Reaching the mobile Internet

Four years from now, more people will be accessing the Internet using a mobile device than a desktop computer. That was the prediction offered by Mary Meeker, head of Morgan Stanley’s global technology research team, during a presentation streamed live over the Internet last month.

Meeker, who was dubbed “Queen of the Net” by Barron’s magazine in the late 90s, says we are in the midst of the fifth major technology cycle during the last 50 years – the era of the mobile Internet. That certainly makes sense given the inevitable path technological advances always seem to follow: Products start big and expensive, then get smaller, more sophisticated and cheaper.

Remember the Sony Walkman? It was a mini-sensation when it first came out. I was a kid at the time and can recall the excitement generated by the concept of popping in a cassette tape, putting on the foam earphones (which made it sound like the band was playing underwater) and taking your music with you as you headed out the door. Today the iPod Nano is 1000 times better at a fifth the size.

The same thing is happening with mobile devices (they’re not just phones anymore). And as they continue to add functionality, people will naturally migrate to them. Buyers already camp out, or line up around the block, every time a new iPhone comes out.

What that means for you, the marine business owner/employee, is that your Internet presence is going to have to be compatible with these platforms if you want to communicate and do business on the Web with these consumers.

Mobile marketing experts refer to mobile devices as the “third screen” and companies like Navionics and Kawasaki have already tailored consumer applications and marketing campaigns to mobile users, as we detailed in a story last summer.

As you probably already know, a visitor using a desktop computer and one using a mobile device do not see the same thing when they visit a Web site. For example, if the columns of a Web page are too wide, a mobile visitor who enlarges the content will have to continually scroll left and right to read everything on the page. Or if the navigation buttons are too small, mobile users might have a hard time moving from page to page. Either problem can push your visitor to a competitor’s site that’s easier to use.

Smartphones, like the iPhone, are making it easier for mobile users to visit standard Web sites. But obstacles still exist. For example,  the iPhone still does not support Flash content, so those people are missing out if they go to a site that relies heavily on Flash.

I’m certainly no expert on Web design and I have a pretty limited understanding of computers, cell phones, etc. I use them, but I don’t know much about how they work and, frankly, I’d rather be doing other things than staying on top of the latest advances in Internet/mobile technology.

However, the company I work for has people who do. If your company doesn’t have that Internet expertise on staff, or on call, it’s worth your while to find some. As the Internet increasingly goes mobile and people have it at their fingertips every waking moment, they’re going to use it. Make sure that as they’re reaching out to you, your business is ready to reach back.

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