Henry Blodget, CEO of Business Insider, recently presented his perspective of the “Future of Mobile” at Ignition West: Future of Mobile conference in San Francisco. I wasn’t there but as I read through his slides (available here) I had moments of sharp pain and frustration and here’s why.
The smartphone revolution
We all know what is happening with the phone market – just take a look around you right now and you’ll see. Smartphone adoption is accelerating and tablets (well, the iPad) are the rage. At this point, this is a non-issue, the tipping point is in the rear view mirror.
The “Platform War”
Blodget states that there is a battle going on for consumers’ minds – no argument here. But the way he describes it is out of context with the average consumer adopting these smartphones. He has narrowed it down to a 2 OS race (Android and iOS), but right now consumers are buying based on the ecosystem that supports the OS and, aside from the iPhone, most aren’t asking for hardware or operating system by name.
Developers are also watching as this plays out, but are they really concerned with who wins or are they more concerned with who is winning today? Developers are nimble and will build based on where the demand (and revenue) is for their product – and in some cases that will be BlackBerry or Android or Windows Phone, or even feature phones.
Also, the concept that this is a battle between “smartphones” and “dumbphones” missed a critical point: The growth of this industry will rely on those outside of North America – those that are showing us the way in developing nations around the world. They are doing it with feature phones, not smartphones. There will never be 100% smartphone penetration, so stop waiting until that happens.
What we do on mobile
Blodget also states that mobile is in a transitional stage – we take the familiar (the web, Facebook, Twitter) and move it to a new channel. This isn’t indicative of where we are going at all. This is simply the “getting comfortable” stage of progress. Mobile hasn’t started yet. It isn’t about Angry Birds or Instagram or Draw Something. Those have been enabled by the birth of a truly global frictionless economy – borne from Apple and propogated by others. THIS is the big story. Mobile is the first medium that enables a global marketplace while removing the (quickly crumbling) barriers to entrepreneurship.
What Blodget professes to be the “future of mobile” is, in fact, not the future – it is happening now. The REAL future of mobile is about global change, rising economies, reduction of poverty and privacy, education in real time, preventative health care, Gene Roddenberry’s vision of a cashless society and greater global democracy. The future of this great industry is not about flying pigs or cool photo filters.