Mobile Client Wars and Client Diversity

As Android’s market share creeps up on iPhone, the drums of blogerati buzz beat louder on topics such as “which platform will win”, “battle of the titans over mobile”, etc.

A lot of this is just the chattering e-classes chattering (and, btw, Android’s going to win), but there is a trend below the radar here that has longer legs: I call it “client diversity”.

The fact is we are driving toward a computing architecture where different kinds of clients all attach to the network and use network resources (increasingly) for storage, computation, and collaboration.

Smartphones are one kind of client; “new” tablets like iPad (and the raft of Android tablets to be announced at CES shortly) are another.  But the various smartphones have more in common, say, than iPhone and iPad.  We are moving toward an ecosystem where different clients will be used for different functions and will co-exist more-or-less stably.

Most of my friends and colleagues are experimenting with substituting an iPad for a laptop in their road trips (the consensus seems to be that iPad does better for short trips, laptops for multi-city ones).  Most everyone with a smartphone and an iPad is finding that some apps, games, and activities work better on one than another.

Guess what?  Things are probably going to get more diverse.  We have second-class network clients like wireless picture frames, and even the poor Sony Dash.  We have automobile-based clients like media players and on-board nav systems.  (We have in fact nascent clients in all the GPS units out there, longing to be web-connected as well as GIS-connected.)

Why so many?  Because they are cheap enough (eventually) so that it’s more important to have the best client for each purpose than to have one client for all purposes.

Guess what else?  The mobile clients will start to control the non-mobile ones, so that your content from your smartphone will show up on the on-board nav system where the display is larger, although it may still be controlled from the smartphone (whose keyboard is better for input).  Your email will segue to the giant TV in your hotel room when you arrive because it’s easier to see.  This won’t take tech miracles, but it will take a hell of a lot of negotiations, similar to what the wireless voice world went through when it discovered how to do universal roaming.

2 thoughts on “Mobile Client Wars and Client Diversity”

  1. Hey Dan,

    This trend reminds me of the good old days when we had one “stereo” to play all our “records.” Then over time the functionality of playing recordings replicated itself — remember when we used to crawl under the house to pull wire from the “one” stereo system and connect it to speakers in different rooms? Now we just put a whole new systems in each room.


  2. True enough, although probably more accurate to recall when you started playing “recordings” on more than one platform: first casette players, then Walkmen, then CD players. Happy days — for a while — for content owners.

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