With the official of the long rumored IPhone, various blogs have been abuzz with posts discussing how the IPhone is going to begin a mobile Web revolution. In case you live under a rock, what I am referring to is the ability of the IPhone to display Web pages the same as they would appear at your desktop PC, however the IPhone will scale the entire site for viewing on the devices smaller screen.
A couple of realizations have to be made before you can begin to talk about mobile Web. First of which is the vision of many that the mobile device will take over the desktop experience because let’s be honest, it would be convenient to carry a single device that acts as a phone, your camera, your PC, etc. With that said, that is a dream that will never come of age. No one is ever going to want to give up their 15+ inch screen for the smaller 3-5″ screen on a mobile device when it comes to day to day use. Screens are getting increasingly larger and less expensive and for good reason. This is what users want.
The one exception I could see when it comes to mobile devices taking over the desktop environment is if they were to in some ways mimic the Mac Mini. Maybe your mobile device is a super small version of your CPU, that you plug a S-Video cable into which connects to your larger monitor at home or at work. You then have a ultra compact version of a desktop PC that can be brought with you anywhere. You have your PC at all times. Not really too far fetched, however still a ways off.
With all that said, let’s take a look at a couple of issues that the mobile Web has to take on before it will make it as a massively used tool by all users.
Probably the number one problem with getting mobile Web to catch on are users who don’t know how to operate their phones. Most of these being the older generations because let’s face it, they still look at a mobile device as a just a phone. They might know how to play games, or use their contact/address book, but often that is the extent of it.
The younger tech gadget generation knows these things as they have been using them for several years for the most part and are more willing to learn. So as this generation grows in the next 10 – 20 years you will see exponential growth with mobile Web because the user base is generally more experienced with it.
In the meantime there needs to be the development of smarter devices, better and more intuitive UI’s. These devices need to work without much effort. I have said it before and I will say it again, users don’t want to have to learn the technology, they just want it to work.
Proving it’s Value
Business is run by numbers. Many businesses have entire departments strictly to calculate these numbers. Up to this point there has really not been much in terms of statistical data that shows that making your data available to mobile is indeed a money making investment. So the move to a mobile Web based product becomes increasingly risky as there is little data to back the decision.
Not only is there a financial decision to make but there is also the discussion as to if there is any value to providing your content online. Users can benefit from a lot of different sorts of data. Phone number lookups, address lookups, sports scores, email, are all great examples of useful information from a mobile standpoint. What value will a user find in home decor, humanity, or forum sites? This issue will disappear as more devices are able to display pages the same way as it is displayed on a regular browser.
This issue again becomes a matter of time as mobile Web grows up a little, matures and more and more numbers are available to show that it’s worth the time that at the present time it takes to generate mobile specific content. This might be a moot point in the future with devices like the IPhone, however for several years it will be. These are the major issues that mobile Web needs to tackle regardless of what cool gizmo’s are thrown out there.