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« Twenty Years of Digital Convergence Around Mobile: What can we learn from the Cannibal of Cannibals? | Main | Migration of Digital Services to Mobile: in Gaming, mobile becomes largest sector this year »

April 20, 2017



There was a documentary about the release of "Horizon Zero Dawn" by an Amsterdam game developer:

All in the game (mostly in Dutch)

That was a mega-game release. When asked about the future, the head of the company talks about AR and Pokemon Go. He too shares your vision of the future.

The site also has a few longreads about gaming and VR.

This one is interesting:

‘We’re running with scissors’: Why some experts worry about VR dangers
Virtual gaslighting, augmented torture

What they write holds too for AR.

Facebook's entry into AR has caused the same kind of warnings:

Climbing out of Facebook's reality hole


I am skeptic too. AR/VR is nice but it will not be big in next 20 years. Not even close. AR/VR will be big in some niche fields, like for example, cars, architecture, and some specific games but that's it.

It is ludricous to fall on the back that Facebook is now pushing AR/VR and that AR/VR will take off. Facebook has pushed many things which failed.


"AR/VR is nice but it will not be big in next 20 years. Not even close. AR/VR will be big in some niche fields, like for example, cars, architecture, and some specific games but that's it."

This makes me going down memory lane(s): Mobile phones/the Internet/Personal Computers are a niche product. Who really needs them?

Maybe, we should learn from the past? I know it is a new concept, but we could give it a try.

If we look down in history, what did really, really catch on, always? a) Transport and b) Communication.
a) Roads, trains, bicycles, cars, planes.
b) Printing press, mail, newspapers, telegraph, telephone, movies, radio, TV, internet, mobile phones

What are the main purposes of all of these: Moving people and talking to others (or singing ;-) ). Note that a lot of the people move around to get to talk to other people.

How does AR fit in. It does not move people. But it does allow to communicate with other people.

With AR, you can share your presence and share your experiences, as well as talk, even face to face. In this view, joint gaming is a lot like talking and sharing experiences. AR helps to extend this from artificial worlds to the real world. If movies and games are an evolution of story telling, AR is just the next step, blending stories into real life. Any cultural anthropologist can tell you that "real life" is just a shared story.

My prediction is that there will be a kind of threshold of technology for acceptance. After that threshold is crossed, AR will explode into everyday life just like texting, facebook, youtube, and instagram did. AR will be a social medium about community, chatting, playing, and sharing experiences.

And maybe the threshold has already been crossed with Pokemon Go. Because the threshold is not so much about ultra HiRes quality, but one of convenience and immediacy.


Why is everyone using Pokemon Go as an AR example? Most users turn off AR because it drains the battery.

Regarding looking at history, I can also find some examples: In the 60'es 3D movies in the cinema was a big thing. A decade ago it started again. It's now going away. Same for TVs: No-one sells TVs with 3D anymore.

In the 90'es VR was a big thing. It didn't catch on. I'll give you that underperforming computers had a big influence on the failure.

Yet, I still don't see VR going to kick off. Who wants to carry a mask for long periods?

AR? We already had a great AR product: Google Glass. It flopped big time.

I'm really curious. With 1B users, what use cases do you see for AR?



you didn't read carefully my post. I wrote that AR/VR will be a niche. I didn't write that AR/VR is a niche. Therefore you starting assumption is totally wrong and also your conclusions.

We have had AR/VR in one form or another for some time now. AR/VR is a big hype right now, driven by Tommi, Facebook and Pokemon.

Mark my words, AR/VR will still be a hype in 10 years from now and also in 20 years from now.


Like with everything else, the technology itself has no meaning. If it can be put to good use, it will find some acceptance, if not, Pokemon Go will be where it ends.

@Winter: Your reasoning sounds a lot like wishful thinking.

Taking your examples for travel, each one made travel faster and/or more convenient. But we have hit the threshold where the cost/benefit ratio turned bad: Supersonic travel was a failure, despite being technologically feasible and manageable. It was just too expensive

Regarding communication, the same holds true. Each new development made it either easier to reach a wider audience or made it easier for a single person to communicate with others. Again, what was driving development was mostly increased efficiency, not better technology.
Where does AR fit in here? It neither increases the reach of communication methods nor the ease of communicating with others. Both will still be limited by the same thing, i.e. the availability of some piece of technology on both ends to initiate some form of communication.

I think the 3D movie example is telling us a lot of things here: People want to see movies. They do not want to be inconvenienced by some technology that doesn't seamlessly integrate into their experience.
So how is AR supposed to overcome the same thing? If it is supposed to blend some virtual elements into the real world, it is inevitable that some invasive form of technology is needed, and that plain and simply contradicts the essence of most successful technologies.

As for the remaining use cases, it looks like toys and gimmicks to me so far.
So far there is nothing really compelling out there yet that'd make it a winner by default.


"Where does AR fit in here?"

What makes online gaming such a hit? Because you can share the experience of the game.

Do you know their are people who will have meals together over Skype when they are away from each other? That sometimes, people will go to sleep together with a Skype connection open on their pillow (the sleeping kind, I assume)?

There are quite a number of romances started in some social media sphere, be it gaming or facebook.
How about have a stroll through a foreign town with a friend over VR/AR? Or the zoo with a grand child?

When doing video conferences, we know there is something missing. It is better than voice only, but still, we want more. VR would probably be overkill, but AR could very well be the next step.

Any kind of technological obstacles can arise that could kill this off. 3D in a movie theater is spectacular, but only up to a point. It is not necessary for the story. In AR, it might be a definite plus (or not).

My point is that AR can improve communication. As such, it has a very good chance of becoming popular.



All stuff you mention is either fringe use or needs some serious change in how this technology works.
Yes, if we can develop a Star Trek-like holodeck, I see some future here, but as things stand it very much depends on clumsy workarounds. And as long as these workarounds are the limiting factor I really do not see this gaining thrust. It's the same as the Concorde: No speed advantage could counter the high cost, the extreme noise and all the other problems that came with it.


"All stuff you mention is either fringe use or needs some serious change in how this technology works."

Anything Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram do were fringe uses 15 years ago. Facebook literally was developed specifically for college kids.

I have had visitors running onto the street to catch pokemons four blocks away. I was returning from a workshop dinner in a foreign country when one of the group dashed out to catch a pokemon. That is an AR game (real street + imaginary object = AR), whether they have the VR part on or off.



> I have had visitors running onto the street to catch pokemons four blocks away. I was returning from a workshop dinner in a foreign country when one of the group dashed out to catch a pokemon.

Now this is one example. And it will stay this way at this level even in 10 years from now. This one example does not mean that AR/VR will be big. Not even close.


AR/VR will start to be big only and only when technology would make it easy to use, like for example to have it in your contact lenses.


"This one example does not mean that AR/VR will be big."

1B users? Sounds big on any scale.

"AR/VR will start to be big only and only when technology would make it easy to use, like for example to have it in your contact lenses."

If you delve into the history of "accessibility", you will see that there is a trade-off between usefulness and usability. If a service is considered useful enough, any usability issues will be ignored.

Blind people have put up with absolutely the worst UIX to get at written content. And SMS texting is the text-book example that even the worst, utterly miserable, interface cannot stop teenagers from communicating with their peers.

So, it all depends on whether there will be an enticing AR service. If there is, users will put up with whatever technological hurdles there are.

But if I knew what it was, I would not be here but at a start-up implementing it and getting rich.


@Wayne Brady:

Yes, that's indeed the case here. That VR stuff will never go mainstream unless actual holodeck technology gets invented - and even if it did it's be a product not aimed at regular customers.

But that leaves the question what can be done with mobile AR. No matter how hard I put my mind to it, I absolutely cannot come up with any ideas that go beyond the toy factor. Certainly nothing that can revolutionize communication.

Pokemon Go may have been cool, but I happen to know someone who did a (obviously far more primitive) mobile game using the camera and motion detection on Symbian 12 years ago. So for me it's nothing new there I haven't seen a long time ago.


"No matter how hard I put my mind to it, I absolutely cannot come up with any ideas that go beyond the toy factor. Certainly nothing that can revolutionize communication."

That is not particularly helpful, as the same can be said about the Internet and smartphones, as well as facebook and twittee.


> I have had visitors running onto the street to catch pokemons four blocks away. I was returning from a workshop dinner in a foreign country when one of the group dashed out to catch a pokemon.

That's an excellent example on why the Pokemon go is not AR but LBS (location based service, Google it up). We are still waiting for a breakthrough AR case.


"That's an excellent example on why the Pokemon go is not AR but LBS (location based service, Google it up)."

But reality itself is location based. How can we augment reality without involving location?


Nice article from IEEE Spectrum:

Augmented Reality: Forget the Glasses

And the investment angle:


You are talking against the AR&VR like you do not want to move from black and white movies to technicolor or that you don´t like the idea of sound in the movies. AR and VR are coming and sooner than you think. Apple is already greating a 3D-model of the world (Apple Maps) and as you can already see they are very far already (current version of Apple Maps). At some state they will ad AR to this VR.



Can you please explain where AR - not to mention VR - is in the scenario you try to lay out?


All that article confirms to me is that the whole thing is deadlocked in the toy corner. Where's the revolution in there?

My main problem with this discussion is that the whole thing screams "solution in search for a problem". There's simply nothing here that will fundamentally affect or improve the lives of people - which is one of the prerequisites for revolutionary technology.
I'm not saying that this won't find any customers or won't make any profit. But in the end it's just a toy. Games are also toys. They still are being produced because people buy and play them. Would anyone consider games more than entertainment? They are nowhere near close to altering people's lives on a fundamental level.

@Wayne Brady:

"If one wants to make the claim that a billion people will be using AR in the next 3 should have SOME idea of what people will use AR for."

Touché. It seems to me that Winter doesn't have the faintest clue, aside from the unbroken belief in the mantra of "AR will be the next level of communication" or whatever. For something like that one has to know a little bit about how that future is going to look - and again - how this is supposed to be beneficial to non-tech-geeks.


"a solution in search of a problem"

Like Lasers were the hype of the 1960s, really a solution in search of a problem. I remember the Internet being called that too. So I know those. But there are people who have a clear vision of how to use AR. Not all of them will be world changing hits. Most applications will be like lasers, they are everywhere, but you hardly ever really see them.

Here are some thoughts about applications of AR (note, this is just a small selection, more is available if desired):

Augmented reality: The past, present and future

Augmented Reality Brings New Dimensions to Learning

Augmented Reality In Healthcare Will Be Revolutionary
Augmented reality is one of the most promising digital technologies at present – look at the success of Pokémon Go – and it has the potential to change healthcare and everyday medicine completely for physicians and patients alike.

6 ways augmented reality can help governments see more clearly

3D Government: How Will Augmented Reality (AR) Disrupt the Future of Technology?
Bold claims are again being made by hot new startups and the technology giants about the coming age of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) applications. While most of the focus has been on gaming, retail and travel, the impact for governments could be huge. Here’s why.

Why SLAM 3D maps for Augmented Reality and Robotics will be worth more than Google Maps

How Will Augmented Reality Lead to a Revolution in Retail

And a company:

Tomi T Ahonen

Hi everybody

Wow 24 comments on AR? You guys must be desperately waiting for Q1 smartphone numbers... :-). I'll do some replies and comments

Tomi Ahonen :-)

Tomi T Ahonen

Hi Winter, Wayne, b

Winter - yeah, it's now no longer a trickle, its becoming a stream. We saw this movie a million times before. It's how various phone types got acceptance (music phones, cameraphones, smartphones); it's how various mobile services went from 'that is ridiculous, nobody will ever do it' to 'yeah, of course I do it' like SMS, ringing tones, sharing pictures on phones, watching TV on phones and now increasingly, AR. For me, obviously its rewarding to see that there is building this belief in AR that goes beyond traditional AR guys or tech geeks from obviously very closely-related tech like the handset people or their software. When social media (Facebook) or videogamers like your link - start to think hey, this AR will be big... that is good validation its not just us talking amongst ourselves.

Wayne - I hear you, the timeline is tough but you've also seen me give the milestones here since my forecast early in this decade and we are exactly on schedule. I can now promise AR will have between 800 million and 1.3 Billion active users year 2020, the range of that forecast keeps shrinking and very clearly we are on the mark, to hit 1B more-or-less on the year 2020.

I agree that AR can now act as a further catalyst to drive more tech development, around the screen and me too, I like that. As to the type of users yeah, if year 2020 there are 1B 'Pokemon Go' type of users on AR, I will take that as total validation that AR is a mass media, I don't need it to be super-immersive always-on viciously addictive many-hours-per-day type of use - at first. It will keep getting 'worse' ie more addictive - over time anyway. So yeah, I will count 'occasional' users like Pokemon Go typical users, on their AR side - to be valid media audience individual members. If someone only occasionally drives the Formula 1 race car on the old Playstation - that consumer is STILL an active console gaming user, even if the usage is not heavy.

b - I agree just having Facebook being excited about something is not very strong validation. They are all over the place. But they are not the first - the relevant point is, they are a global industry leader of a tech sector that is not central to AR today. In that way it is as important as when Google said in 2006 that the future of their industry - the internet - would go to mobile (as it also happened).

I would note you might not want to lump VR and AR together. They are a bit like lumping trains and cars into the same industry. Both yes are transportation, with wheels but are radically different. VR (like trains) needs separate custom tech just to get into the experience (railroads need their own networks, cannot run on roads) vs AR works on any phone similar to how a car could drive on any roads and many places even where there is no road like a field or sandy beach etc.

As to 'will not be big' before anotehr 20 years. I wonder b, what is your definition of 'big?' for a media industry? Would you consider newspapers a big industry? Newspapers only have about 425 million daily circulation - and AR now has passed 300 million active users. I would say its pretty big already. And yeah, the growth path is very well on track to hit 1 Billion active users by year 2020 (may be a year earlier in fact) and I'd ask you b, is 1 Billion active users 'big' enough for you, or do you have some incredibly high bar, to which you assign that adjective... :-)

Winter (your response to b) - agree wholeheartedly and good point about the threshold. Yes, I agree a threshold will happen, after which essentially all tech companies will just incorporate AR, similar to how at one point the HTML internet link became obvious and everybody had to have web pages, or later, how SMS became also obvious and every company had to have some mobile messaging channel to and from consumers. I also agree, Pokemon Go will have been that threshold for many forward-thinking companies and may have been the catalyst for why Facebook now sings the songs of AR.

Tomi Ahonen :-)


"You guys must be desperately waiting for Q1 smartphone numbers... :-)."

Yes, but AR itself is very, very interesting too.

When I was in high school, pocket calculators started to arrive (I actually used a slide rule during exams) and the typewriter and stencil machine were the way of personal knowledge distribution. I have lived through the PC revolution, the Desktop revolution, the Internet, mobile (GSM) and, Smartphone revolutions, and I cannot wait for the next one to start.

My guesses are the next one will be IoT&AR.

Tomi T Ahonen

Hi Michael, Wayne, b

Michael - very good point about 3D with TV. The tech industry is full of tech flops. AR was definitely on the risk of perhaps being a curiosity that never took off. We had many niche-type services and ideas and concepts from Ikea's catalog to the i-Butterfly of Hong Kong to Layar's AR browser, that all had their brief moments in the sun but didn't (yet) achieve the scale and acceptance that would signal a success for this technology. Pokemon Go is that transition point. Now with the fastest-launching mobile game of all time, and fastest totally new consumer service to ever hit 1 Billion dollars in revenues (excluding the franchise sequels, part 3 or part 7 of some big branded game etc) - essentially everybody in tech knows Pokemon Go and through it, can understand ways that AR could function as new type of media.

As to why using Pokemon Go as the example? Because its the newest and biggest and best example of success in AR. Its totally irrelevant if users SOMETIMES turn the AR function off - for some of the play. They 'had' to use AR to get into Pokemon Go in the first place. That means that anyone doing Pokemon Go has now experienced AR on their phones. It's like what American Idol/Pop Idol the reality TV format did for television voting via SMS. Most who voted for American Idol in its first year had never sent an SMS to TV before. It taught a whole generation (or Americans, lagging in SMS use) to vote via mobile for TV shows.

As to use cases, please go watch my TEDx Talk that I link to. There I show you with a simple mock-up via video, of what several AR media concepts will be like from real-time translations to advertising to 'superpower senses' - all that are now increasingly appearing in tech - but which will 'obviously' be done via AR soon.

Wayne (reply to Michael) - Good points esp the Snapchat filters type of very simple uses. But I'd say that is the same as what ringing tones were to music video watching of YouTube on mobile phones today. Or what SMS did to say Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp etc. It starts small and simple - but it reaches HUGE MASSES of people. Then companies will innovate and expand on the tech and the opportunities. But as to Hololens and Google Glass and that type of 'heavy' AR gear worn on the face - that I don't see yet viable, on the current level of tech costs and cumbersome hardware - that will need at least another decade in miniaturization before we get there.

b (second comment) - of VR being in hype stage 20 years from now - perhaps you're right. I will be here on this blog at least 10 years from now, we can see how that goes. But AR will be a commercial mass media that every major media brand uses and is a standard element in the marketing mix - just like today you would not imagine a global brand doing an ad campaign and forget to mention their website... AR will be a mass media in less than 5 years. And I will be here for you to return to mock me, if I turned out wrong. I am 100% convinced of my early (bold) forecast by now. All user numbers and revenue numbers now scream of this trend holding. VR, who knows. AR will definitely be a mass media. But you don't have to trust me b, just monitor the AR space, and return to this blog from time to time and we'll continue that discussion. I've gone through this exact debate dozens of times and I know what signs I need to know if this is a winner. AR is a winner. Unstoppable now.

Ok, more comments coming later, keep up the discussion

Tomi Ahonen :-)

Tomi T Ahonen

Hi Tester, Winter, b and Wayne

Tester - good points. Now on comparison to 3D movies isn't really valid. I think it would be for VR, because for VR you have to buy new tech (same with 3D movies, you need new cinema equipment and/or for home TV you need new TV gadget at home AND the broadcaster or blueray player needs to then give you the 3D content). But with AR the current tech can deliver the AR experience in particular with smartphones.

But as to seeing AR's early promise primarily in toys and gimmicks, ok, I don't doubt that. But one toy type - videogaming - grew into a huge giant global media industry by itself worth over $100 Billion today, far larger than say music recording industry or movies/Hollywood etc. And the 'virtual' gaming environment tech then also sustains parallel but obviously far smaller industries in education via virtual 'gaming' ie simulators for fighter pilots, commercial jet pilots, various other specialist jobs like Formula 1 race drivers, tank crews, etc.

So while yes, gaming may be the main element that AR will ever do - that could be in the scale of what the videogaming industry is today in very rough sense - and that would be a big industry all by itself. Secondly AR could spawn 'spin off' uses similar to how training-simulators now use gaming type of technology to create greater realistic experiences (flight simulators existed from before WW2 but they were 'mechanical' so pilots didn't get that strongly the sensation of flying which they do in modern simulators with their digital multi-screen displays.

Funny side story - the world's first multi-screen fighter jet simulator (with multiple computers running a synchronized view, so if you looked forward, then turned to look out the side window - those two screens had the videos synchronized so that it had the 3D realism) - was built by BAE in the UK, for the Hawk jet trainer and the first such multi-screen jet fighter simulator was sold to Finland. The programming work involved to do the synchronized screens was so huge, that early on, the only 3D displays the pilots could use for learning to fly the jet in Finland, were done in night-time so they only needed to do a few 'spots of light' when you flew over a given bridge or whatever at night. Haha... perils of adopting new tech.

Now of course most advanced jet simulators are that type, with multiple screens to give pilots the 3D effect.

Now on the issue you ask, Tester, how can AR fit into this new media landscape? Apart from gaming, obviously. I'd say AR is the ultimate 'magical' experience. Take the AR driver's manual for Audi and several other car makers by now. Rather than read what you should do, take out your phone, look at the car, select the AR assistant - and a virtual guide will SHOW you what to do. Right on the car, YOUR car. Where are the spark plugs and how do you change them, etc... This is magical. Like the Ikea catalog, to magically 'test' furniture in your home before you buy.

Now, both of these examples are not 'we use it every day' type of uses. So an Audi driver might not 'need the user manual' ever, and thus never go to the AR service - or use it only once, or when needed, has utterly forgotten it is possible, and for exmaple goes to his smartphone, and just Googles the issue - show me a video of how to change my spark plugs.

Same with Ikea, most families do not go furniture shopping every week haha. The usage would be rare and occasional, and may well be forgotten.

BUT... remember the first use of QR codes? Once you used it once, you wished everybody had QR codes in use... Now we see them in many places and have no problem using them to get more information etc. That is somewhat, what I foresee AR will become - that we learn to use it in one case (like playing Pokemon Go) but then when our bank or our airline or our hotel or whatever offers THEIR service on AR we are more prone to use it.

Thats not to say, that there will necessarily be 'non-entertainment' content of meaningful use, on AR. Time will tell. It is theoretically possible to deliver news via music recordings too, haha, but nobody buys records to listen to news. Not every media concept works in every media channel. And so far, gaming is the only certain one that definitely works on AR.

Winter (reply to Tester) - good points and I also can foresee those types of uses in improving communciation - but I would think that will take more time - because then each consumer would need some level of the AR 'authoring' type of tools or services too. Currently we are (consumers) mostly just consuming AR content. That I do think will be the early majority of the services.

b - onto contact lenses. That will come, obviously. But that will only enhance the experience, make AR bigger. AR without contact lenses is headed to a massive media opportunity already now. Note that AR at this point in time is AHEAD of where mobile media - fastest-growing media in human history - was at the same point in time. The successes in AR are far larger and more lucrative today, than at the comparable point in time with mobile media content.

Winter - great point about the killer app. Like you, I wish I knew what that will be for AR, but it will come and very likely, as we had with the PC, the internet and mobile - there will be several killer apps, not only one. (Killer app is not necessarily a lucrative business and doesn't need to be a large component of the total industry - but a killer app will be the CAUSE to adopt a new technology. For some parents, Pokemon Go, seeing their kids falling in love with that game - was a reason to go get a smartphone, so the parent could join the kid in exploring this game. Hence Pokemon Go could be seen as a modest killer app for some parents to get a smartphone; the kids were already using the smartphones so it was no reason to go get a smartphone (and/or AR) but it was of course a new type of experience for most of those kids too.

Wayne - good point about VR vs AR (totally agree) and the type of AR. That many foresee the 'visor' type of AR (lets not forget, AR can also be done in sound, without video) like Google Glass or Hololens, and yes, Pokemon Go type of smartphone AR is far from that. Also totally agree, early on, only smartphone-based AR can reach 1B users. But if AR gains a large sustainable audience - AR may DRIVE the adoption of visor equipment too... That would be for the next decade, not now...

Tomi Ahonen :-)

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    Tomi Ahonen is a bestselling author whose twelve books on mobile have already been referenced in over 100 books by his peers. Rated the most influential expert in mobile by Forbes in December 2011, Tomi speaks regularly at conferences doing about 20 public speakerships annually. With over 250 public speaking engagements, Tomi been seen by a cumulative audience of over 100,000 people on all six inhabited continents. The former Nokia executive has run a consulting practise on digital convergence, interactive media, engagement marketing, high tech and next generation mobile. Tomi is currently based out of Hong Kong but supports Fortune 500 sized companies across the globe. His reference client list includes Axiata, Bank of America, BBC, BNP Paribas, China Mobile, Emap, Ericsson, Google, Hewlett-Packard, HSBC, IBM, Intel, LG, MTS, Nokia, NTT DoCoMo, Ogilvy, Orange, RIM, Sanomamedia, Telenor, TeliaSonera, Three, Tigo, Vodafone, etc. To see his full bio and his books, visit Tomi Ahonen lectures at Oxford University's short courses on next generation mobile and digital convergence. Follow him on Twitter as @tomiahonen. Tomi also has a Facebook and Linked In page under his own name. He is available for consulting, speaking engagements and as expert witness, please write to tomi (at) tomiahonen (dot) com

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