TECH TALK: The Emerging Internet: From PCs to Mobiles

The epicentre of innovation is shifting. One of my core beliefs is that it is going to be the emerging markets like India and China that will give rise of the next set of global technology companies. These companies will create solutions for a mobile-centric world. Mobiles will be the dominant form of Internet access devices in the developing markets.

Even though the idea of the mobile Internet has been around for a long time (since early 2000), much of the focus has been on usage in the developed markets where many alternatives already exist. Also, at that time, neither were the devices good enough nor were the networks fast enough. Today, mobiles masquerade as handheld multimedia computers (see the campaign for Nokias N95). Wireless data networks are near ubiquitous because they are layered on an ever-expanding mobile infrastructure. For consumers in emerging markets, the mobile has rapidly become the centre of their lives, an extension of their body.

This new world is very different from the wireline-centric broadband world dominated by thick desktops with Intel chips inside. True, people have the best of mobiles and there is as good a wireless infrastructure in many of the developed markets also. But there is a key difference the mobile is for the most part an adjunct to the desktop in the developed world. In emerging markets, the mobile is the primary, if not the only, interactive device that people own. This Mobiles First and Only Mobiles environment and lifestyle is going to very different from that of the developed markets. For example, SMS and not email becomes the dominant form of asynchronous communication. The Contacts on the phone and not the IM Buddy List is at the centre of social interactions.

I have seen the Internet since its early days in 1994-5 from my base in Mumbai, India. For the first five years, I was in the thick of things as an Internet entrepreneur managing a growing set of portals for the global Indian community. For the past two-and-a-half years, I have been working in the mobile space imaging and creating a platform (and investing into an ecosystem of companies) which reflects my belief that the services we will see on the Internet that is being created in emerging markets are going to be very different from the ones that we read about in a media dominated by the activities of companies in the developed markets.

Behind the PC to Mobile shift, there are four key elements to my philosophy about this Emerging Internet that I want to elaborate on in this Tech Talk. First, even as the PC Internet has been wonderful in helping us navigate the Reference Web, it is the mobile Internet will help us build sensors into the Live Web. Second, what search was to the PC Internet, subscriptions will be to the mobile Internet. Third, advertising as the dominant business model on the Internet will give way to invertising on mobiles. Finally, this new world will first be visible in emerging markets like India and in this new world will rise the next Google.

Tomorrow: From Reference Web to Live Web

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.