There is no spoon: Why I still say Mobile

Paul Kinlan

The other week I was reading a post by Benedict Evans called “Forget about Mobile Internet”, it’s a great post and I encourage you to read it.

It got me re-thinking my decision to say ‘Mobile Internet’ and ‘Mobile Web’ when I talk to businesses and developers. In fact, I did this in my most recent talk in India: Be Instant and Engaging on the mobile web - Google for Mobile India

The point of the post is right at the end:

This is why thinking about 'mobile' as another bullet point next to 'SEO' misses the point: mobile becomes the platform, and it's a much richer and more powerful one. What happens when almost everyone on earth has a pocket supercomputer connected to the internet? It's not a subset of the internet - it IS the internet.

There is no spoon.

Benedict is absolutely correct and I agree 100%. But I am still going to be saying ‘Mobile X’ for the near future and here is why: It sets context for the transition which people are only just starting on.

The web for example. Many developers and businesses context for the web is on a desktop device. Not only is the site layout tied to a fixed screen size, the functionality and method of operation is suited to using a mouse and keyboard whilst sitting down. You can talk to them about Responsive design, but the reason Responsive is important to them is because they have finally grasped that they know they need to cater for Mobile. This is why it is on the bullet point on the PowerPoint presentation.

After this first phase of going mobile you realize that your assumption of how the app or site operates for this new context is wrong and that simply making a site responsive doesn’t mean that it will operate well in a mobile context, let alone any other context in the continuum.

The final step, well, in theory, you get ‘it’ and now ‘Mobile’ IS, as Benedict suggests.

For me, when I talk about Mobile Web, I associate it with the use-cases that Mobile in terms of where a user is an what they are doing (like many apps):

  • Working offline or with limited connectivity,
  • Functioning across a spectrum of devices,
  • Being installable and integrated with the user’s device

For now I will be still saying ‘Mobile X’ (where X == ‘Web’) because I believe too many people in markets where desktop has been dominant are only in the first or second phase of ‘Mobile’ and right now ‘Mobile’ also means ‘Apps’ and getting the ‘Web’ in after ‘Mobile’ is critical.

I completely agree with Benedict, I just think that it will be a while before we get to that.

Paul Kinlan

Trying to make the web and developers better.

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