December 23, 2008

The Mobile Revolution Has Arrived

By Rob Diana of Regular Geek (Twitter/FriendFeed)

Some people have been waiting for the mobile Web to arrive for years. The one mobile developer blog I have read over the years has been Russell Beattie.

Disappointingly, he gave up his dream of the mobile Web back in April of this year. This is disappointing for a few reasons. First, you always hate to see an entrepreneur quit. Second, Russell is a smart guy who has been hyping the mobile Web for years, but has just been too early for most people. Lastly, I think if he and his company were able to wait another year, there might have been hope.

Why would another year have made a difference? Well, it is the convergence of a few things. iPhone 3G was released with much hype this year. BlackBerry is finally making a move in the consumer space as well. The Curve has been a great device, but they are trying to compete directly with the iPhone with their new Storm. Google, Android and TMobile are also making an attempt to compete with the G1. All of these devices, but to a lesser extent with the Curve, are large screened, full browser, consumer oriented devices. Gone are the days of the "ooh, look how pretty the RAZR is".

Daniel Pritchett wrote on about the changes that are coming as well:
The continued market growth of iPhones, Netbooks, Blackberries and other tools make mobile browser support more and more important. Here’s a quick thought experiment for you: If you’re running site analytics, look and see how many of your viewers run a resolution lower than 800x600. Nearly 6% of all visitors to this site are using these low-resolution devices. Most of them are using the 320x396 screen of the iPhone and iPod touch family.
In addition to the general usability of the new mobile browsers and screen size, the application stores put a centralized location to find new applications. This is a big change that was started by the iPhone, and it is a fantastic change. Blackberry and the Android based phones have also opened application stores in order to compete effectively. This has created a real economy for mobile applications, and is something that Mr. Beattie would have loved. Of course, the applications only fit on these phones because of the expanded memory. The iPhone 3G comes in 8GB and 16GB sizes. The Blackberry phones are typically shipped with 2GB, but accept removable storage in the form of microSD cards.

Of course, these advances in speed and memory allow us to use the phones as an mp3 player, or even to play streaming audio and video. This was not even remotely possible a few years ago. The network speeds were not available for streaming anything. Finally, the phones have dropped in price far enough that normal people can buy them. You no longer have to be a high ranking corporate employee to get a good Blackberry. Both the iPhone and the Blackberry phones have models at $200 with a service contract.

Why does all of this matter now? We could play music on our phones a few years ago. Blackberry has had email integration for several years as well. However, the convergence of all these things has only recently happened at a reasonable price point. Normal people, not just gadget geeks and early adopters, are finally getting comfortable with using their phone for more than phone calls. As an example, my wife inherited my Blackberry Curve. I just purchased it this summer, and a month later received a new Curve from my employer. So, my wife now has a Blackberry and is slowly getting addicted to it. She can now check email on a page that looks something like the internet version of her email. She loves the full keyboard for text messaging. She syncs the phone with Outlook every day to ensure that she has her contacts and calendar in both places. Could she do this with her 2 year old Motorola or Nokia phone? No, not really. Her old phone could barely play a ringtone that sounded like music.

That reminds me, I have to load her Curve with some music. She has been bugging me for days about that. Yep, you can do that now.

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