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Going Mobile… | Gaining Altitude in the Cloud

A few weeks ago I committed to exploring the mobile world. And while I’m not a neophyte – my Blackberry is strapped to my belt and, according to my wife, my addiction to constant email connections is worse than a two pack a day habit – I’m still not a truly mobile convert. Yet, my conversion to date is inconsistent as I aspire to engage in intensive web surfing (remember, I have a Blackberry), triple digit smart phone apps, and alas, a connected tablet in lieu of my laptop.

So, how is it going?

[Feel free to insert your favorite “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” joke here.]

I’m typically a relatively early adopter, but not necessarily a gadget freak. However, I accused Apple of just enlarging the iPhone – nay, an iPod Touch – when it introduced the iPad. Thus, my pilot in a completely wireless connected world is somewhat of a stretch.

The biggest change (read, challenge) I’ve encountered so far is doing without a keyboard and mouse, and surviving as much as possible with a touch screen tablet. However, pecking this out on my iPad suggests that I’m making some progress.

In the plus column, consuming or reviewing content is extraordinary. The instant on, always connected convenience is great. In fact, if I had to summarize in a single word the impact of mobility today, CONVENIENCE represents the best synthesis of value add. Even the wiz bang new capabilities such as iCloud have their greatest utility along this dimension.

However, the mobile experience is not devoid of frustration:

  • Creating content is painful, especially for business communications. Today’s mobile devices and apps are consumption-oriented, not creation-oriented.
  • Finding an app that does what you need is difficult. The popularity of mobile apps and the apparent ease with which they can be developed is both a boon and a curse. Word of mouth seems to be the most effective way to find really useful apps, but even then personal preferences and specific needs have often sent me down a path of frustration and further hunts for something to get the job done. (I’m open for suggestions on “app managers” that facilitate this search – I’m sure they are out there…)
  • Getting help is elusive. Although many apps and interaction models are extremely intuitive, trying to do something slightly nonstandard is decidedly nontrivial. Finding relevant help is not easy – even Apple’s websites for help are beautiful to look at, but quite thin on useful content.
  • None of the devices have really cracked the code. The iPad’s handling of multi-tasking is clunky. RIM’s Playbook shines on the multi-tasking front…would that it had more than a couple useful apps! And I’m still TBD on my Android experience, as I eagerly await shipment of a KindleFire in a few weeks.

Going mobile hasn’t yet changed my life, yet. I still relapse to my laptop to create rich content (of course some of my colleagues will undoubtedly quibble with its richness, regardless of the device on which it was created). But I do see the potential for game-changing opportunities around global services:

  • Data collection. I sense that the ability of mobile devices to collect relevant, context-sensitive data has the potential to have astonishing impact. Those who harness the ability to leverage mobility to collect the right data, and avoid being overwhelmed with huge volumes of inconsequential data, are likely to unlock great value.
  • Interactivity. The convenience factor will drive (actually, is driving) greater use across an ever-widening breadth of activities. This intensity of use creates a heretofore unknown opportunity for interaction, real-time feedback, and truly personalized response. The opportunities are unbounded.
  • Ease of use. Comparing the ease of use of most mobile solutions with their non-mobile counterparts isn’t a fair fight. The selection and ease of purchase, installation, and use (generally conforming to expectations) of the mobile experience is – again – convenient on a different scale than alternatives. This will compel consumers (individual or corporate) to use the solutions, and the marketplace to continue to innovate with broader and deeper capabilities.
  • Innovation model. Fast. Responsive. Cheap. Most mobile apps subscribe to these design and development principles, fueling innovation based on rapid feedback on actual use. Lots of minor changes to reflect real usage, rather than perceived needs, results in enormous benefits for developers and users alike (although, as noted above, finding the right fit is often more frustrating than productive).

What do you think the impacts will be on global services?

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