Ever since WAP came around in 1999 or so I was very interested in mobile (networked) computing. From my perspective the basic ideas around WAP were not so bad - it was an open network, really. But unfortunately, the devices and the networks at the time made the user experience absolutely horrifying. Still, I would call this period the first era in mobile computing (for me, the image that symbolizes this period best is the Nokia 7110, which was Nokia's first real WAP phone, see left). So along came the next era which is best symbolized by Vodafone Life. It is all about operators' walled gardens. Obviously, that approach improved the user experience, especially because content and menus were partly stored on the device. But the big drawback was the closed nature of this approach. It resembled AOL on phones.
Since two weeks I do own a shiny new iPhone and I am convinced that this device marks the beginning of a new age in mobile computing. It combines access to the open Internet and a really good user experience. For the first time IMO the whole Internet is really in my hands wherever I go. Point in case: I switched my morning news browsing at home over to my iPhone (instead of my laptop).
Sure, there were other Internet capable devices before but they were way too cumbersome to use (smartphones) or too narrow in scope (Blackberry, Nokia 770).
I am sure that the iPhone is only the start and that other manufacturers will come up with similar devices (yesterday news broke of Nokia working on an iPhone clone). In this new age of mobile computing a power shift will take place, I believe. In the last era the operators ruled - you could not start a service or do anything useful, really, without their blessing. The next era will be ruled by the device manufacturers. It will be all about devices. That is why Android's potential success or failure is completely undetermined, yet. The software stack might be OK, but we have to see the devices, first.