[This post is co-published on GenMobileC of which I am honored to be an advisor. GenMobileC is a non-profit service community started in July 2009 by Kitty Desjardins and Tomi Ahonen. Its mission is to promote innovation in mobile apps and services that serves fundamental human needs, inspire and empower students that they can make a difference and to inspire future entrepreneurs in creating social responsible profits.]
I was working in the department of Research & Development for a mobile messaging company where we spent years on building some backend platforms for 2G, 2.5G networks, such as Ringtone download, SMS voting system, Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) platform. When 3G was coming to UK, the boss asked, besides sending/receiving sms/mms, what else can we do for 3G? Assuming the bandwidth can be good enough and the tariff will be eventually cut down, I started to believe, Wired or Wireless, will be no difference sooner or later; i.e. all the application/service traditional ‘wired’ Internet could be move to the wireless/mobile world.
From Wired to Wireless
Web2.0 is about User Generated Content (UGC) and social. Ideally, our real life can be mapped into the virtual space anytime and anywhere, and the perfect way to do this is to go mobile. I started reading some tech blogs e.g. TechCrunch,ReadWriteWeb and to learn how exactly web2.0 works in Internet business. In web2.0, people are talking about video/image sharing, so we tried video/audio MMS, video/music broadcasting and so on; when people started loving blog, we created a demo on which you can simply do a blog by sending a mms message. The text part of this message is the text content of the post and the multimedia content such as video, audio or images are uploaded to the post too; and thanks to Location Based Service (LBS) offered by ISPs, we also created a mash-up demo where your position can be pinned on Google map and the multimedia content produced on your mobile can be viewed directly on the browser and shared with others. What you need to do is just to send a MMS message; With LBS, we were also thinking of building a location-based social networks; E-commerce is hot on the net, so we created a new and easy payment method called MPay to replace Premium SMS payment. Basically we built a demo mobile version of e-commerce shop where you can just need find your product and do several clicks, your mobile number is identified on the server side transparently and the money is charged directly from your next month mobile bill. It is over 3.5 years ago.
Expecting the Killer Application
With the fast development of mobile device and significantly improved mobile infrastructure, it’s expected that mobile market would be the next battle field for existing Internet companies, no matter they are social networks, video-sharing, media, photo-sharing or other service. A lot of trial services have been done, and we are happy to see some of them, such as blogging, image-uploading and sharing via MMS, LBS service with mapping etc are getting popular, mobile SNS is also hitting the ground. However, the question which still waiting for answer: what can be killer application? Technically, video call or video messaging were expected to replace SMS as the killer application in 3G, but practically it is proved in UK it’s not. Technology is important, but it’s not the key factor to drive the market in most cases. Instead, it’s the demand of market, i.e. the request from the consumer will lead the trend. The killer application, we have not seen any yet for 3G or other wireless networks, which actually is not that bad because it leaves us enough imagination as well as the energy of innovation.
Mobile Business: Exciting and Challenging
Let’s talk more about the business, for example the massive market, Asian region: the Japanese Mobile Market was worth around $70 billion at the end of 2006, consisting of 98 million mobile connections. By 2011 the market is expected to grow to $120 million connections equivalent to 93% penetration of the population (via MarketResearch); According to China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) in November 2008, there were 633.84 million Chinese mobile subscribers which is only around 47.3% of the country’s population, and 3G just arrived; Singapore city is all covered by Wifi for free; Malaysian government research MIMOS has launched the world’s first WiMax and WiFi hybrid solution, and the goal is to help accelerate Malaysia’s drive to 50 per cent broadband penetration by 2010. The market is so promising!
The Social Networking Service (SNS) might be one of hottest Internet service on this planet, and it is changing people’s daily digital life. Facebook Lite and its new version of iPhone application show us the trend, SNS can be perfectly extended to mobile world. Even for Chinese SNS, no one can dominate the Chinese SNS market yet, but the new battle field has already emerged, which is, undoubltly, the mobile world: Sohu’s Bai and Renren (former Xiaonei) have its iPhone application ready before iPhone’s official launch in China. Mobile SNS with LBS sounds good combination, but still two big issue we have to face: Privacy which is relatively less serious in wired Internet and Monetization which is still not quite certain for most of web2.0 companies. Twitter is another good example, wonderful working mechanism with perfect open API for access from mobile clients. It tells us, it might be not necessary for a web2.0 service to rebuild itself for mobile, but it must be efficiently accessible from mobile.
3G just came to China and Chinese mobile market seems to be reshuffled: China Mobile officially launched its Mobile Market and supports Android; China Unicom brings 3G iPhone to China and is said to launch its own version of app store. But we are still missing one key thing: a healthy ecosystem where ISPs can be more open to accept the content/services from third parties and individual developers; more developers to support open mobile platforms and develop high quality applications which not only entertain the users but also help on consumers’ digital life; consumers can be more ‘mature’ to understand how to take advantage of mobile computing and communications.
Turn Object into Communication
When we talk about Mobile or Wireless, people always link it with 3G cellular network or Wifi. Here is missing one massive promising market, the market for Near Field Communication (NFC). With the NFC device, every objects, not only your mobile phone, can talk to each other and build a contactless communication around you. Loads of applications you can think about: mobile payment – you can use your mobile device as credit card; Smart poster – you can use your phone to read RFID tag on the poster to get information easily; you can even use NFC to configure and initiate other wireless network connections such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or Ultra-wideband. Instead of Domain Naming Service (DNS), soon we need consider ONS – Objects Naming Service because it is getting very important and useful that the objects can be in communication with us anytime and anywhere.
In Internet nowaday, “we are you doing” is a hot topic. In fact, “what is happening around me” is a more interesting question and it has to be found out in mobile space. We need Mobile 2.0 together with Web 2.0, because only in mobile, the core of the web business, the Content can be truly generated at anywhere and anytime by users on the go.
Mobile market is very very broad topic and what you read above just covers a very small part of it. Don’t forget 4G, WiMax,Mobile Ad hoc networks, Wireless Sensor Networks (WSN) etc which can make the mobile world even more fascinating. We have entered the era of Generation Mobile Community, and we need explore more opportunities and innovation and make good usage of mobile technology for our better future.
And my last words:
Digital communication is not going to replace real communication, because digital is 010101 in the end, it is to make our real communication richer and more efficient.