Given this background, the mobile internet seems like something which should have taken off a long time ago. In fact, the idea has been around for long since 2000, when the world of WAP first come to life and subsequently with the 3G spectrum auctions in Europe. The vision of the mobile as a networked device opens up huge possibilities. Yet, over the past few years, the mobile internet offtake has been very limited. Operator walled gardens are only partially responsible for this. The bigger issue, according to me, is that, like the network computer, the mobile internet has been targeted in the past at the wrong markets. The real opportunity lies in the emerging markets where there is no alternative rather than the developed markets where a broadband connection and a computer is never too far away.
Emerging markets like India are the blue oceans, the uncontested marketspaces. They are tomorrows big markets. But they require very different thinking. It is not going to be easy for companies in the developed markets to create solutions for the users in the middle and bottom of the pyramid in developing markets. I believe that the solution providers will be home-grown companies who understand the realities of these markets and actually live the life. Companies which can address the challenge of bringing the Internets benefits to users in these markets will be the next giants in the technology world. I have strongly believed that the next Cisco or Microsoft or Google will come from the worlds emerging markets specifically, China or India.
To understand the mobile internet opportunity, it is necessary to take a wider perspective. In tomorrows world, all info and services will reside in the cloud. Users will connect to this cloud via two possible devices a mobile phone [or laptop computer] which they carry with them all the time, and a desktop computer with a bigger screen and better input capabilities. Both will be connected devices and in that sense, thin clients to the thick servers that reside in the cloud with near-infinite computing and storage capabilities. Connectivity can be via DSL or cable in the wired world, or via WiFi, WiMax or mobile operator data networks (2.5G and higher).
The essential difference from the PC-centric developed world users is that this user base assumes the presence of the network and is therefore comfortable with keeping the information in the cloud, knowing that access to it will be available anytime and from anywhere. In the PC-centric world, there is still a legacy of local applications and storage which fragment a users information and life. This lack of legacy is what can be used to advantage by service providers in the emerging markets. The goal should be to create network-centric services which are accessible from both the mobile and the PC but primarily focused around the mobile. The mantra needs to be Mobiles First.
Tomorrow: The Incremental Web
TECH TALK Mobile Internet+T