At the end of this year, Forrester expects mobile Internet penetration to reach 17% in Western Europe — the same adoption rate for the PC Internet a decade ago. At that time, mobile phone penetration was still below the 40% threshold and mobile shops were opening at every high-street corner. Companies were only starting to launch their web presence and to anticipate the impact of the Web. Operator-branded mobile Internet solutions would only launch 3 years after and 3G in 2003/2004.
10 years after, the mobile Internet is reaching critical mass and a virtuous mobile Internet cycle is kicking off. Consumers who have a flat-rate data bundle spend more and more time on the Internet from their mobile phones, brands begin to launch their mobile Web presence to monetize these growing audiences and engage with their customers via more relevant mobile content and services, which in turn attracts more and more consumers to unlimited mobile Internet tariffs.
The current economic climate will lengthen handset renewal cycles, foster the development of low-cost offerings, and boost the uptake of SIM-only contracts. Operators are likely to postpone major investments in new networks such as 4G / Long-Term Evolution, despite early trials and commercialization in the Nordics. However, it will only slightly reduce the pace of growth for those elements that stimulate mobile Internet usage: 3.5G and Internet-centric mobile phones as well as all-you-can-eat data plans will be widely available in the next five years. That's the reason why Forrester expects mobile Internet to grow to 39% by the end of 2014. That's a lower end point than for the PC Internet in 2004, but the growth curve per se looks quite the same.
The news that Spotify’s mobile app is now available for the Android platform, coupled with an anticipated Autumn US launch, are both part of the music service’s inexorable rise and media interest.Spotify undoubtedly has momentum and potential in abundance.But, even without considering the issue of cash burn, it is also important to keep a sense of scale. Spotify has done a great job of acquiring a sizeable audience after a short period of time, but needs many more users before it can be considered on a par with some more established services that get a lot less attention (these days at any rate).
In the chart below I have mapped the number of users of Spotify and a number of other key free music services, each from launch.What is clear is that Spotify has made a solid start is growing at a stronger rate than Pandora was at the same stage.If Spotify ever reaches Pandora’s scale and business model viability, it will rightly be considered a success.
But it is also clear that other services like Last.FM and imeem grew more quickly.And just to put the absolute scale of Spotify into perspective, the Pandora iPhone app alone is mapping almost exactly in line with Spotify’s entire user base. (No coincidence of course that Spotify see the iPhone app as a crucially important ticket to further success).
I published my first report on mobile social networks 2 years ago (see here) at a time when Facebook audience was "only" around 50 million unique monthly visitors. At that time MySpace was a paid-for and exclusive experience on Vodafone-Live and Bebo was about to launching a mobile version. Needless to say lots has happened in the last 2 years.
Numerous acquisitions and parternships took place between the likes of Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Twitter, Hyves and with handset manufacturers / mobile operators. Several mobile-only communities (AirG, peperonity, itsmy.com, buzzcity...) have gained traction and there is plenty of innovation in that space. INQ generated lots of media coverage and interest by lauching its so-called "Facebook phone" and plans to launch new devices. I am not sure what the latest Facebook mobile stats are but not that long ago rougly 10% of the worldwide installed base of FB users had registered to the mobile version. Even more significantly, the GSMA announced a few months ago that UK mobile consumers who access Facebook via their mobile phone spend, on average, 24 minutes on the site daily, just shy of the 27.5 minutes that PC-based Internet users spend daily on Facebook; mobile users of Facebook average 3.3 visits per day versus 2.3 visits per day from PC users.
Too many firms are building their mobile strategies as a mere extension of the PC Internet, and are missing out on what's now possible when mobile, but which remains impossible using a PC.
A PC is always going to be limited to deliver a part time Internet experience. They are too bulky, too heavy, too power hungry, and increasingly too dependent on the assumption that a super fast fixed-quality broadband connection is present to be something that people will have with them all of the time 24x7. If a PC evolved to be suitable for 24x7 use it wouldn't be a PC anymore.
Today's Internet mobiles offer people that 24x7 digital life. People are becoming connected 24x7 through their Internet phones and that must transform the strategies that firms adopt. Mobile enables a 24x7 relationship between brands and consumers. Mobile enables people to interact with websites 24x7, both to consume -- read and browse -- and to contribute. Mobile opens up new business models through the fusion of location awareness and a 24x7 Internet-connected device.
The first and clearest example of this new world is what's happening with social computing. People are now able to lurk on Facebook or Bebo at anytime, or post photos onto Flickr that are taggged with where they were taken (as well as when).
The lead story on UK news bulletins this morning was the latest results from commercial broadcaster ITV. Two observations, even before we get into the detail of the story: big media companies, due to their prominent role in our lives, have a deep resonance with the public in ways that, say, a ball-bearing company, would never have; and the media meltdown— where traditional media business models based on scarcity and control are fundamentally challenged by the new realities of digital media consumption — is now high on the mainstream news agenda.
The focus of today’s news is on ITV’s losses and the sale, at a knock-down price, of its social network Friends Reunited.The broadcaster’s business model, heavily reliant on advertising revenues, leaves it exposed to this shift, whereas rival broadcaster (and major ITV shareholder) BSkyB has succeeded as a platform business, offering telephony and broadband alongside Pay TV. ITV has made the right noises about focusing now on its online video proposition and acquiring more of its own content to exploit. Neither will be easy, however, and successful execution will be the key here. ITV’s track record, looking at its failure to develop Friends Reunited (by no means a bad purchase at the time), is not great.