From the Mobile Content & Marketing Expo
San Jose, CA–Skyfire CEO/co-founder Nitin Bhandari gave the conference’s last keynote address, on the future of mobile browsing. From his position at the head of Skyfire, a free, downloadable mobile web browser designed to make the mobile Internet experience identical to that on the PC, Bhandari identified what he called “mobile web megatrends.”
Is good mobile web browsing an oxymoron (with the exception of iPhone)? That’s the issue that got Bhandari motivated to create Skyfire. If you look at what has happened in the industry in the last few years, things have changed, he said. Three years ago, 45 seconds into a page load, your browser would crash. Two years ago, Nokia brought the webkit-based Minimap to market, highlighting the potential of full web on mobile. It was a phenomenon and a great credit to Nokia,” he said. One year ago, iPhone delivered on the promise of the mobile browser. Eighty percent of iPhone owners browse the web on a regular basis, he reported, and that’s an amazing statistic. “For the first time, the web browser is front and center,” he said.
Chart of content on devices
“Better browsing is a disruptive force,” he said. “If you look at the entire lifecycle of creating, distributing, measuring and profiting. It has a profound impact on all of those” First, creating an app can be done two ways: looking for reach to many devices with limited engagement, or lots of engagement but to a limited range of devices. “This is no secret that the mobile world is highly fragmented,” he said. “Very quickly, you’re talking about millions of dollars.” The second way is to write a web app. “Flash is coming to all these mobile devices,” he said. “We have our way to bring it, and Adobe is working on their way. Then what you’ve created is leveraged across the PC and the mobile device. We believe everything is going to writing for the web. Write it once and run it everywhere.”
Discovery is better on the web, which levels the playing field, said Bhandari. The traditional model would focus on a biz dev team and staying on the deck, whereas open web search provides an effective marketing tool and advertising to acquire users is efficient. “It’s not mobile web, it’s mobile access to the web and there’s only one web,” he continued. “Yes, the screen is small and you might have to do something to optimize for the screen, but it’s still just one web.”
Do users prefer the mobile web or the full PC web? The jury is out, said Bhandari, although he admitted that he’s prejudiced. “Skyfire data says the full web,” he noted. “They can zoom, scroll and interact with the content. How many people will justify a mobile web budget? Very few people, so the concept of one web is great from the point of view of budget. Mobile web won’t just go away. The 90/10 rule applies: the massive amount of engagement will come from the top 10 percent of the devices, which are definitely becoming very capable.”
Widgets are another disruption. They moved to the web, but people began to question that. “If you add one more layer of fragmentation, it’s too much,” he said, “People are saying, why build a custom widget If I super-impose something else and it only reaches 4 percent of the market, why do it? Why not just build widgets as you do on the PC, with iGoogle, Netvibes or Facebook, which are all based on web standards?” Widget + Web = the best of push-pull experience, added Bhandari.
Finally, advertising will change, into the model Bhandari called “OneAd.” “It will all start to converge, there’s no reason in the future for them to be silo-ed,” he said. “Mobile inventory isn’t unique because of LBS (location-based services). No, it also happens on the PC. That’s a myth that location makes mobile advertising different. There’s a myth that there are different ad units that work on a mobile screen. True, but it doesn’t have to be that way. There will be a convergence in terms of creativity and technology. Is mobile inventory unique because of downloads? Perhaps, because of different download files, but maybe not, because download files are different between Mac and PC, and no reason why it couldn’t be extended to mobile.”
He stressed that he doesn’t mean that the same ad will work on mobile and the PC, and talked about some of the things that don’t make sense on both platforms. “Rich advertising – if all units are treated as one, they can have interactive banners, pre-rolls, post-rolls,” he said. “It’s in everybody’s best interest to converge these. If people are going to access web content through the phone, we need a new “zoom unit,” vector graphics or what have you, so the ad is legible is you zoom in or out. But there’s no reason why we as an industry can merge into one ad inventory system.”
The formula for profit: profit is in direct proportional to clicking intensity. Click intensity is related to page load speed and directly proportional to content support, including plug-ins. The user experience is nebulous but very important. “There’s a reason why people would rather use iPhone than…fill in the blank,” he said.
“Better mobile browsers are here and we can all profit from it,” he said. “The key is too much fragmentation makes it too expensive to do anything and no one makes any money. The more we bridge the gap between the PC and mobile world, the more we have the chance to make money.”