Few consumer-facing product and service companies AREN'T working on their mobile strategy today. Everyone is thinking about how best to engage with their customers on their cell phones. And, can you even do NEW customer acquisition with teenagers or young adults without a mobile option?
Many mobile initiatives start without a plan or a strategy. They start with:
"Our CMO was observing his teenage daughter use her cell phone ...."
"Our competitors have an iPhone application. My boss told me to get one for us."
Apple isn't saying. Quattro posted a blog that told their current customers not to worry - normal business operations would continue. So, I am speculating a bit.
The first questions I've fielded are, "Does Apple want to go head to head with Google?" or "Does Apple want to sell advertising?" At a high level, I believe businesses stick close to their core competencies. Apple sells hardware, software and some content. Google sells advertising. Well, mostly. There are about 4 billion cell phones worldwide and about 1 billion PC's. New Internet connects (and page views and advertising growth) will come from mobile. Mobile is high growth. PC's are a bit commoditized. My cell phone costs more than my last netbook or notebook purchase. Go figure.
Our mobile marketing foreast for the US shows revenue growing from $391M in 2009 to $1.3B in 2014 provided there aren't any game changers. Game changers? Anything that would dramatically impact the amount of inventory or the value of it. The Apple iPhone, for example, dramatically altered the number of page views or inventory in mobile. The Android phones are helping as well and gaining momentum. These numbers are US-only - growth in mobile globally has been dramatic as well and will continue to be. In the US alone (see my colleague Charlie Golvin's blog) smartphone adoption grew from 11% at the end of 2008 to 17% at the end of 2009. This is significant because a lot more browsing and application downloads happen on these phones than more basic ones. A cut of this revenue would add some to Apple's bottom line, but very small at least in the next few years.
I'll stick to my comments and continue to believe that regulation had a stronger impact on the mobile sector than the economic crisis. The recent announcement that the French telecom regulation authority eventually (after years after back and forth discussions and lobbying) granted the 4th 3G license to Free/Iliad (one of the largest ISPs) is a good example of that. The new entrant will not launch before early 2012 but aims at captuting 10% market share by introducing cheaper tariffs (a competitive 3 hour package for less than 20€), bundling Internet access and offering interesting conditions to MVNOs. Evolution of termination rates or roaming tariffs as well as other regulations on spectrum have a much greater impact on operators' bottom line than reduced spending from consumers.
I recently returned from a trip to the UAE (Dubai mostly) and Oman. While there I did a bit of research on my own - just talking to folks about how they use their cell phones and so forth. I also had the chance to interview the head of mobile banking services in EMEA for a large, global bank. More on how global banks are avoiding building new branches by offering mobile banking services in another post.
First, I took the public bus from Dubai to Oman. The average income per family in Oman is far below that in the States - probably less than half. Gas and other utilities are cheap as is education and healthcare. That said, we know that cell phone usage has little to do with income. One of the first things I noticed is how many of the men had at least two cell phones. My initial hypothesis was a work phone and a personal phone. I was soon corrected by my guide who drove me up to Jebel Shams. In a country where men can have more than one wife, apparently more than one cell phone is necessary. My guide's father has five current wives, but has had nine all together. My guide had two cell phones and a lot more SIM cards.
My guide was 37 years of age. He had four children and seemed to have an about average income. He worked in sales when he wasn't serving as a guide. He's probably easily one of the most sophisticated cell phone users I've ever met. His cell phone was his portable media player for both music and video. I was astonished by the number of videos he had sideloaded from YouTube. The ringtones were pretty much driving me crazy after about 15 hours in a car with him road tripping. He only had a couple of different ring tones and his phone rang a lot.
I give my colleague Charles Golvin credit for finding this article on the official Google blog. I'll be working on a report on the intersection of social and mobile in early 2010 so please send me more examples if you have some. I'm especially interested in the role of social/mobile in the Retail environment.
Google is mailing out storefront window stickers to 100,000 local businesses in the US. (see their blog post for complete information). If you have the right type of phone and supporting software, you can take a photo of the code on the sticker (see below) and you'll be taken to that business' PlacePage on the Web. The service will show available coupons, allow for ratings, get reviews, etc.
Here is their post on the applications that work with the service:
This report looks at the state of the European mobile market and at how consumers are using mobile services. We have created different profiles looking at how consumers are using their mobile phones in the different countries.
Over the past two years, the introduction of the iPhone has changed the way consumers and brands perceive mobile phones. It acted as a marketing catalyst, raising awareness of smarter devices and conveying the idea that there are as many mobile services as there are consumers. Consumers will continue to shift their attitudes toward mobile phones — perceiving them not only as communication tools but also increasingly as entertaining and productive devices that can help them in their daily lives. More than 40% of European consumers are beginning to demonstrate sophisticated usage of mobile services.
We expect this to grow over time led by the two most sophisticated group of users (SuperConnecteds and Entertainers). They will change the general perception of mobile phones:
Many innovative start-ups have pioneered mobile social networking in the last few years: BuzzCity, Peperoni, Fring, Nimbuzz, eBuddy, Zyb, Plazes, Loopt, Foursquare and many others demonstrated the potential of the market.
In the last few months, a bunch of announcements clearly showed that the convergence between mobile and social computing is gaining traction and attracting the largest stakeholders:
The pace of innovation is accelerating in the mobile space like never before and opening up new opportunities. Mobile has the potentiel to bridge the digital and the real worlds. Not a day without a new mobile augmented reality service or application out on the market. Of course, that's still niche but it clearly demonstrates the potential of the mobile platform.
If you disagree or if you don't get my point, just watch the video below
This video is not brand new and has already been seen close to 500,000 times. The service is provided by an innovative start-up that offers a reality browser available for Android. However, these types of applications are flourishing. See for example the Métro Paris application here or more recently the Meilleursagents.com app here.
I bet the best mobile service at the next MWC conference in Barcelona will be a mobile augmented reality app or service. If you haven't submitted your service, the contest is now open at www.globalmobileawards.com.
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.