(Photo by Stormwarning)
I read with interest Fred Wilson's article on "Mobile First, Web Second." from last August. I had written about this subject prior to that and like the direction in which our collective minds are going. However, I think we've all gone a little far in taking this concept and elevating it to: Mobile-Only is the Future.
Despite my enthusiasm about mobile, allow me to rant a bit on why the above may not be so:
By BS-sensor gets activated whenever I hear a 'Mobile is completely different. Don't try to stuff the Web onto a mobile device' pitch. Or even a 'The future is mobile' pitch.
Ten years ago, I was on the other side of this argument, pitching how every website needs to be modified and optimized to be more usable on a cell phone (as these things were called at that time!). And I was adamant that mobile experts were the only people who knew how to succeed with mobile technologies/startups.
But it's different now: The Web has invaded mobile.
- Gone are the days when a specific company's application could be the sole mobile-operator-nominated solution in a specific area e.g. mobile road navigation, mobile browser, mobile payment, mobile advertising, mobile sales force automation, mobile games, mobile commerce, mobile marketing, etc.
- And it's not just Web technologies making their way into mobile but mobile concepts moving onto the Web- think two-factor authentication on ecommerce sites, notifications/ SMS alerts from your bank, app stores for websites (Chrome web store), location-based personalization on your favorite web apps.
To be fair, there are unique features on both sides like all the sensors on mobile devices and the massive real-estate on PC browsers. And there is a must-do-it-now/can-do-it-now quality to anything available/usable on a mobile device as well as potentially some different usage scenarios because you are sometimes interacting with the 'real world' when on your mobile device. And there are also some big gravity-wells in the mobile eco-system - namely Google, Apple, mobile operators aka ISPs, etc. - that don't behave quite the same way they do in the Web eco-system.
However, I think technologies and usage scenarios will continue to converge. A page on mobile browser will be a page on a PC browser. A payment from a mobile device will be a payment from a PC. Increasinly, one integrated backend system will aggregate content, access third-party systems, provide analytics, deliver advertising, manage security across Web & mobile.
And this means that mobile-specific technologies may have a shorter window of opportunity that you would otherwise think, some shorter than others.
So pause, for a second, next time you hear 'Mobile is completely different' or 'Think mobile-first' and ask: 'Really? How so? And for how long?'