Battle for the Mobile Web
About one in every two people on the planet uses a mobile phone, that's 3.3 billion cell phones. Expectations are that by 2010 this number will jump to 4 billion or triple the number of personal computers on the planet according to research firm Gartner Inc. Winning the battle for the Mobile Web is about capturing one of the largest and potentially most lucrative Internet markets.
The battle field is being defined by the triangulation of a set of critical requirements.
First is the establishment of an application platform that is indifferent to the OS and physical mobile device on which it runs. Both Adobe and Microsoft have introduced technologies that sit on top of the OS and provide an application platform that is device agnostic, enabling developers to develop applications for the platform with confidence that the user experience will be the same on any device. Adobe is further down the road with Flex 3 running on Flash, Microsoft has recently introduced Silverlight. Google has gone a step deeper by introducing a complete OS stack that provides a common application platform again enabling developers to develop applications for the OS stack with confidence that the user experience will be the same on any device.
Second is the establishment of an architecture in which applications running on the mobile device leverage the 'cloud' for heavy computing needs. Software as a Service (SaaS), Mashups or as Adobe likes to call them Rich Internet Applications (RIA's). This provides a thin, on device UI while pushing any taxing computing that might be limited or impossible on the device out to the cloud.
Third is the establishment of a much larger and ubiquitous wireless pipe, much higher bandwidth than is available today. The White Space Coalition, Google, Microsoft, Dell, Earthlink, HP, Intel and Philips have been lobbing the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to free up unused broadcast TV channels known as "white spaces" for unlicensed use by mobile devices. This would open up wireless bandwidth at gigabits-per-second speeds all over the US. As an added bonus this segment of the TV band can propagate long distances and through obstacles enabling web access in buildings and other obstructed areas. Don't expect to see this until early 2009 when the US switches analogue TV transmission off in favor of an all-digital system.
When the dust settles there will be a new frontier for mobile application developers to conquer. In fact the lines between mobile application developers and desktop application developers may disappear altogether in this new frontier. *(see Adobe Air). One thing is for sure is that the new frontier promises to be more bountiful and more rewarding than what exists today. It would be prudent to get up to speed on activities in each of these areas and lay out a roadmap to capitalize on the final outcome.