A recent report by Forrester analyst Thomas Husson on mobile trends for 2010 emphasizes that fragmentation will continue to be a defining element of the mobile Web.
"Mobile browsing is very different from the basic PC browsing space where, so far, you've had only Microsoft's Internet Explorer or, in the past few years, Mozilla's Firefox. From a technology perspective, mobile looks like a complex and fragmented world. It is and will remain so," he wrote.
It's a good point to keep in mind in light of recent forecasts from Morgan Stanley and Gartner predicting the mobile Web will outstrip the desktop version in the next several years. Hasn't the reach of the mobile device always been a big part of its promise as a marketing vehicle? The potential audience across four billion phones, with mobile devices serving as the primary means of Web access in emerging markets like China and India?
Looks good on paper. But the multitude of competing handsets, operating systems, carriers and mobile technology standards still conspire to undermine mobile's claim as a mass audience medium. The Forrester report points out that even an open source operating system like Android will become more fragmented as manufacturers' try to differentiate their versions of the Google platform from competitors'.
Beyond fragmentation, the quality of the mobile Internet experience itself undercuts the mobile marketing hype. The PC-based Internet as an ad medium only began to ramp up with the advent of widespread broadbrand connections. A Nielsen Norman report last year likened the mobile Web today to dial-up Internet access circa 1995. And the desktop Web still only accounts for about 10% of overall U.S. ad spending.