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The World in Your Palm (or BlackBerry, or iPhone…): Looking forward to the next 10 years of hand held internet access

In July, I tweeted about the Pomegranate:

jackcahill Funny maybe (actually, yes) – but ten years from now we will all have one … – http://bit.ly/uG6aZ.”

The Pomegranate is an innovative, although fictional PDA with some great features, including a coffee maker and electric razor. I joked that although it was a fictional device, we would probably all have one in ten years anyway.

When you think about PDA and cell phone functionality ten years ago and compare it to what we have today, that may not be so off base. Many of us today, old enough to remember the 1990s, will recall the primitive ancestors of today’s devices. They were hard to use, unreliable, and expensive—and we loved them.

But today we do not just love them, we cannot live without them. Today’s PDAs provide a full range of communications—phone, email, and video. In fact, the distinction between cell phone and PDA is disappearing. Do you remember when this convergence was considered a “new frontier”? Neither do I. Today it is routine to carry the Internet in the palm of your hand. And developers are beginning to answer the need for mobile websites and mobile apps geared towards the mobile browser.

I used to rebuff the mobile web browser—but not anymore. Recently, my BlackBerry was the only access I had to the Internet on vacation. I used Google Apps to easily get restaurant information and to check the online sales of a visiting friend who is an antiques dealer. Google Maps helped me locate a specific store. Facebook Mobile and TwitterBerry allowed me to babble to the universe. But some websites would not load well and it was difficult to find basic information—that still needs attention.

So what can we expect in innovation for the handheld Internet during the next ten years? Everything is possible. I’m hoping for the universal translator, but a rotating Death Star Hologram projector would also be awesome.

Real innovation in mobile websites and devices will focus more on meeting the users’ needs than in flash or style. What is cool is not necessarily what is good. A website visitor has different needs when using a mobile device. They are not looking for the same type of information in the same ways as they would on a computer. Mobile users today are also savvier than their counterparts were ten years ago. They are less impressed with glitter (OK, not all of them) and are looking for functionality. When mobile device and web developers are designing for the handheld Internet, they need to identify what the users need to make their mobile online experience a richer one.

Developers who can do that will leave their mark on the next decade of the PDA.

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