So the biggest mobile industry event of the year, Mobile World Congress in Barcelona is now over. We heard a lot about the mobile industry and its latest smartphones and amazing numbers of users, services, apps, revenues etc. One of the astonishing statements to come out of Barcelona was Google's CEO Eric Schmidt, who said that from now on, Google will follow a 'Mobile First' strategy. They mean, that for any new innovation or service or app or product they develop - mind you this is the biggest internet company on the planet - as well as the most profitable internet company - they will launch all new introductions to mobile first - yes, mobile version before a 'legacy PC internet' version. (Sounds like Google is placing the 7th mass medium - mobile - ahead of the 6th mass medium ie the internet).
Ok, regular readers of this blog or my books or followers of my twitter feed know, that this is nothing new for Google, and is not actually as radical as it sounds - that in Japan for many years already, the biggest internet companies have put 'mobile first' and for example all internet pages are formated and designed by default for mobile internet use, and the PC based internet version is an optional extra. So actually, it is not as radical for those who are well indoctrinated with the 7th mass media channel.
But for many of our random readers, this is still bewildering. Google, the internet giant, says it will prefer to design anything for mobile first? This is like the transition in music, when there were suddenly artists in the 1990s who launched their album 'on CD first' before launching it for vinyl or c-cassette. Same for movies, in this past decade ofthe 2000s, we reached a point where movies suddenly were available on DVD first, before the VHS cassette version (did you notice how quickly video stores abandoned VHS shelves completely. It seemed to happen in a matter of months haha)
Are we truly at that kind of massive transition point? What is Google telling us and how does that impact your business, project, team, budget - or even your personal career? Lets examine this.
First lets understand how strange this is. Apple was born of a garage industry, became world's bestselling PC maker with its Apple II, and then after IBM joined the PC races, Apple totally transformed the PC industry with the iconic Macintosh. Today every PC can trace its operating system principles to that first Mac. And Apple went on to become the fastest-growing company ever, to reach the Fortune 500. Many other household names in personal computers appeared from that age, such as Dell and Microsoft; and the PC industry made Bill Gates the richest man on the planet.
The Apple record rise would stand until the next super-wave of technology came along a decade later, called the internet. The internet created new global giant household names like Amazon, eBay and Google. Google broke Apple's record as the fastest-ever company to climb into the Fortune 500. Google is still growing revenues dramatically on its core internet business. Yet, for five years now, the CEO of Google has been saying 'mobile' and for the past three years, saying 'mobile, mobile, mobile'. He was quoted in 2005 in the Financial Times telling the world, that Google felt the internet would migrate to mobile phones.
Understand the context. This was not Nokia or Vodafone or Ericsson bragging about their "own" industry, "mobile telecoms". No. This was the world's largest internet company - at a time when the internet was in great growth and expanding worldwide and every analyst including Google itself, said that the internet would continue to grow into the fore-seeable future. Mobile was a 'rival' industry when viewed from the internet industry. Yet Google's CEO said that a transition was coming, and the internet would go to our phones. It is rare indeed for a CEO to have that kind of vision, while his own company dominates a dramatically growing global industry, to see a total change coming that will completely transform their own business.
Now, in 2010. its not like he's alone now. We see Apple joined the choir in 2007. When Steve Jobs announced the iPhone in January 2007, the company also named its corporate name from Apple Computer, to just Apple. They did not do this when they launched the iPod in 2001. They did this in 2007 when they launched their first mobile phone. Today just three years later the iPhone related mobile business of Apple delivers roughly speaking a quarter of Apple's total business. And just now Apple COO Tim Cook said that Apple is not a computer company, it is primarily "a mobile company."
Microsoft is already in mobile. Dell joined recently. Acer is about to join. Cisco, HP, Intel etc all have some interests in mobile. So Google is not alone. But I want to come back to the world record growth rates. If you could pick an industry to be in, in the 1980s and 1990s, that industry was the personal computer industry. The next global hit giant industry was the internet during the 1990s and this past decade of the 2000s. Now in 2010 the newest tech industry to generate giant global business is mobile. Did you notice what Forbes picked last year, as the fastest-growing company right now. Fastest growing company across any industry, on the planet? Their pick was RIM the makers of the Blackberry.
NOW, MOBILE FIRST AND YOU
So, Google CEO Eric Schmidt says that Google will now prioritize in every project, to do the mobile version first. Why is this, when the majoirty of Google's customers and the majority of Google's revenues (out of advertisements) come from the internet - and the internet is still growing very strongly.
Its because Google are a very smart company and they know the numbers. Mobile has already overaken the internet in total users. And in total revenues. And in total profits. Not just overtaking the internet, mobile has passed the PC industry, and passed the fixed landline phone industry. Get this, the mobile industry alone, is about as big as the global worldwide PC/IT industry, plus the internet industry, and the landline phone business - all rolled into one! In 2008 mobile became one of only a handful of industries on the planet that generates a Trillion dollars of revenues annually. Thats almost three times what the televsision industry earns. More than twice what the advertising industry makes in a year. About twice the size of the total worldwide print industry (before the economic crash) ie all newspapers, all books and all magazines. Trillion dollar sized industries are things like cars, the food industry, construction, and armaments. And mobile telecoms.
Google saw this. They saw that mobile is over four times bigger than the total worldwide internet business, including all content fees, all advertising fees, and all connecition fees like dial-up and broadband fees - put together. Mobile is four times bigger than all those. Mobile is a giant. But not just a giant. The computer industry started in 1942 so we're looking at an industry which is 58 years old. The internet formed its first four connections in 1969, so the internet is 41 years of age. But the first commercial cellular telecoms network went live in Japan in 1979, so mobile telecoms is only 31 years old. Yet its grown to be far bigger than those two other technology darlings. Mobile is in fact, the fastest-growing Trillion-dollar industry in the economic history of mankind. That is why Google, Apple, Microsoft, Intel, Dell etc are all interested to get in. The fastest-growing Trillion-dollar industry ever. It hit the Trillion-dollar level of annual revenues in only 29 years, a record which is likely to last through this century at least.
Last year when the global economy crashed and hundreds of giants of the world economy went bankrupt, the mobile industry grew paying customers by 15%, grew revenues by 7% and most of the major players of the mobile industry reported profits. Some of the specific areas of mobile truly exploded last year such as mobile advertising, which grew by 85% from 2008. So now it starts to make sense, why Google (it is the biggest ad platform on the internet by far) and all these other companies are focusing on mobile. The global print industries lost revenues, as did TV, as did radio, as did advertising, as did the personal computer industry. But mobile grew, very strongly.
INTERNET CHANGED EVERYTHING... NOT !
We've all heard the mantra:"The internet changed everything." But did it? The guy working in construction as a laborer, laying bricks or nailing roof tiles, he does not need the internet to do his daily job. Yes, maybe the foreman or the archtect needs a computer, but the workers? Not really. How about the lumberjack up in Canada or in Brazil, using a chain saw to cut down giant trees? Does not need the internet to cut trees. What of the farm worker who comes in to help collect the crops. I don't mean the farmer, who needs to know about weather, I mean the guy in the field, operating the tractor or perhaps picking tomatos or oranges by hand. His life did not change because of the internet. Or the fisherman. He does not have an internet connection in his little wooden fishing boat that he inherited from his father.
Yes, the internet did change very many industries - and totally destroyed some, like travel agencies (remember those?) or music stores or the encyclopedia business. Our life has been changed more by the PC based 'legacy' internet than by any other technology since the introduction of electricity, that is ture. Looking at the past 50 years, clearly the internet has been the most influential change to economic activity on the planet.
But it did not change 'everything'. The internet changed more industries than any other innovation since electricity, but still did not change everything. The internet was able is remarkably short time to devastate some industries and is currently in the process of dismantling many others - like music, TV, movies, news, videogaming etc. And the internet enabled a totally new type of consumer behavior - 'social networking' which again impacts everything from how people find jobs to selecting brands and goods, to deciding elections and government. Social networking was not possible before the internet and it alone is now changing the world in a new way.
MOBILE WILL CHANGE WORLD FAR MORE THAN INTERNET COULD
So, you think the internet changed 'everything' or perhaps only 'very much'? Now lets compare to mobile. Every internet-connected personal computer and internet service can deliver digital interactive services. The three most-used apps or services on the internet are messaging, search and social networking (not necessarily in that order). There are 1.2 Billion personal computers in the world, total in use (some PC based internet users will share computers, such as a family PC shared by the kids, or PCs shared at internet cafe's etc). But yes, 1.2 Billion total. The world has 3.9 billion total mobile phones in use. And every one of the mobile phones in use can do messaging (with SMS) - in fact SMS has 3.6 Billion total active users worldwide - yes, three times as many people use messaging on a mobile phone, than all internet-connected personal computers on the planet... If email changed your career and life and you cannot imagine work without messaging on a PC, mobile forms of messaging are touching three times as many people already. Mobile is far far bigger than messaging on the legacy PC based internet. Google knows this, they have their email platform, Gmail.
What of search and social networking? Both exist on mobile, and you don't need a 'smartphone' to have a great search experience or do wonderful social networking on a phone. For search and social networking, all you need is a 'basic browser' - that is, WAP browser - and you now can deliver search and social networking to 95% of all mobile phones on the planet. Thats 3.7 Billion phones - still three times as many as the total installed base of all personal computers. Not all of them are used for search - but for example 40% of mobile phone owners in India have used Google search (on WAP obviously) and half of phone owners in Japan use mobile search. Social networking on mobile is a smaller total population but is the fastest-growing segment of the mobile customer population. And each of these, mobile messaging, mobile search, and mobile social networking - make revenues on mobile (and make profits on mobile).
So the mobile versions or equivalent variants of internet services, reach a wider audience than the most popular services on the internet, and make money doing so. Of course the mobile versions will be far greater in users, revenues and profits than their internet siblings. If you thought the internet was important - then mobile this decade will become far more important. You understand now why the biggest internet company says 'Mobile First'?
MONEY, YOU CAN'T DO MONEY ON THE INTERNET
"Tomi here you are wrong. We CAN do money on the internet, use Paypal or a credit card." No, that is not true. While you perhaps can use your credit card or Paypal on the internet, that is not everybody. It is not possible to do money transfers 'natively' on the internet. You have to get a separate stand-alone account (like Paypal or a credit card) and only those who have a separate payment system, can do payments on the internet. That is not 'native' to the internet - its just a version of using your credit card on a phone call to the merchant, like an airline booking service for example. The landline does not do 'payments natively', you have to give a credit card. And if you give your credit card details, thats using another payment system. Paypal has about 10% of all internet users as active clients. And nowhere near half of all internet users have a credit card. Most teenagers do not qualify for credit cards for example in most countries, for banking legal reasons.
To understand how this is TOTALLY different, consider payments on mobile. On ANY mobile network anywhere on the planet - if the operator/carrier decides to deploy this feature, you can make payments on one click - with NO separate payment system. All 100% of mobile customers immediately are able to handle the payment, on one click. Take ringing tones - you can have ringing tones paid for on your mobile account, even if you have no credit card, no paypal, no bank acount even. You don't need to have a 'post-paid' or 'monthly contract' account, the payments can be deducted from your 'prepaid' balance on your phone account. Pure magic. Your phone becomes a wallet and a payment system. Every single phone in the network. That is why over half of Helsinki's public transport single fee payments are paid for by mobile. Why 49% of Kenya's banking accounts are mobile banking accounts. And why Estonia parking fees can only be paid by mobile - yes 100% of parking fees paid by mobile in that country. Mobile is literally replacing cash in our pockets.
This trend is in its very early beginning stages. Most banking and credit card companies are late to this game. The national banking regulations are still evolving to handle mobile phone accounts and what to do about things like instant loans (like they have in Scandinavia, very popular, get an instantly approved loan and its sent to your phone, and you can withdraw the money in cash at the nearest cash machine/ATM if you want..). But think of how much broader this is now than all of the impacts of the internet. Kids. Who do not qualify for credit cars, but can do mobile payments - and then can also use their own phone to RECEIVE payments, such as if they do small errands, or act as tutors and mentors for example, etc - receive payments directly onto your phone account (and don't think its only small payments, in South Africa and the Philippines etc its quite normal to get your full paycheck paid to your mobile account).
Why mobile first? Our whole global economy is enabled and driven by the concept of money. If you are a magazine publisher or TV broadcaster or hollywood movie studio - you cannot 'create' money in your medium and deliver cash-equivalents to your audiences. In some cases, like newspapers, you can give 'coupons' but these are not 'your' money that applies universally, no, they are money allocated by that supermarket chain or that given advertising brand, and the discount coupon only works for one product or brand or store. No, the newspaper cannot issue 'universal cash' that could be used anywhere. Only mobile can... We have many mobile virtual worlds that have created their own virtual currencies, from South Korea's Cyworld to UK's Flirtomatic. All three Japanese mobile social networking services, Mixi, MobageTown and Gree - offer virtual money. Habbo Hotel out of Finland - invented the way to collect payments via mobile to a purely internet-based virtual world (and they make tons of money and are profitable of course, doing this while their customers are under 15 year olds who do not have much disposable income).
The trend of cash and money migrating to mobile is an inevitable universal trend. It is mostly slow-moving and we won't abandon our plastic credit cards and our traditional cash and banking accounts for years to come, very likely at the end of this decade mobile payments are still a minority player in the global money environment - but an ever increasing minority player. Mobile money is in its infancy but it is an unstoppable trend for many reasons. The mobile phone is already considered more important to normal consumers than the wallet. Mobile phones are far more powerful than plastic credit cards - have more security than a plastic card, and far more importantly - any mobile phone can act alone, independently of a 'terminal' as the payment system. So for example using SMS, any phone alone can authorize the payment. You can't do that on a credit card - the credit card always needs either the connected 'card reader' device, or else the merchant has to accept the card and do the paperwork to process it (taking a risk in the process that the card may be stolen). Mobile is far more powerful as a payment system. And the same goes for the payments recepient - the merchant can accept payments iwithout any expensive connected credit-card 'terminal' - as every merchant will have a mobile phone. You don't need an expensive complex smartphone to use the phone as a merchant terminal - by using SMS, any phone on the planet, the simplest 15 dollar Nokia 'Africa phone' can accept SMS based payments. And it can verify the account status etc without expensive landline connections with monthly telecoms connectivity fees etc, that most merchant credit card verification systems require.
You see what the mean with 'mobile first'? Inceasingly this decade we will see mobile payments and mobile commerce and mobile banking evolution. Its a long haul path, but along the way, tons of millionaires will be made out of companies who understand the trend, and enable especially the 'unbanked' to become m-banked. Like now nearly half of all who do banking in Kenya. This is part of why Google says 'Mobile First'
But even bigger than mobile money can become, even bigger than mobile messaging or search or social networking - there is the biggest giant technology that is most-used on the planet, and that is telecoms voice call services - but not on the fixed landline anymore - that is now on mobile. There are 4.6 Billion mobile phone accounts on the planet. It will be 5 billion paid and active mobile phone accounts by the end of this year 2010 and within a couple of years there will be more mobile phone accounts than the total population of 6.8 billion people in the world. The trend is clear, unstoppable.
And what of those fixed landline phones? The fixed landline telecoms business hit its peak and is now in gradual decline (has been for several years already) and there are only 1.15 Billion total fixed landline phone accounts anymore active on the planet. Mobile is literally four times bigger than fixed landline (plus is bigger in revenues and profits). If you think Skype stole the cake in voice calls - no it didn't. Skype accounts amount to about half in size of fixed landlines - ie mobile is 8 times bigger than Skype by total accounts (And hundreds of times bigger in revenues and profits)
Why is voice important - because the internet can only reach those people who know how to read and write. And the planet has 800 million people still who are illiterate. The internet cannot reach those people, but mobile can. An illiterate fisherman can still use his mobile phone to call merchants and negotiate a better price for his catch today. The internet is useless to the illiterate fisherman. Mobile voice services can deliver totally new types of 'mobile radio' services - broadcast 'premium voice' services as paid voice services to deliver news, sports scores and live broadcasts, even music and entertainment. Why not use FM radio for that? Because in many parts of the Emerging World the economics of FM radio cannot deliver the reach to poor villages far from the big metropolitan areas. In India alone there are 200 million people living in villages which are beyond FM radio coverage (obviously also beyond TV coverage and have no newpapers or magazines sold in those small villages) but in villages that do have cellular telecoms coverage! In India such 'mobile radio' services like cricket scores and live games, and Bollywood music hits etc - earn as much money as the total FM radio industry of India. When the phone is not the 7th mass medium, but is the 'only' and certainly the 'first' mass medium, it has a completely disproportionate effect on society. Understand what I mean - for those who have never had ANY media or tech, when they get their first phone, it will be a far bigger change in their lives, than when we upgrade our latest smartphone or sign up to higher speed broadband..
In many parts of the Emerging World the population will go directly from 'no internet' to 'mobile internet' (which means primarly WAP not 'real xTHM type of web') like we see from Sri Lanka to Nigeria. Amd even bigger digital interactive media services will be delivered on MMS Multimedia Messaging services. Don't think of MMS as picture messaging between people - MMS is the world's second-most used digital platform with 1.7 billion active users (second only to SMS, ahead of TV, the internet and personal computers). And MMS is used to deliver news, videos, games, entertainment, advertising etc.
And mobile is the only viable digital platform to deliver services for those 82% of the population of the planet unfortunate to be born into the Emerging World. Smartphones and netbooks will never be a mass market viable economic opportunity in those markets - certainly not economically viable mass market propositions for this decade. But mobile is viable today! Using basic services built on SMS, MMS, WAP and voice - including e-learning/m-learning services, like we see the 400,000 people who have signed up to the mobile phone based English language courses in Bangladesh. The simple lessons and excercizes run daily on the phone, cost less than the local price of a cup of tea, but if a low-income laborer can speak some English, they may get jobs that pay twice as much. Imagine how much your life improves if you find a job that pays twice as much? Imagine the power of self-improvement that m-learning can bring to poorer parts of the world.
So, Google says 'mobile first'. Mobile is far bigger in reach than personal computers or the internet. The three most popular services of the internet are already on mobile and reach a far bigger audience than they do on the internet arleady today. Mobile is newer, is growing faster, and is making far more money (and profits) than the legacy PC based internet.
Mobile is also bigger than any other mass media channel by reach - far bigger than TV or newspapers or cinema or radios even. Mobile is the fastest-growing Trillion-dollar industry of the economic history of mankind and is the only technology in the pocket of every single person on the planet who is considered 'economically viable' ie a potential target customer for any service or product that is sold on the planet. If they can afford to buy a daily newspaper or a bottle of Coca Cola or a cup of tea - even if they don't do so, but if they have enough daily disposable income just to afford that level - they will have a mobile phone. Globally. Only mobile.
They say 'the internet changed everything' but it did not really touch everyone everywhere. Yet everything we can do on the internet today, we can also do on mobile today on smartphones and on mid-price 'feature phones' which practically all have at least an HTML type of browser and reasonably fast "2.5G" data connection. But today more people use browsing services (including WAP) on a mobile phone than do on a personal computer - so already today, the 'mobile internet' can reach a larger audience than the lgacy PC based internet. Already today, if 'the internet changed everything;' - then just on the 'browser-based services' mobile is bigger, and will 'change more of everything'
But beyond the internet services, we have SMS and MMS. So we reach more people and can do far more (simple) interactive services to them with SMS and quite advancede video, sound, picture and longer text communciations via MMS. And these will enable a vast array of new, amazing and popular mobile-only services. Like say airline check in, which can be done on mobile, and today half of Finnair's passengers on its businest routes use mobile phone based check-in (mostly using SMS). Mobile is inherently bigger than the internet.
Then we have money, something that is not inherent to the internet, but is built-into every single mobile phone account on the planet. Money will be a far bigger engine of growth for the mobile services opportunity than what was possible on the internet. How much greater can new services be, like we saw eBay and Amazon appear on the internet. Amazon and eBay needed Paypal and credit cards. On mobile we can take payments without any other registrations and payments-providers.
And we go far beyond even literacy, as mobile has voice services and basic voice IVR services can deliver digital services to even those who cannot read a message on their phone screen, and type simple responses on a keboard (or know which button to hit on a screen of a web page). Fishermen carry mobile phones, farm temporary laborers carry mobile phones. Loggers in the foreestry indsutry carry mobile phones. Illiterate people and teenagers and grandparents carry mobile phones.
The mobile industry is the fastest-ever new industry to grow to reach a Trillion dollars in value. While the global economy crashed in the past 12 months, mobile grew new paying customers, grew revenues and grew profits. This is by far the best economic opportunity for any business in any industry anywhere on the planet. You, whatever your business, team, project or personal career may be - need to adjust to use mobile in it. Digital industries will of course migrate to mobile but its not just digital industries. Its not even just the media industries. Its any industries. If an airline can gain out of mobile or the parking authority of the city or illiterate fishermen can gain from it, even basic education can gain from it - every business, every project and every enterprise can benefit from mobile. This is the biggest economic opportunity of this decade, and of our lifetimes. Do not miss it.
As is our custom here at Communities Dominate blog (did you notice we have no advertising on this blog) we provide more info sources. We have free sources for basic info and paid resources for deeper info. If you want to read the basics of this industry including all the numbers, please read my blog "The Big Picture to Mobile Industry"
If you want the facts in your pocket or your PC to have 84 charts and tables of all the major facts and numbers of the fastest-growing Trillion-dollar industry of all time, I have released the 2010 edition of my Almanac - at only 9.99 Euros, this is a perfect resource for you. See free sample pages and tables at this page Tomi Ahonen Almanac 2010.
And obviously, if your team needs a deeper briefing or workshop or seminar about mobile, I am the most prolific author (9 books on mobile, have written over a million words on mobile business and services) and I have already been seen by public audiences exceeding cumulatively over 100,000 people on all six inhabited continents, plus countless private audiences at numerous Global 500 companies. If you want a workshop or seminar or briefing, I am most happy to support you, send me an email to tomi (at) tomiahonen (dot) com and lets find a suitable time.