INSIDE MOBILE: Mobile-Centric Computing

By J. Gerry Purdy  |  Posted 2010-12-16

INSIDE MOBILE: Mobile-Centric Computing

One thing you may not know is how the Web is being re-created all over again. You might sensibly ask, "Why would anyone want to do that?" since it took so much effort to define the standards and create tens of millions of Websites in the first place.

The reason that a good part of the Web is being re-created right before our eyes is summed up in one word: mobile. If you use a mobile Web browser on your smartphone and enter a traditional Website, the experience is less than positive. Most of the time, it's just plain awful. That's because normal Websites are not meant to be viewed on tiny screens using smartphones. As a result, if that site has not been modified to be mobile-friendly, then the user typically gets a poor experience.

Most of the popular Websites have already created or are in the process of creating a mobile-friendly version of their Website that provides a better experience when accessed by someone using a smartphone. It's likely that 20 percent of the Websites get 80 percent of the traffic, so it's those sites that have spent the time and money to create a mobile version of their Website. Over time, more of the "long tail" of less regularly accessed Websites will get converted to be mobile-friendly.

The creation of mobile-friendly goes beyond simple management of small screens. The entire inventory of ads you see on smartphones is different from the ads on the traditional Web. This inventory of ads is sold separately, with companies such as MillennialMedia and others focusing on selling ads on mobile-specific Websites.

So, the next time you use your iPhone or Android or BlackBerry to visit a popular Website, it's more than likely the experience will be acceptable due to the site developers creating a mobile-friendly version for viewing on smartphones. You'll also see ads that are different from the ads that are on the traditional Web page when viewed by a Mac or PC.

Mobile Applications for Smartphones

Mobile applications for smartphones

But wait, there's more! It doesn't stop with just mobile versions of popular, often visited Websites. It goes much further and will continue for many, many years until mobile-centric computing has become the center of the information universe.

If you doubt this conclusion, just take a look at what's happening with mobile applications. They have gone from zero to hundreds of thousands in just a couple of years-and will be in the millions before too long. Why are so many mobile applications getting created? The answer is very simple: mobile applications provide a better experience to the user than what you get with a Web browser. Application developers are able to manage the screen and processing better. It looks and feels better.

As a result of providing a better user experience, more users are spending more time working with mobile applications on their smartphone than with the mobile Web. From an advertising perspective, that means that the mobile Web isn't getting as many of the total eyeballs viewing mobile screens.

Instead, mobile users are viewing mobile application screens-and it turns out that there is another new world of "in-mobile-application" advertising that's headlined by Apple with iAd. Now, developers can include ads within an iPhone or iPad application and get paid part of the advertising fees that comes from the iAd network. These ads are embedded. If the user clicks on them, they go to the ad message, but when the user is done with the ad, iOS and iAd take the user back to the application. This is something that does not happen on the Web or mobile Web.

In mobile, new ad networks are getting created. New ways of monetizing the user experience are being created. It won't be long before most users will be spending most of the time viewing mobile applications, and that revenue from in-application mobile advertising will exceed the revenue generated from the mobile Web.

The Next Revolution in Mobile

The next revolution in mobile

I want to end this piece with a vision for the next revolution in mobile that will change things around again. Over the next 10 to 20 years, we'll see a world which I call "Mobile-Centric Computing" in which we have a network of mobile devices that are interconnected via the Internet.

Sure, the old Web will still be there-just like cash stayed around after the creation of credit cards. It will help with gigantic number-crunching and content storage. But in this new world of Mobile-Centric Computing, information is accessed from servers but also created on mobile devices and shared on other mobile devices.

In this new world of Mobile-Centric Computing, users will access and create information on notebook PCs and Macs. Information will be shared across hundreds of millions of tablets and billions of smartphones. Users won't spend much time on the traditional Web. Most of their time will be spent interacting among all of the mobile devices in their life.

Yes, the center of the information gravity is migrating toward mobile. It's not going to stop with just creating the mobile Web and mobile applications. It's going to keep on going until mobile is the center of the entire information universe, with spokes going out in all directions.

Mobile-Centric Computing. Remember that. You'll be hearing more about it in the years to come. 

J. Gerry Purdy, Ph.D. is Principal Analyst of Mobile & Wireless at MobileTrax LLC. As a nationally recognized industry authority, Dr. Purdy focuses on monitoring and analyzing emerging trends, technologies and market behavior in the mobile computing and wireless data communications industry in North America. Dr. Purdy is an "edge of network" analyst looking at devices, applications and services, as well as wireless connectivity to those devices. Dr. Purdy provides critical insights regarding mobile and wireless devices, wireless data communications and connection to the infrastructure that powers the data in the wireless handheld. He is author of the column Inside Mobile & Wireless that provides industry insights and is read by over 100,000 people a month.

Dr. Purdy continues to be affiliated with the venture capital industry as well. He currently is Managing Director at Yosemite Ventures. And he spent five years as a Venture Advisor for Diamondhead Ventures in Menlo Park where he identified, attracted and recommended investments in emerging companies in mobile and wireless. He has had a prior affiliation with East Peak Advisors and, subsequently, following their acquisition, with FBR Capital Markets. For more than 16 years, Dr. Purdy has been consulting, speaking, researching, networking, writing and developing state-of-the-art concepts that challenge people's mind-sets, as well as developing new ways of thinking and forecasting in the mobile computing and wireless data arenas. Often quoted, Dr. Purdy's ideas and opinions are followed closely by thought leaders in the mobile and wireless industry. He is author of three books as well.

Dr. Purdy currently is a member of the Program Advisory Board of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) which produces CES, one of the largest trade shows in the world. He is a frequent moderator at CTIA conferences and GSM Mobile World Congress. He also is a member of the Board of the Atlanta Wireless Technology Forum. Dr. Purdy has a B.S. degree in Engineering Physics from University of Tennessee, a M.S. degree in Computer Science from UCLA, and a Ph.D. in Computer Science and Exercise Physiology from Stanford University. He can be reached at

Disclosure Statement: From time to time, I may have a direct or indirect equity position in a company that is mentioned in this column.  If that situation happens, then I'll disclose it at that time. 

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