February 12th, 2008

Guest editorial: Is Portland behind when it comes to mobile?


[Editor's Note: In a brief flash of humility, I came to the realization that there were any number of experts here at our disposal in the Silicon Forest. Experts who have important things to say. Experts who can help us place the Rose City and the Silicon Forest within the context of a larger picture. Experts who are---quite frankly---more interesting than just little ol' me.

And with that, I decided that some other viewpoints would be valuable. So welcome to a new feature on Silicon Florist: guest editorials.

First up, please welcome Jason Grigsby of Portland-based Cloud Four.

Knowing full well that one of Jason's areas of expertise was mobile, I asked him "What's up with mobile? And how is it going to play in Portland?" And he has graciously replied.

If you find his take interesting (and I know you will) make sure to peruse the mobile series he's writing for his company's blog. Or, you might seriously consider attending his presentation at Portland Web Innovators on Wednesday, February 13.

Ack. Looks like my intro is rivaling the length of the content. So, with that, I'll hand you off to the honorable Mr. Grigsby. Grigs?]

Is Portland behind when it comes to mobile?

People keep asking me whether Portland is behind when it comes to mobile?

I would have never thought to ask this question. If we were behind, what would we do with this information?

Better yet, who would we be behind? San Francisco? Austin? Poughkeepsie?

We might be behind Chicago if Katherine Gray’s out-of-town guests are correct. She wrote to me on Twitter to tell me that her friends wondered why they hadn’t seen many Blackberries in Portland.

Apparently, we specialize in the kind of blackberries that grow on the side of roads and not the ones you carry in your pocket. (Actually, this isn’t true. Oregon’s largest employer, Intel, provides Blackberries as standard issue, and I’ve seen many other business people with them as well.)

If we are behind, what would be the proper measure? The percentage of mobile phone users per capita? The number of smart phone users?

Perhaps these metrics would tell the story. Unfortunately, city-specific data isn’t available.

In the absence of data, I have to fall back to my original, knee-jerk reaction: Of course Portland is behind. The whole country is behind.

In Europe and Asia, both consumers and businesses are more savvy when it comes to utilizing their phones.

  • In Japan, South Korea and China, more people access the web via mobile phones than via PCs.
  • Finland-based Nokia claims 40% of the worldwide market for phones—by far the leading phone manufacturer.

Portland is no more behind than the rest of America. This is one technology surge that we’re late to the game on. And with 3.3 billion mobile devices and growing, it represents the most widespread technology in the world—far surpassing PC, credit cards, and televisions.

Fortunately, there’s still time to catch up before things really take off. Things are lining up for 2008 and 2009 to be big years for mobile. Portland has the perfect combination of technical and creative communities to explore what is possible in this new medium.

I’m excited to see what Portland produces for the Mobile Web.

Jason Grigsby is a founder, Vice President, and Web Strategist at Cloud Four, a Portland-based Web consulting firm focused on Web, Mobile and emerging technology. For more information on Grigsby and Cloud Four, visit Cloud Four. To RSVP for his Portland Web Innovators talk, visit Upcoming.

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6 Responses to “Guest editorial: Is Portland behind when it comes to mobile?”

  1. There probably aren’t many Blackberries in PDX because everyone has an iPhone… or is that just the crowd that I hang with :) My Blackberry feels lonely as everyone whips out their touch screens. But then when I type something I feel better about having a real keyboard.

  2. not so sure you are totally accurate about Intel giving out BB’s a “standard equipment”…I think you have to be pretty senior level to get one.

    Also, it would have been interesting if you dove into the Portland culture vs the commonly accepted phone stereotypes. As a recent study suggests, more creative people use Treo’s and now iPhones. I wouldn’t be surprised if Portland had more of its fair share of iPhones.

    Additionally, not only is Europe way ahead of us in mobile phones you may be surprised by how many people do not use BB’s or other phones with QWERTY keyboards. My understanding is that many europeans do advanced mobile web stuff on a more traditional looking phone.

    And finally, maybe the lack of visible blackberries says more about what Portlander’s find important in life (a great micro brew, skiing, yard work, etc) than what it says about how connected we are.

    P.S. I am a blackberry users and love it

  3. grigs says:

    @Jeff the Great: Re: Intel standard issue. Yeah, I know not every Intel employee who has one, but I bump into a lot of employees that do. I tried several different convoluted constructions of that sentence before deciding that it was mostly meant to amuse, not be 100% accurate.

    I apologize for both being a poor writer and inaccurate. I don’t know which is the greater sin. :-)

    I missed the study on creative types having more Treo’s and iPhones. That makes a lot of sense and would help explain the perceived lack of blackberries.

    The larger picture of the U.S. as a whole playing catch up makes the questions about Portland seem moot other than for amusement.

  4. Bob says:

    I’m a relatively new smartphone owner (t-mobile dash, aka htc excalibur). There are a variety of ‘phones-on-steroids’ I see around but what really matters is how you use it. Are you aggregating blogs and reading it? Sending tweets? I’m personally interested in finding others who are interested in mobile applications, social media and serving the BOP (bottom of the economic pyramid). I believe within the next year we can do a lot to help eradicate poverty both here and abroad using these technologies, and I’d like to see if there are others in pdx interested in doing this. Well, a little off topic, but enjoyed reading your article Jason! I’ve got a conflict for the PDX Innovators talk tomorrow but hope to run into you sometime.
    Bob

  5. [...] Grigsby, who authored the first Silicon Florist guest editorial on Mobile earlier this week, has some more exciting Mobile news to share: the formation of Mobile Portland, a new user group [...]

  6. [...] while Jason Grigsby alluded to Portland being behind the times in terms of mobile adoption, it appears that we may just have the chance to take the lead in terms of mobile [...]


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