The Future of the Internet > MOBILITY

In his book ALWAYS ON, Brian Chen calls it the “Anything-anytime-anywhere future. We will be constantly connected to a global Internet community via flexible, incredibly capable gadgets with ubiquitous access to data. The constant connection these devices offer, and the amount of information they are constantly collecting and transmitting is set to change much of our lives. The data-driven revolution is already underway.” Consider these facts:

-Four times the number of cell phones in the world vs. PCs (4 billion vs. 1 billion)
-Over 130 billion texts messages sent each month; up from practically zero in 2000
-Gen Yers say the Smartphone is the most important device they own

It was noted in the July 5th edition of THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS that the wireless industry just crossed a major milestone; over half of all cell phones sold are Smartphones.

Until recently personal computers dominated the “screen of choice” for most people, followed by television and then mobile devices. Mobile devices and personal computers have now switched places in the hierarchy.

By late 2012, Smartphones will pass PCs as the primary way the world surfs the web.

Smartphones have changed the way we live, work and play. We are living in the age of convenience and we are living electronically. Games, recipes, sports, social activities, email, news… our lives and extended relationships are all now at our fingertips.

According to COMPUTERWORLD, mobility is the fastest-growing segment of the technology industry. There is widespread agreement that the most important technology
product no longer sits on your desk, but rather in your hand.

Five converging trends are fueling the rapid adoption:

1) 4G networks
2) Social networking
3) Video
4) VoIP
5) Impressive mobile devices, e.g. dual core processors, 4”+ screens, 960-by-540 displays

Mobile computing devices, services and the ecosystem that surrounds them – are a transformative force in politics, society and business. What makes all of this so very
interesting is that the transformative force is, itself, transforming. Mobility is massive; and massively disruptive.

Consider each of the communication mediums we are familiar with and how many years it took each to reach 50 million users, according to SOCIALNOMICS (Erik Qualman):

Radio – 38
TV – 13
Internet – 4
iPod – 3
Facebook – 200,000 million in 1 year

If you are at least 20 years old, you have lived through at least 3 mobile telecom eras:

1) Device era (Motorola Razer)
2) Application era (Apple’s Ap store and iTunes)
3) Social era (Facebook & Twitter)

What’s next? Mobility is changing very rapidly. Increasingly, mobile phone usage is about data, not voice. Mobility is massive; and massively disruptive.
Morgan Stanley says the growth curve for mobile Internet is 12X as steep as that for the desktop Internet when it rolled out; we all remember how transformative that was. The speed of mobile Internet adaptation is a revolution; Morgan Stanley says “the likes of which we haven’t seen before.”

The mobile revolution will be like its web predecessor with 2 important exceptions:

1) Mobile will be more transformative than the web – because mobile devices are always with your customer and employees
2) Mobile is going to evolve at a much quicker pace, because we have learned a lot from the web. Last year mobile shipments outpaced PCs.

My personal opinion is that personal computer/ PC is a misnomer. Desktops and laptops are really not that ‘personal.’ The Smartphone is the true PERSONAL device or personal computer/PC!

With that said, mobile brings with it an additional complexity that the web did not have – developing for multiple platforms. There was one major vendor in the web world, Microsoft.

In mobile there are multiple operating systems and multiple device types, each with their own native capabilities.

What does this mean to you?

At a minimum, a mobile-optimized version of your website is a necessity
Easy access to important info such as contact info & driving directions
Large fonts for easy reading on small screens
Navigation of your website needs to be simple. There is a lot of press about the fast 4G networks; this is starting to proliferate. The reality is today; most people on
slower 3G networks.

By making mobile a part of your overall strategy, you can transform your relationship with customers and employees in even greater ways than you did with the web.

Ask yourself three questions:
1) How does mobile enhance your customer and employee relationships?
2) What digital assets do you have available to deliver over mobile – info, data, web apps)
3) What use cases make the most sense for your customer and employees? (mobile apps have been said to either save time or waste time)

Decide how you want to interact with your mobile customer – as the customer experience evolves, so does the application sophistication, customer expectations, business transformation opportunities and the underlying business models.

There are 2 types of mobile apps. Native rich apps and mobile web apps; both have their advantages and disadvantages.

Native rich apps work online and offline and take advantage of all the device’s onboard capabilities, e.g. device’s UI, camera scanner GPS, and local storage of data such as contacts, maps and material.

The advantages of mobile web apps are that they are easy to distribute and manage content.

You can optimize a website, but you can’t “nativize” it. Once installed on a Smartphone, native rich apps can deliver content faster than an optimized website.
If the network goes down, native rich app users will not be inconvenienced because most of the relevant content has been pre-loaded on to the device. Mobile web apps will fail when the network is down.

The big advantage mobile web has over native apps is the development and support costs – much cheaper. The fact that you develop once and automatically target every webenabled platform is powerful. Compare this to developing an Android app, iPhone app and Blackberry app separately, it’s easy to see the advantage here. Obviously, developing one web app is quicker then developing multiple native rich apps.

Also, another shift in mobile web’s favor is the evolution to a new generation of HTML, the programming standard that underpins the Internet. The next generation of the Internet standard (HTML5) essentially will allow programs to run through a Web browser rather than a specific operating system. In theory, this will make the browser a universal computing platform: without leaving it, users could do everything from editing documents to accessing social networks or watching movies. Not only would any device with a Web browser have these capabilities, but users would have access, regardless of device, to all content stored remotely “in the cloud.”

Bottom line, there is no easy answer. It depends on your mobile strategy and how you want to interact with your customers.

Dan Hollings said, “There was a time when we reached in our pocket to jingle our change. Today, it’s our pocket that jingles us…as we reach not for change, but for our mobile devices. Tomorrow, it’ll be mobile marketers jingling in our pockets for that change. Wait, I hear a jingle, I think the change is already upon us.”

About the Author
With his focus at the intersection of public safety, technology and mobile computing, Tom Hulsey’s approach to the evolving marketplace is with his insights and ability to dig in to where actual customer benefits lie. Keeping abreast of a rapidly changing technology landscape isn’t easy, but Tom’s focus is always on what any technology actually provides the business. As an example, he recently led the sales and marketing efforts of an innovative security technology that expanded the corporate platform. Tom is the Social Media & Technology Chairman for the North Texas ASIS Chapter (largest security organization in the world) and he is on the Advisory Board for Dallas Social Media Breakfast.

Thomas A. Hulsey, CSE

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