Conversations with Today’s Movers and Shakers (part 2)

Alan Toman

Alan Toman

by Alan Toman, author of The WOOF Factor

Clearly the greatest interest and the most activity are in all things mobile; it crosses all sectors. Here are just a few facts about mobile today:

  • Amazon sold $1 billion worth of product through mobile in the last 12 months.
  • Mobile ticketing is predicted to more than double by 2012 (from 2010 figures) to exceed $100 billion (based on gross transaction value). Mobile devices are being used for ticket purchases for all kinds of travel, entertainment and sports. Mobile ticketing is one of the main factors driving the growth of mobile commerce.
  • Mobile social games developer Zinga reportedly received $100 million+ in strategic investment funds from Google: http://blog.mobilegamesblog.com/?p=5148
  • Mobile fundraising is estimated to have raised $35 million for Haiti, and according to the Mobile Giving Foundation there are currently over 100 such campaigns running: www.mobilegiving.org/
  • Even major direct response marketers are in the game. HSN and Guthy-Renker (Japan) are moving into mobile.

But to keep everything in perspective, as hot as Android and the iPhone are now, U.S. Smartphone penetration (versus more ‘basic’ feature phones) is projected to hit 50% by the end of 2011, up from 29% in 2009. It’s moving fast, but we still have a long way to go. Conversely, the rest of the world will reach only 8% by 2011, nearly doubling to 15% by 2014. The world is not flat yet. But there is an enormous amount of global potential for ‘basic’ mobile application development.

More about Android: it has been created as an open source platform (it’s basically a Linux system for mobile). This design is consistent with Google’s open philosophy that “democracy on the web works.” Andy Rubin, founder and CEO of Android, actually said that another company could take Android and develop it far bigger than Google will. Is that a challenge?

There is a development in mobile payments that is putting the fear of God into banks, credit cards companies, First Data, and the carriers:

The NFC chip (Near Field Communication) is a short-range high frequency wireless communication technology enabling the exchange of data between devices over about a 10-centimeter (around 4 inches) distance. Apple didn’t get it together for iPhone V4 but is predicted to for V5. Just think—you’ll be able to put money in your iTunes account and buy stuff with the wave of your hand.

Mobile Payments is an already fast-evolving market globally. With over 3 billion mobile phones in use worldwide, soon every one of them will be transformed into a handheld bank, or will offer some form of payment function. Some companies offering mobile pay options are:

One of the most interesting mobile payment applications out there has appeared in Kenya and in other countries with high cash and low credit transactions, or where there is political or banking instability. M-PESA enables customers to complete simple financial transactions like paying bills, salaries, etc. by mobile phone. http://www.safaricom.co.ke/index.php?id=745

So it is no surprise that Experian and Bank of America are working on a mobile payments solution. It is reported that U.S. carriers have tried to get a consortium together on micro-billing standards, but one major carrier has pulled out because the group “couldn’t agree on anything.” Remember that it took years for them to agree on common short codes and inter-carrier operability—you’d think they’d have learned that if they continue to dither, other third party companies will outmaneuver them yet again.

What if your iPhone took plastic? Imagine a swipe-and-go system for your business to use a phone as a mobile credit card processor for ringing up payments wherever you roam. Three companies are firing at the same target: the un-tethered workforce.

Here’s a huge undiscovered fact: today in Japan mobile searches exceed PC searches. And according to Gartner Research, by 2013 the number of browser-equipped phones globally will exceed “old fashioned” PCs (1.83 billion and 1.78 billion respectively).

With all this activity it is surprising that today only 12% of retail establishments and 20% of corporations have a mobile presence. Hello! Is this an opportunity or what?

Localization, GPS & Geo-location are fast-moving segments in the mobile area, particularly in the social networking realm. But more on this later.

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