Mobile Content

When I find myself having to wait in places like bank lines, post office lines, or alone at a restaurant, the first thing I do is whip out my Treo smartphone and surf the Web. This usually keeps me occupied for about fifteen minutes, before I’ve read much of the available content. Then I’m out of luck, because the choices are so limited. Whereas the World Wide Web on a regular computer for all practical purposes contains an infinite amount of content, the amount of entertaining or interesting content formatted for small screens is much more limited.

I usually use Yahoo because the site does a fairly good job formatting for small screens, is well organized, and has a reasonable amount of news. In fact, M:Metrics, a company that does mobile-oriented market research, just announced in a press release on January 30 that Yahoo is the leader in this space, with 12.8 million US mobile subscribers accessing the site in December 2005. AOL is second place with about 9 million, MSN and Google following with about 7 million, and ESPN the sports leader with about 5 million.

The operators themselves have portals. I sometimes use Cingular’s MEdiaNet site (powered by InfoSpace), but find that it has some rough edges, such as displaying text in only the left half of the screen. Overall, we've come a long way with mobile content, and tens of millions of subscribers is a great start, but in the big picture of things, only ten percent of mobile phone subscribers are accessing mobile content, so we still have a long way to go in both subscribers and in the depth and breadth of the content. Clearly, the level of effort by content providers is commensurate with the amount of access, hence the relatively minor offerings so far. I’m personally looking forward to the day that I can spend a couple of hours reading a whole issue of New York Times. That way I’ll be covered no matter how long a wait in line I have.

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