My goal with this blog

I write about relevant changes in the way that people use the web and how startups are built to provide services and products for this ever changing wonderful thing we still know as "the web." As a former entrepreneur turned early-stage investor, my greatest hope is for this to be useful to other folks that are like me in the hopes that they can avoid some of the mistakes I've made.

Sucking the ignorance out of mobile (on Boston Momo)

Mobile MondayTurns out that if you mess around at all with dynamic web applications on the iPhone, you will suck its battery dry faster than you can hum the little do-da-dee song that Apple plays on the commercials. Like a bunch of other misguided folks that come from the world of watt-sucking laptops and servers, I have been thinking that this has to do with the use of XMLHttpRequest to poll for new content. But as I learned tonight from a clueful engineer at the Boston Momo event (Mobile Monday), a gathering of folks of all stripes interested in mobile, it turns out that the using the radio to send/receive IP packets is relatively cheap from a power perspective, especially when compared to running the CPU at Safari-induced speeds or even keeping the display on for prolonged periods of time.

That alone was worth the trip to Momo, especially because in the aftermath of Apple launching the SDK, there seem to be loads of folks commenting on the lack of background processing for user-developed applications (supposedly the big Achilles heel to sanctioned development for the iPhone) in only semi-informed ways. For instance, this otherwise solid post mistakenly argues exactly what I thought: that applications that indiscriminately used the network to poll servers in the background would be death for the battery thus forcing Apple to impose the "no background processing" rule.

It struck me last night that there are two different generations of folks attending events like this Momo gathering that are in need of retraining as we all get ready to embrace mobile— at least here in the Boston area. On the one hand, you've got all of the enterprise folks; broadly speaking these are the Digital/Lotus people that came out of minicomputers and PCs and mostly bypassed the web in favor of sucking Fortune 500 companies dry with ornate pieces of "industrial strength" software that did X, Y, or Z (and whose market is getting decimated by the combination of open source and SaaS). Then you've got all of the web folk (where I'd put myself) who have grown up with the web at the center of everything they've worked on. In both camps however, the lessons of the last decades have never forced us to deal with power-constrained devices which require a whole new discipline around opening sockets, powering the display, or even just using CPU cycles to do something as trivial as running a web browser.

And power consumption is just the first step on this steep learning curve: you've also got much smaller screens and applications whose total use cases need to be measured in 5-30 second interactive chunks. Overall it's going to be a huge mind shift for hackers, product managers—makers of all types— especially as devices like the iPhone put mobile computing into the hands of mainstream users.

Very very fun stuff.