For me CS Forum 2011, and my reflections on it made the penny drop for the “Why now?” question.

We’ve been harping on about the importance of product information and separating content from format for years. Why is everyone listening all of a sudden? Methinks it’s mobile.

When the web and CD-roms hit the documentation community we suddenly had a second format to which all our content just had to go.Print content was not good enough anymore. Content needed to be single-source, multiple output. Heads and tears rolled aplenty. It was an agonizing and painful lesson that some companies are still grappling with today, some two decades later.

Mobile phone evolution

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mobile_phone_evolution.jpg

Since then we’ve had a whole generation of professionals who grew up fully on the web, considering the browser and the personal computer to be the way to access information. A new monotheism for content.  Progress was over and nothing could ever be cooler than accessing content on your computer, it was just matter of refining how.

Until mobile.

Thank you Apple for the iPhone

As much as I am not a fan of Apple or their products, they have lots of things for which I respect them. High on the list is that they seriously took mobile devices mainstream. There’s a whole ecosystem of Android based devices specifically because Apple took smart phones from “nerd toy” territory to “normal phone”. Then they had the brainwave to say: “Tablets aren’t skinny crippled laptops, they’re big (crippled) phones!”

Now we all know how to use tablets, even if we’ve never picked one up.

We Are Not Alone

Mobile internet access is overtaking desktop-based access as our primary way of getting information (http://bit.ly/mobvsdesk).

Mobile and its nasty combination of “little website” and “web app” modalities has given the web community a running kick to the tenders, just like the internet gave us way back when.

Suddenly, single source, multiple output and separation of form and content look really interesting.