What exactly *is* “mobile”?
This is a bit of a meta-blog, not about SAP’s current mobile solutions but about the idea of mobility in general. It is prompted by the claim made by Jim Hagermann Snabe in his SapphireNow keynote last week – “In 5 years everything will be mobile.” I don’t dispute that claim at all. Jim may well be right. But I don’t believe we really know what “mobile” will look like in five years time so I’m not sure how much sense the claim makes. After all, “mobile” today is vastly different from “mobile” five years ago. But that got me thinking – what do we mean by “mobile” today? I had a long discussion with a colleague about that question and we couldn’t really come up with a concise definition. We all know instinctively how to tell a mobile device or app from a non-mobile one, but it seems to be quite hard to put into words.
Why is this important? Maybe it isn’t, but I suspect that what we currently call “mobile” is actually a collection of user interaction mechanisms that work well on today’s “mobile” devices but that are useful in their own right independently of the fixed or mobile nature of the device. Some of the things my colleague and I talked about as characterising “mobile” apps or devices included touch/multi-touch interface and lack of physical keyboard. Both of those exist today in non-mobile devices. I wonder if the whole concept of “mobile” will start to disappear in years to come and instead we’ll have a continuum of devices with similar interface technologies and we’ll just run appropriate apps on appropriate devices. If that happens, what will happen to development environments for apps? Will they converge? Are we already seeing the beginnings of this with convergence in iOS/MacOS and Windows/Windows Phone?
Or am I looking at this completely wrong? What do you think?