This blog is likely to generate a lot of heat. I hope you read it carefully, and give it some thought. I am going to argue that the 'mobile internet' (WAP etc services) as distinct from the 'real internet' is not only different from the old legacy internet, but actually 'better' by most measures we could use, including bigger by reach and bigger by users and better by inputs and outputs, etc. I also argue that the 'mobile data' opportunity is even bigger, making 'mobile data' a far more appealing and lucrative opportunity than the 'legacy' PC oriented 'real internet'.
First, lets be clear about a couple of definitions. The internet is all IP (Internet Protocol) services, whether browser-based, ie WWW WorldWide Web based services, or countless others, such as VOIP (Voice Over IP - Skype is a perfect example of this, Skype does not need the 'Web' to operate), or FTP File Transfer Protocol, or email, or IRC Internet Relay Chat, etc. There are many customized enterprise applications that do use the internet protocol, but do not use the worldwide web. So the Internet is a more broad term, and the web browsing that you probably use now, via Microsoft Internet Explorer or Google Chrome or whatever browser you now use, is a sub-set of the total internet. The Internet is 40 years old this year. The Internet has 1.7 billion total users, which includes those who access the internet on a PC from home or the office; those who access the internet from a shared PC, like at an internet cafe or a school; and those who access the internet on a mobile phone. The total user base is 1.7 Billion, and many will have multiple ways to access, so we may have a PC at home, but our kids may also access the internet at their school, and one of the parents might have an iPhone or Blackberry, and access the web or email via that device.
To be clear, we also have 'the web' ie WWW access. That became possible 20 years ago, so Web Browsing, as a specific type of internet use, is 20 years old. Most of the consumer use of the internet today, and a vast majority of business and government use of the internet, is Web access, but not all. So yes, when you search something on Google, or send an email on Hotmail, or buy a book on Amazon, or watch a YouTube video or update your Facebook account, you are accessing both the internet, and you are browsing the WWW.
REAL INTERNET ON MOBILE
There is something called the 'mobile internet' which is not the same as the 'real internet' on mobile. We have had the ability to access the fully un-altered real internet, in full, unrestricted, on a phone, since the first Nokia 9000 Communicator gave us that ability in 1996 which included both full web browsing (ie WorldWide Web access) and full email access, more than ten years before the first iPhone and half a decade before the first Blackberry phones. So doing the 'real internet' on a phone is absolutely nothing new. It is a very inefficient work-around to try to solve portability to the mostly fixed concept of the legacy PC based internet. We can obviously do similar internet access also via WiFi today in many places, and then it becomes a question of pricing plans and specific device features, on whether we do our Twittering on a phone and 3G high speed mobile for example, or on a laptop connecting through WiFi at a Starbucks. But doing the real internet on a phone is a severe compromise, as the old legacy PC based internet has recently evolved to assume a broadband connection on an XGA resolution screen with 1024 x 768 pixels.
That means, that when you get a well-optimized and visually rich video environment intended to a PC screen, and it is then squeezed to a 3" type of pocket screen, possibly with some image compression as well, the user gets a far inferior experience than was intended. Note, first, that this is not how the WWW has 'always been'. The original WWW was launched at a time when most PCs had monochrome or very basic color screens, and VGA (640 xc 480) screen resolutions were the top end - and almost no PCs could do sound. IT was not even possible to show a video clip like those on YouTube, with the 'original' Web. The WWW has evolved dramatically over the past 20 years.
But lets be clear - it is perfectly possilble to do the 'real internet' on a phone, this is nothing new, and there are now roughly speaking 700 million 'smartphones' which on the device itself, tend to have a browser and can do the 'real internet' often natively, straight out of the box, or in most other cases, after a small upgrade of the software on the phone. But - not nearly all are then able to do that, due to the limitations of the mobile operator/carrier - which typically will sell 'internet access' as a separate service, and this may be prohibitively expensive, or still today, in many networks, simply not offered for consumers. What the mobile operators/carriers prefer to sell, is what is commonly called the 'mobile internet' that typically works on WAP or i-Mode or similar browser based more restricted environments.
And before we go further, there is one more variant of the 'real internet' on mobile networks - which is laptop data access on data cards and dongles, most typically based on 3G or 3.5G ie HSDPA technologies, but also are offered on slower speeds such as GPRS and EDGE. These services provide the 'modem' connectivity on broadband-style price and data packages, through the cellular mobile network. There are hundreds of millions of such users globally today, and in many emerging world markets, the majority of 3G subscriptions are actually 3G data cards and dongles, connecting PCs to broadband, rather than 3G phones. The reason why this is so prevalent in the emerging world, is that there typically broadband connectivity on landlines is very rare and expensive and unreliable. But once 3G networks are rolled out, they bring 'broadband-style' connectivity speeds for internet access, instantly to most parts of the major cities, extending 3G to many areas where traditional wired broadband is simply not available.
MOBILE INTERNET IS NOT REAL INTERNET ON MOBILE
Then we have the 'mobile internet'. This is NOT the real internet on mobile. The 'mobile internet' is dramatically different from the old legacy PC based internet. It is best typified by WAP and i-Mode services, by which the browser-based services are OPTIMIZED for the small screen. They still are mostly the same services by your familar internet brands, your Google search, your Hotmail email, your Amazon book purchase, your YouTube video and Facebook update - but on the 'mobile internet' version, the browser page itself and the service design is (more or less) optimized for mobile phone users. Try it. Pull out your phone now, and do a Google search on it. You will find that your phone gives a totally different appearance of Google than on the PC. The much smaller screen does not give all those options you get on the Google 'real internet' based home page. Once you do a search, you get less results per page, and you get constantly numbers-oriented navigation options - so you can use the numeric keypad for navigating - the 'mobile internet' experience is optimized for use on a phone, and users are not expected to have a mouse to click on, but are expected to have a numeric keypad to click on options, etc.
Two very important aspects of the 'mobile internet' - first, it is expected to be significantly slower than the PC based and usually broadband speed 'real internet'. Secondly, the screen content is designed for pages of less than a quarter size of the 'real internet'. That means that for example, on this blog site, you see the columns on both sides of the page. If you access this Communities Dominate blogsite on a phone, it often gets very confused in how to display the page (sorry, we are not mobile optimized here, haha, don't do as I do, do as I say, haha), so they will for example try to display first all of the items on the left column - which is mostly 'background info' and is quite painful for any mobile access who want to only read the center column, where is the newest blog stories...
If we wanted to re-design this blog for mobile reading, we would have to remove the left column, and also cut my horribly-long stories to only a couple of paragraphs, with a follow-up link, to the rest of the story, as otherwise, on a phone, the service would typically try to load this whole page before displaying it to you. As regular readers know, I can go for thousands of words on any day, and my blogs therefore would be very inconvenient to read on the 'mobile web'
But, lesson number 1 - the 'real internet' is there for PCs, and can be done on mobile phones. It is not optimized for mobile consumption, but hundreds of millions of phones can already access the 'real internet'. Separate from that, is a newer 'mobile internet' which is not the real internet, it is different. To start with, it is designed for small screens and for slower speed access. The look-and-feel tend to be similar, ie Google still looks like Google and Amazon still looks like Amazon, but the total user experience has been optimized for the smaller screen.
MOBILE INTERNET IS BIGGER
So, the real internet is 40 years old. It has achieved 1.7 billion users on any type of device. How many use the PC based internet? ComScore measured earlier this year, and found that for the 1.1 billion total personal computers in use, 1.0 billion are connected to the internet. And counting multiple users of one home/office PC, as well as single users with multiple PCs, (ie you may have a PC at work and another at home; or perhaps a desktop on your desk, and a separate laptop for travel; or perhaps your old laptop on which you keep the family photos etc, but a new netbook now for your travels, etc). And ComScore found 1.0 billion total users of the PC based internet at home or the office.
The 'mobile internet' was invented by NTT DoCoMo in 1999, literally ten years ago. Yankee Group measured that at the start of the year we had 29% of all mobile phone users accessing the 'mobile internet' ie any kind of browsing on a phone. Out of 4.0 billion mobile phone owners at the start of the year, there were 1.16 Billion active users of the 'mobile internet'. So the fixed internet on personal computers has reached one billion active users in 39 years. The 'mobile internet' passed 1 billion active users in 9 years. This is what I mean by the mobile internet being bigger.
THEY ARE NOT THE SAME
Many are arguing there is or there will be or there should be one internet. That is not possible. The 30 years newer 'mobile internet' introduced several elements that are absent from the ancient 'real internet'. For example, on the 'mobile internet' every single user is uniquely, permanently defined. Not by a 'dynamic' IP address, like all internet users, where they may or may not be identified as the same user on their connection - mostly home users tend to be identified as the same user; but even office users behind office routers and firewalls, tend to be dynamically identified, so their desktop PC will get a different identity in the network on given connections - the internet connection is not dependent on your personal identification, that is an additoinal security system that your employer or your internet access provider ask you to provide. But the PC itself is often not defined by a standard non-changing connection. What is far worse, is any portable PCs, ie laptops at WiFi hotspots. Now the same user is completely lost by the network, and if you access on your laptop in three separate coffee shops on one day, your laptop, at its connection stage, is mistakenly identfied as three separate users, given three different IP addresses. The legacy intenet is simply not designed to accuately keep track of all who access it.
The 'mobile internet' is far superior to this. While the 'mobile internet' can assign an IP address for your phone, the point is that the phone is already identified by its phone number. That is globally unique, and will not change (unless you get a new subscription obviously), and it makes no difference whether you are on a post-paid contract or are using a 'throw-away' pre-paid connection, that one connection is uniquely identified in the network, every time you use it, in whatever country, for whatever use, whether for voice calls, SMS text messages, MMS picture messages, or yes, accessing any Google or Hotmail or Amazon or YouTube or Facebook page, the 'mobile internet' all of your connectivity is accurately mapped to your account. This is literally impossible on the current 'IPv4' version of the legacy internet. There is a vastly improved internet protocol coming, called 'IPv6' but currently less than 1% of all internet connections are on this newer format. So at the very least, 99% of all internet users are not accurately able to be identified. But 100% of all mobile phones are uniquely identified by their phone number - and have been from day one of the 'mobile internet' ten years ago.
This is a night-and-day difference on services on the newer, better, 'mobile internet' that is reality today, has been reality for ten years, since the first mobile internet service went live in Japan in 1999, and is still not possible for 99% of 'real' internet, legacy old PC based internet users.
So, anyone who says, we should have one internet, or there is only one internet, or the mobile internet should become the 'real internet' simply does not understand, that the 'mobile internet' is a far more advanced internet, and has delivered what the legacy internet is desperately hoping to achieve - that IPv6 project is literally ten years old, so this is truly a case of the old legacy PC being 'envious' of the newer mobile internet.
There is a second inherent ability that every mobile phone user has, and no 'real internet' user has, and that is the ability to pay on a click. On the real internet you probably have already used Paypal. That is a clumsy work-around on the internet, which - after you have signed up to the service - allows you to make payments via your PC, on a click. The total user base of Paypal is about 10% of all 'real internet' users. For anyone else, it usually means if you want to pay, you have to give a credit card number, meaning you have to enter your sixteen digit code, your name, your address, your expiration date, the security code, etc. And while most PC users in the Industrialized World do have credit cards, the majority of internet users in the Developing World do not have credit cards.
On the internet there is no way to collect payments on a single click (without a separate solution like Paypal or a credit card). But on any mobile phone, in any network, if the mobile operator/carrier enables it, you can charge payments off the phone account, at a click. This includes such simple services as selling ringing tones and voting for American Idol types of television shows, and getting news updates on SMS text messaging etc, and charging that to your phone account. This is as valid on monthly contract accounts, as on pre-paid accounts. Every mobile phone user can be offered services that function on a 'click-to-buy' model. All of the mobile internet can work this way, and thousands of wealthy service providers on all continents, offer WAP and i-Mode services, earning billions of dollars out of click-to-pay and monthly subscription services on this principle.
The 'mobile internet' is 'inherently better' than the legacy PC based internet, because the mobile internet can do all that the fixed PC based interent can do - while not necessarily as well - but the mobile internet can do things the PC internet cannot do. I have give you two - perfect identication of every unique subcription, and the ability to offer every user a pay-per-click payment method. The 'mobile internet' is literally the money internet. How big? The content revenues on the mobile internet are more than twice the size of the content reveneus on the older 'real' internet - and remember, the majority of the content revenues on the 'real internet' are pornography and gambling revenues. The majority of the content revenues on the mobile internet are music, gaming and news services. The mobile internet while younger, is already more mature as a content channel, than the legacy old PC based 'real internet'.
7TH MASS MEDIA IS MORE THAN MOBILE INTERNET
Now I hope I have proven to you, that there are two distinct service environments, which have some overlap, but are different. The 40 year old 'real internet' reaches a billion PCs and has a billion users. The real internet cannot identify its users accurately, and cannot handle payments in its native form. It is possible to do the 'real internet' on a phone, this idea is 15 years old. Then there is the 'mobile internet' which is optimized for a smaller screen and slower access speeds. It offers the chance to identify all users perfectly by subscription, and to handle payments. The two are different. They will continue to be different.
The old legacy PC based interent is called the 6th mass media, after the Worldwide Web was introduced 20 years ago. (of the seven mass media, print was first, then recordings, then cinema, then radio, then television as the first 5 mass media; the internet became 6th mass medium and mobile now is the newest, the 7th). The 'real internet' on PCs is very powerful as a mass media channel, and it is cannibalizing all sorts of media content from the older mass media, such as music sales (recordings) and TV (IPTV) and newspapers and books (eBooks) etc. For the most part, the content offered on the 6th mass media internet, on the WWW, tend to be copies of older media formats, so for example, the newspaper websites, tend to be organized with similar news headlines, news body of text and pictures of news stories, as the print editions. But the internet is a newer mass medium and it has unique abilities that the older media cannot do. The internet can do interactivity for example - so they ask you to post comments to their blogs and reader comments and send messages to the reporters who wrote the story. None of the first five mass media could do that prior to the internet. And the internet brought us search, now any modern website includes the search button on the top of the home page. Again something you could not do with any older media.
Now, consider the mobile phone as a data service platform. It can do all that the old legacy PC based internet can do. Not necessarily all as well, mind you, but a phone can do the 'real internet' - not unlike a 5th mass media TV set can do 3rd mass media 'cinema' content and in fact every movie ever released has been brought to the small screen (excepting for the newest releases, which all obvioulsy all will come to a TV screen soon). Every movie ever made, even though cinema purists argue that a movie is not the same if experienced on a small screen TV at home, compared to its 'intended' medium, the cinema theatre. Similarly every existing internet service and content can be delivered to a phone, with the only limitations being any blocking by the mobile operator/carrier, such as often they want to block us from using Skype on a phone (unless we agree to pay extra for it). This is not true across all seven of the mass media. You cannot show a cinema movie on radio for example, or offer books to read through the TV screen.
Technically the 'real internet' can be done on any mid-range phone, it is only a commercial matter of whether our providers bother to offer all of the 6th mass media internet to us on our phones.
Now, lets consider the 7th mass media ie mobile. The 7th mass media is FAR MORE than the 'mobile internet'. Remember, that we can do the 'full internet' on a phone, and that the 'mobile internet' is inherently better, as it can do more than what the legacy PC based internet can do (identification, payments to name but two). Now consider mobile as the 7th mass media channel.
So approximately 1.16 Billion mobile phone users globally (29%) were active users of 'browsing content' ie WAP, i-Mode and 'real internet' services on a phone at the start of this year. That already is more than the total PC based users of the real internet. But then there is MMS picture messaging, which is the fastest growing service category of mobile. MMS had an active user base of 1.4 billion at the start of the year. In those markets where PC penetration is low - most of the Developing World - the MMS platform is the most used 'multimedia' service platform delivering news, pictures, video clips, music and advertising. Nearly half of Asian mobile phone owners already use MMS based services. In Europe over 40% of all mobile phone users are active users of MMS, and European leaders, Norway report 84% of all users as active users of MMS.
Lets be clear - most people with cameraphones will not send pictures to other cameraphone ownersusing MMS. Most pictures on cameraphones are shown by passing the camera from one person to the next, to show pictures - no transfer of pictures whatsoever. If pictures are transferred, that is mostly by bluetooth transfer from one camera to anter. But MMS allos user-generated content to be moved and shared. MMS is used for example to upload pictures from cameraphones to various social networking services on mobile. And MMS is used in citizen-journalism applications such as CNN i-Report. But a vast range of services are where MMS is not used by the mobile phone owner to send pictures and videos, it is used by brands, advertisers and news media to send multimedia content to users of phones. Do not think that because YOU do not send pictures from one phone to another, that MMS itself is not a huge hit worldwide. Portio Research just reported that for 2008, MMS delivered 26 Billion dollars of content revenues worldwide. How big is that? Its as big as the global revenues of the worldwide music industry, or about as much as the total global income of videogaming software revenues. That is MMS, a simple service concept that was launched only eight years ago,
And yes, with 1.4 billion users, MMS alone had more unique users globally, than email has on all platforms combined, including PCs, laptops, notebooks, netbooks, PDAs and yes, mobile phones (like on a Blackberry). I think we have to consider all internet content and apps, not just 'browse' apps and this means we include email use on the 'real internet'. Then consider similarly, mobile-specific messaging services. And MMS is a very valid consideration, if not for 'mobile internet' then certainly for '7th mass media' or 'mobile data' services. When we think of the 7th mass media, while 'mobile internet' browsing on a WAP or i-Mode page may be interesting, a far greater opportunity already exists on MMS multimedia messaging. And as to MMS, you cannot do MMS on a legacy PC, without a separate mobile account with a mobile operator (or some specialist aggregator, who then has a connection to some mobile operator/carrier)
SMS THE GIANT
Then we have the biggest data application on the planet, SMS text messaging. At the start of the year, 76% of all mobile phone subscribers were active users of SMS, and in many markets today, more users of mobile phones send text messages than place voice calls on their phones - in India the ratio is already so lop-sided, that only 70% of phone owners place voice calls, but 90% of Indian mobile phone owners send SMS text messages. Even the USA is catching this trend, thank you to the Obama campaign, and last year was the first year when Americans sent more SMS than placed voice calls on their cellphones, on a national basis.
How much is 76% of the mobile phone user base? It was 3 Billion mobile phone users globally, at the start of this year as reported by Ericsson (and obviously has grown to be far more still, today). Note, that SMS has so many active users, that it is three times as big by users, as the PC based legacy internet!. SMS is twice the size of TV by television sets owned on the planet (there are 1.5 billion TV sets). And SMS is a monster in size of an industry, this year 4.1 Trillion SMS will be sent, worth a 100 Billion dollars. SMS alone, is bigger than all internet narrowband and broadband monthly connection fees put together. SMS is as big as the global radio industry. SMS is as big as all worldwide music sales, all hollywood movie box office revenues, and all videogaming revenues - put together. And SMS was launched in 1993, so this 100 billion dollar industry reached that level in only 16 years. The internet took 35 years to reach 100 billion dollars of total revenues.
And you CANNOT DO text messaging on the SMS standard, on the internet - unless you have a mobile account for your laptop, or you pay some service integrator (who has a mobile account, obviously). SMS text messaging is the widest-reaching media channel on the planet, the widest-reaching interactive channel on the planet, and the widest-reaching PAYMENT platform on the planet. Think American Idol votes. Think ringing tone sales. I do not have the actual count of how many people have made some sort of payment that was billed through the SMS system (as premium-SMS) but televoting and ringing tones are among the most popular of this content. But in many countries like the Philippines and South Africa, SMS text messaging is used to deliver basic news. In Bangladesh, a brand new education system, teaching English via SMS, that costs 'less than a cup of tea per day' had a subscriber base of 300,000 on the day they launched ! SMS is a most powerful interactive system that can collect payments. 46% of the banking accounts in Kenya are mobile banking accounts - using SMS. But just the users of 'downloading paid content' to a phone in 2008 were 1.2 billion people, and those who voted in TV shows using premium SMS were 750 billion people. Another several hunred million people make payments on mobile phones worldwide. Obviously there is overlap, but there is a vast number of people who who only did one or the other. For contrast, the planet had 1.7 billion unique holders of credit cards.
So, the 7th mass media mobile data services environment is far richer and more capable, than attempting to recreate the 'real internet' browsing experience on a phone. We have the 'real internet' of course, and we have the non-real 'mobile internet' which is better; and we have MMS and we have SMS. That is not even touching upon things such as our phone book, the camera, video recording and location-based information. The phone can do far more than a laptop, desktop or even netbook can ever hope to do.
MOBILE HAS 7 UNIQUE ABILITIES
I have explained in my book Mobile as 7th of the Mass Media how mobile has seven unique abilites that no legacy media, including the 6th mass media 'real internet' can match. I list them as - 1) only mobile is truly personal (comes to that unique idenfification of all subscribers); 2) mobile is always carried (we do not carry our laptops to the bathroom and the bedroom - and yes, I know there are some nerds who actually do that, but it is not even 10% of laptop users who do this regularly, while all evidence proves that more than half of phone users carry their phones to bed with them, and to the bathroom with them). 3) Mobile is permanently connected - no other media is on 24 hours a day for most users - but recent evidence shows that we do not even turn the RINGER off on our phones when we take them to bed with us - we now are willing to accept SMS text messages and voice calls even at night in bed. Only on mobile. If you take your laptop with you 'everywhere' it is not connected all the time - unless you have a 3G data connection, in which case you are using it like a 7th mass media connection. Your WiFi connection is not everywhere except for a couple of countries like Singpore and South Korea. For far over 95% of all laptop owners, the laptop is not permanently connected. 4) only mobile has a payment channel (discussed in the above). 5) only mobile is available at our creative point of impulse - so we have our cameraphone, we see a celebrity walk by doing something silly, and we take a picture of it and send it to the local newspaper. Only with mobile. Traditional stand-alone digital cameras number less than 10% of the total penetration of cameraphones.... 6) mobile measures audiences accurately, this is of particular interest to any media and advertising companies, they now use mobile to measure viewerships on TV channels, listenerships on radio channels, even movie audiences in the cinema. And 7) only mobile captures the social context of our consumption. I will discuss this in its own paragraph, as it is the newest and least-understood part of the 7th mass media.
The internet promised marketers the ability to target to a 'segment of one' and to catch 'influencers' from networks, etc. Still today, on such social networking sites as Facebook, or on Amazon etc, we have data mining experts who hope to uncover such details. But as I explained, on the 6th mass media legacy PC based internet, it is not possible to accurately identify most users. When most users are not accurately identified, it means that any measurement of 'who influences whom' becomes pointless, as the data points of both 'influencers' and 'influencees' is greater than their total number. More false positives and false negatives, than real measured data points. It was a good idea, but does not work on the internet overall. It may work on closed systems, like Twitter - ie Klout measures how many people are influenced by you, and how many people you influence, and is reasonably accurate, but only within the Twittersphere. It does not reach the 950 million internet users who are not in Twitter.
On the legacy PC based internet, exactly like with payments and Paypal, you can only handle 'social context' within a small subset of users when they are within a specific service like Twitter, Facebook, Amazon etc. It cannot be done across the whole Internet user base. But... on mobile, the social context can be measured for every user. That means that while the internet promised it but then failed to deliver, only mobile fulfills that promise. Now, why care about social context? We can now accurately measure who influences whom, across all people, and who is influenced by whom. In an age of 'social networking' or 'communities dominate' the brands in the future will seek the opinion and good will of these influencers. And these influencers in turn will learn to take advantage of their influence. It has been argued already, at the Forum Oxford Conference this April for example, that we all have a value to our opinions and preferences, which can be monetized in the near future. What is the value of your expressed opinion? It is approximately 3% of your total annual income... Do the math, and you can see this is a very big number, and for most of the people for most of their professional careers, that number only grows with time....
Before the 7th mass media, there was no practical way to isolate and identify the social context. Now it is reality, and in many of the most advanced countries in mobile, such as Finland, Sweden, Japan etc, this kind of knowhow is being not only captured but used - with permission of users obviously, and in mostly still small experimental steps - but this is not science fiction, it is reality. As measurements by Xtract revealed, approximately 2% of any group or 'community' or society of shared interests, will be influencing directly half of that whole group. Imagine the power of marketing directly to these 2%. Imagine how much more effective marketing communications can be, if brands talk directly to those who are most influential, whether they like that brand or not. This is as dramatic a global change to advertising, marketing and sales, as the idea of 'segmentation' was half a century ago, when marketing managers were taught not to try to sell one identical service to everybody, but that by segmenting, we could get more profits, by offering variations of a product or service, based on different types of customers, with different needs.
MOBILE HAS NON-UNIQUE BENEFITS TOO
Now, I have written, blogged and spoken about the unique benefits of mobile in just about every opportunity I have had. And I have tried to show that these benefits can bring commercial opportunities as I do regularly on the 7thmassmedia blog. But there are more abilities on mobile which are not unique but give more power, making mobile even more potent and capable as a mass medium than TV or print or radio, or indeed the 'real internet' etc. One is the outputs of the phone. It is easy to look at the phone and think, the screen is so small, mobile must be 'inferior' to a laptop or TV. By that measure - if you really try to argue that the bigger the screen the better the customer experience, today the biggest media would have to be cinema, as it has the biggest screen, and the internet would be bigger than print, because print has no screen. In reality TV is the biggest mass media by revenues, and print is second biggest, and these two are far bigger than cinema, the internet, mobile, recordings and radio. To obsess about screen size is chasing a red herring. Size is only one factor in the screen, and the screen itself is only one type of output. First, on the screen itself - an interactive screen is far more compelling than a passive screen. It is because the internet offers interactivity with its screen, why TV now fears the internet. Note our TV screen is far bigger than our laptop screen. But the smaller laptop screen is threatening our TV experience. Why? Because the internet is interactive, the screen has interactivity to it. We can share videos, we can search videos, we can comment on videos on the internet, but not on TV (or the cinema). And yes, exactly like the internet, we can share videos, search videos and comment on videos - on mobile. So in terms of what kind of screen, interactivity is far more important than size.
But mobile has several other output factors. Mobile has sound - radio has sound, cinema has sound, TV has sound, the internet has sound and recordings have sound - but print does not. This is not an overrding benefit better than all other media, but shared with most and ahead of print, mobile does do sound. Note that not all personal computers do sound. And where some PCs do have sound capablity, it is not allowed to be used, or should not be used, or is even restricted by firewalls etc - in many work related PCs. But a mobile phone very legitimately can have an earphone - and you can listen to sound services, music, news etc - that in some cases of PCs, you cannot use.
Then on outputs, there is vibration. It can be an alert - as we often have when the phone is in silent mode, and it can be part of gaming feedback, like on many Playstation type of videogames in the recordings type of media. But there is no vibration in print, in cinema, in radio, in TV and the internet. Only on mobile and some recordings (videogaming). There are clever services already that offer different types of vibrations to help identify who is calling etc.
Now, I am not arguing that vibration is 'better' than an interactive screen. And I am not arguing that we will all watch movies on the tiny screens of phones. We prefer bigger screens to smaller screens - our home TVs have grown ever bigger with time, as have our desktop PC screens, and until the advent of the netbook, so too were laptop/notebook computers getting ever bigger screen sizes. But I want to point out that standard phones can do more than the standard PCs, and vibration is one of those abilities. Another is TV-out. Not a very common feature, but on smartphones that have it, you get a basic cable that allows you to watch your mobile phone 'small screen' on any big TV screen -far bigger than any laptop, notebook or netbook screen.
But again there is more to mobile. We can rotate the phone, to see a different angle view of the image on the phone. So if you want to see the picture 'upside down' you just rotate the phone. On a laptop, you have to have some picture manipulation software to flip the picture up-side-down on the screen, but try to flip your web page up-side-down on your ldesktop PC screen - hey, thats not easy to do. If its a map, and you want to turn it, thats not as easy on a laptop - but a mobile phone, you just rotate the phone to view the picture or web page or map etc sideways or upside down etc. This is a small thing, not always relevant, but with pictures it is often relevant. And the world's most common type of camera today is the cameraphone.
And we tend to have two phones, and each can be operated on one hand, so then we actually have two screens, both can be independently operated. Watch the live game on one phone, watch the scores of the rival games on the other phone. The phone has all of the same types of outputs as a laptop, but the phone adds more output types or variations or abilities, that the laptop cannot match. I am not arguing that watching YouTube is better on a tiny phone screen than laptop screen - but it can be done. Yet there are in-built abilities on the phone that PCs cannot match. You cannot do vibration feedback for a videogame, on a laptop...
ON INPUTS MOBILE TOTALLY TRUMPS PC BASED INTERNET
But then on the inputs, when we compare mobile the 7th mass media to any of the six legacy media including the 'real internet' on any PC, we have far more inputs. The mobile can take text inputs from a keypad. Many mid to high-end phones have separate inputs on a scrolling device, like a very simplified mouse. These two are better on a laptop or other PC than on a phone. But it is about the extent of how far a 'real internet' PC can go. The mobile has far more inputs.
The modern phone has a camera. It can take direct input of images and videos. Trying to take pictures with an IP camera on a laptop, outside somewhere is tedious at best. A cameraphone is easy to take pictures. Videos even easier on cameraphones compared to any webcams on laptops. But the best cameraphone users are 'scanner' mode - from scanning pages - that can be identified, and for example translated - to image recognition - Amazon has a service that allows users to recognize books by the cameraphone picture of the cover of the book - to of course QR Codes/2D barcodes. The ability to do data entry on QR Codes/2D barcodes is truly 'magical' where no data entry is needed on a keyboard, and long web addresses can be entered, just by focusing your cameraphone at that little square diagram. On a computer system you can have a separate scanner - but as an accessory. It is not built-in to the device (except perhaps a thumb-print scanner for the security system). Yet most current cameraphones have the ability to scan QR Codes/2D barcodes.
But yes, mobile totally trumps any PC based internet, in inputs. Take location - mobile can accept direct network inputs of where you are, automatically. On the PC you can theoretically do that too - but only if you have WiFi or Bluetooth or some wireless network, and then separately use an application that collects the location. Not on mobile, all networks, all over the planet, can get an accurate fix on every single mobile phone of their subscribers, that is turned on, in a city to an accuracy of 100 meters (300 feet) without GPS enabled smartphones. That means, the accuracy is close enough, to pinpoint what city block you are in. That means we can serve you with a precise-enough map, to show all streets neighboring the city block you are in. For almost all normal needs of a map or navigation, city-block-accuracy is enough for us to find our way.
Can't do location-based services on radio or TV or cinema or print or recordings. Can do in clumsy ways for some users of the PC based internet, but only on separate apps and having the user enable that application (ie turning on Bluetooth and allowing the given service to find its location based on bluetooth positioning). But every mobile phone subscription on the planet is always tracked, whether we ask for it or not. A powerful input.
We can also do touch screen inputs, increasingly smartphones now have touch screens as only or alternate input methods; and we can do sensor inputs, ie movements on a phone like the movements on the gaming console Wii. There are no movement sensors on our laptops, so shaking the laptop will not give you an input.
And we get time input, from the network, accurately. You think - yes, we can do that on the internet - no, not automatically; only if we enable that feature on our PC. Note, on the internet, the only way to collect time input, is if the user turns the feature on; but on the mobile network, it is automatically collected - and cannot be turned off. Even if you somehow disable your clock on your phone, the network will still assign an accurate time stamp to every activity you ever do on the network, all of your calls, all of your messages, all of your web surfing clicks, etc.
We collect automatically the contact of who we call or send messages to. This is never collected by the internet in its 'native' format, only on given applications - so the email server will collect your email contacts, and the Yahoo service will not share with Hotmail or Gmail to allow a total history of who you sent messages to and who sent messages to you. If you only use one service, for work and home, then yes, an accurate mapping can be made of your email transactions, but that is not typical of most users. And even then, it won't in any way match up with your Skype calls records. But your mobile operator/carrier does collect a complete record of every person you called, and of who called you, and who you sent messages to, and who sent messages to you, all accurately chronicled, so a trivial bit of data analysis would identify if there are some people you return calls to, and who you 'ignore' and not return calls to, etc.
Mobile services are often designed to have voice controlled parts. These are particularly useful for people who may use a service while driving a car, and does not want to (and it tends to be illegal) to use the keypad while driving a car. And these voice-operated services are for example very useful for blind people, who can't see the screen. But yes, there are lots of services that will read the news for you, allow you to voice-navigate services, etc. This can be done on the internet too, but mostly is not; and can be done on radio or recordings, but not interactively. But is quite common on mobile.
SINGLE HANDED USE
A most powerful ability on mobile, again not unique, is the single-handed operation. The PC based internet totally fails this. You cannot take your laptop from your briefcase, turn it on, navigate to web pages, etc, while having a heavy bag in your other hand, and walking. Yes, we can use a laptop single-handedly, if it is set on something like a table or our lap if we are sitting. But to hold the laptop in the hand, we cannot operate it with the same hand while walking. Now, some other media can be operated single handed - we can read a book single-handed, or a magazine; we can operate the radio (in this case obviously a relatively small radio, haha) or MP3 player single handed. But of the interactive media, only a playstation portable, or mobile phone can be used single-handedly. A laptop, desktop, notebook or even netbook, cannot be operated single-handedly (by normnal, non-acrobatic circus people haha)
Essentially all mobile services, on essentially all mobile phones (except some services on some purely touch-screen phones like say the iPhone) can be used single-handedly. This is very important. It means that we can use the 7th mass media services and applications in far more situations than say a 6th mass media 'real internet' service. For example as we walk on the street. In London they have started to put padding on some traffic signs, as distracted pedestrians walk into the traffic signs, while they are 'walking-while-texting' ie reading or sending text messages as they walk. You cannot send Twitter updates or email messages on your laptop while you walk, if the other hand carries something heavy. But sending text messages - or doing those Twitter updates - easy to do while you walk, with soemething heavy in your other hand. That we can use it single-handedly is also a major reason why we consume mobile content while we consume other media. None of the first 6 mass media is like this. We don't read a book in the cinema. Earlier this year Universal McCann revealed that already every one in seven media minutes consumed in the USA involved mobile. We vote while watching TV, we send comments to our newspapers, we even comment on movies from the cinema as the end credits roll - telling our friends whether to go see that movie or not. Only mobile is used together with every other of the seven mass media. Mobile is unique.
MOBILE IS DIFFERENT AND YES, IT IS BETTER
I hope that this long posting has opened your eyes, and proved to you, at least that mobile is different from the legacy PC based internet. I hope you accept, that there are lots of things we can do on the mobile services environment, that are not possible on the legacy PC based internet - we can identify all users on mobile, we can handle payments for all users natively on the network on mobile, we identify their location for every user, etc. We can offer better inputs and outputs than the PC based internet, if nothing else, we can do the shaking of the phones for inputs, and take vibrations as outputs, something no desktops or laptops do. It does not matter if this is a 'huge economic opportunity' or a tiny one - look at the Wii gaming console, with their sensors they created wholly new videogaming opportunities that the PS3 and Xbox could not match. It is up to creative service development now, to invent cool new services for us, utilizing the new abilities of mobile, just like Google Adwords managed to combine search with advertising - something that was never even considered for radio or newspapers or music records.
I hope you can accept that the 'real internet' is inherently different from the 'mobile internet'. I would argue that the best platform for the legacy PC internet is the PC environment, and we should let the old-fashioned advertising-driven legacy internet live on that platform. I think it is quite futile to try to bring the 'real internet' to mobile networks and smartphones. The legacy PC internet needs its advertising ecosystem to drive some revenues, so some content providers can make some money. We on the 'mobile internet' have far better revenue opportunities, and should not bother to try to fight for that 'real internet' ad slice. Let them have it, let them do 'free internet' just like libraries do 'free books'. The far bigger opportunity is where buyers are willing to pay. Just because there are libraries, did not stop sales of books to be far bigger than books read in libraries.
I think we have a far better opportunity developing better mobile internet services, and making sure their prices are not prohibitive but more importantly, the 'mobile internet' services to be re-designed for the small screen experience. I am sure many will not accept that the tiny screen usage-priced 'mobile internet' should prevail on mobile devices, but that ship has actually sailed, and the younger 'mobile internet' does already have more users than PC internet. The reason you the reader may not have noticed it, is that this is a phenomenon driven by Asia and Africa, but it is a global trend.
It is however completely beyond question, that total devices in use, that can do browsing on basic WAP level, exceed all PCs that have browsers, by 3 to 1. It is also increasingly accepted that more people use browsing services on mobile phones globally, than on PCs. It is undeniable, that content revenues on mobile browser (including WAP) services far exceed those of the PC based internet. It is beyond any doubt that more people use messaging on a phone than on a PC. For interactive mobile services, more devices, more users and more revenues are on mobile than the PC based internet. This all happened in the past few years. I ask you to accept the facts of the world, not hold onto outdated views from the past. There was a time when the internet was not on PCs, but was on mainframe computers. Now we are witnessing another similar shift.
Finally I want to make a point that the 7th mass media experience is far more than 'browsing' the 'mobile internet' on a phone. It includes MMS, pictures, sounds and video on multimedia messaging, used by 1.4 billion users, and yes, SMS text messaging, used by over 3 billion people on the planet. That is why I obsess about the 7th mass media, not about the 'mobile internet' because I can see that far more people consume media content and express interactivity on MMS and SMS, than consume 'browser-based' content and services on a phone. The mobile content, services and applications opportunity on the 7th mass media channel is truly huge. This year 2009, mobile data services will deliver more than 200 billion dollars of revenues. The exact level of how much beyond 200 Billion dollars is not yet sure, but it is likely, that 2009 becomes the first year, when total mobile data revenues grow past total legacy PC based internet revenues, counting all internet content revenues, plus all internet advertising revenues, plus all internet broadband access revenues, plus all internet dial-up access revenues, put together. Mobile data is far younger, and about to become far bigger than the internet based revenues. Lets not treat the 'mobile internet' or the 'mobile data' or '7th mass media' business as the dumb little brother of the 'real internet'.
There was a time when a new technology was called a 'voice telegraph' but we no longer consider telephones to be 'inferior' telegraphs. Same for the 'picture radio' we now do not call the television an inferior radio. There was a time when cars were called 'horseless carriages' and yes, early such things were considered inferior to horse-drawn buggies. Today nobody would think of trying to fit a 'real horse' into the engine bay of the car, to replace the piston engine that does 100 horsepower. Its time to stop thinking of mobile data as an inferior internet. It is different, mobile as as different from the internet, as TV is different from radio. And just like TV rapidly grew to be bigger than radio, we are about to witness mobile data growing to be bigger than the internet. Please look at this opportunity with open eyes, and you will find fantastic opportunties in it for you. Every economically viable person on the planet has a mobile phone, there are 4.6 billion mobile subscriptions on the planet today, reaching two thirds of the planet. Only one in six people has access to a personal computer.
And yes yes yes, I have of course a 2 page freebie document for you, if you'd like to have a simple pdf document to share with your collegues. It does not cover all these points, obiously, but it does go thought the seven unique ablities of mobile. It is called the Tomi Ahonen Thought Piece on 7th Mass Media. If you write to me, at tomi (at) tomiahonen (dot) com, I will send you the thought piece by return email.