Many, including Rajesh Jain, have predicted the rise of the mobile as the new platform for everything. Their main argument is that there are 3 times as many mobile phones as PCs. Furthermore the cadence of innovation is higher since phones are replaced every18 months compared to the refresh cycle of 3.5 years for the PCs.
All phones now have browsers, and most sold today have color screens and cameras; so, in a sense, the new platform is already out there. What’s then holding the revolution back? Legacy mindsets.
The mobile revolution can’t be realized by thinking of it as just “mobile” internet. That mindset is too limiting, much the same way as the horseless carriage mindset was too limiting a way to think about cars.
Breaking free of the legacy internet mindset is important. Toni Ahaonen addresses this issue in a thoughtful blogpost focused on consumer applications and content. To make his case, he draws his lessons from the rise of television….
Lesson 1. TV did not kill cinema. But TV did totally cannibalize two of the three major content formats from cinema (serials and newsreels). And the remaining content format, films, continue to generate viewers and revenues on cinema, but they co-exist (in often a slightly modified format, such as transferring widescreen cinema formats into the 4:3 TV screen format) on both.
Lesson 2. TV introduced new opportunities do deliver multimedia content, which was not feasible on cinema. After TV launched, whole new formats were invented. Game shows, talk shows, music videos and reality TV. These are all formats that do not work in the cinema. But they are now native to TV. So our second lesson. The new media gives us new opportunities BEYOND the previous media, to innovate and create services that were not even possible before.
As you can see his basic point is simple. It will be possible to consume on the mobile ALL of the consumer content and applications we currently have on the fixed legacy internet. Yet, what will make things exciting will be stuff that will be created specifically for the mobile users.
This is already happening in some areas.
Take music as an example. iTunes type music consumption is starting to happen on the phone. But what makes things really interesting is ringtones. Ringtones are native to the mobile and is a big revenue stream.
Another example is TV voting for reality shows like Big Brother, American Idol, the Apprentice and Survivor Island. This is a multi-million dollar business. You can think of it as DIGG with a revenue model.
Even social networking is big on the mobile. Toni points to…
…Cyworld in South Korea. It offers similar profiles like MySpace (and much much more) - but offers access not only by broadband (South Korea is the world’s most connected society, with highest penetration of broadband) but also access via 3G mobile phone (South Korea has highest penetration of 3G phones). On Cyworld today, 43% of all South Koreans maintain a personal profile. Cyworld’s 22 million 3G cameraphone users upload more videos daily than YouTube’s users.
Blackberry has already taken email to phone. Sooner or later, search will also wind its way there. Most likely it will be some form of personalized search and search alerts that will be most appealing.
While this is a global trend, the center of gravity is in Asia. Toni points out that …
In China, Japan and South Korea, where over half of all internet access is from mobile phones, all content is preformatted for phone display, not PC display. Now just at the end of November, Telephia and comScore reported that the first five major USA websites have crossed the threshold with more web users coming from cellphones than from PCs. Those first five are Accuweather, ESPN, Weather Channel, Yahoo Weather and G-Mail.
Beyond Consumer Content, to Applications for Micro-firms
Toni restricts his article to consumer content and applications. But the same principles apply to enterprises as well.
The only difference is that the mobile-centric enterprise applications will target networks of micro-firms rather than a single enterprise. It’s still early days but some examples are beginning to crop up. Just launched is TradeNet, an eBay for agricultural products across a dozen countries in West Africa. It lets buyers and sellers indicate what they are after and their contact information, which is sent to all relevant subscribers as SMS text message in one of four languages. Interested parties can reach others directly to do a deal. Interestingly it is a mobile advertising supported business model.
Obviously it’s too early to tell whether TradeNet will be successful. Given that the potential of mobile-centric applications for networks of micro-firms is so high; this is one entry that needs to be watched carefully. If you know of other similar applications let me know.