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Entelligence: Context is the killer application for mobile


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Entelligence is a column by technology strategist and author Michael Gartenberg, a man whose desire for a delicious cup of coffee and a quality New York bagel is dwarfed only by his passion for tech. In these articles, he'll explore where our industry is and where it's going -- on both micro and macro levels -- with the unique wit and insight only he can provide.

We live in a world of diverse mobile devices. Laptops, smartphones and everything in between define the mobile experience of the 21st century. But what is the killer application for mobile computing? We all know the theory of killer apps -- they're the reason and the purpose people invest in new devices. The killer app in the early days of PCs was the VisiCalc spreadsheet. PageMaker and the creation of desktop publishing were the killer apps for the GUI-based PC, most notably the Macintosh. But for mobile, it's not as clear; some people think the killer app for mobile is email, while other say it's the mobile web. Personally, I don't think there's one specific killer application -- I think the killer app for mobile is simply context.

Historically, we've tailored the devices we use to the places where we are. We distinguished between business users and consumer users because the functionally required was often tied to the location the user was sitting. Mobility was often dead space. People found ways to distract themselves during travel time, and were generally disconnected when out and about. Today, the mobile space is connected, and that

The fastest and most powerful laptop won't do much for a user on the road if it weighs 10 pounds and gets barely an hour of battery life -- or can't open in a coach seat on a plane.

makes it quite unique: it's neither home or work, work nor play. Your context shifts rapidly depending on what you're doing, where you are, and what devices or devices you may be carrying -- in our age of digital ubiquity, you can access the relevant information, either personal or professional, wherever you are, on whatever screen you choose. Delivering the contextual information users need, when they need it, is what's critical -- not any particular application or service.

Context contradicts conventional wisdom. For one thing, feeds and speeds are no longer the defining metrics for value. The fastest and most powerful laptop won't do much for a user on the road if it weighs 10 pounds and gets barely an hour of battery life -- or can't open in a coach seat on a plane. By contrast, the ability to check email, browse the web or listen to music doesn't matter if your phone won't make a call when you need it to. Smart vendors will learn technology applied to context for users is what matters -- especially since I think there's an upper limit on the number of devices most people will carry with them at any given time. As I've said in the past, for most of us that's two, with a maximum of three.

It's time to be liberated and connected. The dream is real -- now it's time to see more devices execute and deliver the vision.

[Image via Celebrity BlackBerry Sightings]

Michael Gartenberg is vice president of strategy and analysis at Interpret, LLC. His weblog can be found at Contact him at gartenberg AT gmail DOT com. Views expressed here are his own.

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