The Mobile World According to Chetan Sharma

Chetan Sharma Consulting has released its H1 2010 assessment of the mobile industry. The report notes that tiered pricing plans have now arrived in the US. Chetan Sharma believes this will force some discipline and technology innovation to solve the longer-term problem of network congestion.

The report also notes that Android will easily outsell iPhone but says that Apple’s secret weapon is iTunes. With over 150m billing relationships, it has fostered a great apps ecosystem that others will find hard to replicate entirely.

Other insights from the report include:

  • In the always on world, people expect instant, real-time access to almost anything. Whether it’s access to music or movies for a 15 year old or availability of the entire corporate knowledgebase, information will need to be available at a touch of a button. Companies big and small are investing in the infrastructure and software tools to make this happen.
  • The battle for the consumer of 2015-2020 has already begun. The company that has the best understanding about the most consumers will have a pole position in the mobile ecosystem. Players like Google, Apple, Amazon, Mastercard, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, China Mobile, Disney, AT&T, Vodafone, Motorola, and others are amassing a lot of information on individuals.
  • The apps vs. the web debate is “rather silly”. Both worlds will coexist for a long time. What matters for the developers is the reach of a certain platform or technology and the cost and potential of that reach. For the user, the only thing that matters is what’s available on their device.
  • With Nokia announcing that all its smartphones will have NFC by the end of 2011, next year, all major device makers are likely to follow the same trend which means that hundreds of millions of devices will be equipped with a chipset that will enable new experiences, applications and services.
  • Given the fragmentation that exists in the mobile OS space, players who don’t consciously make an effort to make developers thrive in their ecosystem will see their developer efforts collapse like house of cards. While the media attention is squarely on iOS and Android, Chetan Sharma believes that RIM, Nokia, Samsung and others will also do well; the fight is over the relative rankings in the pecking order.
  • By the end of 2010, global on-deck revenues will be overtaken by off-deck revenues. As smartphone penetration grows, it is less likely that the user will purchase value added service from the operator. Some operators are trying to extract some value, but some are likely to follow T-Mobile’s path and give up on the smartphone appstore eventually.
  • The man-machine interaction took a significant leap with the introduction of the iPhone, and significant work is being done to accomplish more with less friction with the help of new interfaces and experiences. The amount of time it takes to “accomplish any given task” is going to reduce dramatically. With the help of contextual sensors, extreme personalization, and brainiac software, we will take automation to a new level. This will lead to new experiences that will enable more commerce, social interaction and participation, and general awareness and intelligence about every day things.
  • Spending on mobile phone services is shifting. Data has gone from being less than 1 per cent of overall revenues to over 35 per cent in 2010 and is going to be more than 50 per cent of the overall revenue mix by early 2013. Mobile operators will need to figure out how to manage these reallocation undercurrents and maintain the overall lifetime value of the customer. It will come from re-architecting of the business and technology practices, as well through the introduction of new services.
  • Mobile has become a full-fledged computing platform and other industries are taking notice. There is significant work going on in the mHealth, mRetail, mCommerce, mEducation, mEnergy, and other sectors to keep things busy for the next few years. The impact on saving lives and quality of health care will be tremendous – worldwide. The regulators and the legacy players will need to keep up.
  • Despite all the commotion, the excitement, and the turbulence in the ecosystem, the trajectory of the winners and losers is not set. Like the Chaos theory, a lot depends on how the dynamic elements of the mobile universe effect and react to changes. Players will do well to have strategies in place per scenario so they can adapt quickly and keep the mother ship in the right direction. We can expect more changes in the next 10 years than in the previous 100. The triggers for various scenarios will vary – regulatory, competitive, technology, business model, consumer adoption, economic – each of these can have an impact on how a trend becomes the fact of life.

Chetan Sharma is stagng a Mobile Future Forward Executive Summit in Seatle on 8 September to discuss these and other trends in the mobile marketplace. Theres more information here.