Mobile is Amazing

Mobility as a concept is still amazing - the potential for developing services that take advantage of such a personal and ubiquitous platform is incredible and I'd love to just start again right now and relaunch... focused on new ideas.

There's been a lot of misunderstanding about my post back in May when I explained my thoughts in shutting down Mowser. One of the A-list blogging sites, in a rush to get a headline before anyone else, picked up the story, and stupidly and incorrectly summarized my whole post as "the mobile web is dead" and then their story hit Techmeme. Of course none of the other moron bloggers out there bothered to read my actual post and just repeated the inaccurate summary ad-nauseum. The amazing thing is that since then, the summary has been summarized even more until there are some people out there who think I said, "mobile is dead." Astounding.

I just ignored it, thinking that there's no way anyone could misunderstand my original post, which I spent hours on, clarifying exactly what I meant: That mobile-only XHTML-MP based web sites were a dead-end and would be obviated by better mobile browsers (such as mobile Safari, Opera, mobile Mozilla, etc.) and the fact that most users will want PC-based access as well. I was quite clear on this, I thought.

But then this comment on an iPhone post the other day just blew my mind: "Russ - I thought mobile was dead? :-)", to which I replied, "I'm not sure who said that, but it wasn't me." And after he quoted some self-explanatory parts of my Mowser post, and I explained the details of what I meant, the commenter replied:

"Russ - you are much deeper into "mobile/mobile web" than I, which is why I read your blog. Maybe it is obvious to you what you meant, but I read it twice before commenting and still don't quite get it :-("


Does *everyone* think I'm a fucking hypocrite asshole and complete idiot, who after years of promoting mobility, suddenly thinks it's a lost cause - just at the moment mobile is really starting to really go mainstream? Apparently so. I find it unbelievable, but despite my efforts to be specific, there's obviously widespread misunderstanding of what I wrote and meant. There's not much I can do really... If someone doesn't understand the technical differences, I'm sorry, but why are they reading my blog anyways? It blows my mind.

Anyways, that damage has been done, and this post will never get nearly as widely distributed or read as my original post, but just in case you missed it, I posted my final thoughts in that post above in nice big bold letters so no one can miss it. Mobility, mobiles and the "Mobile Web" is as exciting to me now as it has ever been, and that hasn't and won't change.

For the record to make sure there's no more confusion:

* The "Mobile Web" rocks (as defined by mobile access to the Internet) - It's taking off now and is going to be an essential part of the every day lives of billions of people across the globe. Advanced browsers are here or coming soon that are going to make it easy and simple to access any website, and the sites themselves are continuing to make an effort to ensure the most relevant parts of their sites are mobile-friendly too. The Mobile Web is the next killer app of mobility after messaging and is without doubt, the future of mobile.

* Mobile Apps suck - I don't care how many apps have been downloaded from iPhone's AppStore or Qualcomm's Brew deck, customized mobile applications are niche plays at best. If you want to quote what an idiot I am, this is where you can start as obviously I'm bucking people like John Doerr here (who started the $100M iPhone fund) and efforts like Android which are betting on the openness of their platform.

Here's my take:

  • Mobile apps get downloaded in a rush in the first few weeks after a new phone purchase, and then they aren't downloaded again (usually after the first monthly bill).
  • Promoting a mobile app is insanely expensive and is usually reliant on some sort of walled-garden gatekeeper: Apple, Verizon, etc.
  • The most useful mobile apps are highly integrated into the platform which they work, but there's no dominant mobile platform now, nor will there be for the forseeable future. Even "cross platform" apps like Qik only support a handful of devices.
  • Even if there's a great app available on multiple platforms, there's a 1 to 10 number (or more) in terms of people who will bother downloading any given app, and only 1 to 10 of those people who will use it more than a few times. 1% of a given device's install base in minuscule.

For these reasons, and others (updates, pricing, learning curve, etc.) I think Mobile Apps are just a red herring and something best left to the big guys like EA, who can afford to port apps and games like Super Monkey Ball to 100 different platforms in order to make a buck.

* MID devices are going to rock our world: I've been using a Nokia 770/N800 for years now and I can tell you how useful an convenient it is. It's the perfect solution for casually doing all your regular Internet tasks: Web, Email, IM, Media and Skype. The mini-laptop rush we're seeing now is just a prelude to a more convenient sort of tablet form factor. Look for every student in school to have one to take notes and interact, look for every business person to have one to organize their daily workdays. It's the return of the PDA, but this time with lots more power and utility. The iPhone is like a small version of these more powerful devices, but the appeal of MIDs will be that they aren't controlled by telecoms in any way. MIDs, to me, will be the next revolution in technology.

Okay I hope that's clear. Please feel free to leave comments if you actually read this and are *still* confused.



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