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russell beattie, who runs an excellent weblog on moblie technology (from a US perspective), expresses thoughts on the mobile web that have been running up and down my head for some time, too. projects with mobile operators in germany and austria i was on recently prooved to me that they mostly miss the point. russ doesn’t:

personally, i think it’s a no brainer: of course people are going to want to access the web from their mobile phones. why wouldn’t they? they’re not going to want to be walled off in some mobile-ghetto, but rather have the full-on, do everything i can do from my desktop on my mobile phone, access to the web.

i couldn’t agree more. yet operators here in europe want to limit mobile access to their proprietary WAP portals. well ok, vodafone and mobilkom austria approach the issue with their vodafone live portals which is server-side XML-based small screen rendering, and e-plus has tried to transform the japanese i-mode success to germany (without too much success). but that’s just technology (and both would also fall into “mobile markup” in the graphic below). their strategic approach is the same as of t-mobile’s t-zones, o2’s o2 active (not to be confused with the tariff of the same (!) name) or one’s smile: try to shut customers into their portals and keep them from accessing the world wide web. while i agree that for some operators this is the better strategy on the short run – WAP-based revenue from mobile entertainment sales constitute relevant shares of data revenue already – they will eventually have to abandon it, just as AOL and compuserve had to do in the nineties. i have ranted about the operators missing the point with mobile data before (in german): “fieberhaftes übersehen einer killerapplikation

russ illustrates the dilemma:

mobile web illustration (© russbeattie.com)

there’s going to be a point in the not so distant horizon, when most people are accessing the internet from their mobile phones, rather than from PCs. it’s a fact. businesses are realizing this and retooling for this new mobile world already. manufacturers are making efforts to standardize on open specs (XHTML, SVG, etc.) and improve screen resolution (QVGA 320×240 will probably be the sweet spot) and websites are starting to embrace web standards as well. there’s this vanishing point in the horizon when all these parallel lines converge, and I think that’s where the mobile web is heading.

emphasis by me. i think that last sentence hits the point. and operators aren’t ready for that at all, at least not here in europe.

i don’t see the future as one where there are different mini-webs per device or proprietary ways of accessing content and services, but a multi-device norm which adds some pressure to the webmasters out there, but forces a shift to web standards to meet the demand of billions of data-connected handsets all sporting standard minibrowsers. in fact, i’d say the mobile web could be the killer app for web standards.

it could be already. the demand is there, yet operators tend to work on overhyped topics such as mobile music and video instead. read russ’ entire article, worth reading.

ps. in case you wonder why i chose to name this post “locked out from the mobile web”: the web is mobile, only we aren’t.


 

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1 Comment
#100 AD++ says on November 23, 2004 at 5:44 pm
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On the other hand, from an operators perspective, itīs clear that since you have a high level of control over handsets, even branding them, you would be fullish not to move customers into your portal page. Itīs the same as with Internet Explorer and ISPs, but there itīs easier to go elsewhere and users do have more tools to be flexible (like using an alternative browser) or changing the homepage. In any case, you got the browser for free, so you can change it – no ISP would want to set the homepage permanently. On the phone the argument is: we let you get the phone much cheaper, hence, we set the homepage.

Iīm always also wondering why content providers choose to offer their services exclusively with one operator. So itīs not only the operator, whoīs at fault. But certainly, thereīs more complexity still to move web applications to mobile applications, thus content providers take advices from mobile operators. Once standards we be stronger and content migration easier, them we will witness more independence and thus a higher set of offers.

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