7: Parting Thoughts

One important lesson we (usually) learn as children is that you will make better decisions if you refrain from acting impulsively, motivated by panic. Instead, stop and think. Specifically, here are a number of things you really should pause to consider when approaching the design of a mobile service.


The mobile phone is a wondrous device, but it is one evolutionary paths for mobile computing. There are also purpose-built devices, such as the Amazon Kindle, a device built to suit a specific purpose, whose entire function is to serve as a method of reading e-books. Thus far, mobile phones and even smart phones have not overtaken it, in spite of numerous attempts and untold millions of dollars in development costs.

Returning to an earlier analogy: some things simply are not suited to being a blade on a Swiss Army knife, and the needs of the user are better served by a tool built specifically for a given purpose.


The players in the mobile space are not alone: they must depend upon one another and work collaboratively. A well-designed service is no good if the next version of mobile device will not support it. A new mobile device is no good if users cannot access the services they presently do, and no firm will have much success acting on its lonesome.

Apple, Google, and Microsoft are each competing to provide interoperability and compatibility in a way that are not interoperable or compatible with one another. Perhaps it is the culture of American business to compete for dominance than work collaboratively for mutual success. Or perhaps it is time those values were reconsidered.


Now more than ever, the customer rules the market. An oligopoly or monopoly places the seller in the driver's seat, to dictate to customers what they may have - and they can take it or leave it. More open competition means the customer must be served - firms must deliver what the user needs, or the user will leave for another that is more accommodating.

As such, firms must strive to offer genuine benefits to the user rather than to expect the user to be awestruck by the capabilities of a product that have nothing to do with their personal needs and desires.

To succeed, the firm must yield to the customer. Those who do will win market share away from those that do not, and the customer experience of owning their product will fortify customers who against the promises of their competitors.


The traditional notion of the Web is as a data storage system: there are millions of Web sites and online services that are connected to one another, and providers could act in concert to connect their services in innovative ways.

This is changing: the Web is becoming a network not of servers and pages, but of people. Perhaps the greatest value of Web 2.0 is in its ability to connect people to one another. This is even more true of mobile - the device in a person's pocket is a connection between that person and all others who hold a similar device.


The notion of a "gadget" is a self-contained device that does something; whereas the notion of a "gear" is a device that enables the user to do something - it is part of a system that performs a very small but essential task. This difference is subtle but important - and it is the primary reason that gadgets fail and gears succeed.


In a similar vein, companies that are intent on delivering a product usually fail to achieve long-term success: they are focused on "the box" - the device, their services, and how the new mobile channel can be used as just another way of doing those things they are already doing, in as similar a way as possible.

To succeed, a company must stop asking "what do we do?" and begin asking "what might we do?" and then determining how they can leverage their resources to do it.

It's possible, and quite probable, that many companies are overlooking the potential uses of the mobile channel because they are mired in a business model they have comfortably settled into from doing business in other channels.


The notion of a "cyber" of "virtual" world has long distracted businesses into seeing mobile, or any other technology, as a self-contained world that has nothing to do with the real world in which people exist.

Some of the most exciting capabilities of mobile technology come from leveraging its capabilities to assist users in the real world: to go to real places, to meet real people, to do real things, to gain appreciation of and control over the real world. And ultimately, to gain something of real value.


The largest potential market for mobile is not the industrialized nations, but in the emerging markets of the third world, where people are leveraging the power of technology to emerge from barely-industrialized agrarian societies and leap into the future.

The notion of giving technology to an underprivileged nation is seen as an act of charity, but it is a tool that will move the third world forward. Already, the pace of growth and advancement in emerging markets is astounding and the potential to profit from rapid growth is largely untapped.

Largely, this is because development remains focused on the ecosystem of the industrialized world. There are scores of mobile applications that will help a person find a restaurant in a major city, virtually none that will help a person in a third-world country to grow crops and sanitize their water supply.


One of the major obstacles to success in the mobile marketplace is the myopic vision of companies that seek profit now, rather than laying the foundation for a business model that will be profitable for years to come.

Companies see the mobile device as a leash by which the customer can be corralled, controlled, manipulated, and dominated - but have failed to have much success in this area. The worst they have done is rendered their applications undesirable to the user, and the result of their collective user has kept mobile relegated to very limited and specific uses.

To leverage the potential of the mobile platform requires a more strategic approach - seeking a modest profit from a large number of users over a long period of time, rather than trying to get as much as possible, as fast as possible, without consideration of tomorrow's consequences.

The degree to which western forms have failed to do is will reflected in the degree to which they lag behind the Japanese market, and will continue to do so until they adjust their ways of thinking to a more long-term vision of what the mobile platform can become.