If I Were a Fly...

...I would be buzzing around Google's campus and smacking my chitinous trunk against their windows, trying to figure out precisely what is their strategy for the mobile market.

Besides all the other stuff, part of my job entails designing and analyzing mobile solutions (be they services or content-related), and I keep wondering just how far Google will go in terms not just of web-based applications, but also in terms of delivering both content and services to mobile devices.

Take today's launch of a fast, amazingly functional Gmail application for J2ME/MIDP devices, for instance.

That little thing, barring the usual issues of walled gardens, WAP gateway compatibility and tariff plans, could very well become "the everyman's Blackberry". Sure, it's not push e-mail. But there aren't a whole lot of people out there that really need push e-mail.

And, quite obviously so, the Blackberry is a success not just to its push e-mail responsiveness, but also to their devices' UI and their services' corporate integration. The user experience is seamless, and the IT management features (something you're not likely to get from Google) outshine anything that Microsoft has come up with up to now.

Sure, Google's application is fairly limited (even if it does handle threading and labels in the same way as its web counterpart) and is nowhere near as flexible as the Blackberry's built-in e-mail client, but if it was tied in to, say, Google Apps for Your Domain (which it isn't, not yet, since I can't log in with anything but a gmail.com account without getting a 500 error), it would probably provide more than enough functionality for just about any SME on the planet.

And that's a pretty powerful notion. You see, people in mom-and-pop shops don't really need all the features of current "business-oriented" e-mail services - all they want is something simple, cheap, and that works. Sure, they're not most operators' focus. But they are legion.

Now, Google is making sure the services it delivers do work - anywhere, anytime, and without requiring any hassle. They're still isolated services, for the most part - Google/Docs isn't fully integrated with Google/Calendar (or even Gmail), but they are slowly converging.

And that's what I expect to see them do in the mobile space, as well - the most interesting bit is figuring out how.

Looking at today's mobile phone platforms and their limitations, there's no question that things like Google/Maps could only be done properly in Java. After all, current phone browsers are far from being a cohesive whole (more like a schizophrenic hole in terms of development effort), and by using Java you can have full control of the UI.

And it also made sense to see Google/Talk being made available in the same way - I've been using the Blackberry version for months on end, and my only regret is that they don't have interconnection agreements with MSN (the Blackberry client for which, incidentally, hasn't seen the light of day yet).

But a lot of phones today have moderately decent e-mail clients. So why use Java?

My guess is that it's all about doing away with configuration issues and transposing the simplicity of their UI to the mobile. Yes, you can use, say, a K610i's rather good POP3 client to read your Gmail - but the average Joe/Jane would never be able to configure it on his/her own, and you wouldn't be able do do searches or tag messages.

This way, all a user has to do is point their WAP browser at http://gmail.com/app, type in their username and password, and they're in business.

But getting back to the SME angle, I cannot help but wonder if we'll be seeing a J2ME edition of Google/Calendar. Or (and I can imagine Microsoft and RIM shuddering at the prospect), an enhanced Gmail client tied to both Google/Calendar and Google Apps for Your Domain (for document previews, address book management, etc.), undercutting their push e-mail offerings with a zero-footprint solution.

That would make a dent, even if only SMEs took it up. Feature-wise, Google could probably get away with basic calendaring and no fancy corporate integration - after all, you can't beat simple and free.

Now, I have no idea if they'll ever do that. Nor can I muse about what kind of strategy carriers and established vendors like RIM would employ to counter that, other than the (pretty obvious) value they can add in terms of support and integration.

What I do know is that even though most modern phones support SyncML, configuring it properly is an order of magnitude more difficult than setting up an e-mail account (it's doable, and I still think that Apple ought to do it for .Mac, but it's tough to support properly).

And that today, you can use your phone to, via Google, chat up your coworkers, find an itinerary to a customer, and e-mail back a short summary of your meeting.

All that Google has to do is keep refining things, and it will be able to provide pretty much all that people need mobility-wise.

Kind of reminds me of a small company that started out selling software to IBM, really.