Welcome to my occasional ‘new year’s blog’ about the big picture, written for executives considering some new strategies for the new year. So you decided you’ll get into mobile now? Maybe convinced to try ‘mobile first’. Well, welcome. This is your primer. I will explain the big picture of why 'mobile first' in 2,500 words.
BIGGER THAN YOU THOUGHT
- more than TVs, PCs, cars
- more than credit cards, bank accounts
- more than people with running water, electricity
- more than wristwatch or pen and paper
More mobiles than humans yes, you had read that. But that is unprecedented by any tech, more people have mobiles than TVs, PCs or cars yes. But also more than credit cards or bank accounts. More people have mobiles than have running water or electricity or even have a roof over their heads. More people use mobile phones than wear a wristwatch or have any use for paper and pencil. But even illiterate people can use a mobile - and do. Homeless people have mobile phones. Refugees who abandon everything else, bring their mobiles. There has never been anything like mobile. You thought you were prepared and had internalized how massive mobile was. You miscalculated. Its far bigger.
FAST FASTER FASTEST
- faster than landline phone
- faster than internet email and browsing
- faster than social media like Facebook and Twitter
The telephone made the world move faster. Telephony gave us such tech as the fax. The internet was far faster than the phone with tech like email and the browser. Social Media is faster yet, led by Facebook and Twitter. Mobile is all that. Only faster. Telephone calls went to mobile. The internet is shifting to mobile. Social media is almost totally mobile already. Mobile does all that but only faster still. Everything you ever learned about the power of faster, applies to mobile only its even faster still. Only 20% of emails are opened. 97% of SMS text messages are opened! Average response time for email is 48 hours. Text messages get average response in 3 minutes! Your competion? They probably already knew all this.
- Not just PC and internet
- camera, media player
- payment instrument
- clock and alarm
The PC was the most versatile tech that humankind had seen. The internet supercharged that. Mobile is both a PC and the internet, but mobile is much more than what the PC and internet are, or indeed can ever become. A selfie camera? A payment instrument at Starbucks? An emergency flashlight when the lights go out? A map with perfect GPS positioning? Your alarm clock? Mobile is by far the most versatile gadget that humankind has ever created. This means its the ultimate ‘Swiss Army Knife’ of do-anything, be-anything miracle machine. Yet mobile is still young and evolving.
- adding complexity to telephony
- adding difficulty to the computer
- adding challenge to the internet
- adding abilities not on landline phones, PCs, or the internet
Mobile is versatile. That means its complex. The Mobile industry is the most complex major industry on the planet. Consider it has to do all the telephone industry did, but do it now with full mobility (and globally). Consider it has to do all the PC industry did, but without a keyboard or mouse, all on touch-screens. Consider it has to do all the internet did, but on a far smaller screen and wirelessly. Yet it also does payments, cameras, location-precision, etc. The most complex industry ever. And far more difficult than rocket science. That means a lot of confusion, bad info, mistakes and poor judgement. It means also huge opportunities. As the mistakes are plentiful, and the growth rate breathtaking, it means some win big (Google, Apple), others fail miserably (Yahoo, Nokia). You cannot afford to make blatant, obvious mistakes when the stakes are so high.
USED WITH ALL OTHER MEDIA
- used with all other media
- creates feedback channel that most media do not have
- used to measure audiences and participation
This is a weird one, but should give you pause. Do you listen to your radio while watching a movie in the cinema? Do you read a newspaper while surfing the internet? Do you carry your TV with you while reading the ad on a billboard as you drive across town in a car or bus? Sometimes we may have the radio on for background music while reading a newspaper. We may have the TV on while surfing on the internet. But no media or tech has ever been participating - participating simultaneously - in our consumption of ANOTHER media. Television asks us to vote via mobile phones. Radio asks for audience opinions via mobile. Newspapers ask for readers to send in ‘citizen journalism’ photograps via mobile. What happens if you lose your password to your email service? They will send the security code.. to your mobile phone! When a movie ends in the cinema, the first messages are sent while the end credits are rolling is, telling friends if that movie was worth seeing. Even billboads are building interactivity, through mobile. There has never been one media that interjects itself into all other media! Mobile (and only mobile) already can be used with all other media. And that is only spreading and expanding. Partly because nothing is as easy to measure as mobile. I call mobile the magical measurement machine.
221 TIMES PER DAY
- as addictive as cigarette smoking
- we look at phone 221 times per day
Mobile is the most addictive tech there has ever been. University studies have measured the mobile addiction to be similar to that of cigarette smoking. TV, radio, even the internet do not get that level of addiction. This is not hype. This has been measured in university studies across the planet. As addictive as cigarette smoking. There is no going back. Our mobile habit will only get ever more involved and ever more intense, ie more addicted. The average mobile phone user looks at his or her phone 150 times per day. For smartphone users, its 221 times per day. No other gadget or media or tech produces as intense relevance nor as intense withdrawal symptoms if we are without it. When ranking possessions and valuables, mobile trumps wallets, credit cards, tablets, and family heirloom photographs. All this has been tested and reported. Which means, the relevance of mobile to humankind is only getting more intense, personal and powerful.
FASTEST GROWING GIANT INDUSTRY EVER
- one of rare Trillion-dollar industry size
- fastest to Trillion, ever
- still growing at fastest rate
- fastest way to wealth
Mobile is one of rare Trillion-dollar sized industries (1,000 Billion dollars in annual revenues). TV, cinema, personal computers, videogames, newspapers, the internet, etc are nowhere near that size and never have been that big. What are so big? Cars are a Trillion dollar global industry. Armaments are a Trillion dollar industry. Food, construction, banking, healthcare.. about a dozen industries rank in the Trillions. Mobile became a Trillion dollar industry in only 29 years from launch. That was a world record (it still stands). Mobile is literally, the fastest-growing giant industry of the economic history of humankind. You understand strategy. You undestand money. The fastest-growing industry ever? It means, mobile also has produced, and is producing more wealth than any industry ever in any comparable time. More millionaires, more Billionaires. More successful startups and more success to big corporations. Apple was on the brink of bankruptcy two decades ago. Today its the most profitable company that ever existed. Apple didn’t build its profits on the Mac or iPod or iTunes or iPad. Most of Apple’s profits come.. from mobile. If you are not going to pursue the mobile side of your business, your competitors will bury you.
- tech companies
- credit cards
As the opportunity to ‘get rich quick’ is set to a whole new level with mobile, that attracts every conceivable rival. Not just tech and media giants like Apple a computer maker, Google an internet giant, BBC a broadcaster or Sony a home electronics giant; but companies utterly outside the realm of possible competitors to Vodafone, Verizon, China Mobile, T-Mobile and Telefonica. Companies such as Starbucks, the second largest restaurant chain on the planet whose CEO says the most important thing to its future is.. mobile. Starbucks has just become - in only 3 years - the most used ‘stored value’ mobile wallet provider on the planet. Home Depot, the world’s largest retailer for tools, says mobile gives it an ‘endless aisle’ where it can sell 10 times more tools than in its largest superstore. Visa the largest credit card company says the future of payments is not plastic nor electronic cash, but mobile. Car manufacturers, airlines, hotels, almost any industry is suddenly racing into mobile. Pepsi just launched a smartphone in China. The unprecedented breadth of competitors means, you can be destroyed at your own game. In year 2000 the world’s largest camera manufacturers were Minolta, Nikon, Konica and Canon. That year Nokia, Apple and Samsung didn’t sell any cameras. Only ten years later the most used cameras on the planet were on phones made by Nokia, Samsung and Apple. Meanwhile, Minolta and Konica had quit the camera business.
The government of Singapore offers all government services through mobile except for passports. Estonia was first country to hold a national election where citizens could vote via mobile. UAE became the first country to issue national driver’s licences in mobile versions. Kenya will let you register your company by mobile. Spain was the first country where contract signatures could be signed by simple SMS text message. Norway became the first country where you can file your tax return not just with mobile, but for most taxpayers, by simple text message. Sweden intends to become the first country to eliminate cash; 80% of its bus tickets for example are paid by mobile. To eliminate cash. In our lifetime. Cash has been around for over 3,000 years. We will live to see its end. Not killed by plastic credit cards or Paypal or bitcoins. Mobile will kill cash. Not my words, the words of Visa the largest credit card company. Coca Cola, the largest beverage company has already launched a virtual currency as part of its loyalty program... of course on mobile. The mobile industry is the most creative technical and business opportunity that ever existed.
MOST VOLATILE MEANS BIGGEST RISK
- rapid shifts from top to oblivion and reverse
- never to this extent in any other industry like cars, airplanes, PCs
- big risk of failure brings also big risk of huge success
The rapid speed of the industry, the huge complexity, the rapid evolution, and the ever increasing number of rivals and competitors, keep shifting the landscape and changing the rules, creating unprecedented volatility. No giant global industry has ever seen in a 2 year period its number 1 player fall outside the Top 3, simultaneously its number 4 player leapfrog numbers 2 and 3, to become number, 1 unless some kind of massive corporate fraud was involved (Enron) or a catastrophic incident (Pan Am bombing). Nokia was the world’s largest smartphone maker in 2010. Blackberry was number 2, Apple number 3, Samsung number 4. Nokia was four times the size of Samsung. By 2012, in two years, Nokia was out of the Top 5 and Samsung was number 1. This didn’t happen with Ford, Toyota, GM and Volkswagen. This didn’t happen with Airbus, Boeing, McDonnell-Douglas and Tupolev. This didn’t happen with HP, Dell, Compaq and Lenovo. When there is a change at the top of any other major industry, it is a slow process that is signaled well in advance and the number two becomes the new leader and the past leader only falls to number 2, etc. But mobile is literally the giant industry of the greatest risk. Risk to fail, but also risk to succeed - beyond one’s wildest dreams. You have to be bold, and you must have a clear strategic focus.
EVERYTHING ELSE IS SUBSERVIENT
- Cloud: mostly through mobile
- Social Media: going fully into mobile
- Internet of Things (IoT): cannot live without mobile
- Big Data: needs mobile
So you hear all the other pitches. Someone says you need to focus on the cloud, or on social media, or on big data, or on the internet of things. Or whatnot. There is one unifying theme to all those hot tech stories. Yes, that is only mobile. Cloud computing will be pretty worthless without mobile. Its like building an airplane without the wings. Maybe a comfortable tube to sit in but it isn’t goint to take you anywhere. Social media is already mostly mobile and going fully mobile, so say all its leaders starting with Facebook and Twitter. The Internet of Things will not be all mobile, but most of the connectivity across the ‘things’ will transit mobile part of the way if not all the way. The internet of things without mobile is just things. And Big Data. Having Big Data without mobile is like having a car without its gasoline (or diesel, or ok, electric car, without electricity). Whatever other big tech projects you have, mobile is integral to them or supersedes them (or both).
Largest, And fastest. Also most versatile. And most complex. Also the most addictive. Only one used with all other media. Also fastest-growing, as well as most competitive. Plus its most volatile. Finally all other major tech trends are either subservient to, or superceded by.. mobile. Any ONE of those ten reasons alone, would justify you to increase your focus to mobile this year. But nothing in human history has been this pervasive nor this impactful. Not water viaducts, not the steam engine, not electricity, not the telegraph, not the telephone, not cars, not airplanes, not rockets, not the computer, not nuclear power and not the internet. Nothing has changed humankind as much as mobile has done in the past two decades - and we are not even at full speed yet. The best days of mobile are only now starting. Largest, fastest, most versatile and most complex. Most addictive and used with other media. Fastest-growing, most competitive and most volatile. And the other hot tech topics, Cloud Computing, Social Media, Internet of Things and Big Data - all depend on or will be replaced by.. mobile.
Nobody else explained all this to you, so thoroughly, comprehensively, and yet simply and powerfully. If this article turns out to be true, your life now changed and this is the one article that opened you eyes and changed literally everything. (You’re welcome.) So that was 2,500 of the most powerful words you've read in a long time, maybe ever. Now what? May I offer you 2,500 words more on 'what next'?
NOW YOU GET IT
So now your eyes have been opened. Now let me summarize your mission. You need four things. You need to understand, you need to involve, you need to see, and you need to plan. You, personally, have to understand. You do not yet understand. This blog was only your first real step to ‘fully’ understand. Congratulations. But its only a first step .If Mobile was so easy you could get it in 2,500 words, everybody would master mobile by now. No, you need to now study it. You will need to re-read this blog several times in the coming days, weeks and months. Its far too overwhelming to get it all in one read. So obviously bookmark this, and right now. Read it again - but gosh darn it, this is the roadmap to the rest of your life. READ IT FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE WITH TIME AND THOUGHT, this time. THINK as you read. TAKE NOTES. But thats not enough. This is only the teaser.
Your eyes have been opened but you yourself do not yet even know or understand. So you need to get the facts, numbers, case studies relating to mobile... for your industry. I cannot help you with that. I am not an expert on airlines or restaurants or banking or cars or apparel retail or cosmetics or beer or farming or fishing or forest management. Your industry already has some mobilistas and some are reporting the relevant numbers and case studies for you. That is where you need to go next, starting tomorrow. But today. Just take a pause. Your life has been shattered beyond recognition. Now let your mind take it in, go do whatever you do to relax, play golf, jog, swim, drive, read a fiction novel, whatever relaxes you. Don’t try to get more crammed in, today. Its too much. Let your subconscious get to grips with how totally all your plans were wrecked just now. You won’t be making rational decisions until that is back in balance. So yes, re-read this article once, end up there where this 4-point action plan starts. And then go think. Take the rest of the day off, relax, and let your mind absorb it. Sleep well. Tomorrow come back and re-read this article to ensure you haven’t been mistaken. And if tomorrow you still feel, your life has now changed, then seek the insights and real knowledge beyond this short article or ‘teaser’ if you will.
Then secondly, you have to get your team to also understand. Some of them will think they do. They have no idea. You now know, that they cannot know (except perhaps the one who led you here to this blog). Yet they will think they do. Its your biggest challenge, to open their eyes enough, that they see it as fully as you now see it. Unless they all read this article (and essentially memorize it) they will not be onboard on the journey you will lead. If they do not ‘get it’ about mobile, they will slow you down and cause friction on the journey. So your biggest challenge is to get them to read and believe this blog article. But once they have internalized it, hold onto your hat. Then its off to the moon, no its off to Mars, no; its off to Alfa Centauri.
Next, thirdly, you need to understand what comes next. Anyone bright enough can explain what HAS HAPPENED up to now. It takes a totally different level of competence to guide you into the future. You might want to consult first what the most accurate forecaster of the most complex industry, and fastest-growing industry, and most volatile industry, yes the most accurate forecaster of mobile has written. This is your bible to the immediate next few years: TomiAhonen Mobile Forecast 2014-2018
And finally, fourth, you will need a plan. At first it need not be very precise, you have to get going and into the right direction. Your plan must be flexible and seize emerging opportunities as they inevitably emerge. It must be relevant to your industry or organization or project. Your team will help when they’ve read this blog (and the Forecast). But don’t try to invent it all now. If you have the time, read. My book Mobile as 7th of the Mass Media could be a good intro volume if you enjoy traditional hardcover books (don’t worry its not too technical). I will list here a series of my blog articles that might also be of interest. But it depends on your focus area, you may be far better served by consulting the ‘top mobilista’ of your industry rather than some generalist like me. So if you’re in healthcare, read what David Doherty is writing. Or if you’re in banking, what Dave Birch is saying. Or if you’re in religion, read what Antoine RJ Wright preaches about mobile, etc. There is a mobilista for almost any industry by now.
If you are in a position to control a budget, then your best investment right now is to get professional guidance to get your staff up to speed the fastest. The assistance of a true expert now, at the start with your team, is of most utility. Later when your team has been at it for months or years, the value of such gurus is far less, while it can still be remarkable. Right now, if you possibly can afford it, get professional help. Remember, the most complex, fast-moving and volatile industry. Its far too easy to be led astray.
There are tens of thousands who claim to know mobile. Many talk a good game. Most don’t know mobile even rudimentally enough to answer correctly HALF of the points I made in this short blog. In other words: buyer beware. There are thousands who have credentials that seem at least on paper to be good. Many are. Many more are not. There are hundreds who have joined me as authors. Some books are brilliant. Others are bullshit. You won’t yet be able to tell which is which because the industry moved so fast, that even the reviews on Amazon can be misleading. But there is a small class of supergurus who really know this industry and who tend to be known - and trusted - and quoted - by all the others. Who have lived this industry from before the advent of the ‘Jesusphone’ by Apple. Most of these are authors so their peers have read their thoughts and these are still standing while many others who wrote some silly book somewhere, have long since vanished into oblivion, banished from our industry as fools.
This is a starting point for you to consider when seeking true mobilista supergurus, indeed rockstars, who can guide you (in totally random order, I actually ran them through random number generator so I wouldn’t give bias), such as Paul Berney and Gerd Leonhard and Jonathan MacDonald and Peggy Anne Salz and Michael Becker and Chetan Sharma and Kei Shimada and Ajit Jaokar and Lars Cosh-Ishii and Russell Buckley and Jari Tammisto and Dan Appelquist and Kim Dushinski and Jouko Ahvenainen and Christian Lindholm and Voytek Siewierski and Madanmohan Rao and Martin Feldstein and Zahid Ghadiali and Helen Keegan and Milind Pathak and Antti Ohrling and Walter Adamson and Gary Schwartz and Ralph Simon and David Birch and Rory Sutherland and Peter Bruck and Tony Fish and Yomi Adegboye and Kerstin Trikalitis and Maarten Lens-Fitzgerald and Johan Ragnevad and Christopher Billich and Sami Makelainen and Olof Schybergson and Benjamin Joffe and David Wood and Dorothy Gordon and Mark Curtis and Dan Virtopeanu and Andreas Constantinou and Barbara Ballard and Bruce Burke and Martin Wilson and Caroline Lewko and Rohit Dadwal and Gibson Tang and Jan Chipchase and Martin Geddes and Andy Zain and Mark Bole and Paul Golding and Michael O’Farrell and Scott Seaborn and Andrew Grill and Rafe Blanford and Agustin Calvo and C Enrique Ortiz and Raimo van der Klein and of course many more that I now just forgot to mention. But from the above list you should find several good candidates who also specialize somewhat in the areas you work in, and who also are probably near you or can handle the major international languages that you may need if not English.
If you can find a slot of time in my calendar, even I can be brought to run a workshop or seminar or strategy session with your team - probably with one or two of the above gurus joining us. (I’m not cheap but I will come to wherever you are, if we can find the slot in my calendar. I’ve been to 112 countries and counting) (PS. If your company happens to sponsor Formula 1 or is involved in some way with James Bond movies, or NHL or world championship ice hockey.. then.. I might suddenly find extra room in my calendar even for new clients haha)
MY FOUR BLOGS FOR YOU
- What is ‘mobile first’
- What is coming in next few years
- Why Big Data is most profitable part of mobile future
- Digital Convergence and Mobile
Now if you want four LONG articles. These are typically well over 10,000 words in length or a full chapter in one of my hardcover books. I have four for you. I urge you to read them in this order (and I apologize, they do have considerable repetition as they are intended to be self-contained and weren’t designed to be read in a sequence, differing from say chapters in my books). They are so long, you should not read more than one per day.
Article 1 - What is Mobile First. Many talk about mobile first. But then they do dumb things under that intention, often led by clueless idiots who are themselves new to mobile. So listen to the man who wrote the first services and apps book to mobile, and who wrote the first business book of mobile, both published 14 years ago. Both bestsellers into multiple printings, both translated and both widely referenced by others. Both considered must-reads of their time. I am still here, Forbes ranks me the most influential expert in mobile. I was there, when the mobile data industry was born. I was mentored by the father of the mobile data industry, Matti Makkonen, inventor of the SMS text message. When I tell you what is Mobile First at least I do know what I am talking about. My article of what is Mobile First, is here.
Article 2 - What is Coming Next in Mobile. I have been providing statistics, analysis and forecasts for this industry from its birth. I have chaired numerous forecasting conferences for this industry. I am also the most accurate forecaster of mobile. All my major forecasts are made into the public domain and I always come back to review my past forecasts, to see if they came true and when they went wrong, why that happened. Very few of my peers bother to remind their audiences and customers how often they were wrong. I have never hid from any forecast and keep all published forecasts live on this blog, including all that went wrong. Past performance is no guarantee of future accuracy in forecasting, but for the past decade and half, I have been the most accurate forecaster of mobile, including totally current matters. I was the first published expert to suggest this will be the moment of ‘peak iPhone’. And did you notice how much that is gaining traction in tech stories now in late December and early January? I was literally the first to suggest this is the time. So with that, if you need a good map into the next few years, read my summary of whats coming, on this blog.
Article 3 - Big Data and Mobile. While mobile is the fastest-growing giant industry, as a consultant and analyst, I have always felt intellectually curious to discover the ‘best opportunity’ within this fastest industry. In other words, whats the pinnacle, the culmination point, the eye of the storm. Its been different things at different times and I’ve been reporting on those in the past like SMS text messaging, ringtones, MVNOs, ringback tones, social media, mobile money, and virtual goods (aka ‘in-app purchases’). Currently the most important element of mobile that no expert, project or team involved in mobile should ignore, is ‘Big Data’. I published the world’s first MEASUREMENT of the performance of a Big Data system powered by mobile, going against a legacy massive database about consumer info based on demographics and consumer surveys. I gave the lessons to both Big Data experts and yes, mobilistas. This is the ‘secret sauce’ that differentiates the merely rich from the millionaires, and the millionaires from the Billionaires. The sweet spot of ultimate mobile opportunity is ‘Big Data’ and you do not have to be physically a giant corporation to use ‘Big Data’. Its not the size. Its HOW the data is mined and used. A five office hairdresser saloon chain can use Big Data to devastating effect to boost its profitability and build incredible customer loyalty. But read the article and be amazed. Big Data and Mobile is here.
Article 4 - Digital Convergence and the Long-Term Future of Mobile. I led the world’s first fixed-mobile digital service bundle project twenty years ago. So I have been part of the digital convergence journey literally from its birth and I wrote the first book of a national digital convergence project, about the South Korean digital miracle, called Digital Korea (yet another of my bestsellers). Digital Convergence is a regular theme on this blog and on my Twitter feed. But I also was the first expert to catalog the full extent of the digital battle and how it converges to mobile. To see my latest thinking, on a view into the next decade and the one after that, read last my article of this four article set, which is about Digital Convergence.
TO ANY JOURNALISTS
Any journalists, bloggers, consultants, etc - feel free to quote anything from this blog.
ADDENDUM 1 (2 January 2016) - Ewan Spence over at Forbes referenced this article already, He quoted one paragraph from it and linked to this blog. Thank you Ewan! And any other journalists and bloggers out there, feel free to make your versions of this story, or add to this story, or quote from this blog.
ADDENDUM 2 (2 January 2015).David Doherty, at mHealthinsight.com wrote a summary also about this blog, but he created a great infographic, which added mobile heatlh related matters too, and selected highlights of this blog - including pictures! You may enjoy that as a variation of this blog. Thank you David! Here is Summary of Why Mobile in 2016 by David Doherty
SO WHO AM I
At this point, do you care? I know fully well, that as of January 1, 2016, nobody has written an article with all that I just told you. But ok, fair point. Why trust me? I wrote the first services and apps book for this mobile data industry, published 14 years ago. I also wrote the world’s first business book for this industry. Both books were global bestsellers, both went into multiple printings and were translated. Since then I’ve had a total of 12 books published (and several more coming) so it wasn’t a fluke. The all-time fastest-selling telecoms book was also written by me. But the true test is whether my thoughts had any merit. 140 books written by others have already quoted me. I doubt there are three other authors in mobile who have been quoted more than 100 times in other books, in this very young industry. So if there could be an ‘ultimate’ endorsement, I’d say it is that my thoughts have gotten into so many books by my peers. And Forbes measured me as the most influential expert in the mobile industry. Maybe that can settle any worries on whether this article is written on solid facts and decades of knowledge or if its idle ramblings of a forgotten blogger.
PS - Shortcut for the smartest fastest strategic minds: The TomiAhonen Mobile Forecast 2014-2018 is here.