Standing in his vineyard west of Santa Rosa, Josh Hermsmeyer could pull out his iPhone and read breaking news from Iraq.
Or he could make a stock trade, or hum a tune and let the iPhone identify the song.
Yet, the powerful computer in his hand wouldn't do what he really wanted.
It didn't allow him to input the sugar levels of his grapes and use the iPhone's global positioning system to automatically associate the data with the spot where he was standing in the vineyard.
So, back in January, he started building an iPhone application that did.
"I wanted an application to help manage my vineyard. So I built it," Hermsmeyer said. "It's cool stuff."
Hermsmeyer, 31, is part of a growing movement to build software applications for mobile devices that are intended for unique, local purposes.
People are designing programs for a wide variety of uses aimed at specific locations, ranging from music events to county tourism attractions.
In the 30-year history of the Harmony Festival in Santa Rosa, more than a few attendees have likely struggled to locate their tent after a day lit up with activity. But now a new iPhone application being developed for the three-day event will help festival-goers find their way.
"Basically, you'll be able to drop a pushpin on wherever you parked your car, or where your tent is located," said Jeff Baudin, founder of Santa Rosa-based Offspring, which is designing the application for the festival.
The iPhone will then act as a virtual compass, directing people back to their cars or tents, Baudin said.
The Harmony Festival application, which will be offered as a free download, will also let attendees locate the closest bathroom, or search through a list of vendors to see where a booth is located, or create a custom schedule of music acts they want to see.
"It's pretty much like a program guide with a personal navigator built in," Baudin said.
The idea came from event organizer Damian Peters, who had recently used a similar application for the Coachella Valley Music Festival that took place in April near Palm Springs.
"I didn't need to keep a program guide in my hand. I had it on my phone," Peters said. "I totally see this as the wave of the future."
While the first version of the Harmony Festival application will be fairly basic due to limited time to develop it, future versions will be able to push out useful information to attendees, and will likely also serve as a marketing tool for organizers.
The Sonoma County Tourism Bureau has asked for price quotes to get an iPhone application developed, and will likely test an application to showcase local events in little more than a month.
"We're talking about designing a program for our events calendar," said Keri Hanson, marketing manager for the bureau. "It seems like a great opportunity to reach people, especially in the Bay Area where there is a proliferation of
The company that designed the bureau's Web site, Ninja Web Masters in Berkeley, is developing an iPhone application that will show events listed on its clients' Web sites. It expects to let customers test the application in about a month.
But Ron Blaise, whose company is designing the application, said there are not enough iPhone owners to justify building a complex program for specific tourism bureaus yet.