Why the mobile opportunity is real today and how it came about
The proliferation of mobile technology is higher now than ever before. There are over 5 billion mobile devices globally; more devices than computers, TVs, cars and iPods combined. The average consumer is as familiar with using a mobile device as they are with using a toaster. However mobile devices have been around for well over 20 years, and we have been using smartphones (like Palm, Windows Mobile and BlackBerry) for over 10 years. Why then the sudden surge in adoption of mobile devices, and growth in the Mobile Opportunity?
Here are the key market forces that have led to the mobile opportunity that exists today.
Major manufacturers globally are shipping more and more smartphones every quarter. The likes of Nokia, RIM and HTC have always had a strong focus on smartphones, but the likes of Samsung, LG and now Apple are all new entrants in the past few years where smartphones have become their primary mobile device focus.
Why is smartphone adoption particularly important? Smartphones are a more powerful class of mobile device, usually with a bigger screen, full keyboard, bigger memory and faster processing speed. They resemble your laptop more than your desk phone, and are primed for the consumption of new Value Added Services like gaming, content consumption and utilities like mapping.
A great way to see what types of mobile devices will dominate in the future is to look at where the biggest players are headed. Samsung, LG and Motorola are the #2, 3 and 4 mobile manufacturers respectively (Nokia is #1), shipping close to 400 million mobile devices/year combined, only 10% of which are smartphones. Earlier this year at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Vegas, if you were to walk by any of their massive displays and booths, you would be hard pressed to find a mobile device that wasn't a smartphone. A clear sign of where their focus is.
Smartphones are rapidly becoming the preferred method to consume all forms of content <this needs a reference>. By 2015, smartphone ownership will surpass 80% in the U.S., up from 17% of the population today, research firms Frost & Sullivan and Forrester Research estimate. Worldwide, 1 billion people will own smartphones in 2013 (http://www.imobile.pk/mobile-news/1-billion-will-own-smartphones-till-2013.html?p=4148). All the smartphones that are soon to come online form an audience that did not exist previous, and in fact, most brands will see their existing users shift their primary point of engagement from desktop to mobile.
Network infrastructure has improved greatly such that that allows smartphone users to take full advantage of the computing power in their devices, especially for digital content services like music and movies. The major inflection points in recent years have been the rollout of 3G networks and devices shipping with Wifi access built-in, allowing for data access many times the rate of earlier mobile networks.
Solid infrastructure is key to getting adoption of mobile technology and a major component is the ability to scale to handle many new users coming online with an ever-growing appetite for data. For many years, we looked to countries like Japan and South Korea as early innovators in mobile technologies. Their success was primarily (if not exclusively) due to the fact they had invested early in building a solid infrastructure that can handle the capacity. The reality is that you can use your mobile phone in a place like Seoul equally well whether you are on top of a mountain or underground in the subway. Meanwhile, the average mobile user in Manhattan still has difficulty completing phone conversations.
Infrastructure is only going to get better as consumers rely more and more on their mobile devices and consume data on them. The next generation of technology (WiMax, 4G, LTE) all promise to bring greater bandwidth to the device as they are rolled out by the carriers globally.
From a consumer perspective, selecting a device or carrier is no longer done based on specifications, but rather on the services they expect to consume. To that end, each of the major device Platforms are working hard to make it easier for developers to create more novel and compelling software that will help sell their devices.
There is an entire ecosystem of developers working to make it possible for existing businesses to come into the mobile realm in a meaningful, profitable way and for entire new products and businesses to be created. In this race, the customer wins as innovation accelerates at a rapid pace to snag opportunities in customer demand.
The mobile opportunity today is about taking advantage of the increase in smartphone adoption, a more reliable network infrastructure and competing device platforms, to help accelerate your business objectives. Whether that is growing your audience, increasing brand loyalty, creating a better channel for continuous engagement or revenue generation, mobile today is a viable business opportunity for most businesses did not exist just a few years ago.