The Allure of Mobile

Posted by: by John Parsons on October 16th, 2012

Mobile PreciousAs I recover from the blast of activity surrounding Graph Expo,[1] it occurs that everyone I met there seems to be fully committed to doing business on mobile platforms—even if they have no idea why or how. Mobile is the new big thing, whether you’re serving consumers or businesses. QR Codes are everywhere, and a new mobile device seems to be introduced every hour.

The first question—why?—is easy to answer. In North America, smartphone use has eclipsed that of feature phones, and mobile tablets are rapidly gaining in popularity, soon to overtake Kindle-like reading devices and maybe even laptops. Not long ago, smartphones and tablets were an uncertain, even ridiculed novelty. Today, they are the gadgets sine qua non. People who leave home without wallet, keys, or clean socks will almost never do so without The Precious—their mobile “device of power.”[2]

These days, it’s even a misnomer to call these gadgets mobile phones. Making phone calls is seldom at the top of a list of things people actually do with their smartphones.[3]

What they do, of course, is connect with Internet-based media and information. For consumers, this means just about every form of content you can imagine—from e-books, music, videos, and games to databases about the who, what, when, where, and how of every human activity.[4] We now make purchases directly from our smartphones, based on the information we find, and using a supposedly secure e-commerce connection.

On occasion, we also use them to send messages—via email, SMS, chat, Skype, whatever—and occasionally make actual phone calls.

For business-to-business use, mobile is being driven by some of the same factors that are behind the consumer phenomenon. Connecting with information is arguably more important than the media component, but the basic need is the same—to have a “universal information tool” we can take anywhere, and use any time. The fact that we can use smartphones to speak with colleagues or customers is almost an afterthought.

The next question—how?—is more difficult, and the subject of future blogs. Using mobile as an effective tool for positive change, and as a means of turning mountains of data into meaningful, actionable information, is the real imperative behind the fad.

It’s going to be an interesting decade.

–John Parsons


[1] For you digital-only mavens, Graph Expo is the annual exposition and conference, held in Chicago, for the beleaguered printing industry. By the time you read this, I’ll have posted my event blog at NimbleWare’s other site: PrintUI.

[2] Credit for the Gollum image goes to Mike Curtis at HD For Indies.

[3] Come to think of it, they’re not always mobile phones either. Mine sits on my desk for most of the day.

[4] Yes, Virginia, it’s true: Twitter, Facebook, and Match.com are just gigantic, often chaotic, online databases.
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