TECH TALK: Mobile Internet: Views (Part 5)

Howard Rheingold: Inexpensive phones and pay-as-you go services are already spreading mobile phone technology to many parts of that world that never had a wired infrastructure. In terms of the people who had been left behind by previous technology revolutions, the mobile phone has already reached more people from more different walks of life than the PC or Internet did. As chips grow more powerful, even the least expensive phones will become cameras and Internet terminalsThe most important benefit of affordable PCs, phones, and bandwidth is encouraging the growth of literacies in the use of ICTs for the purposes of the poorest people in the world. The diffusion of the physical technologies is already being driven by the market.

Opera CEO Jon von Tetzchner (via MobHappy):

von Tetzchner is quick to point out that while operators might have to give up something in the short term, empowering users net access with a full browser and open service leaves them much more to gain in the long run though it requires a fundamental change of view. Instead of trying to lock people in, entice them to stay, he says. Operators can offer services that make use of a full browser, whether on a subscription basis, or as a tool to fight churn. Directing mobile users out on to the internet doesnt mean operators are suddenly out of the picture. They can offer different service plans to cater to different needs, as well as utilize existing infrastructure to provide services like third-party content billing.

Much of operators approach to the mobile Web has been predicated on a closed strategy, whether by blocking access outright to anything outside the portal, billing for it at ridiculous rates, or setting things up in such a way that theyre a necessary gatekeeper and technical expert for anybody that wants access to their customers. This strategy is outmoded and ill-advised; operators stand to gain far more by opening up, and allowing users to get what they want, and making it easier for content providers to give it to them. von Tetzchner and Operas contention is that this is best achieved by using standard web technologies rather than mobile-specific ones, allowing content providers to simply serve mobile users, and allowing those users access to everything they want. People just want the internet, he says, not to look at it through a keyhole.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt (via Tomi Ahonen): Mobile phones are cheaper than PCs, there are three times more of them, growing at twice the speed, and they increasingly have internet access. What is more, the World Bank estimates that more than two-thirds of the world’s population lives within range of a mobile phone network. Mobile is going to be the next big internet phenomenon. It holds the key to greater access to everyone – with all the benefits that entails.”

Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz (via ZDNet, Oct 2005):

The threat to PCs is twofold. Not only are services moving to the network, Schwartz said, but PCs won’t be the way people use those services–particularly in poorer areas of the world that have risen higher up Sun’s corporate priority list. Instead, that access will come through mobile phones.

“The majority of the world will first experience the Internet through their handset,” Schwartz said.

When it comes to aiding developing regions’ digital development, “Our collective generation believes the desktop PC is the most important thing to give to people. I don’t buy that. The most important thing to give is access to the Internet.”

Tomorrow: My Earlier Writing

TECH TALK Mobile Internet+T

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.