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How can anyone think that because we are supposedly “happy” with our desktop experience on the Web—and take the time and effort to go on a search and then sign onto a number of sites―we will be willing to do that on our mobile devices?

Xohm-Sprint’s Wireless Internet Play

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Is WiMAX in the United States about extending the wired Internet to the wireless world? Sprint (and Intel) seems to think so. Meanwhile, my spies in the ODM (Original Design Manufacturer) community tell me their designs for ultra-mobile devices are meeting resistance from companies in the United States. Sprint says, “We are pursuing a new business model that is Internet-based, not telecom-based, and therefore will establish a new service brand.” The brand is Xohm, which rhymes with home and starts with the Z sound. According to Sprint, after extensive research, it has determined that this brand and the idea of moving the wired Internet to wireless has legs and is “cool.”


But is it the desktop Internet we want on our ultra-mobile devices (UMB), or is it something different? Do we want UMBs at all? Do we want to carry in our purses or wear on our belts a device that weighs 2 pounds, has a great screen and small keyboard, or would we be happier with a smarter Internet experience that is a better mobile experience than today’s desktop Internet? Yes, I know I have talked about this before, but I am having a hard time understanding how Apple, Sprint, Intel and a host of others think that simply providing us with the desktop experience on our mobile devices is what we want.


How can anyone think that because we are supposedly “happy” with our desktop experience on the Web—and take the time and effort to go on a search and then sign onto a number of sites―we will be willing to do that on our mobile devices?


At present, Google’s mobile search is virtually the same on the desktop as on a mobile device. Yahoo has done a great deal to make its mobile search engine easier to use and is closer to being a good mobile search engine, but what I am looking for is a very different user experience. There are all kinds of ways of viewing Websites on a mobile device. Some Internet companies have separate Websites for mobile access and some use middleware to try to improve the end-user experience. And then there are those who provide us with a mobile device to go to any site (open access?), load the home page and then scroll around looking at the home page a portion at a time. None of these methods provides a very friendly user experience, and none really help me locate what I want in a timely fashion without having to work at it.


For me, the answer is twofold. First, let me use my desktop computer to enter, in advance, some of the information I know I want to access―and I don’t mean entering URLs that can be downloaded to my mobile device, I mean exact information I know I want to access. Next, the network should be smart enough to be able to retrieve information without making me chase it by entering a URL and then having to enter data I have already entered. In the early days of the PC, one of the points that kept coming up in conversations with developers was that if you enter data once, you should never have to enter it again.


The wireless Internet should be a better experience. With the roll-out of location-based services with smarter phones and smarter networks, I should not have to do all the work I have to do on my desktop to get information. Many of you know I believe we should be able to receive updates for our flights from within our calendar, receive weather updates via our calendar and, if we are renting a car, we should receive turn-by-turn directions from within our calendar. If you don’t use your calendar when mobile, perhaps the same things should be available via email. There are several companies around that permit a query via email that returns answers, not Web pages. Microsoft has a platform that works with Outlook to provide much of the access I have been discussing and hopefully it will be rolled out at some point.


We have the tools for this type of access, and I believe that if we get them in place we can drive wireless data usage much higher than it is today and, by the way, also impact the way we react with our desktop computers. Already, I can book tickets for a flight and have the flight information sent directly to my Outlook calendar. I should also be able to have my turn-by-turn, phone-based navigation system send me directions from where I am to where I want to go simply by selecting the destination address in my address book.


I should not need to know my zip code in order to find something on the wireless Internet. As a matter of fact, I should be able to get most of what I need on a daily basis without having to go to a browser at all. Many companies understand this and are working on it, yet those who run the wireless networks seemed convinced, truly convinced, that I will be happy with being able to replicate my desktop Internet experience on my wireless device. My answer to that is, “No thank you!”

COMMENTS: This is an archived post. Commenting is no longer available.

Mel Samples - 08/16/2007 18:55:57

In the U.S. wireless is synonymous with mobile and it's difficult to have a device that demands all your attention while you are mobile. Said another way - if you are looking at your web browser, I hope you are not driviing in the car next to me!

I for one believe that a mobile internet experience will be acceptable only when we get to the point that voice is the input or query mechanism, and then depending upon content, either pictures or voice is the output.

Andrew Seybold - 08/16/2007 18:58:36

Well put Mel--and we are seeing from progress in the area of voice access as well, thanks for the comments--the bottom line, for me, is either voice of smart input.