Tuesday, April 25, 2006

One's grey and one's pink. PC vs mobiles

This extract from the Communities Dominate Brands blog suggests four distinct differences between PC and mobile phone, in a post suggesting (correctly IMO) that mobile access to the Internet is going to be bigger than the PC:

First of all, a mobile phone based internet is totally personalized. Our PC is often shared - such as a university campus computer, or a family computer, or the PC owned by the employer with its limitations and at times access by the IT department etc. But our mobile phone is totally personal.

Secondly the mobile phone is always on. It means that any alerts, urgent news etc can be delivered. With laptops we need to find our access, connect to a WiFi etc network, but mobile phones are always connected and can for example be reached via SMS text messaging for alerts at any time.

Thirdly the mobile phone is always within hand's reach of its users. No other technology is so close to us physically at all times. We don't take our computers to bed with us (well, most don't do that), but over 60% of all mobile phone users take their cellphone physically to bed with them at night. We notice we've lost our wallet in 26 hours. But we notice we're missing our mobile phone in 68 minutes.

Finally - and most importantly - the mobile phone offers a built-in payment mechanism. The PC based internet does not have that. On the traditional internet we need to set up a payment system like Paypal, or we need to submit credit card info etc. But on the mobile phone we can (if our carrier/operator has enabled it) handle any payments at the click of a button."

I think this is a useful exercise, and these are good, but am not convinced that this is the definitive list. First, in developing countries, mobile phones can be, and are, shared. I don't know of much shared ownership being enabled at the software level yet unfortunately. Second, 'always on' is dependent on cellular operators and some of the best next gen mobile apps will have intermittent or time dependent connectivity, such as location specific podcasts delivered over wifi. Third - proximity to user. Absolutely agree. That's the key, and undervalue point of mobiles. Fourth easy payment. Well, again dependent on mobile operators. Mobile PayPal is here, and operator billing won't be the only game in town. More importantly, if we help make the Internet go mobile, then the expectation of paying for everything just because it is mobile will be eroded. New business models based on advertising and commerce rev share will not require direct payment by end users.

I do like this list, but am wondering if there's more? One that I'm missing is the possibility for easier user data input. In particular multi-media input (e.g. camera phone, BT, RFID). We should not be stuck with current limited text input when we've got a veritable magic wand with multiple features.