Michael Fitzgerald of The New York Times looks at the present day failure of the mobile web.
Data will make up only 12 percent of average revenue per user in 2007, far below the expected 50 percent, according to Caroline Gabriel, an analyst at Rethink Research. Similarly, surveys by Yankee Group, a Boston research firm, show that only 13 percent of cellphone users in North America use their phones to surf the Web more than once a month.
“The user experience has been a disaster,” says Tony Davis, managing partner of Brightspark, a Toronto venture capital firm that has invested in two mobile Web companies.
Yet, it won’t always be so. Fitzgerald points to work being done that could radically reshape today’s poor user experience.
Nathan Eagle an M.I.T. researcher, is working on mobile phone programming in Kenya, where he’s teaching computer science students how to build mobile Web applications that don’t use a browser. Instead, they rely on voice commands and speech-to-text translation to surf the Web
“People talk about the mobile Web, and it’s just assumed that it’ll be a replica of the desktop experience,” Mr. Eagle said. “But they’re fundamentally different devices.” He says he thinks that the basic Web experience for most of the world’s three billion cellphones will never involve trying to thumb-type Web addresses or squint at e-mail messages. Instead, he says, it will be voice-driven. “People want to use their phone as a phone,” he says.