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originally posted by Jamey Baumgardt: (link) - please comment at original post

The term “mobile” is everywhere.  Starting sometime last year it became a hot new buzzword in our industry, and coming into 2010 this phenomenon grew exponentially.  Everyone is talking about the mobile market, development companies are touting their extensive mobile offerings, and clients are eagerly seeking mobile development.  It’s become apparent that mobile is here to stay.  But what the hell is it?

To answer that question we can start by identifying what mobile is not.

Mobile is not about phones.  In fact, it’s not about any particular device, whether that be phones, laptops, tablets or otherwise.  Sure, the term “mobile” as we know it today has its roots in the development of mobile phone devices, starting back in the early 1970’s.  The evolution of these mobile devices, from those giant tethered bricks of yore on up to the smartphones so pervasive in the market today, along with the evolution of the term “mobile” in describing them and their functionality, is a fascinating topic unto itself.  But today, mobile has evolved to take on a whole new meaning.

In case anyone hadn’t noticed, it’s 2010, and we’re living in a digital age, and mobile has become something more, something bigger, something more important.  It’s drastically changing that way we do things.  Mobile is affecting social connections and interactions, opening up new avenues in terms of communication and consumption, and altering consumers’ expectations of the content and goods they consume.

With mobile I can at any time read and send email, browse the web, and send text messages to my friends.  I can buy a book on Amazon.com or bid on a piece of artwork on eBay.  I can read the news, and I can look at recipes from Epicurious.  I can make a shopping list.  I can read restaurant reviews and make reservations.  I can play a game with friends.  I can buy and listen to music, and buy and watch television shows or movies.  I can look up movie times.  I can take photos.  I can write on my blog.  I can read your blog…

Obviously I could go on and on with all the things possible with mobile.  Put simply, mobile is an emerging philosophy that’s providing an entirely new way of living in the digital age.

But what does this new attitude, this new theory, mean exactly?

First and foremost, it means that, if we want to be, we are always connected, no matter when and no matter where we are.  It means never being chained to a single location ever again.  It’s having a window into the cloud at all times.  There once was a time that in order to access digital content or services, or each other, we had to go to a specific location like a desktop computer and plug in to a network to browse and consume and communicate within the narrowly defined confines of a then-limited world wide web.  That is no longer true.  Mobile has freed us from these confines forever.

Mobile is comfortable, efficient and natural.  Or at least it should be.  As connected consumers in a digital age, we now demand the best experience from our interactions with brands, the way we communicate with each other, and from the ways we work and play online.  Our devices, and the interactions they provide, are not only extensions of ourselves, but also, and perhaps even more importantly, reflections of ourselves.  And as our devices become smaller, more portable and more powerful, our expectations for our experiences with them seem to increase and become better defined.

Mobile provides data and functionality specific not only to each form factor but also to each unique use case.  Now more than ever before, each individual can govern how and when they digitally browse, consume, digest, communicate and purchase, no matter the device or location.  This consumer empowerment places an onus on every brand operating in the digital space to step up their game to provide the expected experience.

But really this is good news for businesses.  Mobile provides additional touch-points at which to interact with consumers, and a completely new way of extending your brand into the lives of your customer base.  It also provides a powerful network to leverage for marketing endeavors viral in nature.  Most importantly, it provides you a space to reach out to your clientele that is defined by them, where you can speak to them on their terms, and in their language.  Mobile brings you closer.

To sum up, mobile is the computing metaphor that is replacing laptops, just as the laptop was the computing metaphor that replaced desktops a decade or so ago.  However, there are two distinct, albeit connected differences between these evolutionary jumps.  One, the mobile metaphor revolution is happening in the consumer space (whereas the laptop shift occurred first in the enterprise, then slowly made its way to the consumer as prices dropped and wireless networks grew).  Two, the mobile shift is happening much, much faster.

For the consumer this means nothing but good, good, and more good.  Mobile, and the speed at which it is evolving our lives, gives each of us power and voice and access like never before.  It gives us choice in how and where and when we do what we do online.  It makes us efficient and gives us convenience like we’ve never known.

For companies and brands operating in the mobile space, it means new, unique opportunities to connect with a new audience, on their terms.

And for mobile app-dev providers, the new mobile philosophy clearly means more opportunities, but also perhaps greater risk.  Obviously as consumer demand drives mobile application development, the opportunities in providing mobile services rise.  But because mobile is exploding at such a phenomenal rate, these companies must be able to react quickly and provide solutions on a variety of platforms as the market continues to evolve.  The company that is slow moving or that can specialize in only one device or OS is making a gamble, and a risky one at that.  As mobile continues its rapid evolution, companies that make the wrong gamble could very well find themselves extinct.

Photos via Wikimedia Commons.  Credits:

Dr. Martin Cooper: Rico Shen
Woman on cell phone: Ildar Sagdejev
Araripesuchus fossils: Sereno PC, Larsson HCE

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