The Mobile Effect

For me, ever since I switched my focus from the fixed Web to Mobile in 2000 it has been the year of Mobile that never really permeated in to mainstream media. I think the reason for this is simple yet not seen as obvious to most, as Mobile as a communication device has played in two main streams since the first voice call in 1946. Firstly the mobile phone was used as a person to person voice communication device and the secondly as a personal information device much later on.

The mobile phone was also a device that was provisioned and controlled by Telco’s which meant that each device was configured and setup just the way the Telco wanted and was considered a walled-garden approach. Around 2007 they even went as far as making people think that mobile data was extremely expensive so they could continue to saturate the voice/SMS market while formulating a mobile data strategy.

In media circles most people saw Mobile as a “fad”, arriving with mass hysteria causing extreme excitement and leaving their lives not long after. How could such a small media device disrupt the behemoths that were TV, radio, print and of course the PC based Web? Well mobile is far from a fad and has been building a momentum for over 50 years and that is why there has never been “the year of mobile” and never will be.

The mobile medium is now in the hands of most of the world population, for many it is their first screen ever and it was thought that it would pass the fixed internet in 2014 and in fact did so in 2011. The business models of companies like Google, Apple, facebook, RIM, Yahoo etc. have started a massive shift over the past few years because of it, in fact Yahoo’s future may rest in how they place their mobile strategy into the market. Facebook more recently purchased Instagram for $1Billion to attempt to add more weight to mobile against its fledging S-1 SEC filing and immanent IPO. Facebook has one business model and that is advertising, and what worked on the 3rd screen (desk/laptop), does not carry over to the 4th screen (mobile), the real estate and time on screen is completely different. The mobile device is used as whole bunch of tools that allow you to quickly find out things or be informed of things you need to know, browsing on mobile is rarely done unless you are on the mobile Web e.g. facebook or news site.

The term “there’s an App for that” came about because Apps were about tools that made your life, job, relationship, anything better, they are small in size, huge in functionality have a touch user interface and reside on your phone for you only. Mobile App and cloud innovation will drive real value in the years ahead for the Internet giants, characterised by consumers using devices to capture and share their lives with each other, and having no need for desktops or laptops to do so.

Web 2.0 is done. Over the past ten years people have arrived on the Net and setup accounts on Webmail, banking, travel and more recently Social sites like facebook. These Web services happened mainly because anyone could do it…setup a LAMP based Server in the corner of your bedroom, hack some code together and you could serve up anything. Facebook itself has enjoyed that ride however once they go public it’s a very different ball-game, one in which Mark Zuckerburg will not enjoy. When the exits start happing, shareholders to satisfy and board level voting, innovation dries up and users leave in droves. Google struggled with this however managed to keep progressing with new product development while the search opportunity hung on to survival.

facebooks new product development has waned as they struggle to maintain a framework which many are building on like Zynga. I personally see facebook as an “apprenticeship” for Social media allowing people, ad agencies and new developers alike once they have the hang of it they will transition to other platforms that fit the bill even their own in Zynga’s case. If Lady Gaga’s social network can attract 40 million people then where do you think the brands are going to go to attract that demographic?

Google co-founder Sergey Brin is worried about the future of the Internet, and not just because of censor-happy regimes like China and in the Middle East. He sees walled gardens like Apple’s iTunes, iCloud and facebook as deterrents from the Open Web and in fact believes that they would not have built Google today. It is impossible to robot crawl native mobile Apps and proprietary framework data today. Other factors like CISPA making it very easy for a company like facebook to hand over users private information to the government without any due process.

The most interesting markets to watch these days are the Asian markets, they are absolutely mind blowing. The Chinese market increased threefold over last year’s second quarter to $12.4 billion. In fact that falls just short of Apple’s previous complete year revenue from the prior year. And this is without the country’s largest carrier, China Mobile, offering the iPhone to its 600 million subscribers.

We now live in a world that is truly mobile where teenagers gaze at desktop PC’s in wonderment the same way I did at typewriters, where developer conferences are sold out no sooner than they are announced months before they open and Apple can sell 67 million iPad’s in less than two years where it took them 24 years to sell the same amount of Mac computers. With the imminent cover of LTE upon us the children of today will enjoy seamless communication with speeds around 100m/sec  and wonder how we all managed in the wired world.


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