I spotted this interesting post over on the Tellabs blog by their Product Strategy Director, Pankaj Shroff.
Pankaj asks what do you think has had the most impact on the mobile industry. He runs through a list of points including the rise of the app store, the introduction of mobile web browsing, convergence of social media and so on.
These are all highly valid. Pankaj finishes his post, challenging readers to give their opinion. Well here’s mine.
In more recent times there’s no doubt that the ‘app economy’ has been significantly influential, however back-in-the-day, it was BlackBerry that had the most impact for me. Even today, I still feel it.
To properly understand the impact, it’s important to try and form a view of how things were in the mobile industry at this point. EDGE was a glint in the milkman’s eye. GPRS was more or less available across most of the United Kingdom but it was also highly temperamental.
I craved mobile email. My business — as a former ‘dotcom’ chap — was heavily geared around email. So I was forever having to dash across London to check my email after meetings.
For the longest time, I actually used the EasyEverything Cafes dotted around central London to check email when I was on the move.
I used ultra-new services like GoToMyPc to login remotely to my inbox. I sometimes used web-based services to retrieve the email from my proper POP3/IMAP accounts.
It was a flipping arse.
A TOTAL arse.
Nowadays it’s very easy to complain about ‘being chained to the BlackBerry’ but back then, goodness me, mobile email was simply impossible.
Handsets couldn’t handle anything but the most basic web browsing. Well, WAP, really. If you had a lot of patience and a £500 handset, you could sort-of check your email with your T68i.
It was difficult.
One of the most effective things I used to do was carry my Compaq iPaq along with my Ericsson. I used to then have to place them next to each other so that the infrared ports lined up. And I would then try and get the iPaq to use my infrared-enabled 9.6k GPRS connection to check email.
Believe it or not, it did work.
You had to patient. It would take maybe 5-10 minutes for the IMAP/POP server to work through the messages and then download just the headers.
Actually downloading the full message was a bit of an ask. And you had to worry about the crazy per-megabyte data costs.
The BlackBerry arrived. I heard about it from a few people, first. Then I saw it working. I couldn’t believe it. You had to have a lot of infrastructure though.
o2 would sell you BlackBerry service, but you needed to buy the Exchange service too. Or a minimum of 5 accounts. I almost considered doing that.
And then T-Mobile hit the market with BlackBerry service. It was simply fantastic. I loved being able to get on the train and review my emails. I really liked knocking out replies on the tube and seeing them queue up ready to be sent the moment I came out.
I relished being able to transact business absolutely anywhere, especially when abroad.
It’s really easy to forget that just a few years ago, being able to get off the plane in some foreign clime and have your mobile email work properly was virtually impossible.
This ‘connectedness’ that I associate with BlackBerry email laid the ground work for the next generation of mobile infrastructure.
To be fair, it wasn’t just BlackBerry — for a long time, I relied heavily on an Exchanged based solution powered by Good Mobile Messaging running on a series of Nokia devices.
I think BlackBerry — or, from a wider viewpoint, mobile email — has had a huge, huge effect on the mobile industry. The legions of corporate types all addicted to instant email conditioned the marketplace for next generation ‘connected’ services like Facebook, Facebook Chat, Gmail, Google Chat, Android, BlackBerry Messenger and so on.
Instant email: I still love it!
What do you reckon has generated the biggest impact in the mobile world?