Mobile Integration Is Alive and Well…
Mobile Integration Is Alive and Well…
By: Jay Kitchen
Jan. 1, 2000 12:00 AM
Mobile convergence will remain "the engineer's dream and the businessman's failure" until companies learn and master the four fundamentals that are currently shaping the market landscape. Here the president and CEO of PCIA, Jay Kitchen, examines all four of them.
Do you remember the television commercials from a few years back that showed how a refrigerator (in the near future) would call your cellphone to let you know that you were out of milk?
Not surprisingly, all the world isn't yet being given a grocery list by major kitchen appliances. But while magazine columnists, investment gurus, and TV pundits have spent the past year giddily proclaiming the death of wide-scale thoroughly integrated mobile systems, an interesting market dynamic has taken shape. Mobile technologies are slowly but surely integrating themselves into every sector of the economy.
The newness and undefined nature of the current generation of wireless devices and services presents a great opportunity for a variety of companies that previously had nothing to do with mobile telecommunications. Some backbone industries, such as infrastructure and hardware providers, though still vitally important to the success of mobile convergence, are being deemphasized. New entrants, such as General Motors' OnStar division, retailers hoping to exploit location-based promotional opportunities, and high-end appliance-makers all are banking on success in the mobile convergence marketplace.
There are four major issues that will have important implications for the success of mobile integration: knowledge of the marketplace; personalization/customization; interoperability; and privacy/security.
Issue #1: Know Your Marketplace
This new environment requires cross-industry cooperation and a full understanding of consumer attitudes and preferences, marketplace characteristics, technological issues, and regulatory environments. Industry forums and communities are being formed to provide dynamic, living communities for mobile convergence players.
PCIA launched the PCIA Global Initiative for key companies in the mobile convergence sphere as a neutral venue to further mobile convergence, address associated issues and obstacles, provide the right networking atmosphere to meet global partners, and to bring solutions to market more quickly.
One component of the Global Initiative is PCIA's landmark "PCIA/Yankelovich Global M-Consumer Research," the first ever primary research study of mobile consumer predilections in different markets. This comprehensive, multicountry study examined mobile user attitudes, inclinations, and purchasing triggers. The results were surprising: while each market has its differences, defined user segments displayed strikingly similar interests and habits across national borders, though their incidence within those countries varied tremendously.
PalmPilot inventor and Handspring chairman Jeff Hawkins, speaking at the PCIA GlobalXChange mobile convergence trade show, stressed the importance of giving consumers what they want, disdaining the tendency of wireless companies to pack their products with the latest technological marvels even if they are of dubious consumer value. Hawkins's business philosophy is the critical difference between the stunning success of the PalmPilot and the crashing failure of its forerunner, Apple's Newton handheld computer.
For example, a U.S. company knows the value of graphically intense, highly visual Web sites designed to be accessed by PCs and viewed on large monitors - the preferred method of accessing the Internet used by the vast majority of Americans. But if this same company attempted to market a similar product in China or Japan, countries in which most people access the Internet on mobile devices with screens the size of a playing card, they're almost certain to fail. This is a very simplistic scenario, but the importance of understanding and meeting consumer needs cannot be overstated.
Unlike the mobile voice markets where services are basically the same for all users, 3G data and video applications are extremely specialized and resonate differently among different user groups. The PCIA/Yankelovich results bear out that users view advanced mobile services as the best available method for personalizing the way they receive and access information, different forms of communication, and entertainment.
This study, conducted in six of the top seven mobile markets in the world - UK, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, and the U.S. - revealed several critical insights essential for any mobile company looking to offer services in multiple markets.
Italy Stands Out
Key to this unprecedented study is the method by which PCIA and Yankelovich assess mobile services. During the face-to-face and phone interviews with users in each of the six countries, we evaluate specific mobile services, not simply interest in m-commerce in general. The following is just a sample of the detailed services we evaluated based on level of interest in utilizing these services through a mobile device:
As Figure 1 demonstrates (in very simplistic terms), the wants of businesspeople in London and Tokyo - and Frankfurt and New York - overlap to some extent. At the same time, the Tokyo businessman and the Osaka teenager, by dint of their shared nationality and cultural mores, also share certain desires for particular mobile services and applications. The London businessman and the Osaka teenager, sharing neither a common cultural nor professional background, have little in common when it comes to mobile demand.
From the business perspective, wireless solutions have never been more accessible or needed. Wireless voice in the business environment is extremely important, as shown in Table 3. Wireless data, however, is critical for many of the largest enterprises in the world.
Wireless corporate access to corporate data behind enterprise firewalls will be the critical mover for wireless data. Through these applications we will finally see the true benefit of mobility: anytime, anywhere access to the people and information you need. Like the take-up of personal computers, mobile voice, and e-mail, wireless data will flourish first in the business environment, and then gain significant acceptance in the consumer market.
Issue #2: Personalization/Customization
Users who are set in their ways regarding payment card usage, mobile service plans and options, Internet surfing, and purchasing habits have indicated their varying preferences for transferring these capabilities to the wireless environment. Even when it comes to methods of payment, users differ dramatically for similar items.
Even more drastic are the payment preferences among the different age groups of users. The different payment capabilities of various age groups translate directly to the mobile environment and dictate how they choose to pay for wireless entertainment, information, and transaction-based services.
Personalization will be a key driver for commercial location- based services (LBS). Time of day, volume of marketing solicitations, vendor selection, method of alert; each of these options must enable user choice in order to succeed. One of the biggest hurdles left for the wireless industry to clear regarding LBS is actually of its own making: the user community was too quickly flooded with scenarios for wireless Starbucks-coupon spam, and has accordingly resisted that idea. However these same users have expressed an interest in location-targeted marketing if they have the ability to personalize the services according to their individual preferences.
Issue #3: Interoperability
The same thing will happen with mobile integration - change will come; interoperability issues will be solved. The question is, which companies recognize this and are working toward a solution? And which ones will remain content to fight for the ever-shrinking market of a technology that has been abandoned by most others?
Of course, for LBS to live up to its potential, devices must be able to communicate and move seamlessly between systems and networks. Will users be satisfied with proximity services only within certain networks? What about roaming on other networks? Information content is relevant both in your home city and while traveling, and truly successful LBS will only be accomplished when users are assured they will enjoy their desired features regardless of the network or system they are roaming on.
Issue #4: Privacy/Security
Privacy of personal location and information, as well as the security of payments, has naturally grown with the promise of mobile convergence. Users in the United States, for instance, are extremely sensitive to potential abuses.
Privacy and security of corporate information is obviously critical. If the enterprise user is going to lead the way for ubiquitous take-up of wireless services in the consumer market, security must be assured.
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