I remember the days when thinking mobile was a real exercise where you needed to totally rethink your product so it can still being value to your users while surviving the limitations of the mobile itself:
* ridiculously small screen
* hectic Internet access
* buttons and T9 text input
* j2me or WML as sole way to display contents
Building something reasonably useful on those platforms was a real challenge while flash and HTML were already rocking the place on the desktop world.
But let’s face it, phones those days have nothing but the name in common with those dinosaurs from 10 years ago – and a few days before the MWC starts it’s time to look back and reflect on the next evolutions of the online ecosystem.
I’ll start by sharing a few bets that I’m strongly believing in:
Mobile and desktop are not 2 different platforms anymore
* while desktop has become pretty distant to native apps as it has been embracing the cloud and SAAS over the past 5 years – and while during that time the mobile has been going the exact opposing way embracing apps – I believe HTML5 is on the verge of maturity delivering a real convergent experience on any platform disregarding its aspect-ratio, available input methods or size and portability. HTML5 apps with local storage shared on the cloud between devices (as it is being added to the new versions of Chrome) will be transforming SAAS apps into rich applications running on your local virtual machine (WebKit) and leveraging on the cloud to be executed. Google is heading this way, Adobe is heading this way (after Nitobi’s acquisition ) … That was even Apple’s Jobs bet before he realized the technology wasn’t ready yet.
* Apps features will depend on the screen size / aspect ratio: not the platform. Responsive design is leapfrogging every day. While today’s implementations are mostly heavy hacks, new approaches at layout definitions are redefining the way we design the apps UX based on mandatory and optional content to show depending on the case. Mobile and desktops both face the same fragmentation challenge, and anyway the frontier between platforms is becoming more fuzzy every day.
* Mobile ads are actually wrongly labelled : they should be called in-app ads as they enable you to display rotating ads within a dynamic application which is not dependent of the reloading of pages to update its contents. And likewise geo-tagetting which seems to be only bound to mobile nowadays is also being very relevant on the desktop (although maybe a bit less precise as not relying on a GPS).
All those elements lead me to think that if you’re lucky enough to start building a service today, this is your chance to make it right from the very start. Think multi-screens, think offline and asynchronous, think MVC on the client side, think API on the backend, and build one app to serve all platforms but include the support of various rendering modes to support the various screens you’re targeting.