latent demand

I think 2008 is a good year for mobile. A number of factors influence this opinion but two stand out.. First – most mobile browsers support enough XHTML to make a decent looking application. Second – a good percentage of devices have enough power to run them.

There are plenty of arguments about pricing (flat-rate or otherwise), data speed (EDGE/3G/HSPDA) and others – but I think the crux is that an application has to meet the expectation of the user and until it’s responsive in it’s own right it just doesn’t work for the user.

Let’s define this. To meet the expectation it has to well, work, and but harder is that it has to instantly show the user what it is – they have to be able to understand what the app does for them – which problem it actually solves – or even more basically, what the hell is this thing? XHTML/CSS on mobile has allowed designers to make an app intuitive. We’ve got away from text-only input that may as well be a unix green screen and can now make something both simple and elegant – something that can lead a novice user through a task without confusing them.

As for responsiveness, it’s partially about network speed but in some cases application design can mitigate this. I think it’s more about pressing a key and something happening – not the whole UI of the phone freezing while the browser contacts the server or the page partially renders. This just pisses people off at a basic level and regardless of whether they blame the device or your app they’re still going to stop using it.

So, a good year for browser apps and to be honest, a good year for J2ME as all of these improvements tend to affect the JVM as well as the browser. We’re starting to see the bugs getting ironed out of the basic graphics and network APIs allowing real applications to be written alongside games. Interactive platforms such as Yahoo! Go are making it easier for developers to get started and removing the barrier of porting in some cases (note: I do work for Yahoo!)..

It’s a year for making apps that couldn’t have existed before. Lots of users on many devices able to use a distributed application.. on the move. And finally I think we’re getting to something that might just be better than SMS.

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