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September 8, 2008

Going mobile is a challenge of choices (despite hullabaloo elsewhere)

ESPOO, Finland – Wow. There seems to be a lot going on in the tech world, from gigantic steampunk spiders to thumbsdown for gimmicky ad campaigns to tech dirt being slung around in all directions.

But my focus today is on mobile trends, some cool folks giving talks in cool events, and the business of going mobile.

Simplicity winning out over flash?

Ok. So I’ve been beating this drum a bit too much, especially since folks are starting to think my 1100 Club suggestion was a real club by Nokia (no, it isn’t).

But Ben, over at Into Mobile, realized, while reviewing a Nokia 3109 that, despite it not being the prettiest and most feature-laden device out there, it’s a pretty decent phone.

I don’t really want to force comparisons and competition between all the different phones we make. There is a reason we make a wide portfolio rather than a single fancy uber-device: Choice. I’ve been talking to some of our brand and marketing strategy folks about how we have user-profiles, based on extensive user research, that guide our portfolio choices. I hope to work up more articles about this topic in the next month or so (they just finished a big periodic revamp, so they asked me to wait a bit).

Smaller laptops or bigger mobile phones?

One area I have been watching closely is where WiMAX, WiFi, VoIP, and tablets all mix up. For example, the Asus Eee PC has been making waves. It’s a very small very capable laptop that has been picked up by hoards of people, causing the bigger laptop manufacturers to scramble for similar devices.

And what’s more interesting is that mobile operators are realizing that these hyper-mobile miniature laptops are perfect for their mobile networks. For example, Vodafone is preparing to offer the Dell Mini 9 for use on their 3G networks.

Coming from the other end, WiMAX was meant to be the gap-filler between mobile phone 3G data and laptop use of WiFi. Nokia even added WiMAX support to their tablets (which one can consider fitting in between a mobile phone and one of these mini laptops). But, the promise of WiMAX has been long in coming and some make a good (and long) argumentation that WiMAX might be really a non-starter in the grander scheme of things.

And then, on a much more sparsely granular layer, WiFi coverage is there for when you are stationary, such as at a coffee shop (like out team was for part of last week, specifically for the broadband) or in a super market. A super market? Tesco, a large supermarket chain in the UK, will be offering a VoIP service by subscription for Nokia devices. Makes you wonder.

Looking over all this space, laptops are getting closer to small handheld tablets which are bigger than your average smartphone. WiMAX is getting nudged out by more uses for 3G beyond the mobile phone. Operators are offering laptops for data access in addition to phones for voice access.

Does it look like a mess to you? How does one figure out what to do?

Going mobile in this day and age.

Fortunately, there are a ton of clever folks out there trying to understand how folks are using mobile devices, what going mobile means, and what the future of mobility looks like.

Three colleagues I admire, Adam Greenfield, Jan Chipchase, and Raphael Grignani, were at LIFT Asia (I wish I had gone, too) talking about these very subjects. The folks at Experientia have collected the links for speaker info and the presentations themselves and have links to some other folks making notes of the whole event. I’m sure there’s a lot there for you to chew on. I put Raphael’s presentation at the end of this post.

In this same space, I am looking forward to more from Ricky Cadden, aka Symbian Guru. He’s setting out to practice what he preaches. He’s putting ‘renewed focus’ on his personal motto that “technology should enrich and enable real life.” He’ll be exploring how to really unplug and go mobile. Should be interesting.

Image from havesack