Mobile Mayhem

Silicon Strategies client DeviceAnywhere has the good sense not only to employ us, but to take the pulse of their own industry on a regular basis. Knowing that trends change over time helps companies know how best to serve their customers – to anticipate their needs

DeviceAnywhere surveys examine what technologies mobile applications developers design for, how DeviceAnywhere services are used and most interestingly what kinds of mobile applications are being written. This last bit says everything about how the mobile application market has shifted and what consumers really want.

They want the Internet in their pocket.

The Internet is a success because it is Darwinian in nature. Every mutant content provider self-formed out of the digital muck, rapidly mated in orgiastic enthusiasm, and new species of content and application are perpetually being delivered. Go forth and iterate.

The reason a Darwinian Internet creates is popular is that every possible combinations of content and amusement is tried, with the failures dying in obscurity and the winners consuming ever more bandwidth. Even seemingly trivial Internet applications – and by this I mean Twitter – can evolve into ragingly popular services.

Humans are now Internet addicted. Waiting to get home or to the office to hear music, read news or toke on Tweets creates withdraw symptoms. DeviceAnywhere’s survey shows that the majority of developers are focused on mobile Internet – more so than games, downloadable content or mobile banking. Mobile smut was not specifically mentioned, but I’m sure access to such content while riding the bus to work is a significant part of the new mobile content movement.

Price reductions in mobile data bandwidth paired with increasing demand for Internet content and the simplicity of maintenance/delivery of web content/applications is conspiring to fundamentally change the mobile application market. Mobile internet is becoming as ubiquitous as mobile handsets. Over time developers have and will continue to drift toward creating mobile experiences based on Internet technologies, mainly web.

For handset makers, the breeds an imperative: creating stable, strongly standards-compliant micro PCs. The closer a handset can come to mimicking everything about the desktop Internet experience, the more content that handset can deliver and the more mobile application developers will drift toward that solution set.

Commoditization of the means of delivery.

This brings to the fore an interesting question: What happens to major parts of the mobile industry when everyone and his dog focus on mobile Internet application? Good things in general happen from the customer perspective, though certain vendors will be left eating air. First, the differentiation of the handset operating system becomes minimized. People will not pick handsets based on the relative irrelevancy of built-in tools but the ability to deliver the profusion of online applications. Sure, certain combinations have staying power. For example I’ll always begrudgingly use a Windows handset because Outlook runs my life and strict compatibility is essential. But for the super majority of buyers, Internet delivery (web, Java, 2.0, etc.) will be the growing decisive factor. After that, the ease and joy of using the device will drive handset sales, which is where Apple currently hold and advantage.

It also means a latent boon for web application tool vendors that can find mobile Internet leverage points for their offerings. Toolsets that allow for the creation of mobile web/Java apps will gain favor with developers who follow the trend. A mobile application needs to gather handset info, contribute to analytics and leverage handset features (like GPS) to make it more useful than the next mobile development toolset.

Does this mean native applications like BREW, Windows/exe and Android/Linux installables are going away? Slowly, yes. There are applications people need and want to run when not connected to the net. But given the integration of Java into the Internet experience and the ability to install over the air a Java application, handset support of a well architected native Java virtual engine will be more important. The divide becomes what applications are installed at the factory and which are so important the relative fragility of wireless data connections mandate manual software installation (my handset’s GPS software being an example). Everything else goes web and other Internet standards staples.

The more things change the more they commoditize.


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