Moving to an...Unwired World
Moving to an...Unwired World
Jun. 7, 2001 01:19 PM
Within four years one out of four people on the planet will be wirelessly connected via a mobile device. These mobile devices will soon become an integral part of an individual's personal area network and daily experience. Whether it's a voice-enabled PDA or a smartphone, each device will need to be custom-configured to meet each individual's specific needs.
At work mobile devices will be used to remotely connect employees to the enterprise's knowledge base, sales automation tools, customer relationship management system, and/or resource procurement process. The benefits of having a mobile connected workforce are tremendous. Sales associates can spend more time talking to customers and delivering timely data to them throughout the sales process. Field operators can easily access and send mission-critical data to the home office. And don't forget the importance of maintaining a mobile relationship with your customers.
End users will use their mobile devices for e-mail, entertainment, shopping, and other location-based services. Each person will require a unique set of applications that matches his or her specific needs and preferences. A stockbroker in New York will demand up-to-the-minute equities data. A teenager on vacation in Florida will want to join her regular multiplayer game. A commuter in Chicago will want to know where traffic is least congested and where to get the best price on gas. A business traveler in Beijing will want to say goodnight to his newborn daughter back home. San Francisco skiers will want to get the Tahoe powder report and know if roads are clear up the mountain.
Industry analysts are already predicting that streaming video, music, games, messaging and location-based services will be the "killer apps" of a wirelessly connected world. Software developers worldwide are working diligently to develop applications that deliver the next generation of killer apps. Device manufacturers are creating more powerful mobile equipment and are seeking better ways to integrate these products into people's daily lives. Wireless operators are making massive investments in networks that will provide the wireless bandwidth necessary to support the next generation of killer applications.
Soon, 25% of the world's population will be equipped to connect to the world's wireless networks. More people will place phone calls and access the Internet via mobile devices than by using phones or computers. Software developers will have built applications that enable people to access the world wirelessly. And wireless operators will deliver networks with huge bandwidth. The world will be ready for a truly wireless experience. But how will the applications get from the developers to the consumers?
A Broken Paradigm
Wireless end users expect a fully wireless experience. Not an experience that requires them to stop, install, update and maintain applications, but to have seamless access to the most up-to-date applications on the fly. Mass adoption of mobile technology will not occur until consumers are able to benefit from a completely wireless experience from start to finish. For this market to reach its fullest potential, we need to build a wirelessly connected world where users locate and install their applications wirelessly.
Our challenge is similar to that faced by operators of landlines and manufacturers of wired phones. As consumers became more sophisticated they began to desire services such as voice mail, teleconferencing, and voice dialing. Typically these are not services that consumers want to shop for, purchase, and install. Those who are willing often choose products that have a variety of these services in one package. The mass adoption of these services on landlines came about when operators were able to seamlessly deliver services to the consumer as value-added options. Just as land-based services didn't reach mass adoption until they were offered as value-added components of the phone service, wireless consumers will require the same seamless experience for mobile applications.
Consumers' expectations of mobile applications will be much greater than those of landline value-added services. As a matter of evolution the average consumer understands technology and its abilities better than in the past, and mobile consumers tend to be more technically sophisticated. Furthermore, mobile devices are exactly that - mobile - and will accompany consumers most places they go. This means that individuals will rely more on, and have greater expectations of, the abilities of their PDAs and smartphones, than of previous computing and telecommunications products.
Our challenge becomes greater when you consider the advancements in technology that end users have come to expect. Personalization and customization have become expected features of consumer electronics. Consumers are already being told that they can access location-specific shopping information and will only receive the most relevant ads deeply discounting the exact product they're seeking. People's expectations will become even greater as the mobile device becomes a more integrated part of their lives. In the past people have migrated to phone-based and Internet services for routine tasks. In the future these services and more will move to mobile devices. People will rely on their mobile devices for critical parts of their lives such as home and personal security, grocery shopping, banking, traffic reports, rich messaging, and enterprise access.
Consumers will want to shop, purchase, install, and maintain all their applications wirelessly from their mobile devices. The ability to browse available applications needs to be embedded into every device. The interface needs to be familiar and easy to use. Applications will need to be readily available for a number of devices. We will need to accommodate the variety of payment options that will be available to the mobile consumer. Once the application has been purchased consumers do not want to go through a separate process of installing the application.
Mobile consumers expect to always be using the most up-to-date version of their software. A persistent wireless connection could enable the background delivery of application updates. End users will want these updates delivered automatically to their devices without involving a manual process. Once an application is purchased they'll want to know that the version they're currently using is the most recent.
The dynamic nature of a persistently connected wireless device will bring a new perspective to the value of applications and how consumers are willing to pay for them. End users will want to pay only for what they use. They may choose to pay for downloads and updates. Some consumers may desire more of an all-you-can-eat pricing structure. People may sometimes even choose to "rent" an application for a brief period of time. And remember, each individual will want a unique set of applications.
Now consider the challenges a wireless world presents to an enterprise. Today's stationary computers require tremendous resources to manage the applications that reside on these immobile machines. The wireless world presents an even greater set of complexities when you consider the vast number of applications and devices an enterprise will need to support. An enterprise's workforce will be using a great many different devices with varying abilities, operating systems, and form factors. The mobile device will be an integrated part of an individual's life and employees will often want enterprise applications delivered on their personal devices. Not only does this expand the number of devices, but it's further complicated by the potential conflict of applications installed by the individual. Enterprises will benefit from a way to efficiently procure and wirelessly deliver mission-critical applications on a standardized platform.
The current paradigm of connecting devices through a hardwire does not meet future wireless consumers' needs. Technologies such as WAP and other microbrowsers are excellent tools for accessing content, but they lack the functionality, security, and persistent access that installed applications offer. Individuals and enterprises alike will need a solution that enables them to procure, distribute, install, and maintain applications wirelessly from their mobile devices.
A Simple Problem?
It's my opinion that we as an industry have not thoroughly examined the challenges we face as a whole. Although our individual challenges are unique, quite often they're dependent on the ability of other players in the market to deliver on their promises. This is why it's important to identify the challenges and opportunities in our market, together.
Software developers need a common set of tools to aid in the installation and maintenance of their applications. The process of installation, version checking, and updating needs to be effortless for the consumer. The traditional models of packaged software and downloads do not fit the wireless model. Developers will need to consider new revenue models that enable consumers to pay only for the time they use applications and other new approaches. Most important, wireless software developers will need a universal system by which they can make their sales and distribution applications available wirelessly.
Device manufacturers need to deliver mobile devices that are capable of supporting wireless applications. Wireless applications require operating systems such as Palm OS, Windows CE, or Symbian's EPOC. The devices will require significant processing power with low battery consumption. Installed applications require storage space and the necessary memory to run the application. These challenges are compounded by the need to deliver a form-factor that's easy for consumers to use.
Wireless operators need to make tremendous investments in the networks to support wireless applications. They need to acquire the necessary spectrum to carry the increased amount of data. Base stations need to be upgraded with the equipment to support 2.5 and 3G services. Once the networks are in place the wireless operators need to distribute the new devices to consumers.
We as an industry are aware of, and are currently addressing, many of these critical issues. But sometimes it's difficult to see the forest for the trees. Once we have the applications, devices, and bandwidth to meet consumers' expectations, how will the applications get from the developers to the consumers and how will they be maintained?
A Networked Solution
Within four years consumers will require a unique set of applications delivered and maintained wirelessly on their mobile devices. Software developers need to focus on offering the right set of features, device manufacturers need to deliver powerful, efficient, easy-to-use machines, and wireless operators need to focus on optimizing bandwidth. I propose that we, as an industry, look to a third party to provide an outsourced solution to the distribution, procurement, installation, and maintenance of wireless applications on an outsourced basis.
Telephones and DSL modems offer little value to consumers unless they can be connected to a phone line. Likewise, a mobile device needs a wireless network to connect to. The network needs to provide the bandwidth to support the data traffic required to deliver streaming audio, video, games, and content to the wireless end user. Technically advanced devices and high-bandwidth wireless networks are still of little use without the applications that allow consumers to access and consume data. The network needs to offer a variety of value-added applications to meet unique consumer needs. Our market has a need for a common network to enable value-added applications to be delivered seamlessly to the end user.
All the constituencies within the wireless world stand to gain from a universal, outsourced, application platform. Software developers will have access to new distribution channels, realize increased revenues, and benefit from standard installation methods. Device manufacturers can be sure that their machines offer consumers maximum utility with the exact applications they desire. Wireless operators can offer applications that increase the wireless networks' value proposition and drives increased data usage. Enterprises can cost-effectively procure and manage wireless applications, and individuals will have access to the most recent version or the exact applications they desire, and pay only for what they use.
The aggregate value of a universal application platform is tremendous. Working together to create a shared application platform creates a network effect that has additional benefits. With each constituency connected to an application platform a network effect is created that would allow individual interests to work together towards a common benefit. This shared effort would bring the applications to consumers more quickly. Easy access to a variety of applications will geometrically increase consumer adoption rates.
Each installation, update, and use of a wireless application represents a transaction within our market. We could construct a value chain along the revenue stream of an application transaction. Every player in the market has a place along the application value chain. When these players connected through a network, individual interests could share in the revenue when an application transaction takes place.
An outsourced wireless applications network would offer tremendous benefits to everyone in our industry. A wireless application network could offer distribution and mass adoption of applications, devices that offer high consumer value, significant wireless data usage, efficient mobile enterprise IT departments, and satisfied individual consumers. And by applying the value-chain business model, all players stand to earn additional revenue.
Onward and Upward
It's not easy to do things differently, but invariably, change brings about advancement. I, for one, am willing to stand alongside my fellow industry leaders and address these issues head-on. Let this serve as a call to others in our industry to rise up and meet our challenges as a consolidated force for the advancement of all. I welcome all questions, comments, and suggestions.
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