Using Mobile to Overcome the Dreaded Blue Screen

Lately it seems I’ve gotten the short end of the publishing calendar stick. As I write this column from my couch on Presidents’ Day, I recall leaving the office Friday afternoon and heading straight to Chicago’s Rivera Theatre, with tickets in hand for the opening night of Wilco’s Winter Residency. I pulled myself from my desk with the comfort of knowing I could easily research whatever I needed for this column conveniently from my laptop at home. I could draft the column, e-mail it to myself for a quick review, and submit it on Tuesday morning — ahead of its deadline. The editors would be pleased. I’d be a rock star.

Little did I know.

Working on my laptop at home, a mere three sentences in, I encountered the dreaded Blue Screen of Death. I stared in disbelief for a few moments and thought long and hard about what my IT department normally tells me to do when this sort of thing happens at work (I have them on speed dial). The cursing — loud enough and with such profanity that my mother would have stuck a bar of soap in my mouth — began once I realized that none of the fixes I’ve learned over the years did any good.

I finally abandoned the laptop and calmed down once I realized I could still pull this off and get my column in on time. I had everything I needed in my hand…literally.

With an idea for a column already in my head, all I really needed from a computer was to double-check a few stats and type 700 or so words. I could do both just as easily on my BlackBerry Curve, with Web access via WAP (define) and e-mail to type up the column. A small, twisted grin crossed my face as, ironically enough, the situation I found myself facing was actually the very kind of behavior I had intended to write about in the first place.

Last week, while putting together some notes for a client presentation, I jotted down the phrase “after the iPhone” to describe mobile data usage. The biblical comparison was intentional as it’s become more apparent in recent months that the iPhone is more than just a pretty design. The before and after timeframe accurately describes the current reality as it relates to mobile data usage and behavior. It’s indeed a shift in behavior that, while being lead by a minority, will most certainly continue to have an impact on everyone in the mobile ecosystem.

News last week by both Google and the iPhone’s exclusive carrier partners reinforces this reality. As part of the World Mobile Congress gathering in Barcelona last week, Google, AT&T, and Vodafone issued news announcements or spoke to trade publications to tout the amount of mobile searches taking place and subsequent data usage from those searches via iPhones. The numbers are staggering: iPhone users conduct 50 times the number of mobile searches via Google as those of us using non-Apple devices. While I can’t be certain that Google’s head of mobile had his engineers double-check these figures, I believe mobile local search will radically alter the current traditional search landscape.

About a month ago, Nielsen Mobile reported that roughly 46 million people in the United States use mobile search in Q3 2007. Google doesn’t disclose mobile search revenue, but stats like the one above are certainly good news for it, as money is made with every Google-enabled search.

The real promise of this emerging marketplace, however, is local. As more mobile subscribers take advantage of a mobile Web that mirrors the digital experience they are accustomed to, more mobile searches will take place. These searches will help consumers navigate their everyday environments. Creating a certain level of efficiency to everyday tasks like obtaining directions or retail addresses, quick hits of information, finding product availability, and so forth helps us efficiently navigate the world in which we live. Something I’m proud to say I accomplished with ease this afternoon, thanks to my BlackBerry Curve and an AT&T data package.

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