I am sitting in Sri Lanka today, at a hotel in the capital city of Colombo, catching up on some emails. I just gave the opening keynote to this country's big annual mobile industry event yesterday and met with many of the leaders of the mobile and digital industries of this youthful and dynamic Asian country, which recently emerged from a long civil war into a time of prosperity, growth and optimism. The ending keynote at the event was given by my dear friend Ralph Simon, who didn't speak about mobile much, nor even about his focus area, the music industry (Ralph is most known inside the industry for his work with the MEF Mobile Entertainment Forum, and in his day job works as the mobile guru for such artists as Madonna, U2 and Lady Gaga). Ralph didn't talk about mobile and music yesterday. He talked about creativity.
LET ME MAKE YOU AN OFFER YOU CAN'T REFUSE
Ralph and I have a shared interest in learning about past technology revolutions, and he mentioned several of my favorites among quotes of tech history (that readers of my books will also be familiar with) such as Western Union not believing in the utility of the telephone, or Digital Equipment Corporation (once one of the biggest computer makers) who didn't believe there would be any use for personal computers in the home. One of the funniest quotes that was new to me, was by Harry Warner (he of Warner Brothers ie yes, Hollywood movies) who said in 1927 "Who the hell wants to hear actors talk."
Do you feel lucky, punk?
Don't call me Shirley
Show me the money!
We found a witch, may we burn her?
There's no crying in baseball!
Always be closing. Always be closing.
These go to eleven..
I have been, and always shall be your friend.
There's no fighting in here, this is the war room!
We don't need no stinking badges.
I love the smell of napalm in the morning.
We come in peace, we come in peace!
Shaken, not stirred.
I can fully understand that when movies were silent, and movies were directed and acted with no sound, some Hollywood studio boss could believe the vision, that movies would have no added value in hearing the actor. But now when we will see James Bond in the latest 007 epic called Skyfall, we will all wait to hear him say the immortal line, "Bond. James Bond." We want to hear him say it. Whether its Daniel Craig today or Sean Connery or Pierce Brosnan or Roger Moore in reruns on cable TV, we want to hear 007 say the line. Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?
It is not surprising that Western Union didn't see voice telephone calls as a viable business, when they were in the telegraph morse-code signalling business. Or that mainframe multi-billion-dollar enterprise giant computer maker DEC didn't see the tiny desktop PC being of any interest to the housewife who might some day want to go on Facebook or YouTube or Skype. And that Warner Brothers didn't think it worth their while to bother to test their actors for speaking voice and in the case of musicals, singing skills.
THE WORLD WILL CHANGE MORE IN THE NEXT TEN YEARS..
I love that quote by Chetan Sharma, that the world will change more in the next ten years than in the previous 100 years. So coming back to Ralph's ending keynote, he then showed lots of areas of tech developments that now are opening areas for enormous creative opportunities as well as often wholescale industry disruption. He had a long list, just a few to mention included biofuels, robotics, 3D printing, nanotechnology and augmented reality. So for example Ralph mentioned that Virgin airlines is already trialling a commercial jet airliner using biofuel on the jet engine (they've flown a commerical jetliner with such an engine, so this is technically fully functional today, but not yet certified for commercial passenger jet use). Meanwhile in Brazil much of the car fleet is capable of using the Brazilian made car fuel based on biofuels. This is a very viable solution to solve the problem of fossil fuels (gasoline and diesel for our cars, jet fuel for our airplanes) with a renewable, farmed fuel. It already is available and used by millions of Brazilians in their cars, and some airlines are experimenting with it for jet planes. How much will that change, revolutionize the car industry, the airplane industry, the oil and petroleum industry?
Cool. Except, that for the automobile industry, there obviously are many other possible fuel issue solutions, like electric and hybrid cars like the Tesla and Toyota Prius. And there are hydrogen fuel options and many other options too. If you surveyed car industry experts, there is not a consensus view of which type of engine will be the future. And that is not necessarily the same solution then for airplanes or trains or shipping or commercial trucking or busses or motorcycles etc.
So yes, biofuels (and 3D printing and nanotech and robotics etc) will be very interesting tech areas for this decade and perhaps even more so, into the next decade. But biofuels are not necessarily the specific way that all currently gasoline and diesel powered piston engines will be replaced before fossil fuels run out.
MOBILE CHANGES.. EVERYTHING
So then lets come closer to home. What of mobile then? Not such a 'futuristic' tech, mobile is reality today. We'll have more mobile phone accounts in use than total human population on the planet, in now less than 12 months from today (we are already past 6.2 Billion mobile subscriptions for a planet of 7 Billion people, now at the end of May of 2012). But remember those quotes of technologies 'not' relevant to their industry leaders? Like telephony for Western Union or home PCs for then-computer giant DEC? What are major global industry leaders saying about mobile?
Its no surprise that major telecoms industry bosses have said for a decade now, that the future of telecoms is obviously mobile. Some industries were radically disrputed before they even noticed - where did Minolta, Konika, Kodak and Polaroid go? The world's bestselling camera brands today are not Canon or Nikon either. The bestselling camera brand globally today is Samsung. Second is Nokia. Third is the Apple iPhone. So clearly there was some of that error made by other industries, not anticipating a mobile revolution.
However, in mobile for the most part, the revolution was actually seen and expected even. In the past decade many industries did foresee the mobile revolution. The industry giants of their respective industries did see it, and said in public that the future was mobile. In the past decacde, so said leaders of the internet. So said Google and Yahoo! in the middle of the past decade. The computer industry was a bit slower but after the iPhone, they too came to that conclusion and since 2007 we've heard each of the big 6 PC makers say the future of the computer industry is mobile. So said HP, Dell, Acer, Lenovo, Toshiba and yes, of course, so too said the company once officially known as Apple Computer.
The TV industry found mobile early too, from MTV to the BBC. The BBC's director general said that soon all broadcast content would be available on mobile phones, as today we can see much of the content already for example via YouTube on our smartphones. And this is before we add those mobile phones that have inbuilt FM radios and TV tuners.
The print publishing industry was a bit slower to come onboard the mobile revolution but they have recently been fully converted. We heard last year that the Associated Press annual conference for the managing editors of many of the biggest newspapers, announce boldly that the future of news was.. mobile.
The advertising industry has already found that future in mobile, as has the music industry, and the videogaming industry. Then some of the more esoteric parts. What of money? Sweden became the first country to start deliberations on the government level of the ending of cash money - to be replaced by digital money, primarily for consumers the main mechanism to be .. mobile money. Visa said last year that the future of payments is.. mobile. Kenya is currently the global leader, 40% of the Kenyan GDP - yes of the total Kenyan economy - already transits mobile phones as payments. And Turkey was the first country to give a target date for the end of cash: year 2025 is their target when mobile money may have claimed its first national cash currency victim, as becoming extinct.
We don't see many of those events for a globally successful consumer technology happening in our lifetimes. Telephones existed before we were born and even on the landline side, no end is even in sight. The telegraph did recently end, more or less. The video cassette recorder (remember those?) did recently also die, replaced by the DVD. Records, ie music recordings, had a near-death experience for vinyl format recordings, but they are now a collectors' format and see steady specialist sales. And while yes, music CD sales are in perennial decline, its not time yet to throw away the CD player. Centuries long icons like the print media - even after Kindle, printed books still sell in the millions. Newspapers are slowly dying in some cities like New Orleans just some days ago, but in India newspapers still are growing circulations and in many towns free newspapers are still growing. Cinema was supposed to die when TV came to the homes. Try telling that to Hollywood, Bollywood and Nollywood haha..
But yes, money? Most of the readers of this blog will still be alive when the first countries shut down the production of cash money, coins and banknotes. That is a history of several thousand years of coins and several hundred years of banknotes. Their time is coming to an end. We will witness the end of cash. Wow. Killed not by plastic money like credit cards. Not killed by eCash and internet money like Paypal. No. Killed by mobile.
I was there to see the birth of the worldwide web, working for New York's first ISP, a computer networking company called OCSNY (they are still in business, on 14th street). I often remember hearing that mantra, that the internet changed everything. It did change so many industries from travel ticket sales so research (Google search, anybody?). But the internet did not change 'everything'. Not even nearly everything. The fisherman here in Sri Lanka does not need the internet on his little boat. The farmer over next door in India doesn't need the internet to irrigate his farm. The lumberjack in Brazil's rain forest doesn't need the internet to decide which tree to fell. Yes, the internet changed many industries, book sales, music sales, video and TV distribution, various government and enterprise contract purchases and bidding, etc; but it did not change everything. Not even close.
Then I was lucky to work in Finland for Elisa (owner of Radiolinja the world's first digital cellular provider ie first 2G mobile network), so I saw first hand the emergence of the mobile digital data revolution. When did you first send a message from a mobile phone to another mobile phone? I did that in 1995. When did you first download something to your phone? I downloaded my first ringing tone in 1998 literally days after this was technically possible. When did you first make a payment on your mobile phone? I tried this innovation thirteen years ago. And while I had worked for an internet company in America, and a mobile operator/carrier in Finland, the culmination of my actual work in this industry came from my next job, at Nokia, where I helped develop the first thinking of how the internet would be brought to mobile (I wrote the first White Paper ever to discuss that path for the industry).
So I have exceptional context and a personal close view to the birth of both industries. The internet claimed it changed everything. It didn't. Mobile, however, IS changing everything. Remember back 10-12 years ago, most people in the music industry were worried about Napster suddenly disrupting the music industry. Amazon was yes, changing the bookselling industry. Some very foresighted advertising executives were believing in ads on the internet, etc. But we did not hear giants of other major industries worrying about the internet. Now look at the past five years. TV, internet, PC, music, gaming, newsmedia, advertising, money - have all said their industry is going to be headed to .. mobile!
Then think of all the other industries that are now discovering mobile. Travel? Did you know that a 2011 survey by SITA and Air Traveller World found that 17% of the world's airline travellers have already used a mobile phone based m-boarding pass. I am not suggesting mobile phones will replace Boeing and Airbus jet airlines (at least, not yet. Not before we get Star Trek style 'teleportation' haha). But yes, the airline ticket, the boarding pass, the cumbersome and expensive paper-based verification of our right to board and fly on an airplane, is being replaced.. not by the internet, but by mobile!
What of retail? We heard last year of the radical innovations of billboard-poster based 'virtual retail' out of Seoul South Korea, by Tesco's local affiliate Home Plus. They doubled their retail sales of groceries, by installing some shopping billboards in subway/underground train stations. A retail grocery store suddenly doubling sales? Without opening any new stores? How is that possible? Through mobile of course. As I keep teaching, Mobile is the Magical Money-Making Machine. That idea from Korea is now spreading from Prague to Singapore. Meanwhile surveys find that half of shoppers in retail stores have changed their minds of what to buy, based on what they found on their phones - while in the store! Retail is going through a comprehensive traumatic radical revolution. Remember the music stores and Blockbuster video rentals and travel stores that we used to see in every shopping street. They're all gone now. That was killed by the internet. What retail now sees, is a far more comprehensive radical revolution, touching every retail establishment, and changing human behavior far more rapidly - driven by mobile!
Hotels? Are now already installing hotel room door locks that can be operated by your mobile phone, rather than that plastic card they issue at the front desk. Schools? The smart ones are already changing rules, not forbidding phones from class, but rather encouraging kids to bring phones to class and teachers interacting with students - using their mobile phones, like they do for example in New Zealand. In South Africa they had a student math project to let students do math problems on their phones in their free time to practise - so much of math is repetition, practise - and the math scores for the 3,000 students who participated, went up by a whole letter grade! Imagine the power of that! Restaurants are starting to integrate mobile into the dining experience from making your order to paying. Mobile is changing our education, our healthcare, our government, our politics..
And farming. Yes. In India for example you can control your irrigation via SMS remote control. In fishing. Many fishermen now use their mobile phones to do efficient negotiation of the prices for their daily catch, as they arrive near the shore and reach cellular network coverage. The markets, restaurants and stores will get more fresh fish, the fisherman doesn't need to rush with his catch across town to hunt for a good bargain, and he ends up getting a better price for his catch. And those lumberjacks? In some of the most advaned digital nations, like Sweden and Finland, where forestry management is a high tech science, they do use mobile GSM and GPS chips to 'tag' the trees to be felled, and what sawmills will be used for the best use of that given tree. A tree might find parts of it going to six separate wood and pulp products, under very efficent modern forestry management. But for that, you have to have accurate information and tracking - all done with the help of.. mobile!
Go back in history. Never, ever, ever, in any 10 year period, has there been such a complete wide-ranging consensus, of the total transformative impact of one technology across so many other giant, global industries. Even when electricity was being introduced, it did not impact such a total wide range of industries in such a short period of time. Neither did the telephone, or radio, or the internet. Yet mobile is. Think about it. Music, gaming, TV and radio, newsmedia, telecoms, cameras, computers, the internet itself, travel, retail, farming, fishing, forestry, hotels, government, politics, restaurants, education, healthcare.. I mean, what is left? Mining? Ok. I will grant you, many inside deep mines do not have much use for cellular mobile technology, as the cellular signal does not penetrate deep under ground. But most of the human activity we use today, does take advantage of mobile technology; often in truly transformative ways. Cars? Your GPS navigation and remote accident assistance and even your car keys - are now, or will soon be, operated by your mobile phone. Diapers? Yes, soon you don't need to check your baby, they already now sell baby clothes with moisture sensors that will send you an SMS to alert you when the baby needs changing. Lost your dog? a GPS collar will help you locate the dog and they have the dog-to-human translator service that translated dog barking to SMS text messages, so you know if your dog is hungry etc. Or your plants? Sure. That's existed for several years already, to let you know when your delicated plant with its particularly sensitive watering needs, needs to be watered. You are informed by.. mobile of course.
THE OTHER BIG TRENDS
If you still are one of those 'believers' who think the future belongs to the internet - just remember, Google, Yahoo! and most of the other major internet giants have said (years ago) that the future of the internet itself, is mobile. That is why Google's development strategy for many years already has been 'mobile first'. What of 'social media' then? Facebook, Twitter, YouTube etc? Sure. But those all say that the future of social media is .. mobile. Twitter already sees more than half of its users on mobile. Facebook hit that point this year February, when half of its users had migrated to mobile. This is an irreversable trend. And what of 'cloud computing' then? Ask the big experts in cloud computing, and they will say, almost in consensus, that the interface to the cloud will primarily be... mobile.
THE EXECUTIVE MOMENT
When I heard Sheena Iyengar speak at the TEDx event we had in Mongkok Hong Kong two weeks ago (where I also spoke) - she said that most CEOs will give on average less than 9 minutes of time, to making most of their decisions.
But the strategically thinking executive should stop here today. If I say that:
The telecoms industry says the future of telecoms is.. mobile
The broadcast TV & radio indsutry says the future of broadcast is.. mobile
The internet industry says the future of the internet is.. mobile
The advertising industry says the future of advertising is.. mobile
The money industry says the future of money is.. mobile
The computer industry says the future of computers is.. mobile
The newsmedia and newspaper industry says its future is.. mobile
The social media industry says its future is.. mobile
And almost any other industry uses at least some of those above industries in significant ways - then the executive should stop here, and give us more than 9 minutes.
If I then add that almsot every major industry today is being disrupted by mobile including:
Retail is being disrupted by mobile
Travel is being disrupted by mobile
Restaurants are being disrupted by mobile
Schools and education is being disrupted by mobile
Healthcare is being disrputed by mobile
Hotels are being disrupted by mobile
Our homes and household tech is being disrputed by mobile
Governments and politics is being disrputed by mobile
Farming, Fishing, Forestry ie being disrupted by mobile
Its time to take mobile seriously.
It is almost impossible to find an industry or type of human activity that is not pursuing mobile today. I have recently spoken to a major recruitment and career development company about using mobile. I talked to the conference producing industry about using mobile. I've met watch-makers who explore mobile. I've seen clothing manufacturers with interests in adding mobile. When I take the taxi back to the airport, I'll inevitably talk to the taxi driver about how he or she uses mobile to help his or her taxi-driving business and clients. I wrote recently about the Blackberry Cop solution for policemen to use smartphones in their work.. I really have tried, and so far found only the area of mining as a major industry where mobiles are not currently used (much). I mean, I did talk to a petroleum engineer in the Middle East recently and yes, they too use mobile and have in some oilfields asked the operator/carrier to expand the cellular coverage into part of their oilfields so they can have efficient connectivity to their employees (and also the telematics controls that often use mobile tech). I've spoken and written about cattle hearding that cows for example are being connected to the cellular network now for efficient cow management (and sheep too).
Maybe in the next decade our lives will be revolutionized by nanotech or robotics or biofuels or whatnot. But if you are an executive today, your business is being disrupted by the gadget in every pocket - mobile.
In almost any industry, profession, and type of human activity, if you are not adding mobile to your strategy - and using it well - you will go the way of Kodak and Polaroid and Western Union and Digital Equipment Corporation. Your business will be as relevant as Blockbuster video rentals are today.
So your world was up-ended today. Sorry about that (that is my day job, I do this for a living haha). How do you now find a new equilibrium to your life. How do you know the facts? How can you study and understand this industry now? Is mobile a threat to you like it killed Kodak and Polaroid, or is it a friend to you like it is to TV shows like American Idol who earn millions more through TV-voting via SMS. How can you understand mobile? Good question.
Mobile phones today outnumber all TV sets on the planet by 3 to 1. Mobile phones outnumber all personal computers of any type, including desktops, laptops and tablet PCs like the iPad - combined - by more than 4 to 1. SMS text messaging users - that you may be forgiven to think is only for the youth - actually globally has 5 times more users than total user base of Facebook! Mobile phone users outnumber newspaper daily circulations by more than 10 to 1. You like your iPhone or Blackberry or Android? Me too. But most people who use a mobile phone today do not have a smartphone. So how do you connect with your customers, your audience, your patients, your students, your electorate, using mobile? It starts with SMS and voice calls. You can add MMS, WAP and HTML internet to reach most pockets, and USSD in much of the Emerging World. More advanced technologies also exist like QR codes, Bluetooth and NFC. Smartphone apps will only get you to roughly half of the mobile phone users in the Industrialized World, and to only about one in ten people in the Emerging World markets where most of the planet's population lives.
So what of Android or iPhone? What of Windows or Blackberry? What of color screens, cameraphone resolutions, prepaid or postpaid, multiple phone users, etc? Yes. I know I know, this is complex and difficult. I have some good resources for you.
WELCOME TO YOUR FUTURE
First - welcome to the future. Yes. Your career success, this decade, will depend on how well you execute your mobile strategy. Your competitors are already doing it. Can you do it better? Remember, over 50% of consumers in retail shops already have changed their minds inside the store - because of something they saw or heard on their mobile phones. One in six airline passengers has already experienced the convenience of a boarding pass issued directly to the mobile phone, no paper ticketing needed. You cannot go back. Your career success will depend on outperforming your competitors on your mobile strategy. Its that simple. If you are a hotel chain and of course you are trialling mobile phone based locks - what is the next step beyond that. How do you capitalize on this obvious idea, to use the full power of mobile, beyond just the locks or booking room sales or offering your room service menu. If you are a dentist or hairdresser, you probably are already sending SMS reminders so you don't have as many missed appointments. If you are in insurance, if you are in furniture sales, if you are a florist, if you are in professional sports.. whatever. You already have mobile on your to-do list. Time to move it up on the priorities.
FOLLOW-UP 4 June. I have just written a follow-up piece with 10 major milestones coming in the next few years in mobile. These will shake the worlds of telecoms, television, the internet, PCs, etc. Read 10 Major Milestones.
So yes, I will give you three great resources. First - the facts and numbers. This is a complex, rapidly evolving industry. I publish an annual industry report. The good news, I made the 2010 edition of the TomiAhonen Almanac a totally free full version as an ebook. It is formated for the small screen so you can read it on your iPhone, Blackberry or Samsung Galaxy and carry all the recent mobile industry stats in your pocket. It is not totally 'current' but that does not matter. It is recent enough, to give you the big picture so you don't accidentially pursue some totally meaningless sliver of this industry like say Windows based smartphones (which will only reach 1% of all pockets of mobile phones users worldwide). Download your own TomiAhonen Almanac 2010 Freeware edition now.
Secondly, I wrote a guidebook for you last year. It is my 10th book, and while my other books are paid books, we made this 10th anniversary book a totally free ebook. It is 350 pages of my best insights, entitled the Insider's Guide to Mobile. It is not a specialist volume about media or music or advertising or messaging in mobile. It is a general volume for readers who are new to mobile, but would like to understand the consumers, the major players, the major content and service formats, the business models, and issues such as privacy, etc. In the book I also explore some of the widely-held myths about this industry. The Insider's Guide to Mobile is an unrestricted pdf file that you can also share with your colleagues. It is in 'normal' screen format so you're best off reading it with a laptop or Kindle or iPad, it is not well suited for tiny screens of smartphones.
And finally, if you are serious about mobile, and don't just want to understand what mobile looks like today, but would like to understand what this industry itself is doing. How it is evolving. How this industry will be like in a few years. Will it be iPhone or Android or Windows. How many will have 3G connections or prepaid accounts or second phones. How many will receive ads on phones or how many will use SMS text messaging (and how much will OTT providers cannibalize of that), etc. I have just released a forecast into the next few years. It is in ebook format and covers the 110 most significant data points of this industry, and gives the forecast for the years 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. So you get 440 forecasted data points to help you plan for the future. To see more, please visit the pages of the TomiAhonen Mobile Forecast 2012-2015. This is not a free resource, but when you see the price, I think it will make you smile. Your business won't go bankrupt on that purchase decision. In fact, you don't need to seek budgetary approval for it either. But see more, including full table of contents at TomiAhonen Mobile Forecast 2012-2015
And if you wonder whether I have any credibility in this industry, yes, I have been offering forecasts for the mobile industry now for more than 15 years chairing its major forecasting conferences. I headed Nokia's consulting department a decade ago and my forecasts are regularly quoted in the major press from the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times onto local papers in dozens of languages such as here in Sri Lanka the Daily News quoted me today on mobile industry stats and near term forecasts. And yes, Forbes identified the list of the most influential experts of the mobile industry in January 2012. I was rated number 1 on that list. I think you can take it rather safely, that Tomi probably knows what he is talking about. So yes, my books and theories (and stats and forecasts) are referenced in over 120 published books by my peers, so yes, my views are held in high esteem by the mobile industry itself. If you are new to mobile, and want to know what is happening here, it might be useful to listen to someone who has studied it and written books about it for more than a decade. So please take a look at all the forecasted items I have for you in the TomiAhonen Mobile Forecast 2012-2015.
Besides, who needs speaking actors anyway, eh? What movie could possibly be better with "May the force be with you" or "We're on a mission from God" or "Carpe Diem. Seize the day, boys."
FOLLOW-UP 4 June. I have just written a follow-up piece with 10 major milestones coming in the next few years in mobile. These will shake the worlds of telecoms, television, the internet, PCs, etc. Read 10 Major Milestones.