A Mobile Game-Changer
The New Client/Server
In industry lingo, this setup is called client/server. Millions of people already take advantage of a mobile client/server architecture every day when they use their BlackBerries from Research in Motion. The BlackBerry’s e-mail interface is second to none, but an equally important usability factor is the device’s rapid performance. That’s because the BlackBerry downloads messages continually and displays them locally for rapid access. If the Blackberry’s performance was as slow as a Web e-mail program like Yahoo! Mail or Gmail, I suspect few people would bother with it.
Apple’s applications initiative is meant to give developers the means to build client/server applications on the iPhone. This can give users a fast, pleasant experience that’s optimized for the platform. Mobile Web doesn’t come close.
With an impressive list of more than 500 out-of-the-box iPhone applications and the capacity for developers to create really functional client/server programs, the iPhone stands to be the first truly mobile data device.
No cell phone maker I’ve seen has yet produced a meaningful competitor. Their origins are in voice, and most still don’t get the data thing. Apple’s early lead with mobile applications makes it the front runner in his new field.
Why you should care
Here’s the opportunity for marketers. Facebook pioneered the idea of using applications as a means to sell products, but there are so many Facebook applications right now that it’s almost impossible to break through the noise. The iPhone is currently an open field, and since people spend a lot more time away from their computers than in front of them, there’s more potential for audience engagement. The audience may be smaller, but the prospect of getting them to actually use your service is greater.
The applications that succeed on a mobile device will undoubtedly be different than those that work on a social network. Location awareness will be critical. Think in terms of what people want to do and know when they’re standing on a street corner or waiting in an airport. Give them services that help pass the time or entertain them. Better move quickly, though. I suspect the iPhone Application List won’t be a short one for very much longer.
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