Windows investigate

Re-think everything for mobile or you're toast

Mobile devices are about to dwarf computers and the mobile web will have to take off the training wheels. Is your company ready?

Photo credit: iStockphoto/jonya

Before 2007, surfing the web on a mobile phone was a miserable experience. I remember trying it from BlackBerries, Palm Treos, and Windows Mobile devices, and being so frustrated by how slow and unusable it was that I was dying for the day when we'd be able to access the web from a mobile device just as easily as from a computer.

Obviously, that day is here. In fact, it's reached the point where most of us take it for granted and that's one of the big reasons why sales of smartphones surpassed PCs in 2011. This trend is accelerating so quickly that a lot of companies are going to be in danger of being disrupted if they don't adapt and re-think their customer experience for mobile.

Computers are about to get lapped

Let's take a quick step back.

When the iPhone arrived in June 2007, it was the beginning of sea change that turned smartphones into full-fledged Internet devices. While the first-gen iPhone was severely limited most of the time because it didn't have 3G mobile broadband, it reinvented the mobile user interface and when you used it on a Wi-Fi connection you could see that the future was having the full power of the web in the palm of her hand.

Before iPhone -- and eventually Android and Windows Phone 7 -- arrived, 90 percent of the systems that connected to the web were Windows PCs. It's hard to believe that was only five years ago.

In 2012, Gartner projects that worldwide PC sales will reach about 400 million units in 2012, while smartphones will surpass 600 million units. Tablets will sell about 100 million units. That means that only about 35% of the new devices sold this year that will be connecting to the web will be Windows PCs. That's how much the technology world has been turned on its head in just five years.

Now, remember that those Gartner numbers are only for new devices sold in 2012. So the overall percentage of Windows PCs accessing the web will still be over 50% in 2012, since there are obviously a lot of older machines still in use.

However, the numbers are going to get more dramatic in the years ahead. PCs are about to get dwarfed. By 2015, Gartner projects PC sales will grow to over 500 million, but tablets will triple to about 300 million and smartphones will leap past 1.1 billion.

Despite the fact that this massive sea change is about to come roaring in, the web continues to be a computer-centric place. While many types of workers and business professionals will use computers to design, build, and create content for the Internet for years to come, the primary access devices that the majority of users are going use to access the Internet will be smartphones and tablets.

The mobile re-think

While iOS, Android, and Windows Phone devices now offer a seriously-capable mobile Internet experience, the mobile web itself still hasn't take off its training wheels. In most cases, too many websites are still badly prepared to handle mobile visitors because of the way the sites use Flash, mouse-over animations, and other Javascript functionality that is designed solely for a user with a mouse. Unfortunately, when many of these sites offer a mobile version tailored for smaller screens that use multitouch, the mobile site usually doesn't include all of the functionality of the full site.

That's why user satisfaction with mobile sites is lower than the overall web, and it's why users have gravitated toward downloading native apps that are optimized for the mobile experience. The problem with that is it creates a bifurcated experience for companies because they end up developing a separate set of functionality for the web versus native apps for mobile devices. And since every mobile operating system has a different set of development tools, that means a company has to develop a different app for every platform, and try to keep them all unified and updated. That's impractical and unsustainable -- and we haven't talked about the fact that companies now have to design separate apps for tablets.

This situation is not going to make sense much longer, because within a few years more people are going to be accessing the web from mobile touchscreen devices than from computers. The mobile web will simply become the web. That means every company that builds a website will need to rethink site design so that it's always friendly for both a big screen with a mouse and a touchscreen device. But, that's just the first part of the equation. Companies also need to reconsider their entire site experience for mobile, and think about what it could mean for customer service, mobile commerce, geolocational targeting, targeted deals and coupons, and much more.

The bottom line is that this isn't happening fast enough, and that's going to create a lot of opportunities for disrupters who can create better mobile experiences and use it to leapfrog incumbents. If you're not thinking about this now and planning for it, then you could be putting your business at risk. If your competitors have a smoother and more comprehensive mobile experience then it could give them an important edge with customers, especially since users have even less patience for slow site performance and a bad user experience when it comes to mobile.

Of course, this goes for TechRepublic too, but it's not just for Internet businesses. Every company or organization that has a website and a competitor needs to get serious about this because it's going to be a sea change on the same scale as the iPhone first bringing the capabilities of full web browsing to the phone -- only this change isn't just going to disrupt smartphone makers, it's going to affect every kind of company imaginable.

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

86 comments
louishelps
louishelps

A new laptop or desktop has a life of 5 or so years, a smartphone is deliberately obsolete in 2. Great for creating revenue for the companies producing the phones, not so great for the consumer who needs to update them every 2 years. Find something more realistic to write about instead of writing just for the sake of writing. Or have you really discovered the way to compare apples and oranges?

T3CHN0M4NC3R
T3CHN0M4NC3R

When will you wake up Jason, the world is not just a narrow or shallow as an Apple walled-garden. So you want ads on webpages to play everything simultaneously on your iPad? Or do you want to be seen tapping something nasty on your iPhone in a lift?

fkgaza
fkgaza

It is not just websites, but information delivery that will be impacted. Think education. Why watch a lecture when you can get your class content on your phone while on your way to your teach assistants class where you work on real problems. Lots of things are going to get "flipped" by mobile technology. The challenge is to anticipate where those flips will happen.

jtmccall
jtmccall

If reading this thread in it's entirety (something I rarely do) has convinced me of anything, it's exactly how much of a dinosaur I truly am. I not only enjoy but revel in my conviction that phones should be used for voice-to-voice calls, if I want to take pictures, I get out my digital camera, computing on the go - this includes both work and entertainment web-browsing - is done via my tablet convertible laptop and the same activities at home or in the office are mastered with multi-screen desktops. The universe is unfolding as it should and I enjoy having my eyes and ears in it observing and recording - experiencing- not locked to a 3.5 - 7 inch screen. If or when the "Everything for mobile" meteor comes screaming from the heavens signaling my extinction, I believe I will raise my arms gladly, welcoming my reprieve from the mindless masses constantly chasing the next hot app they have been made to believe they can't exist without. Peace

ralphgrant
ralphgrant

The best thing about reading articles like these in the iPad is zooming in close enough to cut out the sidebar of annoying advertizing!

AGOlbert
AGOlbert

Great perspective, thought provoking, insightful, and to the point. Thanks.

waltz
waltz

This brings back memories of how minicomputers, super mincomputers, Personal computers, etc. were going to eliminate mainframe computers. It seems to me that IBM is still in that business. I agree with the others; as neat as my android smartphone is it just isn't the complete answer.

blackepyon01
blackepyon01

I definitely see 'mobile' being forefront in the future, but wireless technology will have to improve a bit more to support it. At the main campus of the school I work at, we've abandoned our computer lab several years ago to make room for another classroom. We have computer stations in the hallways for public student access, but our 'lab' has been replaced with ~60 laptops with two wheeled carts for storage and charging. They are connected to active directory with wireless authentication prior to logon for all the benefits of the active directory domain which we enjoyed when we still had the lab. The portability of laptops is extremely convenient, even borderline necessary for today's classroom environments. These laptops get used quite frequently. Additionally, most of the teachers have their own laptops, a few laptops and ipads for learning assistance. Our wireless is used quite heavily. Embracing the future, our campus created an "open technology" policy in regards to mobile devices and personal laptops. Unlike other schools and businesses, we [u]allow[/u] people to bring their mobile devices and use them with our wireless network. Everybody and their dog has an ipod and/or smartphone connected to our wireless. This naturally means that everybody's ipod/smartphones are taking up valuable connections/bandwidth on our wireless access points. Granted, most campuses and businesses don't go this far, but it will become much more commonplace in the future. Our access points are Netgear WNDAP350 (6 of them) with a WMS5316 management controller. This is a mid-range system, roughly $350-400CDN per, as we are a small school (~170 students, 15-25 teachers and other staff at this campus). Despite load balancing via the controller, strategic placement of the WAPs to account for the architecture, simultaneous b/g & a, and channel planning to avoid frequency or zone overlap, we still get connection and/or bandwidth issues if too many users are clustered in one area. A high end system like Xirrus or Ruckus would would perform better, but cost significantly more (~$1500-2000 per unit). Our wireless is secured with WPA2/Personal PSK for the best balance of security and user convenience. I would use radius to further secure the network, but a lot of handheld devices don't support it. At the time I wrote this post, according to the management controller, there were 90 wireless devices connected to our network (all ours, no rouge devices). This is average. On a bad day, we'll have around 120 devices. Now, with the knowledge that each wireless radio can only handle so many connections at a time, consider that: 1) wireless devices are going to become more popular in the future, and local area network access is going to be expected, or even required 2) that wireless access points can only handle so much connections/bandwidth per radio. A consumer grade router/WAP can handle 5-15 connections, and a high-end WAP ~40-50/radio. Ignore my ranting, and look at the pattern. As mobile devices become more popular and replace traditional computing, and more companies embrace the BYOD ideal, wireless budgets will get strained more and more heavily. The radios in common APs will have to improve in quality quite a bit or be lowered in price for this future to be as painless as possible. Most organizations don't have budget for the high-end stuff. My experience tells me that unless wireless technology improves, or drops in price, everybody will soon be looking at same issues I face. A copper network is stable and fast. Wireless may work fine at home with only a few connections, but in a larger enviroment, it's messy at best. A good wireless network costs money, and not everybody can dish-out for a good system.

bobwinners
bobwinners

I can still do everything I need to do, computationally speaking, on my laptop or my desktop. Why buy another limited device?

jayohem
jayohem

Adobe will be beside itself with joy. Now it can sell another Studio this'n'that for a low, low $1,000, and our choice will be to buy it or pay somebody who already has bought it. Time for our Jason to present his reading public with some options that won't drain the budget of all the small American companies hanging on by the proverbial skin of their teeth.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"The TV ads that I see make the consumers and suppliers of these devices look like rude, inconsiderate, ignoramuses." The market of those who truly need mobile communications was saturated years ago. Then manufacturers started in on those who wanted a cell phone. Now they're stuck trying to convince consumers one model is better than the other, and Stupid Human Tricks are the only marketing approach they have left. Showing these devices used for actual work would be pointless; people who would be swayed by that approach either already have one or realize they don't need one.

sjok
sjok

I have a small cell phone (truly a piece of crap) that I use maybe 5 times a year. I also have an ASUS eee pc netbook with a largley useless touch pad. Both of them are hard for me to read and difficult to type into. With regards to the huge cell phone/tablet numbers thay are very likely just existing owners feeling the irristable urge to have the next version and the old one gets stuffed in a drawer, or, worse yet put in the trash. The TV ads that I see make the consumers and suppliers of these devices look like rude, inconsiderate, ignoramuses. Who really believes that a few milliseconds more speed on a cell phone call is really detectabe or necessary. With regards to mobile internet there needs to be features, etc, that are intended to help fing information rather than as primarily a platform for ads of widly varying obnoxiousness. Not to mention the spamming, etc that are made easier along with making ads easier to create (ala flash player).

zarias
zarias

I dont believe this article was pushing the idea that all "seriour work" will be done on a smart phone in the future. It is just pointing out the simple fact that smart phone and small touch screen devices are becoming more prevalent and will continue to rise in numbers. Any business that would ignore this fact and not tailor web content toward these devices could miss out on a tremendous amount of oppourtunites. I love banking apps that allow me to check balances, make transfers and set up alerts easily from my mobile phone. Now that I have that with my current provider it would be a very hard sell to get me to change to a bank that did not have those services geard toward mobile access. So in the long run developing content geard toward mobile devices will help reach a broader audience and stregthen customer retention.

Drew@Omaha
Drew@Omaha

I've been seeing this type of headline for 2 or 3 years now... desktop computers are dead! Everyone will be using their phones to do everything!!! You remind me of the fanboys who kept pimping linux on the desktop year after year and it never happened.

kreativebass
kreativebass

Mobile is computing. While the 'phone' or 'device' may change - the interfacing will remain. Mobile devices are changing business culture and business models. Table-side sales and order processing for example. PCI compliance standards dictate that CC may not leave the customers sight, by I think 2015 - enter mobile solutions Traditional business models are being changed dramatically by technology Tweeting and gaming may be the drivers, but the official use and business capacity for mobile tech. is only just beginning IMO.

bburgess66
bburgess66

After been doing this very thing for 13 yrs now .. this all seem to me quite repetitive. I know of several sites that serve mobile data since 2002 at least. Just, in those days, Apple was not involved. :-(

prdenize
prdenize

Why not use Google Location instead of downloading apps? Surely a switched on business will have its hours and "menu" available to nearby owners of smart phones?

5haggi
5haggi

I'm going to forward it to my boss :-)

brad
brad

Yes, it is significant. But, how significant? Especially, when you ask at the beginning of the article "Is your company ready?" I think more appropriate, more significant metrics might be: number of GB of bandwidth per device used; or, number of hours per day of connectivity per device used. These metrics will more appropriately indicate how much these devices are actually used while connected. If we get these metrics even more specifically "tuned" towards actually work--versus uploading photos or tweets of your latest escapades--then we will have a metric that a corporate IT department can take action on. But, interesting statistics never the less.

newmanExpressions
newmanExpressions

I sincerely applaud the experience, the depth of reason, and careful consideration of the future. I had to ask a friend is it worth rethinking everything or does this article multiply my skill sets. The problem on a foundational level is that a majority of our business models operate on outdated scientific theory. The theory of evolution has caused more fear in the survival of business and driven companies to assert the 'remake' of every model of technology in fear of not surviving changing environments. Conditionally things are out of control. On a foundation level you do not need to conform to chaos by rethinking everything but stand on a sure foot of convincing evidence. In nature cells multiply. It is better to think that nature multiplies after it's kind of seed than to think nature divides. Either way you choose you are going to go in a direction. Divide and rethink or multiply and build. Scientifically on many levels in the current scientific community Darwin has been dis proven on a multitude of disciplines. Just read the objective book "Case for the Creator" and see what shambles American Universities are in concerning the evidence in science. What you and I learned in Business College was texts written from evidence weighed around the turn of the 19th century. Scientific discover is way ahead in proof of Intelligent design. Which do you want? Naturally to evolve to a state divided from who you are right now by the chaos of the natural world or to multiply with your intelligence and change your environment prosperously. The current collapses in markets are certainly the failure in our education. Many companies rethinking everything with out sure foot on solid rock. The foundation of the earth is less threatening than the pace of people rethinking the entire spectrum of business with changing environments. Should I say that your intelligence where ever you rest your thoughts has more potential if you stay grounded with what works and build on foundation of solid practices while many chart waters and choose how they will adapt there practices fighting the wind. I am not against adaptation or pioneering. I just don't let changing environments choose my course at it's pace. I choose to take your knowledge and plan on building everything on solid practice in patience while many fall to the lie of survival of the fittest fighting the wind when I am safe in my own home. Words for your wisdom. Words for all! I like to think the easiest path to think is to multiply on solid convictions rather than divide your practices with new thinking. One way prospers the other goes infinitely into nothing. I give grace where it's needed and don't assume your convictions just adding comment to my finds on these issues.

Womble
Womble

I suspect that some people are losing vision of how the internet and the environment is changing 1/ The use of the cloud has meant that the standard user is moving towards integrating the information and systems on his/her phone, his/her tablet and his/her computer. we see this in iCloud, in the proposed Win8 environment, and is suspect that leverage between Android/Unix will also occur. Operators are also offering a cloud environment as well. peole use the computer differently from the tablet, and differenty from the mobile, but want the same information on all 2/ the Apps environment - Apps are actually a more efficient way of driving information - it depends on the processing power of the device to provide formatting, but use the web to drive information transfer. It can be more secure as the apps are able to include encryption systems at a more advanced level. Whereas on your PC you use facebook or tech republic on your browser, you use the App on your mobile device In my household we have 5 laptops, 3 mobiles, and 1 tablet - not moving to integrate them would be silly

sysop-dr
sysop-dr

I write software for a specific community yes but there are a lot of places like where I work and while we may have some web enabled stuff people will use their phones for there's not a lot of our development that anyone would want to do on a phone. Our main 200 applications that are our core business mostly run in commandline batch mode on the super computer. And while I have made a small portable, wearable cluster of windows mobile phones and ran some stuff on it as a cluster just for demonstrating exactly how much you can do on these things way beyond what 99.9999% of people think they can do there are limits. My WM6.5 phone does spreadsheets and word and power point really well, even doing presentations and yes I have adapted it so I can actually program using my phone, and the wearable cluster is cool most people could not even try to get them doing these things, except excel and power point, and so expecting most people to be able to do real work beyond emails, reading, writing some light documentation or something like that is all they can do. You are not going to run your fortune 500 payroll on your phone (maybe mine, not yours) so when a story like this comes along and says get ready to do everything from your phones I have to laugh and try to figure out what portion of my definition of "everything" does their everything contain.

Htalk
Htalk

Another thing to consider is that the mobile experience could very well mutate into a bifurcation of the two interfaces. As the mobile "ecosystem" continues to grow, the central devices can increasingly become the central brain you can keep in your pocket that then docks to larger displays, mice, and keyboards. At that point, your mobile device becomes a desktop/laptop, or a very large multi-touch wall/table. Then there are game consoles, both handheld and living room. As these previously incapable devices become more capable, compelling, and convenient for people to own and use for internet purposes--the number of interfaces to build for only increases. In other words, I don't think mobile will be the new silver bullet. Mouse vs touch input looks to become more ambiguous with screen sizes varying widely, independent of input method. The lines continue to blur and supporting everything will be more complex... not an easy thing to do with tech going through a shaky bubble in the wake of banking crumbling under the weight of its own corruption. But I also think that supporting all of this is similar in a way to supporting multiple languages: if you build it in from the beginning then it's much easier to adapt in the future.

murfish2003
murfish2003

@mckinnej You're absolutely right... No mon, No fun. Simple. And yes I do believe this is a potential "bubble" scenario. Leaving aside the whole iWant phenomenon there are lots of people like me. I don't do "serious creative work" (no offence @haunja) but i still have 2 Android phones, 2 laptops and a desktop, does that make me 5 users?? Way too much BS being talked on this subject

dkelley033
dkelley033

As a daily user of a multi display (4 monitors on 2 machines) quad core (and a 6 core) 64 bit machines, I agree. After being spoiled on first 2 monitors, then 3, then 4, I find that I am able to multitask at a much greater efficiency level. Processor speed and ram. Yes, as a happless technoweenie I enjoy that I can talk about transfer rates of an OS running on a ramdrive on a 6 core machine with 16gb ddr3 ram and which kernel patches I recently installed etc, But what it really boils down to is I'm impatient. I like my email application to load instantly. I don't want to wait for a file to copy. And if the phone rings and I can't have the callers contact information, work history, recent emails, etc on my screen within a second or two, I'll be downright irritated. The Industry needs to realize that mobile computing, desktop computing, smart phones, tablets, etc. all need to meet very simple criteria: Will it let me do what I want (find, read, write, exchange data) Will it do that faster, smarter, and more efficiently than what I have now. (bigger screen, more intuitive interface, faster processor, etc) What is the convenience factor. If I could carry around a dual monitor that folded into a clipboard sized package with gigabit lan, terabytes of storage, and high end processing power, etc etc. then it would have much greater appeal. I'll use RDP off my android to access my box while mobile, but it's barely useable. sure it helps when you have a bluetooth keyboard, etc but its not an engineered solution. You can have my desktop machine when you can replace it with a mobile device of equal power, display size, ultra high speed wireless connectivity (4g/wimax is a minimum and will shortly be inadequate for the public information stream.), and storage capacity. Oh, and make it lightweight.

budly
budly

Try reading Mark Twain. . . "The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated."

chris.mccluskey
chris.mccluskey

Moblie devices are using apps more than ever now... why pay to redesign the website for mobile browsing when I can hire someone to develop an app for all moblie devices to access services provided by the website?

kschlotthauer
kschlotthauer

I know tablets are getting more powerful and can do a lot of stuff, but as far as smartphones, I don't think anyone would want to edit a photo in a SMARTPHONE version of Photoshop. I have a Thunderbolt and LOVE it (running custom ROM) and I don't look at it as a "PC" as much as I look at it as an extension of my PC. A friend at work has the BIONIC and he bought the Motorola docking station (that looks like a laptop)....I can see that being a key component to mobile computing while out in the field or at Starbucks and using it to edit data (photos, music, text etc.). I don't think PC's are a thing of the past..just like the cars from the past are irrelevent....just not as fast or pretty, but gets the job done. My PC on my desk is an old old duel XEON CPU IBM behemoth.....still works.

mlederhos
mlederhos

Yes.....many organizations are slow to get their mobile strategy together. Yes.....delivery of web pages to a mobile phone can be slooooow and users don't care why. Yes.....organizing information for effective viewing/consumption on a mobile phone can be a challenge. Yes.....there is so much more that that can and should be done with mobile initiatives. But, even as the industry grapples with all of these immediate issues that primarily focus on smartphones, a larger challenge is beginning to emerge. At Modapt, we call it the "expanding web." The ???expanding web??? is about so much more than smartphones ---- it???s tablets, viewing screens, kiosks, appliances and gaming consoles, etc... Making sure that content is delivered properly and at accelerated speeds to all of these targets will be the big challenge. To make it happen, organizations will need to employ smarter underlying platforms and networking strategies that are able to push intelligence to the edge of the network so that performance close to the target device is high. Many organizations are so focused on making things look good on a 4" screen that they are forgetting about this bigger challenge. It's akin to putting a 4 cylinder Hyundai engine into a Ferrari. It will look good parked on the side of the street but it won't get you any where very fast.

TsarNikky
TsarNikky

Granted,mobile devices are going to become more and more ubiquitous and, yes, they can do some things better than laptop or desktop computers. This is as long as tap, tap, slide, tap... can handle the task. However, I fail to see how a truly mobile device can handle the needs and requirements of massive amounts of data entry, i.e., a full-size keyboard along with a mouse. The concept of a tablet with a separate keyboard is no longer "mobile," but instead, is a two-piece laptop. Voice? That is a long way off, and one still needs some mechanism to handle the "errors in transcription" (keyboard?).

parhelia
parhelia

Businesses that trivialize their communications to the poorly typed phrases that are part of the mobile phone communication style cannot possibly continue to do business. Those with communication responsibilities (especially those who need to be articulate in writing or presenting ideas) will never be able to accomplish that goal productively with anything other than a full-size keyboard and full-size screen. Of course, teenagers and 20-somethings will find extremely creative ways to stay in touch, even if the length of a tweet is cut in half, but real work requires more than a mobile phone. And those business types who currently curse the tiny keypads on Blackberry devices and the like may very well figure out that the productivity hit they're taking is simply not worth the advantage of using something that fits in your purse or pocket. (This comment entered on a laptop.)

dcolbert
dcolbert

A 5" or smaller touch-screen device with a virtual or thumb-sized keyboard simply cannot deliver the same experience as a 10" or larger device with a good virtual or preferably physical keyboard. This isn't a matter of poor web design - or not solely that. It is also just a case of physical limitations based on the size of the interface. Short of a disruptive technology for user interfaces that makes these smaller devices as productive and easy to use as a larger device, the mobile web is always going to be more about content consumption than about creation. There are still a lot of very important roles that I'm hesitant to approach with a mobile device or a tablet - including most of my ePurchasing. Standalone apps for smart-devices are just one solution - but anyone who has wanted to "like" a comment using the Android or iOS Facebook app and found that option sometimes unavailable knows that apps are inconsistent in delivering the same, full experience that a desktop PC user enjoys. Now, consumer appliances built on "mobile" OS platforms (both lightweight hardware and lightweight OS platforms) will undoubtedly grow in consumer market presence at the expense of PC sales going forward. But that experience as it relates to the web, will need to become *exactly* the same as a desktop experience. Browsers like Dolphin HD are a great step in that direction - but they still fall down from time to time. There is no reason that a multi-touch device should have tremendous difficulty rendering and working with a mouse-oriented web-page to deliver a consistent experience regardless of what device you're on. The ASUS Transformer and the Transformer Prime both have a pointer and a Trackpad when docked. It isn't the hardware that prevents those mouse-centric web-pages from working correctly - it is the mobile BROWSER itself, which is scaled down and oriented to interpret all pointing and clicking as FINGER oriented, not mouse oriented. The Wii was a breakthrough in console gaming that had everyone talking about how the entire philosophy of game interface devices was going to change. And Sony and Microsoft jumped right on board with their own motion oriented devices. In fact, the WiiMote and Kinect and whatever Sony has going work well and really enhance CERTAIN kind of games. But it turns out that for a lot of traditional style gaming, these motion sensing controllers actually kind of suck. Form follows function - and multi-touch, finger-oriented interfaces are great for a lot of things - but they're NOT going to *replace* the mouse and keyboard, and that includes how we interface with the web and web based apps. The idea that all of the web will have to become mobile device friendly is impractical - because there are limitations to what the interface methodology and form factor of mobile devices can do. Just as a WiiMote is great for a game that simulates bowling or archery but is kind of sucks for most FPS or other traditional style games - Mobile devices are great for what they do, but inherently less capable on delivering a more full featured experience. That may be good enough for a lot of people, maybe even the majority of people. If there is a danger going forward, that may be it. Not that we'll see the mobile web experience grow richer, but that we'll see the full desktop web experience dumbed-down to make sure the consistent experience of the slowest ships in the fleet (mobile devices) matches the experience of the fastest (full fledged PCs). If that happens, it certainly isn't *progress* we're talking about.

monster_cookie2148
monster_cookie2148

It may be time that I rethink my career and go back to school to become an optometrist. If the web in a few years is going to be primarily viewed by smart phones and the such then the next biggest market will be providing glasses and contacts so people can see what they are looking at.

pikeman666
pikeman666

The observation SiO2 made was so sad. Is no location free from this plague of connectivity? Here is a market niche for you . . . How about a pub or "watering-hole" that is a Faraday Cage. Absolutely free from RF. Just imagine - an ambience free from cell-phone sound, people yakking on cell-phones, no texting, no watching sports scores. Just real time human interaction with your pint and fellow carbon-based life forms. I'd call it "Faraday's".

etherkeiffer
etherkeiffer

there is a danger that this discussion is going to enter the smart phone vs tablet vs lap/desk-top war. Jason's original suggestion, which I (obviously) agree with was that for Web browsing, site designers need to start re-thinking based on the types of devices people are choosing to use to access the www. I doubt that many doctorate theses will be produced on smart phones. I believe that 'real' computers are going to be needed for a long time to come. Notwithstanding, with so much Web browsing (not doctorate writing) being done on smart phones and tablets (via wifi, mainly, sure), and with it being obvious that the internet is being increasingly accessed by devices with touchscreens rather than mice/touchpads/ipoints, the Web site designer with his ear to the ground and his eye on the future will write sites that will last longer and be more popular. (copied and pasted on my Nook Color from Memo Pad (Android) into the text field at TechRepublic, because TechRepublic needs better adaption to touchscreen using Web browsers :) )

ttiller
ttiller

It would help if there was more of a standard among devices on how they interpret style sheets. Trying to adapt an existing site is not easy when mobile devices require different CSS links and styles.

mckinnej
mckinnej

I'm not buying into this. This shift to mobile has the smell of a bubble. This major redesign of the web is going to cost money, and lots of it. Where is it coming from? Where is the ROI for these companies? Take SiO2's pub example. I seriously doubt that business will ever make a dime off their app. It was wasted money at a time when money is short for pretty much everyone. When companies realize they're not making money off mobile, they'll quit putting money into it. Then there is the bandwidth issue several others have mentioned. Let's face it. Bandwidth in the U.S. is pitiful. We all know it. It's even worse for mobile. This translates into a frustratingly slow user experience. Their mobile devices are just going to be stopgap measures until they can get to a "real" connection, which means a PC/laptop. Another issue is the fact that mobile devices are currently operating on what amounts to a cell phone hardware cycle. A new device is replaced before the user gets the plastic off the box. The average person isn't going to put up with that. They can't afford it. It's just more frustration. Another thing that I think is being ignored is the amount of repeat buyers. You know, the folks that have to have the latest gadget. They bought the original iPad and then bought an iPad2 and will buy iPadn. That isn't two users, it's one. I've seen too many "user" projections based on sales, which is not even close to a 1-to-1 comparison. Think about PC sales. How many of those are "new" purchases vs. replacements? It's near zero these days. When you factor the repeat buyer into the equation, the mobile explosion is more like a bang than a boom. Ultimately reality will set in and mobile will settle in to its niche. The hype will die down as people really learn what mobile is good for and more importantly, what it is not.

etherkeiffer
etherkeiffer

... they'll want what the adverts and peer pressure tell them to want. Flash is on the way out IMO. I give it five years. However much people want what looks cool, they don't want to be kept waiting forever for advert/flash heavy sites to, your disinclination (and mine) to browse other than by wifi is a case in point. At the moment flash isn't seen to be the guilty party, an in a sense it isn't, it's the misuse or more specifically OVERuse of flash content (as in by the megabyte) that makes it increasingly unpopular. Overly frequent, overly large and often buggy flash updates aren't winning them any brownie points either. Nevertheless, handheld devices, whether communicating via wifi or 3G / 4G are definitely becoming a much more common method of browsing the www and sites do, IMO, definitely need to adapt.... including this one TechRepublic. I had to give up text entry using the appropriate field, use a notepad app and copy and paste this text, because otherwise trying to enter this on my nook color into the Web page was gonna do my head in ;)

victorvmpm
victorvmpm

In countries like Honduras for example. The phone Internet is really slow. So for the moment the phone apps won??t be replaced yet. Though pages tailored for mobile are needed. That means you have to rethink the whole the design once more to have low kb pictures since MB is out of the question. And big javascript files might just slower the pages more. For that reason I don??t see the mobile apps dying. However, in a couple of years we may be more mobile than we think or estimate.

jack_torres
jack_torres

You must live in a 4G area. What percentage of people actually have 4G? For those who have 4G, be grateful, I pay for 4G but don't live in a region that has 4G service. In my 3G world, even the Websites written for mobile devices are way too slow. Tablets have a large enough display for viewing, but phones? I must be getting old! For me, I use a phone browser to kill time or for trivia look ups.

WanderMouse
WanderMouse

Although my boomer generation may be approaching the time where we move off the stage, we've still got a good 25+ years left, and at least most of us early boomers will not give up our notebooks and move to tablets/smartphones exclusively for several good reasons: 1. Intelligence- the tablet & smartphone crowd seem to want a device that they can work without thinking anything through, for the simple purposes of web access and social networking, primarily. I want a device that actually allows me to do some work, not just be entertained! 2. Privacy- I keep financial records, budet and estimated tax spreadsheets, encrypted copies of tax returns, etc., on my laptop. I want these stored on my hard drive, and backed up to onsite and offsite storage media, NOT stored in the cloud, where they might be hacked. 3. Reliability- including accesibility (what if you don't have a good 3/4G or Wi-fi connection, the cloud server goes down, the cloud company goes out of business, etc.) 4. Privacy Part 2- I, and I believe many like me, don't WANT to be accessible 24/7. When I'm with family and friends, or jhust by myself doing some fun activity or having quiet time, I don't WANT people not physically present horning in on me, and have "virtual people" diverting my attention from people who are actually physically present. If it's not urgent, leave an e-mail. If it is urgent, give me an old-fashioned phone call on my "dumb phone"! If YOU think it's urgent, and I haven't given you my cell number, chances are that I don't think it'd be urgent. 5. Size matters- but in this case, small is better, especially being male & straight. Until manpurses become accepted wear for hetero males, I appreciate a small phone I can put in a pants pocket without making a huge bulge, and not having to wear a belt holster for my device. 6. A caveat- were I to become involved in an activity- day trading, for an example- where I needed ready access to the Internet, I would, indeed, appreciate having a smartphone that allowed me to contiunue my ongoing online activity without being tethered to my office, or having to carry around something as bulky as even a MacBook Air or a Windows ultrabook. In this case, I would go to a smartphone, and appreciate it. But until I get involved in something that involves the need for ready web access anywhere, I'll stick with a thin laptop and a dumb phone.

info
info

As has been said, and in response to what eitherkeiffer mentioned, the 'best' way isn't necessarily the 'popular' way. People WANT Flash, it's a buzzword, and easier for them to wrap their minds around than 'HTML 2.0' or whatever. People want Apps for the same reason. Heck, I went looking for a print driver from a company and found they no longer provided them. What they had was a Windows-based App for printing! Same with 'Cloud'... New and different terms describing a bundling of technologies we are already familiar with, but will make an impression on the masses. Because that's where the money's at! There are also major errors and assumptions being made in articles like this. PCs sold 400 million units, vs 600 million for smartphones. This OBVIOUSLY means the PC is in decline, right? Well, wait. They may have sold 350 million last year, or even if they'd sold 600 million, they LAST longer now! People don't need to buy a new PC every year. Heck, I was using a 10 year old one until it crashed, and I replaced it with a 5 year old one! A good number of those smartphone buyers probably don't even know how to use their devices beyond being a phone, and the majority will own two or three AND a home PC! We're surely going the way Jason says, but that won't be until we get constant and dependable bandwidth of around 4-7Mbits/sec to the device. I'm told we're supposed to get many times that, but I've yet to SEE it. I don't do any surfing away from WiFi, if I can help it.

sissy sue
sissy sue

Things are bound to change, and the move to mobile devices will only accelerate. As a motorist, however, I am somewhat dismayed. There are enough distracted drivers operating dangerous machinery while their eyes are glued to a cell phone interface or key pad instead of the road. I think that mobile devices are great, but they should be used at appropriate times. My state has been wary about making the use of hand-held devices illegal while driving, but, to me, this is a no-brainer. I would rather share the road with an impaired driver who has his eyes on the road than with a sober driver who's more interested in reading his text messages.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

the portability, lighter weight, smaller dimensions, and increased battery life are worth the compromises (smaller screen, small or virtual keyboard, limited ports, no optical drive) that you and I wouldn't tolerate.

Htalk
Htalk

People are always happy to base products off of other people's work, and Android provides a great selling point with minimal investment.

The Great Gazoo
The Great Gazoo

Looking for a business partner? The mobile device in the wrong hands is basically a Vuvuzela with sophisticated electronics. When I left my last job, a parting (gag) gift was given to me - a pager in a brown paper bag (the electronic leash of that time, prior to the iPhone et al madness of today). A colleague brought a Louisville Slugger down to the parking lot. Somewhere along the river that ran behind our building, on my last day, during lunch, I hit one out of the park. Rest In Pieces, pager. That was the BEST "mobile device" experience I've ever had - yeah it was just a pager, but to be completely separated from the whims and beck and call and arrogant self-importance of anyone / everyone else, even for a short time, was gold. Adding even a slick web experience to the overall picture, IMHO, doesn't change things today in that regard.. Pikeman - if such a place exists, and you can point me there (in a manner that doesn't involve the use of a mobile device), I'll buy you that pint.

Fritzo9602
Fritzo9602

The "mobile revolution" is more an evolution of the way we exchange information than a "bubble." Wired networks are expensive to build, can not reach many areas, and are expensive to maintain. A wireless tower covers a much wider area with far less infrastructure costs. This is what is driving telecoms to wireless solutions. Wireless means you are not tethered to a central location for connectivity. We happen to live at a time where we have the technology to build very portable devices that can exchange information very effectively. Instead of only being able to be productive in one particular location, you are now able to be productive anywhere. This is appealing to both workers and employers alike. I'm getting 18Mb on my Verizon 4G connection, so the bandwidth is now there (that's 3x faster than my home DSL connection). Laptops are outselling PC because people want to move. Tablets...the "microwave of computers", I agree are a stopgap, but I have higher hopes for ultrabooks, which provide the battery and portability of a tablet with the power of a laptop. Mobile is here to stay my friend. If you're not mobile, you'll stay behind.

gwalker
gwalker

There is a place for mobile apps. Wondermouse makes an excellent point, but I would add to point #6. Business user don't want to view an entire website just because their smartphone supports it. People in health care or financial services as mentioned above would like to have apps that are more nimple than a its web site counterpart where information can be updated and the users back a the office can process that information real-time. I guess I'm trying to say that I see more mobile apps have their place that supplement their larger counterpart.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

People don't want cordless drills; they want holes in the wall. People don't want Flash, they want the effects programmers can bring by using it. They don't really care what the underlying technology is called; they'll probably continue to refer to such effects as Flash even if it is no longer involved.

dkelley033
dkelley033

It's illegal in my state (Oregon) to use cell phones while driving now, but that doesn't stop a lot of people. Despite hefty fines ($142 for passenger vehicles - http://www.drivinglaws.org/oregon.php - and $2750 - $11,000 for commercial vehicles - http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/MCT/SAFETY.shtml , people continue. I had another driver cut me and several other people off and driving horribly in general in the space of a few blocks. He happened to park near me and so I remarked, politely (as he was bigger and meaner looking then myself...) - "might want to get off the phone and drive, that's a pretty hefty ticket ($147 for passenger vehicles, $2750 - $11,000 for commercial drivers) (http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/MCT/SAFETY.shtml) and you're endangering the people around you" - his reply? "Oh I've already gotten 3 tickets I don't care" The question is, how are we going to deal with this type of mobile user? disable the screen when the accelerometer hits 15mph?