Starting Monday, there will be a cavalcade of announcements at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. While many suppliers will continue the phone and tablet hardware arms race, it is more important to understand what is really going on here: mobile engagement. Ted Schadler and I have just finished a report for Forrester clients, “Mobile Is The New Face Of Engagement,” that provides the background to put these announcements into context. The report makes clear that mobile is not simply another device for IT to support with a shrunken website or a screen-scraped SAP application. Rather, mobile is the manifestation of a much broader shift to new systems of engagement. These systems of engagement help firms empower their customers, partners, and employees with context-aware apps and smart products (see the figure below).
So as you walk the show floor or read about the announcements, think differently about what you are seeing:
Are the tools just first-gen screen-scraping/tiny Web or do they really leverage context — the person’s location, preferences, and history — to engage? There will be a bevy of software products that help firms slim down their websites for viewing on mobile devices, but the real innovation will come from tools and engagement platforms that use predictive analytics and social feedback to create a full context that better serves customers and employees.
Are the hardware announcements kicking off another round of the device wars or a new generation of smart products powered by apps? In addition to the latest Android, RIM, and Windows Mobile press releases, there will be a whole new set of smart cars, appliances, and other products where mobile apps provide key features by taking advantage of smart product APIs.