Google very clearly recognizes how strategic the mobile internet is both for revenue growth and the company’s future. Hence the Android mobile platform, the bidding in the 700MHz auction and all the effort Google is directing toward mobile generally. CEO Eric Schmidt repeatedly emphasizes mobile as the next big frontier and opportunity. He also points to the advent of the iPhone as a breakthrough mobile internet device.
Indeed, it is. A decade from now the “birth of the mobile internet” will be attributed to the introduction of the iPhone. However the mobile market is evolving quickly. One of the open questions is whether the phone will render a small screen version of the desktop/HTML internet or whether it will be dominated by specialized sites and applications. The iPhone is both, offering an HTML browser and a series of customized applications that are optimized for the device.
Companies such as Opera and, now, Skyfire are working to render the full desktop internet on mobile devices. Skyfire just announced new funding ($13 million) to further its mission of bringing “the real internet” to mobile devices. Mozilla is also working on a full HTML mobile browser and mobile IE will reportedly have that capability with a future release. The Android-based phones are also supposed to have full HTML browsers.
We can thus expect a range of devices and their browsers to offer the ability to view internet websites without transcoding or modification on mobile devices. In so doing, however, ads are diminished in their effectiveness and potential impact, which is a problem for all those who hope to reap the potential riches of mobile internet advertising (one of many forecasts, my Local Mobile Search service has projected $5.08 billion in mobile advertising by 2012).
One of the most fascinating dimensions of the mobile internet is that it’s very much a work in progress. It’s much more complex than the desktop internet and it promises to be a bigger driver of search traffic (and eventually revenue) than its wireline predecessor. Much is at stake with the development of the mobile internet. It is clearly the “next frontier” for search and will have profound impacts on consumers and publishers, as well as desktop internet rivals such as Google and Microsoft.