State of the Mobile Web

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When I blogged from the MMA Consumer Best Practices Industry Forum back in January, I felt like I had stepped into a circus that was in the middle of a performance but needed to move to a new location at the same time. The iPhone had just been released and it was not really discussed by the attendees as much as I thought it would have been. Of course this was not the focus of the conference so it was not much of a surprise. I felt as though much of the conversation was about “on-deck” functionality and that the existing model was still the focus. It is and was.

I watched the round table discussion put on by TechCrunch yesterday and was encouraged to see the turmoil I felt, verbalized during this meeting. The video is worth watching and I will boil down what I believe the underlying focus of the meeting was.

The iPhone is obviously a game-changer. In my opinion, one that Silicon Valley is focusing on primarily due to the genre of users that are buying the device (and their love for Apple). The market is not yet large enough warrant much attention from the larger players. (They are the fastest growing in some regards and yet still small.) Developers feel that Apples platform is easy to develop on and are excited about creating apps for their tremendous user interface. Nokia and others were there and you could see/feel that they don’t know what they are going to do to handle the challenge the iPhone represents. They know it is a threat and yet with Nokia owning 70% of the overall market it is hard to get too upset about Apple’s move into the space. The interface/web interface is what most feel the iPhone’s claim to fame is; and it is. No one is focused on Android right now as it will not launch until November at the earliest. Michael Arrington went as far to say that Symbian and other operating systems are now pointless. I will be curious to see what Nokia and others do to address the iPhone challenge.

There is a lot of concern that Apple will be the new walled garden, instead of the carriers. The understanding that the WAP experience is abysmal and that the mobile web is only now beginning seems to be lost on those that have been in the business for a long time. WAP is not web and to confuse the two is ridiculous. What has existed under the WAP protocol is a dumbed down version of what the web could be. There simply was no interface that was easy enough to use. WAP is for those that are techincally minded with respect to navigation and it would never pass the Grandmother Test. It was also mentioned that the browser for mobile is the killer app, and I agree with this. Firefox and Skyfire are the latest additions to the race. One person (on a very impressive panel) was offended when someone said that the mobile Internet has just started. He cited the fact that $700,000,000 dollars in revenue had been generated from ringtones, music, etc. Again; not the internet.

In the end Apple and Android are the disruptors the US mobile market needs. The carriers behavior back in January were protectionist at the least and they aren’t going down without a fight.

By Michael Myers

I'm an Associate Teaching Professor of Digital Marketing at the Daniels College of Business, University of Denver. I also consult with startups and established brands. I'm currently focused on artificial intelligence, cognitive neuroscience and culture. I am married to an amazing woman and have two incredible children. I was raised in Colorado and spend my free time with family, biking, snowboarding and going to the Pacific Ocean to SCUBA dive and/or surf. I'm passionate about architecture, design, street art, photography and the art that tattooing has evolved into.

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