"We know that Apple is going in that direction of trying to compete with [the] BlackBerry and others with the iPhone," Duncan said, adding that optimized versions of LinkedIn Mobile for RIM's BlackBerry and Palm's Treo will follow.
To tailor the application for the iPhone, LinkedIn mimicked the look and feel of Apple's smart phone, similar to the way certain Google Apps are polished for the iPhone. Also, LinkedIn does a lot of caching on the iPhone, so the device doesn't have to call to LinkedIn's servers as much, delivering a faster user experience.
Mobile Web use seems to be a common rule among LinkedIn users. Duncan said that in the last month some 100,000 users tried to access LinkedIn from mobile devices, but the experience is poor because cellular networks are not fast enough and it took too long for the page to load. LinkedIn Mobile is a lighter application and consumes less bandwidth.
With users flocking to sites to access their services from smart phones, why didn't LinkedIn offer a version of its site tailored for mobile phones sooner? Facebook, MySpace and other social sites have had mobile versions for months.
Duncan said LinkedIn had a prototype of its mobile application a year ago, but business and technical considerations along with customer demand made now the right time to issue the software. "More and more of our users are asking for this capability," he said.
Out of the gate, the application will be available in English, Spanish, French, German, Japanese and Chinese. Duncan said users in Europe and Asia use their mobile phones for several types of transactions, making a mobile version of LinkedIn valuable to users overseas. Also, roughly half of the people joining LinkedIn are from outside the United States.
There is no set expiration date for the LinkedIn Mobile beta. Further down the road, the company said, LinkedIn Mobile will grant users access to LinkedIn Answers and Experts and offer one-to-one messaging between users and their connections on LinkedIn.