The five table stakes of mobile IT

Future generations will one day laugh at the idea that big companieslike Microsoft and Nokia held a press conference to announce they wouldbe offering things like word processing on a mobile phone. It would belike GM and Goodyear announcing that tires would be featured on cars:one just doesn’t run properly without the other.

And yet, despite what is frequently described as a dizzying pace ofchange in IT, we can look at the state of the user experience with theperspective of someone in 2030 and realize that progress is piecemealat best. We get excited when applications actually talk to each other.We’re wowed if a product doesn’t crash during the demo. We sit and waitfor pages to load.

The slow improvements are especially acute in the mobile segment,which occasionally resembles the early Internet era of the late 1990s.Now you can pay for things on your cell phone! Now you can sync toback-end systems! That it was once not possible to access e-mail on asmartphone seems like a glaring oversight, or an failure to anticipateuser demand.

While it’s taken mobile UIs some time to evolve, I think there’sprogress here. It used to be ridiculously difficult to navigate someapplications, but in the same that Twitter is forcing users to keeptheir messages succinct, I think smartphones are forcing developers tomake features more accessible and intuitive. Announcements like theMicrosoft-Nokia partnership are also encouraging signs, even if they’relong overdue.

Here’s a personal list of items which I believe will represent thebare minimum IT managers and vendors will have to supply mobile usersin the very near future:

1. Any productivity application works on the desktop will be usable on a smart phone.

2. It will be easy to override default applications, browsers or search engines. Better yet, defaults won’t be provided.

3. The mobile interface will be the better than the desktop, rather than the poorly-executed afterthought.

4. You won’t be penalized by ISVs for being eitheran iPhone, BlackBerry or Windows Mobile user. All apps will beavailable immediately across all platforms.

5. Users will take network reception for granted,just like they do on the desktop, unless there’s a blackout of someother act of God.

What am I leaving out? Maybe longer battery life, but I recognizethat the mobile IT industry has to crawl before it can walk. Tablestakes are what get you into the game. Once we’ve established abaseline on what those are, it should be a lot harder to impress a user– harder than Microsoft and Nokia had it today.

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