Mobile Megatrends

mobileTech Tuesday, by Steve Guengerich

fuji_off_kanagawaLast week, I presented an initial map of Austin’s mobile scene and wrote about how mobile tech has fast become the hottest area in the industry.

The Christmas holidays have given additional think-time for others to further highlight this trend, much better frankly than I could do. One of the best posts from among the more widely read publications was one by Seth Weintraub in Fortune.  

In his post, Weintraub talks about how both the cost and price of mobile devices have the potential to be dramatically lower a year from now. Or to quote him “…WVGA displays and as much power as today’s high-end Smartphones at the same $75-$100 prices.” And that’s (1) an off-contract price and (2) after the manufacturers and carriers have taken their profits.

If you haven’t heard it yet, my friends, that sub-sonic boom is the distant sound of a tidal wave of change about to crash over the ways we work, play, learn, and communicate. Although I’m still in my initial stage of thinking about what this all means, here are three mobile megatrends I’d propose:

1.  It’s about “big scale,” not just the “long tail”

Several years ago, writer Chris Anderson coined the phrase “the long tail” during the growth of the new era of collaborative applications, popularly called web 2.0. The long tail theory was that global interconnectedness would enable the sale of a large number of unique items in relatively small quantities. Among other things, adherents to the theory predicted that thousands of micro-businesses would flourish.

Now, with the further introduction of pervasive mobile tech, software companies need to think about big scale, not just the long tail. Facebook, for example, has cleverly used its mobile app in hitting the 500 million user milestone overall. With the company likely to smash its revenue goals for the year, reaching $2 billion, this means that it averages $4 of revenue per user – for the year!

In another example, Groupon has harnessed big scale by hiring a 3,000 person worldwide network of employees to provide hyper-local targeting, sales, and personal attention to drive its daily app promotions. Only big scale enables business models like these.

2.  Protecting the Splinternet

Earlier this year, Josh Bernoff of Forrester popularized the Splinternet as the condition in which “The Internet is splintering across proprietary platforms like the Apple iPhone and Google Android. Connected televisions will have their own interactive formats. Even on PCs, social sites …shatter the unity of the Web with content behind a password, invisible to search engines.”

With this splintering, all kinds of opportunities for chaos arise, intentionally and unintentionally. In one example, cited by an Intel McAfee expert, a ruse called ‘smishing,’ a variation on phishing attacks, has begun to be reported in which someone is sent a deceptive text message that appears to have come from a bank or a retailer, when it is in fact an attacker trying to coax valuable information from the victim.

More of these attacks will occur, especially as mobile is increasingly active inside the enterprise, where access to large stores of data and currency are held. Which leads to the third mobile megatrend…

3.  The apps are the economy

In an LA Times article syndicated in the Statesman yesterday about enterprise use of smartphones, Apple’s chief operating officer, Tim Cook, might have said it best in an October conference call with investors when he remarked “We’re not developing two different lines like many companies do with enterprise versions and consumer versions.” 

Across the board, our different modes – work, leisure, learning, volunteering, parenting – are evolving, with bright lines between our time spent in these roles, disappearing. Likewise, the distinction between the apps that manage the information and data that you and I generate when in those different roles will surely continue evolving.

At Appconomy, which just announced our first round of funding today, we’re counting on this evolution, with the individual at the center of a choice-based, app-driven economy. But, we’re not the only ones.

I observed in my last post that Austin’s legacy of enterprise software and communications expertise ought to position it favorably during this massive wave of mobile innovation. I’m looking forward to seeing the new apps and other mobile products that come out of our region as the megatrends I’ve described take further hold.

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