The Mobile Web Phone: A gedankenexperiment ..


If you read my books or my blogs, you will know that I am ‘pro’ web/Open Standards.

Thus, this post should not come as a surprise … and it’s a bit of a gedankenexperiment

What I am proposing is a mobile phone optimised to accessing information on the Web (which is predominantly browsing but not necessarily so i.e. could include Widgets and RSS).

Firstly .. Let us start with some observations

a) For most people voice is still the primary service they access on a phone. However, increasing numbers of people also want to access information on the web i.e. browse/RSS etc.

b) I expect that more people in the developing countries will skip the ‘PC’ revolution and go to the phone directly .

c) ‘Smart’ phones are becoming too complex.

d) But ‘Dumb’ phones are too dumb!!

e) I think when we say ‘basic phones’ (also called ‘Feature phones’ in some literature), we mostly refer to phones that can be mainly used for voice. As an extension, I am proposing that the basic phone would be extended to include optimised Web access

The operative word being ‘Optimised’.

Phones today are not optimised towards accessing information from the Web.

They lean at one end to being ‘voice only’ and the other end to being ‘Smartphones’ .

Thus, this new ‘phone’ – if it may be called that would have the following features (fewer the merrier!)

a) It is a ‘phone’

b) It’s screen and other device form factors are optimised to browse the Web(sort of like the Blackberry device is predominantly geared towards email)

c) It would include ‘caching’ i.e. localised storage if information

d) Network connections would be optimised towards browsing

e) It would also support Syndication, Widgets etc on a mobile device(not just browsing)

One way to look at it is to think of the same principles of simplicity and optimization both of Nicholas Negroponte’s idea of 100$ computer or Larry Ellison’s Network computer

Implementation aside, the $100 PC and the Network computer are basically valid and the idea of a ‘Mobile Web Phone’ is taking the same principles to the Mobile Web.

But it’s important to see what this idea is NOT and also some caveats

a) It is not a VOIP phone

b) It could be implemented by anyone i.e. network operators / device manufacturers etc.

c) It is not the same as the Sony Mylo – an excellent device but conceptually oriented to a different purpose

d) It could be based on the idea of Cloud computing as I said in a previous blog

e) It is simple, cheap and based on Web standards(W3C)

f) It supports the ‘Full’ web browser i.e. not only WAP

Who could do this?

Many people but my bets are : Google, Opera, Operators(maybe 3 considering their recent announcements , a handset vendor, Nokia or a new start-up?

I am sure that variants of this idea exist on the Web. I just wanted to put it all together, ‘Open source’ this idea and create some discussion around it – with the hope that someone with more resources will take it. Please post comments/email me at ajit.jaokar at and I will try to blog/comment on it

I am at Oxford University conducting my first ever course on Web 2.0 and User generated content at the University of Oxford ! .. so responses a bit delayed

Read my book Mobile Web 2.0


  1. Saravanan says:

    Is it mobileIP?

  2. Justin Thorp says:

    Ajit, I completely agree with you. I wonder how much Apple’s iPhone will take this into consideration. The rumor is its not going to be tied to any one carrier.

  3. I wouldn’t count out companies like Infowave to play here either. They have been quietly beating the mobile drum for years and are now turning profits.
    Nevertheless, I agree with your assessments. I have a Razor and never read manuals. I only use about 10 of the 5439 features.

  4. Lalit says:

    Our company is working on exactly this idea.
    The problems we have are usual suspects
    1. Smaller pipes on network side.
    2. Javascrits do not run fast enough
    3. Javascript messes up battery life.
    Unless these problems are solved, I think it is just another J2ME.