Avatar Reality are causing something of a kerfuffle over their announcement to move into – and essentially exclusively- the world of mobile devices.
It’s an interesting – daring? – move to say the least, given the current size of the mobile device market (16 million worldwide). Even given the projected growth to some 50-60 million units of various descriptions by the end of the year, together with projections for faster, more capable devices such as tablets and slates – Motorola is about to launch the dual-core Xoom, already regarded by some as an “iPad” killer, and rumours circulating as to a dual-core iPad not too far down the road, while even Microsoft are moving more towards the SOC environment as well – it’s hard to see the benefits of going “purely” hand-held, as Jim Sink, the outgoing CEO of Avatar Reality states is the case.
Granted the desktop client is a hefty thing to run – those complaining about SL’s viewer performance on older machines should try to give Blue Mars a go – but it was still usable, and provided the necessary access. Even with the graphics rendered elsewhere than the client, there is still a huge amount of data to be downloaded at times, and with service provisioning and net neutrality now being revised, one has to one as to what compromises will have to be made in the future in order for a fast, efficient and accessible service to be delivered to mobile devices that isn’t going to end up costing an arm or leg – or both.
Given the overall state of flux, this is a decision that may yet come back to bite Avatar Reality, and bite them hard.
So where does this leave Second Life? Certainly, Linden Lab would be foolish to ignore the emerging market, assuming it does grow as rapidly as anticipated, both in numbers and technology. But by the same measure, abandoning the desktop altogether is something that LL should do at their peril.
If LL are going to enter the market effectively and efficiently, they’re going to have to come up with an application that works to the strengths of mobile devices and the wireless medium – and this is potentially a tall order for the company, given its inability to actually identify and understand its core market (i.e. thee and me). In doing so, they are also going to have to resist the temptation to start blindly chasing yet another perceived audience for their wares, something which seems to have been a hallmark of their meanderings over the past few years (first it was Big Business, then it was the New Users, currently it seems to be the Teenage Gamers). Of course, the danger here is what happens if Avatar Reality appear to have a modicum of success? Will LL blindly chase after them, forsaken rhyme and reason?
One would hope not. Rather, given the arrival of a new CEO and the recognition that mobile devices could be an additional string to the Second Life fiddle, one would hope that saner minds will prevail in LL and see dedicated tablet / slate / mobile device access as complementing the current Viewer access through the desktop / laptop / netbook, and not as something to outright replace these.
Such an approach would benefit all – providing LL have the wherewithal to manage it – and open Second Life to widest of all potential technology markets, rather than pushing it into what is – at least for the immediate future – something of a “niche” market – even if it is one that is emerging into something sustainable for the future.