I get questions all the time about what I think MLSs and MLS vendors should be looking for in a mobile MLS strategy. Here is what I have been saying:
Question: Should I focus on an agent-facing or consumer-facing mobile solution?
Answer: Both, and they need to be connected, just like the MLS with client collaboration capabilities are now. Separate, non-integrated solutions will not cut it for long.
Question: What should it do?
Answer: Listing and roster searches, listing folders/carts, listing management, CMAs, showing managment, etc. – everything needed by the mobile professional and their clients.
Question: Boy, that sounds expensive – which platforms should I support – iPhone, Android, openmoko, Windows, Mobile Linux, Blackberry, Symbian, etc.?
Answer: That is the kicker. I think trying to sustain full applications on too many platforms is foolhardy. Maybe some folks can sustain functionally robust apps on the most popular platforms, but I do not think that is going to be a great long term play unless we see 30+% adoption of a platform – or people become willing to spend big bucks on mobile MLS apps. I think we should write the smallest apps possible and use them just for what they are good for – alerts and location-awareness (if you want to brave patent trouble) and then have them launch the browser where you have a common and robust codebase servicing all platforms. This can consist of much of the same code as the primary MLS system – but that code needs to become more device-aware, so if it is servicing a desktop/laptop computer you see the standard MLS view you have today, if it is tiny old phone it displays a differently formatted dashboard, search interface, and format for reports, and if it is an iPad or netbook with a large screen, there is room for multiple columns, photos, mapping, etc. I am surprised more vendors have not already made their mobile apps more aware of screen resolution, written a nice looking report for display on larger monitors and trumpeted a solution for the iPad. Also, HTML 5 makes it easy for a web application to be location aware, if one wants to go that direction.
The question we really need to consider is, “What is mobile anyway?” We are seeing a continuum emerge – a variety of new and emerging form factors for using the Internet from the full size computer to the tiny cell phone – and pretty much all of them are mobile! So, stop trying to segregate mobile into its own category with its own applications – that seems like old thinking to me. It is just the MLS. Since we are mobile, it will have to be a mobile MLS.
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