The Mobile Effect in 2007

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As 2007 gets going, I’d like to talk some about the effect that mobile devices and services will have on us in the next twelve months.

I’d also like to make a grand assumption — that this year could truly produce a watershed moment for the effect of the Internet and mobile devices on the fabric of everyone’s lives.

Bring on the Mobile Mainstream

At the end of 2006, there was a literal rash of new enhanced mobile offerings. From QWERTY-based devices to music phones to rumors of an increasingly blurred line between high-end handhelds and the burgeoning UMPC, there was a lot of product action.

You could look at all that and say that it was just an attempt to get us to buy something new, and it was only a cynical attempt by companies to keep profit margins high in a thinning computer market. But I prefer to look at it as another type of tipping point.

It’s a change in paradigm for the casual consumer, who is beginning to realize that computing is more than just sitting at his computer to do this and that, but that there are some tasks that he does with his PC that would be more effective if they could be done while on the go.

I believe that the recent rash of $200 smartphones is a testament to this realization. Not only that realization, but the fact that devices can now be produced that cheaply so that more than just the techie can enjoy them.

Where that has led us, though, is the same place that MP3 players were before Apple burst on the scene with the iPod and iTunes. Great devices and lots of potential, but not yet someone who has made it come all together.

What 2007 Will Bring

We now have the devices. How best do we weave them into our lives?

Various services such as the Google suite and Microsoft’s Live service are here now and getting more than just their feet wet in terms of being a viable offering for some tasks, at least here and there.

Many of us have spent countless hours on YouTube, Flickr, MySpace, and other new web services because of how connected they have made us feel to others. Cell phone carriers and other companies are seeing this and making deals and releasing applications that make it easier for us to enjoy these services while on the go while keeping the same levels of immersion that the web sites give us in front of our laptop or desktop.

I believe that 2007 will see at least two companies take a fairly successful crack at making integration, immersion, and community as much a part of using a mobile device as it is for using a mobile service.

To that end, I see three things happening in 2007 to kick that into high gear:

  • having a mobile device that can access the Internet efficiently (this is almost here now);
  • being able to connect to a mobile-enabled service that doesn’t rely on the mobile device, but is extended by it (MySpace Mobile with Cingular and Windows Live are moving in this direction);
  • not making one’s wallet or patience lite in the process of this interconnectedness (someone please call the carriers out on this one).

Those three are a good bet for 2007. The first two are pretty much here and already being honed. But it is the factor of cost that will be a final straw.

If accessing the Web on your mobile device remains expensive then it doesn’t matter about the first two items, because not many people will be able to take advantage of it.

Other Thoughts

There are bound to be some other happenings in the mobile space in 2007.

From phones that have at least 10 GB of space being attainable by (nearly) anyone to wireless networking that makes an economic impact to an upswing in mobile software development from smaller companies after a few years of tailing off. This is all great and bound to happen.

But the kicker now is not making anything new. We have done that for years and years now. What is needed is to connect all of those new fangled gadgets and services so that they are a relevant solution for anyone.

I think that people and companies are ready for this to happen, and 2007 might be the best play on this chance yet.




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