Personal computing has given way to digital communications and connectivity, on whatever platform is the most convenient and robust at the moment.
Most of us have a "base" desktop computer at home or work -- where we store our personal and business data that is not already in the cloud. Our "personal computer." This machine is also where a lot of our heavy-metal applications reside. It is no longer, however, where most of our actual work gets done. That would be on our mobile devices, hands down. As the editor of Java.net said in an April blog post: "...as computers grow smaller, they are 'disappearing' into the devices that they power, everything from automobiles to netbooks to mobile phones."
That trend will intensify, with the addition of new hardware (think: tablets) and a storm of new, low-cost applications. The battle to watch, therefore, will be between iPhone and Android-based devices - rather than the continuous and familiar struggle amongst chip-makers or OS providers. They are so "last century."
Part of this generational revolution in technology is the convenience and functionality delivered by the new model. Need to do...anything? "There's an app for that." This emphasis on meaningful, new functionality is driving the market. It impacts traditional notions of web communications and has implications for designers, marketers and managers.
I've been reading a lot of "mobile marketing" articles recently, and though I agree it is an important and exciting new market communications and design professionals need to serve, I've not been reading much about the evolution of the model that is driving the explosion in mobile communications and connectivity. I would argue that it is the "functionality," not necessarily convenience or portability that is the engine of this change. There's a reason that the revolution is being sold with the tag line: "There's an app for that." Ultimately, this trend will change the face of computing and impact even the biggest players - like the search engines. As Clint Boulton put it in e-week,
For example, instead of using Google, Yahoo or Bing to search movie times and buy tickets online, users can download the Fandango mobile app and buy tickets.
But first-things-first. Businesses and organizations need to immediately pair their traditional web sites with new sites optimized for mobile devices. That is a given, and an urgent mandate. We've all experienced the frustration of dealing with sites that are not optimized for our hand-held devices: the unintentional linking, new windows launching, and navigational nightmares. No one should be surprised.
User interface design is a science involving human factors engineering and ergonomics. Platform-based behaviors, size constraints, hardware challenges and opportunities are all part of the equation. The best and most effective corporate and organizational sites feature mobile device-optimized versions. It's that simple.
Savvy business strategists will also be looking at leveraging the enhanced functionality offered by mobile, hand-held devices. These devices can communicate; display information in stunning HD color with multiple scrolling options; store Gigabytes of digital audio, video, image and application files; and effectively serve as a mobile office and connectivity hub. Most have cameras, many now offer GPS. The most successful mobile sites and applications will leverage these capabilities and address all of these roles, by providing meaningful new functionality. I'm pleased to be a participant in the industry at this moment, and look forward to contributing to this technology and market evolution.