Mobility – It’s What I Do

What is mobility?

“So, what DO you do?” is the question I’m asked most often, when I tell people I’m building a mobility practice. Well, I say, remember how the internet changed everything? Well this is the same, only, it’s in your pocket!

A quick search for “Mobility” in Google will point you to some very distinct and different directions. Disambiguation will certainly be needed. To start with, mobility refers to products and services, which help people with disabilities to get around. At a global level, mobility refers to movement of people across borders, within and ooutside of corporations. Not to mention social mobility, economic mobility and a host of other kinds of mobility. We of course refer to none of these.

Fundamentally, mobility refers to the state of being in motion. All other meanings are specific derivations of this. So is our definition. Our interest, and mine, is in the delivery of services to mobile users. Not just to users of mobile phones or even tablet PCs, but to any user for whom location is a variable, through an appropriate device and network.

Of course the focal point of mobility solutions is the smart phone. 1 billion of these little computers pretending to be phones now nestle in our pockets, bags and palms, across the world. More smart phones are shipped per quarter now, than PCs. And increasingly, mobile phones and “mobility” is becoming intrinsic to everything we do, much like the internet.

Over 100 million people used mobile phones for Banking, in 2010, according to GIA and over $ 11 billion of advertising will be delivered to mobile phones. More than £ 1.2 billion of goods were bought in just the UK.

Angry & Profitable

The large percentage of the gazillion apps actually don’t make a penny. The median number of downloads for all apps in the Apple app store is reportedly between zero and one. 

And yet, the Angry birds game has been downloaded over 40 million times and more than a quarter of them have been paid for. The app cost an original 100,000 Euros to make. Every day, people play over 200 million minutes of angry birds and the app has earned the creators over 50 million Euros. There are soft toy franchises, and a movie in the rumours.

The reality is somewhere in the middle, obviously. Plenty of apps do well enough to justify the investment. There is little doubt though that the app-explosion has changed our lives – at least those of us using smartphones and tablets.  And there’s no immediate sign of the profiliferations of apps slowing down.

White Collar Apps

Though most of the visible apps are in the consumer space, there is another revolution taking place inside corporations. Business processes are getting the app-over. They are moving from PC and server based systems to embrace the app model. Want to initiate a new hire for your team? Use the app. Need to track your leave? There’s an app for that too. Apps for firnancial projections, trading, logistics and supply chains, for retail and brand management. In fact you could take an extreme view that the enterprise is an agglomeration of apps.

Unlike consumer apps, these don’t get stuck in an app-store like iTunes, and hope to get picked up by a user looking for a game or a conversion tool. These apps are rolled out by the CIO, and pushed rather than pulled. Yet, many companies are implementing an enterprise app store, where at a smaller level, enterprise apps must jostle and vie for attention.

And to power the enterprise apps a whole new category of mobile enterprise application platforms (MEAPs) hav e been gaining ground, creating the ground on which the apps can flourish. Forrester estimates this market will go from $770 million to about $ 17 billion in the next 4 years, spread across building apps, managing devices and reinventing business processes.

The Future, To Go

All this is just the begining. We’re still experiencing the 1.0 version of this mobile future. The party as they say, is just beginning. There are 5.3 billion mobile subscriptions on the planet already – and 85% of them have mobile internet access. Connectivity is soon going to reach a ubiquitous stage.Devices will get more powerful and smaller at the same time. Screens and intelligence will combine in newer ways, making the iPad look positively archaic.

We will, in short, carry the future in our pockets.

It should be an interesting journey, but it’s somebody’s job to figure out a roadmap. And then tear it up when we learn a bit more, and start again. That is what I do.



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