Or says Chicken Little, aka Russell Beattie, the founder of Mowser, a Menlo Park, Calif., startup focused on mobile Web browsing. Beattie delivered the news Monday that Mowser “is at the end of its life in its current form.”
For that, I am truly sorry. Beattie, who has invested everything he has in Mowser for the past year, is a gutsy entrepreneur who knows a little something about mobile. From November 2004 to September 2006, Beattie worked at Yahoo! creating mobile products and content.
Beattie left to launch Mowser, a Web site focused on content adaption for mobile phones. You can read about his experiences on his blog, but what it all comes down to after a year of intense work is that “I don’t actually believe in the ‘Mobile Web’ anymore” and the market “is limited at best, and dying at worst.”
Beattie got caught up in the mobile hype of the past few years, hype he no doubt contributed to creating. As he notes, the argument for mobile went something like this: three billion phones in operation, when they get on the Internet, their numbers will vastly outweigh PCs and the market will tilt toward mobile.
“The problem is that these billions of users *haven’t* gotten on the Internet,” he wrote.
Of course they haven’t. Those three billion phones were mostly crap for mobile Web browsing, especially in the United States, which sports a vastly different mobile mentality than, say, South Korea or the rest of the world.
When so-called smart phones came along (think devices using the Microsoft Windows Mobile operating system or Research in Motion BlackBerry products), mobile Web browsing was supposed to drastically improve and the market would skyrocket. Never mind the fact that the experience, overall, was still crap, the devices were more enterprise than consumer, and they cost a boatload of money.
Of course, the iPhone came along last June — talk about bad timing for Mowser — and everything changed. The future isn’t in companies and initiatives like Mowser any more. It’s in the iPhone SDK, the devices being made by Nokia, and in the promise of Android, Google’s open-source mobile operating system. It’s in the new networks that the carriers, especially in the U.S., are beginning to build.
Whether Apple, Nokia, the G-phone manufacturers, and the carriers deliver, well that remains to be seen. One thing is for sure, though: The mobile Web is not dead. It’s just starting.
Beattie, and those who have eulogized the eventual passing of Mowser, note in passing — like it’s an after thought — that the mobile Web won’t happen until there are “better devices” and “full browsers.”
No kidding. The technology is just getting here that will make mobile Web browsing actually feasible — larger, crisper screens; faster processors; improved memory; a mix of connectivity; the right size; faster and more reliable data networks, and so on.
Next up are better user interfaces (like “full” browsers) and applications that are actually worth using — ones that can access our information no matter where it resides (the desktop or the Web). In the labs are networks that we, as cell phone users, can’t even begin to fathom — ad hoc social networks, location-based mobile services, proximity and awareness, and so on.
No, the mobile Web isn’t dead. It’s just starting.