Thursday, March 29, 2007

The future is mobile

As a former editor of two national magazines, I’m a regular reader of D.B. Scott’s Canadian Magazines blog, to find out what’s happening in my old industry.

Yesterday’s post makes me feel the phrase “old industry” is way too apt. DB was summing up a new study on wireless broadband users, and concluded that this new medium is going nowhere. DB writes:
According to a story published by the Centre for Media Research (Media Post), a new study has found that barely 5% of people access the internet from a mobile device -- even if their handheld is equipped for it. And only 1 in 5 access news or television on their devices. 50% of respondents to the study by Media-Screen say mobile internet access doesn't fit into their lifestyle. 58% have internet-equipped mobile devices that they don't bother to use.
I too wonder who all these people are who want to watch "Pirates of the Caribbean" on their teeny cellphone screen. But I know that bad connections, inadequate hardware (so far), and high prices for broadband data services have held up development of this whole sector.

DB concludes that magazine publishers can go back to sleep when it comes to adapting their content to wireless devices. (They can keep working on developing desktop applications, which has been tough enough so far.)

I don’t buy it. In a comment on his blog this morning, I wrote:
It's not so much that people are rejecting mobile Internet applications, it's that these services are not yet ready to serve a mass market. Much like cellphones in 1984 or the Web itself in 1996, they are not ready for prime time.

They key lesson of new media is that they create all-new forms of content we couldn't have imagined previously: like reality TV programs, or eBay and MySpace. Clever magazine publishers should be looking not at how consumers are using wireless data now, but how they might use it in future.

Substitute the phrase “savvy entrepreneurs” for “clever magazine publishers,” and you’ll realize that this is a job for readers of Canadian Entrepreneur. There is huge long-term opportunity in wireless broadband applications. People are still devising exciting new applications for the Internet (e.g., my PROFIT magazine stories this month on Canadian Web 2.0 case studies, here and here).

Mobile broadband is a whole new frontier – one of many new opportunities that make being an entrepreneur today so exciting. Too bad some people don't get it.

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