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In an increasingly mobile world, Web developers need to be planning designs for smartphones, tabletsGoogle CEO Eric Schmidt spoke at his company's Atmosphere cloud computing event for CIOs in Mountain View earlier this week, answering questions about China, cloud computing in general, and the future of Google. There was one answer he gave in particular, in response to an inquiry about a Chrome OS tablet, that Web developers should probably heed closely.
Hopefully someone else will be making the devices, we do the software. What’s important now is to get the mobile architecture right. Because mobility will be the way you will provision in the future. Fast forward 5-10 years. The answer should always be mobile first. You want to have the best app on mobile. If the real action is going to be there, then making sure you know what’s going on with mobile devices within the firm, they’ll want interoperability and safety.. For us the single most significant moment has been the arrival of HTML5. This standard allows for store value within the browser. Allows for application segregation. Means that applications will be less virus sensitive.
The highest-ranking officer of one of the most successful Web companies in the world thinks mobile is the future, and he's absolutely right.
Consider the iPad. Apple's tablet computer, a device amounting to little more than an oversized iPhone (minus the camera) and bearing a name unfortunately similar to a female hygiene product, managed to sell 300,000 units in its first day and 500,000 units in its first week. And this is a product that many claimed did not have a market. On the other hand, the original iPhone, a device with a decidedly established market, sold just 270,000 units in its first weekend. Clearly, mobile is already much larger than it was on June 29, 2007, the launch day of the original iPhone.
Since then, the mobile world has exploded. As of Q1 2010, 50 million iPhones have been sold and there are over 150,000 active apps available via the App Store, contributed to by over 30,000 active publishers in the United States. Beyond Apple, Google announced in February that 60,000 cell phones with Android OS are shipping every day. Now, as expected, there's news of an Android tablet on the horizon. And that's just talking about two of the biggest players right now in the smartphone world; BlackBerry, Palm Pre, and others still contribute to the increasingly mobile Web as well.
The numbers don't lie: consumers are going more and more mobile. The Web is getting faster, standards are updating at a wild pace, and anything one might want to be able to access from a desktop is now, more than ever, also accessible from a mobile device.
What do the experts say?
Morgan Stanley just a few days ago published a forecast stating that, by 2015, mobile Internet users will exceed desktop Internet users. Asserting that "3G is key to success of the mobile Internet," the analysts predict that, by 2014, 3G penetration will have reached 100% in Japan, 92% in Western Europe, 74% in North America, 40% in Eastern Europe, 37% in Asia Pacific, 35% in the Middle East and Africa, and 17% in Central and South America.
All that said, developers need to be creating the next-generation of Web services with a mobile user in mind first, just as Schmidt says.
Every prominent Web company will either sell an app or make it available for free, as most already do. Many will, additionally, provide support for mobile versions of their sites, just in case the user does not actually have access to apps. Mobile iterations of a site should function almost identically to an app; the user should have no problem accessing all (or nearly all) of the features available from a Web service when accessed on an ordinary computer. If either of these options is impossible, especially for companies with smaller budgets, then developers should at the very least keep in mind the mobile browser when designing frequently visited pages, especially a site's homepage.
In essence, it is critical going forward that the modern Web developer never forget that he or she is designing a service especially for the mobile user.
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