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The Mobile Market That Isn’t? Russ Closes Mowser

· Java Zone

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For years we have heard about the huge opportunity the mobile web offers developers. With billions of handsets in service, if even just one percent of them use your service you can potentially make millions! We’ve heard this line of reasoning before, however, from the likes of WebVan.com and DrKoop.com. Using such reasoning as the foundation for launching a new business targeted at the mobile web may lead to the same success those sites enjoyed.

I was sad to see that Russ Beattie has decided to throw in the towel on his mobile startup, Mowser. Russ is one of the web’s best-informed and deepest thinkers about the mobile market, so you may want to read his thoughtful statement about why he has decided not to continue active development of Mowser any further. Mowser performs on-the-fly adaptation of standard web content to better suit the limited capabilities of mobile handsets, and it does a pretty good job of it. Russ plans to keep the service running but warns that it could disappear in the future.

Russ is quite clear about addressing why he doesn’t want to continue:

I don't actually believe in the "Mobile Web" anymore, and therefore am less inclined to spend time and effort in a market I think is limited at best, and dying at worst. I'm talking specifically about sites that are geared 100% towards mobile phones and have little to no PC web presence. Two years ago I was convinced that the mobile web would continue to evolve in the West to mimic what was happening in countries like Japan and Korea, but it hasn't happened, and now I'm sure it isn't going to.

He’s also clear about the traffic he observed from the billions of mobile phones out there:

The argument up to now has been simply that there are roughly 3 billion phones out there, and that when these phones get on the Internet, their vast numbers will outweigh PCs and tilt the market towards mobile as the primary web device. The problem is that these billions of users *haven't* gotten on the Internet, and they won't until the experience is better and access to the web is barrier-free - and that means better devices and "full browsers".
the traffic never showed up, and what did show up was of questionable quality at best. (Easily 80% of Mowser's traffic has been related to porn).

In case you haven’t gotten his message, he restates it succinctly:

Let me say that again clearly, the mobile traffic just isn't there. It's not there now, and it won't be.

So, what do you think? Will you remember Russ's experience the next time you're hearing smooth-talking execs up on stage telling you how mobile Java is where the future is? Is there a mobile web market opportunity? Will there ever be one, or is this just a fantasy that a bunch of MBAs with overly optimistic spreadsheet models have cooked up?

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