Today many smart phones provide full HTML browsers. Nokia’s latest N-series and E-series phones, which run Opera browsers for the Symbian operating system, are among the most advanced.
In the future, these mobile HTML browsers will make their way onto even the most basic phones. Motorola recently announced it is adding an HTML browser to its popular Razr phones.
The bottom three-quarters of the world’s population accounts for at least half of the people who have Internet access, which is up from 30% in 2005. Outside the U.S., the main mode of connectivity for many is the cell phone because of its portability, affordability and universal standards. Voice recognition and the touch-screen are common technology interfaces.
Of the 6.6 billion people in the world today, only 1.2 billion have access to–and use–the Internet, according to the United Nations. It took 20 years for the first billion mobile phones to sell, just four years for the second, and only two years for the third. There will be 4 billion cell phones (some people own more than one phone) in the world by the end of 2008–only 15% of which are Internet-enabled, according to Wireless Intelligence. In the future, mobile devices will be more computer than telephone, and will be more about the connective applications.
So what will full Internet browsing mean for users? For one thing, it could accelerate the growth of mobile social networking. In the last couple of years, social-networking sites such as MySpace and YouTube have become hits. Now people are extending those social networks to their cell phones. In December, ABI Research said that almost 50 million people used social-networking sites on their mobile phones. That number is expected to grow to 174 million by 2011.
Mobile operators such as AT&T and Helio have a special deal with MySpace, and Verizon Wireless has a special deal with YouTube. Mobile phones could allow people to more seamlessly connect their virtual presence with their physical presence. But Charles Golvin, an analyst with Forrester Research, predicts that this fact alone could mean that people will form smaller, more-private social networks with their mobile phones instead of simply using the phones as extensions of the social networks they created using their PCs on sites like MySpace.
With rapidly increasing coverage, data-enabled cell phones will soon deliver the long-held vision of ‘anytime anywhere information access.’ Over the longer term, dockable cell phones may even displace laptops and desktops. Much like an iPod, such dockable devices with large local storage will allow users to carry all their data with them all the time. In other words, these devices will not only provide data access, but also data and computer mobility. User demand for higher bandwidths and lower operational costs will inevitably lead to the proliferation of WiFi- and WiMax-enabled cell phones that can switch to WiFi or WiMax when available.
Following this train of logic, it seems clear that the proliferation of cell phones, their use for data access, and the concomitant growth of cell phone-based Internet service providers will lead to an increasingly larger portion of the Internet being managed and provisioned by cell phone providers.
As the fraction of users accessing the Internet from cell phones grows, there will be a strong financial incentive for Internet application service providers like Yahoo and Google to establish a presence on this provisioned network.