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September is the Month of Mobility at Read/Write Web, I’ve decided. This month
I’m going to explore the intersection between the Web and mobile devices. Principally
mobile phones and PDA’s, although there’s also a trend of convergence of those two
devices into “smart phones”. And let’s not forget new ground-breaking devices such as the
iPod, the Tablet, and the Sony Librie eBook
. I’m interested in how all these mobile devices, not just intersect, but
collide with the Web. For often it’s messy, as I’ve already discovered with my
experiments with Bluetooth. It will get simpler though and the iPod is perhaps showing
the way for all mobile devices in this regard.

Web Mobility

Why the sudden interest in mobility as a theme in web technology? Simple, I’ve just
got a new mobile phone to replace my old 90’s model (which last week a friend bluntly
labeled “a brick”). My new phone, a Sharp GX15, is pxt/video and bluetooth-enabled.

Now the truth is, I’ve taken far too long to come around to the mobile phone
revolution. This is particularly ironic, as I used to work for Ericsson – one of the world’s biggest cellphone and
mobile internet companies. I was there when WAP was in its infancy and broadband hadn’t yet
arrived to properly support it. At that point in my life, I was pre-occupied with the
network computer version of the Web and so I was busy learning ASP and designing portals and so forth. So WAP
was a curiosity at best for me back then.

Mobile Devices Market Penetration

Fast-forward to 2004 and mobile phones rule the technology world. According to MyMobile
, 70% of New Zealanders have a mobile phone. Not bad considering it was
only 10%
in 1995! ZDNet
that Europe has “between 60 percent and 70 percent” mobile phone penetration,
the US has about 50% penetration, Japan 60%, Korea 70% and Singapore 80%. China is a
growth market – currently it’s only at 20% but it’s predicted to reach nearly 25% by end
of this year. Given China’s huge population, that is a significant number of

PDA penetration by comparison is low. It was around 7% in the USA at the beginning of
2004, according to Jupiter
. So you can see why PDA manufacturers like Palm want to get into the “smart
phone” market – the future is mobile phones.

Another one to make this point is DrunkenBlog, who
says that the iPod’s days are numbered:

“An iPod Mini is going to make a much better mobile music player than
your cell phone. But when your cell phone has 5 gigabytes of storage and bluetooth
headphones…. the writing is on the wall here.”

Hype becomes Reality

So it seems all the hype I was in the middle of at Ericsson at the dawn of the 21st
century is beginning to come to pass in 2004. Mobile phones are the centre of convergence
– voice, data, Web, music, eBooks, PIMs, email, you name it. 

I’ll be investigating this convergence over the coming weeks and I’ll mostly focus on
where Web mobility is at circa 2004, rather than speculate about the future. On that
note, I’ve now subscribed to Flickr and have set up
(yet another) blog – ricmac photos.
This will be used as a fun space for me to upload a bunch of try-hard artsy-fartsy
photos. Warning: if you’re looking for photos with real artistic merit, you shouldn’t
look at my photoblog 🙂 Try Cristian’s instead, it is much

User Unfriendliness

In my next post, I’ll explore some of the current technical issues surrounding Web
mobility. We’re still at a stage where people have to technically configure their various
mobile devices and synch things together with a variety of “loosely-coupled”
applications. So I’ll talk about this in my next post.

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