Open Browsing and Context for everyone
I don't usually comment on company launches (because it is wise), but I have to say that opensource.nokia.com certainly tingles my nerve-of-goodness. Way to go, guys :-)
In other news, the new Web Browser for S60 supports cool things like thumbnail views of the pages, AJAX and DHTML for Web 2.0 hype compliancy, and built-in RSS support for following blogs and news. The best part though: it's got a plugin API, so people can develop new browser plugins for S60, too. It's cool enough to make a geek drool.
However, while this is very nice, someone might mistake to think that this means that there no longer is a need to create mobile-specific versions of the web. In fact, it becomes more important than ever: while 3G and high-end smartphones will have a browsing experience similar to the laptop, the most phones sold in the world are simple devices with GPRS (roughly the equivalent of a 56k modem) and tiny displays with a very simple browser. Most people in most countries cannot afford high-end phones (or maybe they cannot: getting a high-end Nokia in the US is an ordeal). In fact, according to this BusinessWeek article, sales of sub-$50 handsets might increase by 100% annually for the next five years. For many, the mobile phone will be the first touch of the internet.
Browsing is also a very engaging experience. It's a foreground task, which tends to consume most of your attention. (And my feeling is that since you don't need that much brain power to browse, the brain tends to turn itself into mush whenever you surf the web.) The apperance of the Web on the mobile will result in more people walking absent-mindedly on the streets, looking at their phones, bumping into other people, and getting hit by cars. Of course, SMS is already causing serious amounts of this "vicinity detachment", but SMSs tend to be short, whereas a browsing session may take hours.
The way that people work with their phones is different from the way they work with their computers. A good browser will make it easier for the developers to make mobile stuff, but you still need to think of the person that is using the software. Previously, your user had needs or wants, but you could always safely assume that he was sitting somewhere, with time to spare, two hands free, big keyboard and a screen. Now, your user could be someone who is running through the aisles of a Walmart, with two kids trying to see who can topple more bean cans, one toddler screaming "HUNGRY" in the cart, trying to steer with one hand, and fiercely tapping a small keypad with another.
The physical context of use becomes more important than before. A lot of the research on the context-sensitive applications so far has been about trying to figure out user's mental context: i.e. what does he really want. But that's very, very hard, and prone to many misinterpretations (Think of how well men in general are able to figure out what women really want. Trying to teach that to a computer is like trying to teach a hedgehog the difference between waltz and tango.) But the physical context is a lot easier to adapt to - you can rely on the user to recognize his own mental context, and figure out which app he wants to use.
When sitting in front of a computer, most of us enter a virtual world. But when dealing with a cell phone, we are dealing with the real world. There's a difference.
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|"Main_blogentry_021105_1" last changed on 02-Nov-2005 14:25:40 EET by JanneJalkanen.|