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The Mobile Internet Revolution is here

Written by on July 23, 2008

People have been talking about the mobile internet revolution for many years. And even though almost anyone owns a mobile phone, mobile internet has not been that spectacular. That is until now. The mobile internet revolution has begun, and very little stands in its way.

The 5 essential factors

The mobile internet revolution has so far been held back by 5 essential things

  1. Believes
  2. Capabilities
  3. Speed
  4. Costs
  5. Critical Mass

Let's look at each element and see why they are now a reality (or will be in a very short time).

Believes

Believing in the mobile internet revolution has never really been a problem. The question has never been IF the mobile internet revolution would come, but rather WHEN it would come. For the past 10 years or more, everybody knew that "someday" we are going to use the internet from a mobile device.

The change is that we used to believe it WOULD come, now many early adopters believe that it HAS come.

This is a very important change, because it was the same thing that created the SMS revolution, the Flash revolution, or the AJAX revolution. Historically speaking, once people start to believe in things, it is going to move ahead very quickly.

Of course the main reason for this change comes from the changes in the remaining 4 factors. We believe because now we have the basis for doing spectacular things.

Capabilities

In the past the capabilities of mobile devices, when it comes to the internet, has been a joke. Not to mention a complete waste of your time. The processing power was inadequate, there was almost no memory to work with, the screens where too small and had a useless resolution. It was not usable for anything meaningful.

Many people, including myself, have experimented with WAP internet, or some of the early internet browsers. Other people have created JAVA mobile applications, but with unsatisfactory results.

Now, however, we have mobile phones that are relatively fast, with a lot of memory, with full browser capabilities including JavaScript and CSS3 support. We can pretty much create the same rich experience that we get on the desktop. This is all within a time frame of a single year.

In one year we have gone from utterly hopeless capabilities to absolutely stunning. We now have the capabilities to use the internet on a mobile platform in a meaningful way.

Speed

Another problem has been that of speed. Doing anything over the internet, from a mobile phone, has always meant waiting a very long time. You could completely forget all about using images and video. Even the iPhone didn't have the "speed" until two weeks ago (unless you where connected to Wi-Fi).

That is now very different, because now we got 3G, or even better Turbo 3G. To put that in simple terms, this means that you can browse almost as fast as from a desktop computer. We now have the speed.

Note: I am aware that several European and Asian mobile phones have had 3G capabilities for some years.

Cost

The 4th obstacle is the cost of using mobile internet, and that is perhaps the only problem that hasn't been solved yet. Most mobile operators does not provide flat-rate data plans, and the result is that some type of internet use can be very expensive.

But general usage, e.g. using well designed web applications would cost almost nothing. You can very easily create good internet experiences without sucking money out of people's pockets.

I my case, I actually sometimes struggle to use up my bandwidth, unless I start to watch video while on the go.

Critical Mass

The final factor and the most important one is people. Up until now, there have not been enough people capable of using your mobile internet applications, but now there is. Nielsen Mobile (among others) recently published a report called "Critical Mass - The Worldwide State of Mobile Internet" in which they found that we have now reach critical mass.

This is a very important event. Because this means that we now have a realistic mobile internet market. It is no longer something that will come in the future. It is here, now! We have reached critical mass, the people are ready and they are just waiting for you to do your magic.

A few predictions

The mobile internet revolution is no longer hampered by either the speed of the network, the price of using it, or the capabilities of our devices. We have reached critical mass and as a result many early adopters now believes in it too.

We have a situation where nothing is stopping it, and as result we are now experiencing the mobile internet revolution.

I actually believe so strongly in this that I willing to make a few predictions. I think that:

  • 50% of every mobile manufacturer's products lines will include full web capable phones within the next 3-5 years, and it will account for 80% of the sales.
  • Blackberry will make a phone with a full web browser within the next 2-3 years (and if not, Opera will make its Opera Mobile 9.5 browser available to blackberry users by that time). This means that enterprise users will join the "mobile internet revolution" too.
  • By 2013 about 80% of all "private" internet traffic will be generated by mobile or non-desktop devices (which also includes game consoles etc).
  • Social networking will almost entirely happen via mobile devices in the future
  • SMS and MMS are going to be replaced by IM and email (what is the point of using SMS, when you can just use Messenger).
  • In 3-5 years the majority of people will no longer buy mobile phones "to get a phone", they buy it to be online. So forget about the traditional "phone" development. That is not where the exciting stuff happens.

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Thomas Baekdal

Thomas Baekdal

Founder of Baekdal, author, writer, strategic consultant, and new media advocate.

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