The Phone Is Not A Mini-PC
By Mike Masnick, Thu Jul 29 01:00:00 GMT 2004

As mobile phones get smarter, developers need to realize that the services and apps a phone needs won't simply be miniaturized versions of PC apps, but new applications that actually take advantage of the mobile nature of the phone.

It never seems to fail. When a new technology comes out, people tend to compare it to what was there before, and focus on the most obvious enhancements, while rarely thinking through the "unintended consequences" of the new technology. When Wi-Fi devices were first being installed in offices they were simply seen as local area networks that happened to be wireless -- just like ethernet networks, with the benefit being that no one needs to install ethernet drops. It was only later that companies realized the lack of wires added "unintended benefits" such as the ability to bring laptops into meetings to make workers more productive.

As smartphones are becoming more popular, most of the applications remain shrunken siblings of computer applications, with the assumption that the mobile phone is just a way that someone can substitute for a PC while on the go. Instead, it's time the industry realized that applications and services really need to take advantage of what makes smart phones different if there are going to be truly compelling, "killer" apps. If it's just a copied version of what people already have, it's seen as a "nice to have" not a "need to have."

Pushing this thought process along, The Mobile Technology Weblog points to a poorly titled article aimed at giving tips to mobile multimedia developers. The content, however, is much more intriguing, telling developers to forget everything they know. Whether for search or for messaging, the smartphone is a different beast, and is used in different ways. People using smartphones are on the go, doing things right now and any mobile application needs to fit in seamlessly with whatever it is they're doing. The smartphone is not a destination, where you sit down and get to work, but a companion that is helping to make the activities you are already involved in work better, while opening up new opportunities that simply couldn't be done before.

Realizing that the smartphone is not just a mini, mobile PC, while "forgetting" what you know lets creative new services get developed that will really drive acceptance of the new smartphones and networks. There are, certainly, carriers who are getting in the way with walled garden approaches and "operator knows best" mentalities towards applications, services and content. However, without compelling applications and services that really leverage the connected, mobile and active nature of smartphone users, there is less incentive for them to open up. If developers truly start thinking beyond a PC mindset, carriers will have no choice but to come along.