentation in the market can start to subside.

  9. What are you currently working on?

  10. We’re exploring immersive experiences.  Experiences which draw the user into the activity and tend to reflect elements of the ‘real world’. For example WebGL for 3D experiences in the browser. Kinect for interactive learning. Augmented Reality for supplementing the real world with additional data insight and recommendations.  Then across our activities we also try to incorporate Responsive Design principles as much as possible. We recently completed a GoogleTV prototype which worked across Google TV as well as mobile and tablet devices.

  11. What will be the biggest opportunity in 2012?

  12. If it wasn’t an Olympics year, I’d say affordable phones as powerful as computers, leading to an increase in multi-function devices (mobile phones which can be TV remotes, computers when docked, wallets, car keys, etc.). As it is an Olympics year, we’re likely to see a number of TV innovations accelerated as well.  For example internet enabled TVs that incorporate social extensions and/or mobile integration (second screen experiences).

  13. Who are your 3 rockstars in mobile?

  14. Given my Android answers peppered throughout this Q&A an obvious one is Andy Rubin. His conviction to provide an open mobile operating system is truly impressive as are the new innovations that are introduced with each version of Android.  That said, one must consider Steve Jobs as well.  Without him, it’s likely we would not have the tablet revolution or today’s innovative, smart phone experiences and designs. For me, also of note is Tim Berners-Lee.  I believe more and more we will see the internet reflected on mobile devices, in a freer, less native app-centric way.  His support of open standards also makes advancements, such as Mozilla’s Boot to Gecko possible.  With it, we may truly to see the internet as your phone.

  15. Who were you working for 10 years ago?

  16. I was at a start-up called E.piphany. The company focused on customer relationship management and reporting/analytics.  At the time, the product’s use of web browser front-end was quite innovative.  I was impressed by how easy to use the products started out. I was a ‘customer’ and had found CRM products to truly be a nightmare to master.  So, E.piphany’s initial ease of use, and the founder’s vision + energy, led me to join the company.

  17. Who was/is your best boss?

  18. My team! They keep me in line. I am impressed by the way they continue to look into the future and see ways we can bring new technologies and new innovations to Pearson.  Also their ability to work around barriers so we can continue to introduce prototypes rapidly inspires me.

  19. Who else should we interview and what would you ask them?

  20. Martin Eriksson. Martin heads up the Product Tank in London.  He evangelizes the value of product management all the time. Even though the US seems to have realized the benefits of having a good product manager on board, the UK lagged a bit behind. Through his efforts, London is definitely registering the importance and more & more product managers are being hired.  I’d ask him - What skills should product managers develop to future-proof themselves? As the digital realm is changing so rapidly, new skills are always needed.  Thus knowing which ones he favors would be valuable.

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The Mobile10 interview is a series of profile pieces on leading global influencers in the mobile sector. Each interviewee is asked to give their viewpoints on new mobile innovations and growth opportunities as well as revealing their own mobile habits over the course of 10 questions.

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