Opera: People use services, not Internet

Proliferation of devices from smartphones to tablets is an ongoing trend, but it is services such as Facebook and Twitter that people consume regardless of what hardware they run on, says exec.

COMMUNICASIA, SINGAPORE--Most people perceive their usage of the Web as utilizing the services found on the Internet, such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, rather than the technology itself, and companies need to recognize this trend so as not to fall behind in a world that's moving toward mobility, an Opera executive pointed out.

Dag Olav Norem, the browser software maker's vice president for mobile product management, said in his presentation at the CommunicAsia 2010 tradeshow Wednesday that as long as companies are able to "embed" such services into devices, there will be strong user demand. These devices could be smartphones and tablets such as Apple's iPad, he added.

As such, companies would do well to understand this user mindset in order to leverage the mobility trend and create relevant services, suggested Norem.

To illustrate the increasing prevalence of mobility, the Opera executive pointed out that the Internet is not tethered to deskbound PCs. Rather, he predicted that the next billion Internet users will be using mobile devices to access the Web.

As to what type of gadgets users will get on the Web with, Norem zeroed in on the mobile handset sector and stated that despite the growing hype surrounding Apple's iPhone and smartphones in general, the overall global market is still dependent on feature phones.

He said that while smartphones are growing in adoption, the transition time from feature phones will be "long", and for the next two to three years, the majority of mobile users will continue to rely on lower-end, Web-enabled feature phones.

This is particularly true for emerging markets, Norem said, citing Russia, China and Indonesia as three countries where Nokia's feature phones continue to dominate. By contrast, Apple's iPhone and Research in Motion's (RIM) BlackBerry were the top two handsets of choice among users in the U.S., he noted.

Enterprise should embrace mobility
For organizations which feel that mobility is like a "train heading straight for them", fellow presenter Greg Jenko, Accenture's global managing partner for mobile systems integrations, recommended that they embrace mobility, rather than reject it.

One group that could stand to benefit from businesses which adopt mobility would be the "field force" or mobile workforce, through apps that are optimized for their scope of work, said the Accenture executive.

"We can thank Apple for educating users on [cheap] US$0.99 apps that have specific functions and are simple to use. Companies can now look into developing such focused apps to improve workers' efficiencies," he said.

But firms should not fall into the trap of over-deliberating over adopting mobility, Jenko urged.

"Enterprises, while weighing up the pros and cons of speed of adoption versus the need for structure, should just do it and get their feet wet," he said.

This is particularly true with regard to creating or integrating enterprise apps that would benefit their employees and work performance, noted the executive.

"It is only after they have created a few apps that they will know what considerations are important to their businesses and would be better able to prioritize their needs accordingly," he added.