Thursday, September 18, 2008

More on leapfrogging

This article in the Economist fits in nicely with the theme of developing areas leapfrogging the wired web that many of us know and going directly to wireless. The main point is right there in the first sentence, just like they teach in journalism school: "In future, most new internet users will be in developing countries and will use mobile phones".

I have to admit the idea takes some getting used to, even though it makes perfect sense and I've been hearing buzz about the "mobile web" for about a decade now. For me, the web is a sit-at-a-desk, type-on-a-big-keyboard, look-at-a-big-screen kind of thing, not a walk-and-talk, type-on-tiny-chiclets, squint-at-a-tiny-screen kind of thing. Being a curmudgeon, I use a desktop system (or occasionally a full-sized laptop) for browsing and I use my phone as a phone and an alarm clock.

That's not to say I think the whole mobile web thing is silly. It just hasn't been my thing so far. I did get to play with a friend's everything-but-the-phone-subscription almost-iPhone iPod and it seemed pretty slick, but I didn't try to type on it. But then, maybe most people aren't bothered by a small keyboard.

It certainly doesn't seem to be a problem for much of the world. One bit that leapt out at me from the article:
Jim Lee, a manager at Nokia’s Beijing office, says he was surprised to find that university students in remote regions of China were buying Nokia Nseries smart-phones, costing several months of their disposable income. Such handsets are status symbols, but there are also pragmatic reasons to buy them. With up to eight students in each dorm room, phones are often the only practical way for students to access the web for their studies. And smart-phones are expensive, but operators often provide great deals on data tariffs to attract new customers.
When a market the size of China gets interested in something, it bears watching. I also wonder how you enter text with a smart phone in Chinese and whether that makes the small-keyboard problem more of a problem, or less, or just different.

1 comment:

David Hull said...

I note do a lot of browsing on my phone, and even some writing (like this for example). Writing is still cumbersome, but Swype-style input helps.