Devs Like Linden Lab Must Go Mobile or Die -- Here's Why
Linden Lab's purchase of iPad-based game Blocksworld last week brought up an interesting conversation about the future of mobile in relation to the metaverse, which NWN reader Joe "Iggy" Essid captured succintly in this comment I want to highlight below. To bolster what he says, take a look at the infographic above, presented by top mobile analytics firm Flurry a few weeks ago: Consumer time spent web browsing (mostly on laptops and desktops) has remained flat for the last three years, while mobile app usage has nearly doubled. Just as interesting if not moreso: Mobile app usage is even starting to compete with television viewing, which has also remained flat.
Now let's get the take from Essid, who's a college educator, and makes a prediction in five parts:
"Tablets as hype? Perhaps for serious gamers and SL's heaviest users. It's not the best place for the sort of experience they crave. Here's my prediction, based on what I see on campuses. (Though whether LL's purchase of companies doing things that 100 others do is another matter):
"#1: Phones and tablets will continue to increase in power. Their killer app is what Sherry Turkle from MIT calls 'always on, always on you' convenience. Phones may simply get strong enough to replace tablets.
"#2: Telcos, following Verizon's lead, will stop laying fiber optic lines. They will instead move to wireless broadband, as Verizon is doing.
"#3: Desktops and laptops will continue for the most serious content creators, for a while. Eventually, users will go to a store to buy the extra monitor and keyboard to create a docking station in their homes for the phone. Tablets might find a niche if docking stations are not common enough. One can do work on a tablet, but not a phone.
"#4: Companies that don't make their content mobile-friendly will become tiny niches or die outright.
"#5: Apps like Photoshop CS10 (or some such?) and MS Office 2016 will live only in the cloud with all of our content-creation apps.
"I had five more, but I dropped the tablet when coming down from Mount Sinai.
"Walk around a college campus to see what the best-heeled and most upwardly mobile demographic is using to communicate. About 90% of the e-mail I get now from students comes from iPhones or Android phones. The percentage with desktops among our student body of 3,500 is puny, and has approached 0 for a few years. Smart phone? Nearly 100%."
To Iggy's point, I recently chatted with an app developer who previously worked in web-based virtual worlds, and who now has an iPad app that's basically an avatar-based fashion customization game/toy. In just a short time, it's gained more users than Second Life. And that's just a single app. That doesn't necessarily mean Second Life should come out with a "light", fashion-only ap. For while it'll take some serious re-architecting, I think it's possible to create a more immersive, "world-like" experience for tablet, too. But don't take my word for it, read what Myst co-creator Rand Miller told me about that last year.
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