Not sure if any of you had the opportunity to make it out to Open Mobile Summit last week in San Francisco, but the show, per usual, was a great representation of the fragmented business models developing in the mobile industry as both content producers and traditional mobile carriers seek to fill some of the profitability gaps caused by the decline in their traditional businesses.
The rise of broadband mobile data networks and highly-advanced smartphones is an industry-wide problem and requires industry-wide attention. There is clearly a focus on this across-the-board, in many isolated pockets. Within these pockets, however, there seems to be a good deal of agreement on the trends that will drive the industry. With the exception of Lightsquared, who is intent on "commoditizing wireless access as quickly as possible" and "being the dumbest pipe there is," the focus of the show was on how to drive new monetization schema and improve the subscriber experience. Just some tidbits from the panels I was able to attend:
- eBay transitioning their business from pure electronic commerce to the integration of eCommerce and traditional in-store purchasing behavior. Interestingly, more and more store merchants are recognizing the need to integrate the in-store "shopping experience" with that of the digital universe. The mCommerce conversations were full of confirmation.
- Google, Paypal, Visa are eager to help eBay in this endeavor, with technologies like Near Field Communications (NFC) breaking ground in mobile payments. Although, rightfully so given that a very limited number of devices support NFC, it does not seem like the industry will wait for this technology. Consensus remains that this needs to be scalable to all PoS systems in a very cost-effective manner.
- Video is everywhere - and still the hot topic of conversation. Topics on video ranged from the business models to improving experience to reducing the deflationary effects of the onslaught of Over the Top (OTT) video. No one debated that there is significant opportunity - from the media producers/aggregators (CBS Interactive, Disney, YouTube, Hulu - although experience is still sub-par) to the device manufacturers (Samsung, LG, Sony Ericsson - in summary, "We ain't seen nothing yet!") to the advertisers (Millenial Media, NY Times, Jumptap - the market for mobile advertising is still nascent, but it's coming). to the infrastructure providers (Cisco, Openwave, Vasona Networks) and, of course, the mobile carriers themselves (Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, Docomo, Sprint).
- But its not just video that presents opportunity in mobile, the future of publishing, as explained by Hearst Magazines, Time Inc, Gannet, Co,, and Scribd certainly pointed out that their future is heavily dependent on success in reaching the mobile platform. The rise of the tablet presents significant opportunities to transition the business from print to digital, and these publishing leaders are paving the way. But don't worry, the magazines you read when you "disconnect" aren't going away just yet.
- The "app" train is moving, full steam ahead. Without a doubt, and as expected, plenty of attention here on apps, from developing cross-platform to monetization to running apps on SIM cards, there is continued momentum on apps. There was some rumbling about the fragmentation of experience with the traditional app model, the rise of App Store 2.0, and discussions around cloud "platformization" with HTML5 as a means of both driving new business models and extending the reach from smartphones to feature phones. Even traditional chip vendors such as Marvell are in the OS platformization game, with their Kinoma platform (acquired early 2011).
- Speaking of apps, there seems to be a growing enterprise trend to developing their own apps for their business. App development and customization has reached an all-time high, given the abundance of APIs, tools, and documentation available to app developers. Businesses are using these tools to enhance their own business, including the expansion of the mobile device into their collaboration experiences. Everything from Intranet access to integrated voice experiences to document sharing to video communications - businesses certainly recognize that the future is more mobile than ever.
- If you failed to "Check In" to the summit, both Loopt and Foursquare were there (along with Nokia) to remind everyone of the importance of the intersection of social context and location context, and how this intersection can be used to target preferences (recommendation engines, basically).
All in all, the Open Mobile Summit highlighted the consistency of the industry in forging ahead in plans to deliver a much-improved experience for digital content to mobile devices, and to carry the traditional monetization models (advertising, publishing, commerce, merchandising) into their next iteration. While it is great to see each of these disparate industries working on their transition plans, it still seems like the value chain is broken, with each company carving out a unique niche. In a free-market, globalized economy with an over-abundance of entrepreneurs and innovators, the mobile industry provides a massive opportunity for the creation and transfer of both wealth and mindshare.
As a consumer, however, I am still searching for that consistent experience across all of my mobile devices, networks, and apps....