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« Media manipulation - advertising and politics and what type of society do we want? | Main | You shall go the ball... »

January 08, 2007


Mobile Jazz

Today, First time I visited your blog. I got good information. Thanks

Tomi T Ahonen

Hi Piers and Mobile Zazz

Thanks for visiting and leaving comments.

Piers - Yes WiMax is a very big opportunity for connectivity and high speed data. I've been monitoring the WiBro developments in South Korea and I think there will be many specific areas where the WiMax family of connection options will deliver excellent service. I do see it first, as a major wireless play for fixed line incumbents and internet providers, but more of a custom and niche opportunity for the mobile players, where the big parts of the mass market is with 3G/3.5G (and from about 2012 we will of course get 4G - by this I mean the officially ratified next generation as defined by the ITU, which will have the World Radio Congress assign radio spectrum for 4G later this year, so I am not discussing the various marketing opportunitists who claim to deliver 4G before it even has a standard specified)

We'll be looking at WiMax a lot in the upcoming years.

Mobile Jazz - thank you. We hope you will visit us soon again

Tomi Ahonen :-)

Januarius Chan

M from malaysia. suprised on the advancing technology that happens around the world. Guess i've been living under a coconut shell. :|

Brett Leary

Hi Tomi -

OUTSTANDING ARTICLE! I liked reading it so much, I just read it again ;-)

Is there any way you can publish your sources for some of the figures you state in your article?


Jami Laes

Excellent review of the convergence of platforms, history and their sizes. It is a generally overlooked fact that mobile phones have gone wider than the Internet - in not that much longer a time.

From technical and access point-of-view the convergence is truly leading towards a mobile 'jack-of-all-trades' solution.

What interests me is what kind of content will suit this new brave medium? As we all know that without content any platform is almost useless. I don't think that the mobile consumers of tomorrow will be satisfied by watching TV, reading newspapers, surfing the Internet - like we do today in the native forms of the media. I think that like the internet has shown as the latest example of new media culture formation that new and platform defining content and applications that are most successful are never just carbon copies from pre-existing media - rather something new and unique to the platform (YouTube, Google, Amazon etc.).

What will be this for mobile in terms of TV, games, applications, Web, social communities etc.? Probably ultimately it will be something else than any of these, like SMS has shown the enormous potential of low-fidelity applications that can be successful because of their ability to leverage social contact that people have an ever growing urge for.

The 2.7 billion and growing installed base will make sure that the potential to strike it big will attract new innovation. I could envision new hybrid media applications coming to life first in mobile and then getting ported back to traditional media....

Working in mobile games and social applications myself the largest entertainment platform in the history of the world presents a truly unique possibility for the rest of my life.


Jami Laes


Andy from Melbourne here, fascinating article mate, well done.

Would love to see some of the sources of your data, noticed this question posed a couple of time but can’t find a response.


Tomi T Ahonen

Hi Januarius, Brett, Jani and Andy

Thanks for stopping by and posting comments. You may find my latest thoughts around Mobile as the 7th Mass Media also interesting (just posted today)

Januarius - Hi, greetings to Malaysia. Actually you're still ahead of the curve in Malaysia, some pretty advanced stuff happening there in this space, 3G already launched, new operators coming online, MVNOs etc, quite advanced for much of Asia (other than South Korea and Japan obviously). Nice to have you here.

Brett (and Andy) - I hear you about the sources. This is a summary article on thoughts I've discussed in shorter pieces on the given areas during the past year, and some stem from my books, especially my second, m-Profits. So its not a "news" article when the given stats have been released, but rather a state of the industry kind of article (not unlike the annual State of the Union speech by the US president etc, hap-ha). So the stats are from the various relevant sources - telecoms and IT numbers from the ITU and Informa, etc. Most of these issues have been discussed individually on earlier blogs here, and the latest statistic and source has been quoted there.

Jami - great points, and yes, I am very eagerly following the early innovations into this, mobile as the 7th mass media, and what kind of content is "native" for mobile, invented for mobile. Early indications are indeed "low fidelity" - like SMS text messaging, distinctly lower in capability than e-mail; or ringing tones, distinctly less capable than full-track MP3 music files.

But we are also starting to see services which combine the utility on the handset, the power of the network service in real time. The first such services I've found are Shazam the music recognition service from the UK that has already launched in a couple of dozen countries. With Shazam you point your phone at any recorded music and dial a numnber. The phone listens to the music for about 10 seconds, then hangs up. Within a minute you receive an SMS text message with the name of the song, the artist, the album it is on, etc. This kind of service cannot be deployed on any other platform currently, not on DVD, not on a stand-alone PC, not on a (stand-alone) PDA, not on digital TV, etc. But it works perfectly on mobile phones.

Another is the recently launched Kamera-Jiten in Japan. Its the "Camera Dictionary" - or what I more like to think as the "magnifying glass which translates". You take your cameraphone and point it at a magazine or book in English. Turn on the Kamera-Jiten service, it snaps the picture, performs the OCR conversion (from an image into text), then connects with the network and gets a translation, sends it back to you in Japanese characters. Takes a few moments, but like a magnifying glass over a page with small text, this intelligent camera dictionary will look at a paragraph in one language, and display it on the cameraphone's screen in another language. Brilliant.

These are the first steps into a new age. Just like drama, transferring from the stage to cinema, when it learned that actors did not have to be shown from beginning to end, that the story could be edited, and things that were not possible on stage, could be shown on film. Or what TV did when moving concerts from radio and records to music on TV. Toss in some creativity and crazy advertising executives, and before you know it, someone launches MTV and we have a new format only-for-TV, called music video. Its still music - also sold on records and played on the radio - but BETTER when you add the unique benefits of TV.

These are the kinds of innovations we need to do with mobile today, not only to replicate the web and TV etc experiences, but go beyond them. Invent to mobile what were reality TV and talk shows and game shows on TV, or what are social networking and wikis and blogs on the web.

Andy - thanks. Yes, like I told Brett, ITU, Informa, etc Computer Industry Almanac, etc. But sorry, the article was already so darn long, I was editing it down for more than a day when I finally posted it, and I did feel that repeating the sources that I've quoted many times before, was a waste of space at the time. Apparently I should have left them in...

I'll stick the sources into the next major piece like this.

Thanks for writing

Tomi Ahonen :-)



Philip Bishop

Fascinating reading.

Like others have said, sources would have been valuable, but I guess we now just have to read your other writings to find the references.

I found your anecdote about the homeless man saving his life with a cell phone interesting -- particularly, as a web developer, I'm just producing a mobile site for an agency in the US that serves the homeless. The mobile site will contain information for professionals in the field but it will also have info for the homeless about how and where to access basic services. Given that that there are three times more cell phones out there than PCs, even a homeless person is more likely to have access to a cell phone than a PC, as your anecdote proves.

Januarius Chan

someone is taking the 'opportunity' to promote for their own sake. :|

Gio Bacareza

It's a really interesting essay. Thank you for writing it.

There are a couple of things I want to discuss:

1. I would be interested to see a graphical representation of your story where we can see the relative growths of these technologies.

2. When you say "All 950 million could access the web (at least via WAP)" are you referring to the device's ability to access the web? I think we also need to consider the carrier's ability to provide internet connection. How are data connection statistics among operators in the developing world?

3. While I believe that internet-in-the-phone or the "mobile web" is the future, what do you think of the role of internet-to-phone, where people can still take advantage of the real estate and richer user interfaces in the PC but couple that with the ubiquity of the mobile phone. Before the "internet-in-phone" eclipses "internet-in-PC" I think there will be a necessary step of "internet-in-PC-to-phone." The bridge has to be be built first before mass migration happens, figuratively speaking. What do you think of this?

4. The mobile phone's been a godsend to a lot of businesses (especially the operators) because people are willing to pay while in the traditional desktop internet content is mostly free. In the mass migration to the mobile internet, will the free content ideals of the desktop internet spread to the mobile web or will the carrier's power (due to their control of the networks) prevent that from happening?



Mobile Phones

I think what really strikes me in this article is that the number of Asians who access the internet via mobile devices is actually larger than those who use a PC. As he suggests, that definitely argues that we have reached a “tipping point” from which there is no real return. So, we can say with some certainty that the mobile phone is the device of the future in terms of the internet. Yet this still leaves open a number of important questions. First, does this mean that web content will need to be more and more modified so that it easily works as mobile content as well? In other words, is this a programming issues, one that companies such as Phonifier are already trying to address, but that all web programmers will eventually have to face? Or is this a hardware issue, with competition really aimed towards increasing typing and LCD capabilities on cell phones so that they can be more and more like the PC?

Tomi Ahonen

Hi Kevin, Philip, Januarius, Gio and Mobile Phones

Thank you for posting comments.

First - I have just finished my latest Thought Piece (a two-page very intense fact-filled White Paper) based on this essay. THAT document is thoroughly documented also with the sources. I'll blog something about it shortly and mention it to the general readership.

But those at this comment thread, if you would like the related Thought Piece, drop me an e-mail and I'll send it to you, for free of course. My e-mail as always is tomi at tomiahonen dot com

Now to the specific comments by name:

Philip - yes, I also found that (homeless man) very telling in how far mobile phones have spread

Januarius - am not sure what you referred to? If you meant one of the occasional spammers who try to post ads here, we remove all those as soon as we spot them. Or if you meant myself (or Alan) promoting our skills, books, podcast, etc - sorry about that. This - blogging - is a hobby for us but we also have a day job. My day job is consulting, training, lecturing, books and seminars around mobile telecoms strategy and business; and the digitally converging industries from internet to media to advertising to banking etc. So sorry for the occasional plugs to our business, but we do need to earn the money to be able to deliver this free site for you.

At least please observe we have no ads here to spam you. We don't load cookies to your PC to spy on you etc. This is a totally free site where we try to bring valuable information and our obsevations to you our readers (and to our fans).

Gio - Thanks. I'll address each point. 1) graphical representation. Imagine roughly straight lines. A gradual slope, more aggressive slope, very intense slope, etc. The most intense slope is mobile. I do have plenty of slides from various dates where I've shown those trends but ever since mobile shot past the others around the turn of the millenium, it has become pointless to draw the lines, as the gap is growing bigger in favour of mobile (mobile is the most steep curve)

2) about 950 internet/WAP capable. I mean both handset and operator enabled. So this is the "smallest" possible number. If you take only internet/WAP capable phones, it is a bigger number; or if you take the subscribers served by operators who have enabled internet/WAP then it is again a larger number. This is the case where both are true. Oh, and its well past 950 M by now (May 2007)

3) am not totally sure what you mean by "internet-in-PC-to-phone" but if you mean that the mobile phone is used as the modem for a PC to access the internet, then yes, this is a small niche opportunity already used by some today. But if you have a laptop (you typically would not use that at home with a desktop) and need the mobility, it makes much more sense to get a 3G/3.5G modem and stick that into the laptop, rather than mess around with a mobile phone as your modem. But yes, it can be done and some do use their 3G phones this way.

4) yes good point about content on mobile. And I'd say its a Wild West right now. There are pure-mobile content plays (like SeeMeTV, similar to YouTube but only for 3G phones). There are honestly converged mobile-and-broadband plays (like Flirtomatic). There are fixed content plays where only the money is collected via mobile (like Habbo Hotel). And of each of these there are some services which are controlled by the operator, and others which are provided by independents. What the media content and advertising industries are now waking up to, is that mobile content revenues are dramatically larger than fixed content revenues. And at 31 B dollars of content revenues in 2006 according to Informa, that is more that all of Hollywood, all of music or all of videogaming software industries worldwide. Now we really are getting the attention of the magazine publishers, newspaper barons, radio stations, TV broadcasters, ad agencies etc.

I always like to point out that the two largest content categories on the internet are pornography and gambling. Both adult entertainment and gambling also exist on mobile - but they have been pushed way down into niche markets, as mobile has matured as a mass media much faster than the older internet has. Today half a dozen content categories on mobile are already larger than adult and gambling, led by music and social networking services on mobile.

Mobile Phones - about the tipping point. I don't think we are at the tipping point (globally) yet. In Europe in advanced markets its in the 30% range (Italy, Austria, parts of Scandinavia etc). But yes, Japan and South Korea in particular, being also the world's most advanced broadband internet markets (ranked 1 and 2 in broadband penetrations, broadband highest speeds, and broadband lowest prices; South Korea became the first country in 2006 where all internet connections had been upgraded to broadband and they are now already testing gigabit broadband speeds at test sites). So yes, in Korea and Japan, the tipping point has happened and its a VERY worthwhile pair of markets to study to see the future of the rest of the industrialized world as we get to their levels of digital convergence.

On content re-formatting and hardware redesign. Its not an either-or situation, both are vitally needed. I wrote a long blog recently about the 7 C's of cellphones. How mobile phones have gone from being a Communication (only) device to adding ever more capabilities - first content, then creative (cameraphone), then commerce (mobile payments), then community, commercials (advertisements) and now remote control. So we cram ever more into the pocketable device. MP3 players, still cameras, optical zooms, flash, DVD quality videorecording, 2D barcode readers, near field payment systems (like Felica in Japan) etc etc etc.

That means the device needs to be re-engineered ever more cleverly. See the innovations in the upcoming iPhone to see where the industry needs to go. But thats not enough. The content does need to be reformatted and eventually originally created for the small screen. In Japan, South Korea and China all internet content has a default setting for mobile phone access, with alternate options for full screen PC access.

So both will be needed.

Thank you all for writing

Tomi Ahonen :-)

Gio Bacareza

Hi Tomi,

The PC-to-mobile phone concept I was referring to goes way beyond just using the mobile as a modem.

Right now, there's PC-only web access then there's buzz about the mobile web or mobile-only web access. (The latter is what I call PC-in-mobile to distinguish it from PC-to-mobile.)

Before PC-only concept of web access completely merges with a mobile-only concept of web access, an evolutionary stage is bound to happen where PC-web applications will develop functions that would use the mobile as an extension. Examples are Yahoo Messenger to mobile, Chikka Messenger to mobile, etc. These are examples of web apps using the existing mobile VAS infrastructure to extend its capabilities to the mobile phone.

What I'm seeing, however, is that the hype is highly concentrated on mobile-only web where websites and apps as well as the UI are designed for the mobile. While, as I earlier stated, this would ultimately happen, the evolutionary step above must happen.

But then again, that's my personal opinion. It may be so much easier (ie less total cost) for PC webapps and sites to add functionality to extend to the mobiles (PC-to-mobile) than to create a totally redesigned app that will be viewable in all mobile devices .

What do you think?

Tomi T Ahonen

Hi Gio

Ok, now I understand. Yes, I think you're right, both are needed and the long-term scenario is a mobile-only web.

I think we have two independent development tracks. One is any existing internet service or application company, from the Googles and Yahoos to the Flicrks and MySpaces. They all see the emergence of mobile as a viable platform to deliver part of their service, or indeed to enhance it (like Habbo Hotel, Cyworld etc).

I think it would be foolish for an internet company to neglect the mobile platform as an extension of what they offer.

But separately today if you are a game developer, music company, news service, etc and starting from "ground zero" with a new service or application, then pure-mobile services can be much richer, more compelling - and dramatically more lucrative - than similar new services developed for the internet.

So I see both trends happening in parallel.

Then I'd suggest also there is the lesson of disruptive technologies. This is a very dangerous lesson for all established giants. The future success in a disruptive technology area very strongly favours newcomers, start-up companies, and legacy dominant players tend to be very poor at managing a transition to the new area.

In the 1970s the big 6 in the computer industry were IBM and "the Bunch" (Burroughs, Univac, NCR, Control Data and Honeywell). They were all Fortune 500 sized companies and several in the Fortune 100, when Apple and Microsoft and Intel appeared on the horizon, and Toshiba and Dell were years from the PC world and HP's interest in the personal computer was more on laser printers than actual computers. Today IBM is a software company and the rest of the Bunch these are long gone.

Similarly when the internet was on the cover of Time and Newsweek in 1994, the giants of the PC/computers/networking world were brands like IBM, Apple, Dell, Intel, Microsoft, Novell (the world's largest networking company then with 80% market share) etc. But none of them made a big grab of the internet space where the big global players now are Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo and AOL. They didn't see the shift coming until it was much too late.

I should add that AOL did exist prior to the internet going mainstream but its near rival bulletin board companies like Compuserve and GEnie are long gone. Also obviously Microsoft and Apple have significant internet presense. Still they were large enough in theory to have become one of the big five on the web, and missed out on that chance.

Now we see the transition to mobile. My guess is that the major players of today from the computer world like Dell and Microsoft or the internet world like Yahoo and eBay or the other converging worlds like mass media ie TV, newspapers, magazines, radio etc - will not end up the big winners out of mobile. Some of the early front-runners however, find this at their "backyard" such as Nokia and Vodafone and NTT DoCoMo etc who have a strong head-start into dominating this space.

Two companies from outside mobile have recently impressed me with their mobile focus. Google is the strongest. Their CEO keeps yelling "Mobile, mobile, mobile!" Everywhere you see him. And now that Apple finally threw its hat in the ring with the announcement of the iPhone, I expect Apple to be very strong in this space, especially with the iTunes and Apple TV initiatives as well.

But - in 1994 when the internet was on the cover of Time and Newsweek, of the 5 big internet companies only one, AOL, existed roughly in that space. eBay, Amazon, Google and Yahoo were only emerging or being founded.

That is how I see the mobile industry ten years from now. The giants whose stock everybody would love to own, are today baby companies of 20 people or less, or perhaps just moving from their home market taking baby steps into neighboring countries etc. Who will dominate there? Who can capture the unique benefits of mobile, see so clearly beyond the limitations of the current internet and TV and print, to build the compelling offerings into that future. And to use the power of mobile as a media channel in and of itself, to boost the adoption of those services.

The real winners of the mobile services industry are not on the stock market yet today. But several of them are being formed or they are already in operation in some corners of the globe today. And then it is execution, who plays the cards right in this new game.

It will be an exciting time :-)

Thanks for coming back Gio,

Tomi :-)

The Contract Mobile Phone Man

Tomi and Gio thanks for you contributions to this post its really great to have you both here.




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Great article, well-written analysis of the emerging trend or even existing trend of the huge mobile opportunity. However, i don't think it's appropriate to separate and differentiate the internet and mobile phones to two distinct industries, i think they are pretty much intertwined.

While mobile phones do have its unique characteristics over the internet, as you've written in the other blog post on its benefits, mobile phones in essence is just another means of connecting to the internet. I would say it is just another extension from the internet and a subset of the internet, it gives people the advantage of connecting to and interacting on the internet much more easily with its portability, and all the services you mentioned for the mobile phones are in truth an extension from the internet.

Internet isn't a physical device like the tv or the car or the newspaper, it is a global network for people to communicate instantly, publish content accessible to any part in the world and provide services not bound by physical distance, and anyone can access the internet with a capable device, and mobile phones happen to be one of them.

Anyway my point is i don't think it's suitable to compare the internet to the mobile phones in your context, as some of the unique benefits of mobile phones are utilizing the internet.

Tomi Ahonen

Hi Wil

Thanks for writing. You have good well reasoned points.

Alan and I have studied this media landscape for a long while, wrote at length about it in the book Communities Dominate Brands etc. We do bump into that thought from time to time, that we cannot compare the internet to mobile.

Lets take a step back first, and put the internet in context of the five legacy mass media. TV (5th mass media channel) is mostly "a box" or a device. But there is TV broadcasting (and cable, satellite etc) behind the TV box.

Radio (4th media) is similarly a broadcast technology and we need the box (a radio receiver) to listen to it.

Cinema is the third media and has no listening or watching device for individual viewers, we have to pay and go sit in a movie theatre to watch movies (in the cinema, I'm not talking about movies that have been reformatted and broadcast on TV or sold on DVD etc)

Recordings (2nd mass media) are yet another format type, where we are sold the content on a disk or tape or CD or DVD and have to go buy a player to consume the media.

And the oldest, print (1st mass media) had no device to consume it, we bought the printed item, be it a book, magazine, newspaper etc.

So just because one media has a device to consume it - like the mobile, and another doesn't have an inherent device for it - like the internet - does not mean we cannot consider the two as mass media.

What we have to use is a test of are they truly for mass audience content delivery, whether entertainment or news or both. Print, recordings, cinema, radio and TV obviously all are. Not everything is a viable mass media channel. We could theoretically try to sell content via the fixed landline telephone (and some have been very small successes in the past such as directory inquiries, the accurate time, etc) or say by printing messages on the sand at the beach to be read by overflying airplanes, etc, but while these can deliver messages to small audiences, they are not mass media.

The internet emerged as a mass media in the last decade and its primary consumption device currently is the PC.

Mobile emerged as a mass media nine years ago when Saunalahti in Finland decided to launch downloadable ringing tones (ie music) to mobile phones in the autumn of 1998.

Ringing tones are also a very good example of the contrast between the internet and mobile. Ringing tones do not play on PCs. The Ringing tone content industry is purely for mobile, and it is enormous compared to the internet music industry.

The internet music business is dominated by Apple iTunes, and the total size of the internet downloaded music business is at under 2 billion dollars of annual revenues this year worldwide.

The ringing tone business, on mobile phones, is worth over 6 billion dollars - more than three times larger than the internet music content industry !!

The same is true of user-generated content on mobile - over twice as large on mobile as that on the fixed internet, the same is true of TV-related content on mobile - TV voting alone - on mobile - is worth over a billion dollars annually

So since clearly several content formats exist that are unique to one platform, it does suggest mobile is its own media channel.

And thats only at the very early beginning. Now we have new media companies, like Blyk in the UK for example, who are building totally new content and advertising experiences unique to mobile. Services such as Hutchison/Three companies SeeMeTV in the UK, Italy, Austria, Scandinavia, Hong Kong and Australia - are building the most advanced video sharing service, far more economically robust than YouTube. While SK Communciations's Cyworld in South Korea is setting the pace for what social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook will become some day. Meanwhile Flirtomatic in the UK is showing how a converged service on broadband internet and mobile, can make all its money on mobile and does not need to even have subscription fees anymore.

All this is due to the mobile being uniquely different from the internet.

Both are mass media channels. The internet is big, will continue to grow bigger and will impact most of the aspects of the lives of the people in the industrialized world.

The mobile is bigger, will grow to be far far greater than the web in its impact, which will not be limited to the wealthy parts of the globel; the mobile is the only viable content and commerce platform for the vast majority of the planet who are not in the Western industrialized first world..

So thanks for writing, I'm hoping this helped open your eyes that perhaps there is some method to our madness, but I'm not here to force you to accept our view, I'd ask for your comments on this.

You might want to read Alan's White Paper on 7th Mass Media, it will help you also see the vast differences between mobile the 7th vs the internet the 6th mass media channel.

Thanks for writing

Tomi Ahonen :-)

Michael Carradine

Reality check please! What devices are Android compatible and or approved? Who are the 30 manufacturers? Where do I buy an Android "box", do any exist??

The comments to this entry are closed.

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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 Helsinki 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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