22 April 2008

iPhone, iPod Touch and why Mobile Internet is the Future

Dear Geraldine,

Yes I am begging for a verbal beating from all the nay-sayers... but Apple have pushed the boat out with full featured web browsing on the mobile platform.

Many non-converts will say that it's missing some vital features - and they are right. Without Java and Flash on either version of Apple's uber status symbol, they is missing out on some serious functionality and usability.

Let us not forget though that this is merely the first incarnation of these oft-heckled devices. And many of these issues can be resolved by a "simple" software update.

Why am I so bold? You would be right in thinking I sold out. Yes I bought an iPod Touch. Happy with my current cellular device I couldn't justify the expense of the iPhone without the features I now expect from a modern handset - especially one with so much (dare I say?) "PDA-like" potential! - What should the next iPhone have?

I'm no analyst, marketer or even a prophet, but Apple have started setting trends again. With the full browsing experience, that will now doubt get even more feature-complete as time goes on and public demand grows, we can now browse the existing web - not having to create a whole new layer of the web to cater for our mobile nature.

This will annoy some to say the least. To all those who have spent their resources on extracting their existing online presence into something that can be neatly accessible to mobile users I say under my breath: "Waste of time". See Mobile Web, Ubiquitous Web - it's going to happen if you don't believe me.

Yes the .mobi domains and re-creation of applications sans Javascript are now not worth pursuing! Why should we when our existing online presence can be viewed almost perfectly on these modern devices?

Forget demographics, usage stats and the like... the iPhone has now set the base standard for how we want to browse the web on the go. Users will demand it. Manufacturers will play to them. Developers must go with the flow!

As a web developer, I have a keen interest in this shift in how users interact with the online community. With the dawn of these devices, our mobile-enabled web applications can now be part of our existing application development model. Requests made to our existing systems will automatically adjust the content to suit the platform.

The creators of Facebook have managed to churn out a modest working example of this for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

Google too are constantly pushing forward with their developments for mobile users. But they have development teams and funding. Although many (including me) are worried about the advertising model that Google has pioneered as to whether it will be maintainable in this new era of web browsing - it is already showing signs of cracking. But this is a topic for further discussion.

What about Joe Small Business Owner - how will he get his web site to be truly accessible in this new arena? You could argue that he doesn't need to worry because of how these devices manage the current web.

It will become more evident in time though that the web applications that run natively on the platform the user prefers will be the ones that are more favoured and better used.

In order to deliver this in a manageable and cost-effective solution we really need a product that gives its administrators the power to decide what aspects of their online presence will be available to their mobile visitors.

This power doesn't rest with them at present and thus is forcing a chasm in the mobile web where services either do not exist or are so simple they would be better off if they didn't exist!

As we move forward into this almost-virgin territory are any of us truly ready?

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