(Or Why I think 3P-Based Infrastructure and Value-Add Channels are Sexy)
Over the past decade, rapid advancements in mobile technology and mobility in general, have changed how we live and how we do business. It has changed us from an “on-demand” world to an “always connected” world. No doubt, mobile is here to stay and it is big business; but it’s just getting started. We are just approaching the point where open standards and open channels can deliver the real benefit of a business ecosystem.
Modern mobility started as a walled garden. The carriers and handset companies controlled everything due to very real bandwidth constraints, network limitations and industry knowledge. Voice improved, but data experiences were still lacking. Good money was made on mostly disconnected enterprise app development for Palm, Blackberry and Windows Mobile devices. Over time, control shifted to the OS companies, where vertically integrated handsets and operating systems were designed to support better consistency in the user experience. Unfortunately, controlling the user experience has lead to more restrictive monetization models, locking out most developers from making meaningful money. Effectively, we shifted the gatekeepers from the carriers to companies like Apple – but at the expense of the channels that provide value-add functionality and content. One step forward. One step backward.
Users appreciated the improved experience, so brought their devices to work. BYOD was born, and with it, arose app development, security and curation platforms. Emerging leaders in this space include Adobe, Antenna, Good and Appcelerator, to name a few. In an effort to simplify and improve profitability, market consolidation is underway. While this may simplify things in the future, it is currently wreaking havoc on IT. Platforms have added complexity without improving the user experience.
The answer to many of these problems is staring us in the face. Apple had the original right idea – “the real Web on your mobile phone.” The infrastructure just wasn’t quite ready back then and the user experience was limited to the user interface – which is a naïve view of modern mobility. An “app for that” was born and now we are living with the fallout.
Improved bandwidth, ubiquitous connectivity, attention to user experience and now, an emphasis on simplifying security, management and app access are all here – everything needed to lay the groundwork for an incredibly rich mobile ecosystem. It’s an ecosystem, which can be monetized by the greatest number of development, product and service delivery channels. We’ve made great strides forward, but in order to realize the monetary benefit throughout the entire ecosystem, a new openness must ensue; the kind of openness that is exemplified by the Web economy.
Just as Microsoft created an open and engaging development community that fueled the PC economy, one, or more of these infrastructure leaders must apply the same model to mobility. How?
- Deliver an exceptional user experience. Include optimal performance, privacy and security management, and the ability to personalize the experience by device, location and personal preferences.
- Include meaningful channel monetization opportunities. Offer standards-based tools, support and best practice advice for developers, integrators and service providers that can be put to use with existing skills and expertise.
- Provide a platform that supports choice. Choice for both app and Web-based solutions. Choice that supports both free and paid content. Choice that supports both consumer and enterprise needs.
Once these three criteria are met, as in industry we no longer have to build walls in the name of bandwidth, user experience, or preserving the “free Web” business model. With the openness of Web standards, we can increase user choice and satisfaction, while unlocking mobile monetization for the entire ecosystem. (Although the thoughtful few that move first will reap the biggest benefits).
While most people don’t view infrastructure as sexy, I believe that adding the 3Ps to mobility not only makes infrastructure cool, but also enables new channels and all classes of business to fully monetize mobility. Now, who in business doesn’t think making money is sexy?!