It is one of those grand late summer evenings when everything seems relatively unimportant. I am sitting on the decking overlooking the sweep of Kingsburg Bay on Nova Scotia’s South Shore. Soon holidays will be over, children back in school and routines so eagerly abandoned gratefully resumed. In the meantime, the hills around have a clarity and the sea provides a contrast which shockingly out-performs even the most cunning of cameras. This evening, the reality of everything overcomes even PhotoShop.

This year much family time has been devoted to creating images. Moose, black bears, whales and osprey have been lovingly captured in digital images, and then equally lovingly (by everyone except me) edited, enhanced, deleted or saved so that only the very best of reality breed remains on the record, to be sent to each other, friends, and Facebook. Results can then be viewed on an iPhone, placed on Flickr and reformulated within the vast self-publishing engine of our times which is Communications. And there is useful work to be done by those who, like me, have no camera. We unblemished observers are at a premium: the Admirers.

But out in the real, real world this month the very mobile devices around which this maelstrom of Communication and Self-Publishing is taking place is the scene of a very considerable blood-letting. The mobile device marketplace, according to Gartner, is being shaken up at the operating system level, as Google’s Android, moving from 1.8% market share to 17.2% in a year, slides past Apple and becomes ever more the heir apparent to Symbian, which is in relative decline. And at the device level Android – powered devices, with a 13.8% growth spurt in the last quarter, now overtake iPhone. Yet the iPhone alone sold 8.7 million devices last quarter, with Nokia, the market leader, declining in market share by 2.6% but still selling an incredible 111 million devices in those three months.

But we knew this, didn’t we? We knew that the real competition out there was about price, and that regular non-smart phones would continue to dominate the market while smartphones sold mostly to people who had already owned several less smart devices in their mobile telephony lifespan. We also knew that all the phones being sold now had to some degree internet connectivity, but that most inter-personal phone-based messaging seemed to have devolved to SMS or other text messaging environments.

So as clearly as I see the woods and trees across the bay, I also see that we are ill-prepared in publishing and information services terms to confront the issues raised by content in the mobile networks. It is almost as if we are waiting for someone to deliver another piece of service-saving technology. Meanwhile, we will go on trying to force web-based content through inadequate bandwidth and onto viewers that cannot cope in the hope that users who were not satisfied by our early web efforts, when we put print online, will be happier now. And we know they won’t. And we know that their dissatisfaction will undermine pricing, re-use conventions, terms of trade, etc, etc.

Since our industry does not do anything that can be described as R&D, and is mostly ignorant, and deliberately so, of formal research done by academics on cognition, communications, learning processes, artificial intelligence, perception or just about anything else, then it is really hard to work out what to do. We tend to bellow at each other that we won’t get into the same traps as the music industry, but I see no evidence to support this. Perhaps when we have the 99 cent book on the $20 all-singing, all-dancing multifunctional mobile device then we will recognize that mobile was different again, but I do not have the clear sightedness this evening to even predict that the eBook will survive in the communications vortex of tomorrow. No, I think we are going to re-invent much of what we think of as communications once again, in changes even more far-reaching than the Internet. Time to think again.


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2 Comments so far

  1. Tweets that mention David Worlock | Developing digital strategies for the information marketplace | Supporting the migration of information providers and content players into the networked services world of the future. -- Topsy.com on August 12, 2010 23:22

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by David Curle and maryannkernan, David Worlock. David Worlock said: Clearly mobile changes the whole game , but how ? Publishing does no R&D http://www.davidworlock.com/2010/08/across-the-bay/ […]

  2. Andy on September 13, 2010 09:51

    Couldn’t agree more!