W3C's Mobile Web Initiative
According to the press release, "The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is hosting a "Mobile Web Initiative" Workshop on 18-19 November in Barcelona, Spain that will discuss the current challenges of "mobile Web" access, and how to address them." Very cool. I just got a heads up from one of the people who's company will be attending the workshop tomorrow. Almost makes me wish I was back in Spain so I could sneak my way in. :-)
If you read the release, you'll see a link to the 40+ position papers from a variety of mobile technology leaders around the world. This is very interesting reading, if you don't mind slogging through W3C commitee speak. Some of the papers are a bit disappointing like DoCoMo's, but others are a bit more fleshed out and shows where the focus of some companies is, and their perspective of how mobile devices will interact with the web.
The smaller organizations seem to have better papers, here's an exerpt from Expway's paper:
There are two ways in which mobile-available Web content can be made desirable to mobile users. One is to bring the Web to mobile devices, and hope that the mass of content available there will be sufficiently appealing. While this is certainly desirable, it is a path that is fraught with technical issues, and may not eventually be the most appealing one to end-users in short term. For entire classes of content (eg text-intensive resources) one, given a choice, is likely to prefer accessing them on a larger screen than available to mobiles. That is to say, if the content is the same there will be only marginal incentive to access it using a mobile device.
Another approach is to take the specificities of mobile devices into account, and produce content that, while it will be equally available to desktops, will be more useful to mobile users. Examples of such content include location-based services (I'm lost and hungry, give me a map of where I am and a list of Mongolian restaurants close-by), survival-based services (it's 11PM, what subways can I take to get as close as possible to Shinjuku), or data acquisition services (how can I recommend this smoky dive I just scouted to my beer buddies). In the end, it is not so much about bringing the horse to water than it is about making it thirsty. I may eventually get used to doing Le Monde's crosswords on my mobile device instead of on paper, but that won't be before I've become enticed into using it for reasons exclusive to that class of device.
But before that becomes possible, the "Mobile Web" must become a platform in its own right that authors can reliably write content to without having to target specific devices or operators. This alone will make it desirable for content providers â€” especially non-professional ones â€” to produce mobile-accessible content.
Not that I agree entirely with this way of thinking above, but its interesting to see people lay out their thoughts on the subject. Hopefully someone will blog the sessions tomorrow or there'll be some summary, etc. I'd be interested to hear what the results of the workshops.