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Slow Mobile Web? It’s the Entire Industry’s Problem

Are you reading this on your phone or tablet? Did the page load as quickly as you wanted? Chances are that it didn’t. Here’s what’s going on. Compuware recently published “What Users Want from Mobile,” a 2011 survey of 4014 consumers worldwide on their expectations for mobile Web site and application performance. Let me cut to the chase:

Expectations are high. Performance is not. Again.

The user experience on the mobile Web continues to take it on the chin. Among the statistics presented by Compuware:

• 71% expect Web sites to load on smartphones as quickly as they do on desktops (58% in 2009) • 46% say Web sites load more slowly on their phone than on their desktop

• 60% expect a mobile Web site to load in 3 seconds or less

• 74% won’t wait 5 seconds for a mobile page download

• 80% would access mobile Web sites more often if the experience was as fast and reliable as desktops

Not exactly a ringing endorsement, considering that mobile is everybody’s “Next Big Thing.” What’s worse, the gap between expectations and mobile Web performance has widened since the 2010 Web speed survey. Consumers are waiting for mobile performance on par with desktop performance, and they’re not getting it to their satisfaction. This is not a simple problem, and there is no simple fix. Nobody owns the entire chain from content across the network into the device, so there’s no single villain to blame or magic pill to swallow.

Striving for parity between mobile and desktop

Qualcomm figured out a while ago that we couldn’t fix every piece of the performance problem ourselves and make the mobile experience as good as the desktop experience on our own. We pick our battles carefully.

Mobile processor – It’s not enough to simply throw cycles at the performance problem. You have to look at the chip differently and make the whole thing smarter. So we’ve integrated the CPU, graphics processing unit (GPU), wireless modem and multimedia engine into a single chip.

• Browser/JavaScript engine – Did you know that browsers are not one-size-fits-all? Did you know that it’s possible – in fact, encouraged – to modify them for better performance? Did you know that you can extend JavaScript™ with functionality that reaches from the Web, over the air, through the browser and into device hardware? We’ve found a lot of untapped performance benefits in there.

• Adaptive streaming – Streaming video to a mobile device is subject to a lot of variables that affect user experience. Besides hardware-accelerated decoding on the device, we’re helping to define the Dynamic Adaptive Streaming for HTTP (DASH), an open standard for adapting video streams to network conditions.

None of this is easy, and it requires some explanation, so we’ve published details about what we’re doing in our Web Technologies initiative along with some insights about how we’re doing it.

The industry can’t just sit here while customers complain. We’re leaving money on the table. Shall we get cracking on this now? Or would you rather cross your fingers and hope things are better by the time the next survey is published?

What’s your organization doing about consumer expectations for the mobile Web?

Let me know in the comments.

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