Tim Berners-Lee has powerfully reiterated that the mobile internet should be kept as open as the web has become.
The "father of the world wide web" and director at the World Wide Web Consortium made the call to an audience of wireless service providers and application developers at the Mobile Internet World conference in Boston.
He urged mobile network operators and other vendors to adhere to as-yet-undecided mobile web standards instead of taking proprietary approaches. Hardware, software and content should be as universally available to users on the mobile web as it is on the wired one, he said.
"The most important thing about the web's arrival is that it runs on any hardware, any software, any language, and can be used by people with disabilities," Berners-Lee told his audience. "It has had to be universal. That's what is important to remember as we go into the mobile web."
Openness will provide a larger market for all vendors, Berners-Lee contended. Likening the mobile internet to a cake, he said, "Having the cake get bigger is where the game is."
Berners-Lee was characteristically diplomatic in his speech, avoiding any mention of specific vendors he thinks are following proprietary paths. However, he criticised the "walled garden" approach used by nearly all of the mobile carriers in the US to restrict user access to a single weather service or other types of content providers.
He condemned Apple, without actually naming the company, for forcing its customers to use devices that require them to go to one music web site to buy songs.
Berners-Lee said he also hoped that network operators would not restrict the movies offered on mobile devices to a set list of popular titles. "The system should not discriminate," he said, noting that there were many independent films available to carriers.
He supported the concept of unlocking phones so that users in the US would no longer have to go to cellular carriers and buy phones tied under multiyear contracts. In Europe, where he lives and does most of his business travel, Berners-Lee has become accustomed to switching phone models and transferring his SIM card, or Subscriber Identity Module, to each new device at will, he said.
If vendors acted in a proprietary manner and avoided standards, the expected growth in adoption could be slowed by five to 10 years, he cautioned.
Yankee Group, one of the sponsors of Mobile Internet World, said in a report that the wireless industry so far has failed to meet the pent-up consumer demand for mobile Internet services.