The PC Era, the Mobile Era and Thoughts on Flash

By Dave McAnally, Associate Director, Content Solutions
Oringally Appeared on EatenByGiants

This is a Cliff’s Notes version of my post over here, but the issue had me thinking enough that it warranted a post on as well. A couple of things have come up in the last few weeks that have really shed some light on how people’s online experiences will evolve over the next few years.

There was Facebook’s Open Graph launch. This is ultimately an enhancement of Facebook Connect. As webmarketers, we see the opportunity to improve engagement and close the loop a bit with our customers’ social activity and our own brands. However, from a user perspective, what this means is that you are becoming more and more connected with people.

The other major issue is the iPad. I think when things like the iPad come along, webmarketers and techies get caught up in the minutia they fail to recognize the bigger issues at play. Up until Flash began being deployed across the iPhone platform (of which I consider the iPad to be 4th generation), I had trouble wrapping my head around what the iPad actually meant for the industry in terms of being a “game changer.”

With that in mind, let’s see how Flash plays into all of this? Steve Jobs believes Flash was a technology that was well served in the “PC Era” but that it was not translating in the “Mobile Era.” Here’s where I think the iPad may have HUGE search marketing implications. It redefines the whole experience for casual computing and the app store is an extension of that. If I were to describe the “PC Era” and the “Mobile Era,” as they pertain to search, I would describe them like this:

PC Era -Software ignores the device because the device does not inform the experience. Experiences are uniform in that users interact with information by pointing, clicking and typing. The ability to best anticipate exactly what a user is looking for when they set about looking for something determines the best search engine.

Mobile Era -The device informs the software design and user-interaction varies based on the device type. Users aren't limited to just pointing and clicking on things anymore; rather touch-screens, tilt-functionality and single-function apps define the user experience. From a functional standpoint, it’s unclear who (or if any one entity) can actually do this better than the next. As of right now, the leader in search in the mobile era is still anyone's game. Adobe certainly has the opportunity to be the development leader regardless of Flash implementation.

Now What?
It’s hard to put into words how big of a shift this could potentially be, but that won’t stop me from attempting to do so. Why do I say it’s still anyone’s game for search? Because it’s possible this shift most likely signifies the end of the life-cycle for a traditional SERP (search engine results page) to the casual-user. We’re moving towards a device and app specific specialization. Rather than an all-inclusive search engine, we’re seeing the potential for an era of micro-engines where engines can specialize at being good at on particular kind of search, monetize it accordingly and deliver a more effective and efficient user experience. As I’ve probably implied by now, this is a very exciting stage in web-history because we’ve reached a crossroads where instead of simply translating old technology (PC Era) into a new one (Mobile Era), the latter is leaving the constraints of the old era behind and charting its own course. By that I mean, 4-5 years ago, the belief was that there’d come a day where people would surf the web on their phones just like they do on their desktops. What we’re seeing is the groundwork being laid to completely redefine how digital content will be experienced in a new mobile era. Rather than just a big ‘ol iPod Touch, the iPad actually takes that mobile-paradigm and brings it into a viable platform for casual (and professional in many ways) computing. I don’t at all think that’s too grandiose a statement. Remember the last time Apple did that?

For search marketing this has many tactical implications…most of which we don’t even have the capacity to fathom at the moment. However, the following are some things I would suggest marketers must embrace if they are going to be successful in the new era:

Digital Behavior is King: I think it’s fair to say we need to have more dimensions to our SEO understandings than “content is king”. We have to be prepared to understand how our audience connects with that content (apps, mobile, video, social), how they share it among their social graph, and where query intent aligns best (informational, navigational, transactional). Marketers need analytics like Facebook Insights, Web Analytics, Video Analytics, and digital behavior tools like AdPlanner all working together to answer these questions

The Middleware is Real: John Batelle made some excellent points a few weeks ago about how the application world the Android and iPhone are driving towards create a new web experience that creates a new layer of search. Understanding this dimension, how your users find apps and what their behavior will be is key (see how that first point plays in here).

The Device(s) Inform Your Strategy: We are leaving an era where the web is a two-dimensional one-size-fits-all plane and entering one where developers are free to really ‘use the space’ in new and creative ways. This will spawn innovation and specialization. What I’m trying to say here is that you need to think about how your users will experience content on a tablet, verses a phone, verses their social graph and how those three (and beyond, we’ve only just begun) could interact. I predict that the days of creating an iPhone App with one dev group, an Android One with another and building a website with your creative agency are numbered.

Strategically, content will need to live in a way that conforms to your users’ “digital day.” Understand what content is best consumed on a phone, how that should relate to the users’ tablet, and how/what of that content interaction should be shared with their social graph.


Dave McAnally said...

I should clarify that I meant "Up until the debate about Flash being deployed on the iphone" ...I fully realize Flash isn't enabled on iPhones which was the crux of the discussion. Sorry for the lapse folks...on with the show :-)

David J Barnes said...

Long live Flash!

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