Mobile 2.0 Is Ready for Business
Many of history’s great innovations arrived too soon. Henry Ford’s Model T was a two-speed without a driver-side door that couldn’t make it up a hill without a full tank of gas. Alexander Graham Bell’s first telephone could only call one pre-designated number, came with a single opening for both speaking and listening, and had no dial tone, requiring the caller to whistle for an operator.
Similarly, mobile applications arrived, to great fanfare, before they were ready. We refer to this early period, around 1999 – 2007, as Mobile 1.0. The promise of mobile applications was well understood long before Mobile 1.0, but when these apps first arrived, they were no less cumbersome and incomplete than the Model T or telephone in the early twentieth century. They were slow, simple, and designed for particular devices. In fact, most mobile apps were built for the Palm platform because it was the only Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) with significant market share — and all non-PDA devices, including cell phones, either didn’t support external software or, if they did, had such limited memory that no real applications could be loaded anyway.
Most early applications were consumer-focused and performed basic tasks, such as tracking travel expenses, storing grocery lists, and managing birthday reminders. These simple applications were available on simple devices, which most often had no wireless connection. Devices that did have a wireless connection, such as the Palm VII or WAP-enabled cell phones, were rendered all but unusable by slow, unreliable, and expensive data networks. Even the tech-savvy, early adopters received little value because the community of wireless users was too small.
Businesses typically avoided mobile applications during the Mobile 1.0 period because they didn’t meet even the most basic price-performance requirements for devices, networks, or applications. And when they did, the user experience was poor. As with most early technology adoption lifecycles, the promise (or hype) of mobile apps created demand from both businesses and consumers, but also caused frustration and disappointment when it became clear the gap between promise and reality was significant.
After about a decade of dramatic wireless technology improvements and rapidly changing socio-cultural trends favoring an increasingly mobile lifestyle — from Apple’s iPhone, iPad, and App Store to Google’s Android and Market — we’re now closer than ever to fulfilling the promise of Mobile 1.0: an evolution we call Mobile 2.0.