We've come a long way in mobile from 2000 to 2011 and I'm excited about where the industry is heading. Going forward, I believe many challenges endure, including multi-platform global distribution, monetization, retention, mobile enterprise, payments and networks of apps/services. And these are the areas in which I am interested in investing in the next few years.
To put things in perspective, I thought I would do a little walk down memory lane:
Way back in early 2000, I thought that mobile had arrived. Little did I know that we were too early, too early by a decade.
I co-founded a mobile app development platform company (Phonespan at that time, later renamed to Covigo) in early 2000. It was so early, in fact, that our demos were literally delivered on green-screen Motorola StarTAC phones (remember those!). Our revolutionary (at least to us, at that time) demos included the ability to transfer money between checking and savings accounts on Bank of America and the ability to check eBay auctions, both from a WAP 1.0 phone. The only problem was that in our pitches to VCs, our demos would never work because there never was (and still isn't) good cell coverage on Sand Hill Road.
Since then, the a lot has changed (except for cell phone coverage on Sand Hill Road). A lot of the players in mobile are different, the apps are different, the business models are different, the go-to-markets are different. However, a lot remains the same as well - app development in a heterogenous environment remains tough, mobile enterprise is still in its early stages (although picking up steam), carriers/OEMs still have some power to exert in distributing services (although far less than before), featurephones still dominate the installed base around the world and texting/SMS still dominates mobile communications.
To summarize this change, I've tried to list below some of the memorable differences and similarities between mobile in 2000 and mobile in 2011.
|Mobile subscribers in the US||100 million||300 million|
|Mobile subscribers globally||600 million||5.2 billion|
|Mobile penetration rate global||~10%||75%+|
|Leading mobile geographies||Japan, Scandinavia||USA|
|USA wireless data revenue||$200 million||$50 billion|
|USA Mobile operators||SBC, AirTouch, AT&T, Bell Atlantic, GTE, Sprint PCS||AT&T/T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint|
|Leading OEMs||Nokia, Palm, HP/Compaq, Motorola||Apple, HTC, Samsung, Motorola,
several Chinese OEMs
|Popular content type||Ringtones, wallpaper, J2ME games||Apps, apps, apps|
|Popular OSs||MS Pocket PC, Palm OS, BREW, J2ME, RTOS||iOS, Android, J2ME|
|Popular device types||PDAs (side-loaded), flip-phones, candy-bar phones||Smartphones, tablets|
|Go-to-market||Mobile operators, device OEMs, ISVs||Direct-to-consumer, app stores, web, enterprise|
|Browser standards||WAP 1.0||XHTML/CSS/JS, Webkit, HTML5|
|On-device storage||16MB RAM, 128MB memory||300MB RAM, 8GB++ memory|
|Cell network||2G, 2.5G (EDGE), 100kbps||3G/4G, Wifi, several Mbps|
I can only imagine how the mobile industry will change in the next ten years. Bring it on!