HP Labs India has created a new technology called SiteonMobile which allows mobile phone users to "surf the Web" via SMS text message or voice commands. The cloud-based technology is designed to broaden access the Worldwide Web to those whose only "connected" device is a mobile phone without a built-in Web browser - as is the case in most of the developing world.

How SiteonMobile Works

SiteonMobile requires a website publisher to Web-enable their site's content using something called "tasklets." These widget-like tools encompass the steps one would perform on a website to complete a particular task. For example, a publisher could create a "tasklet" for booking airline tickets or getting a daily horoscope. (The Web via SMS can be fun, too, right?) Designing these tasklets requires "little or no programming experience," says Sudhir Dixit, director of HP Labs India.

Once the tasklets have been created, users can send a text message to a particular number to get the information they desire returned to their mobile phone, thanks to these tasklets which reside in HP's cloud. Or they can dial another number to receive voice-based information via an interactive voice response (IVR) service.

Both the IVR system and the SMS server live in a cloud application maintained by HP, itself called "Tasklet" too.

In India, Dixit explains, there are over 600 million mobile connections and more than half of the country's mobile phone users have low-end phones without Web browsing capabilities. Most people in the country access the Web via their phones, not computers, due to both the high cost of bandwidth and low tech literacy. People want "intuitive and quick access to the information they need, rather than having to negotiate the Web for it," he says.

DIY Tools for the Mobile Web

In short, this new service is providing DIY tools for the creation of SMS and voice-accessible "web applications." Ironically, it's not that different a concept from Google's App Inventor, a DIY tool for developing Android applications, which launched yesterday. Instead of collaborating with a third-party vendor to develop an IVR or SMS service for a particular site, SiteonMobile puts the power to do so in the hands of the publishers themselves, democratizing access to what was, before, a more complex technology. According the HP site, the service offers "very quick deployment," "no system integration required," "no additional programming needed," and it's "absolutely free."

Revenue Model?

According to the press release from HP, commercialization of the technology is still being decided upon internally, and that the current goal is popularization of the technology. However, a couple of other reports state that SiteonMobile will introduce a revenue-sharing model similar to Apple and its iTunes App Store where publishers are charged for a premium level of the service. Clearly, those details are still being worked out at HP.

At the moment, SiteonMobile is an invitation-only service and is being tested with just a handful of undisclosed publishers. Interested parties can sign up for access via email here.

Disclosure: HP is current sponsor of ReadWriteWeb but did not sponsor this report. >