In his presentation he talks about Mobile being the next Mass Medium and provides many examples of successful mobile stories, most of them in Japan and Korea.
He start with stating the 8 needs Mobile fulfils:
Communication, Consume, Charging (Money), Commercials (Advertising), Create, Community (Social Networking), Cool (Fashion), and (Remote) Control.
He then proceeds in showing how the Mobile phone is the next (7th) Mass Medium with 6 characteristics that are preferable over the six other Mass Media (Print, Mass Media recording, Mass Media cinema, Mass Media Radio, Mass Media TV, Mass Media Internet). It is Personal, Always On, with Build in Payment system, is always available during a creative impulse, and provides the most accurate audience info.
While he is an authority on the subject, and he brings his presentation well and with many live examples in the market, I cannot help but feel that he is sometimes a bit too fast in projecting the success of some of those market examples to the rest of the world. There are also (technical, UI, service) hurdles still to be taken, but he dismisses them for now as “don’t focus on the limitations”. Instead, concentrate on the possibilities. In itself a wise saying, but I would add that the limitations should still be solved in the end.
Most of his market examples are taken from the Japanese and Korean market. There are two concerns there for me.
- These markets are years ahead in terms of technology, mass adoption and maturity (actually, he often uses Finland as example as well, and that market is also ahead of the rest of Europe as the homeland of Nokia)
- The cultural differences between Asian and for example European countries are very large. It is therefore difficult to draw conclusions on market results in Asia and project these directly to the European or American market. I’m sure Toni understands this, but it is not covered in too much depth in his presentations.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a strong believer of mobile community development and the value they can have for both the user, the community, the service creator and the advertiser/brand owner. I think that mobile phones are by far the best mass media devices, and even better, they have payment systems in place and users that are already used to paying for services and content (major barrier on the Internet). And yes, there are also European successes, but there are less (in numbers and volume).
Making mobile services successful isn’t a fairy tail with a happy end in all cases. There are may startups trying and failing. We need more time to experiment, improve and enrich the technology, but even more important the overall experience before it will truly become a mass adopted success worldwide.
I believe the mobile phone is becoming our remote control to life, but if this extension of our personality and life is pressured by too much unwanted ads or commercial activity we might see that the momentum that is being created now will be slowed down instead of moving faster.
And I feel there are still a few threads out there that might slow down the fascinating growth at the moment:
- Premium SMS services work really well right now, but would the same apply for data services later? And with more successful services on the way there is always the danger of price erosion. If I only pay for the Carrier fee to send a Twitter to the rest of the world, I will probably not like it much if I have to keep paying for premium SMS services when interacting with a brand. Arguably, Twitter is probably more something for middle aged men and woman now, but similar services will be discovered and used by teenagers.
- Don’t forget the power of the Mobile Phone carriers that still make loads of money on traffic and data bundles. They still control perhaps the most important aspect of the value chain (access). Unless they are willing to drop prices here, mobile Internet (unlike mobile messaging) will still have to overcome the barrier of high subscriptions fees. Same thing goes for the Phone manufacturers. We need open standards, open platforms, payment systems across carriers and phone types, and not walled gardens. If these walls can be broken down, I am convinced that innovation will lead to a much better user experience which will in turn speed up adoption.
- The influence Internet will have on Mobile users. On the Internet everything is free. The user experience is becoming richer and richer. Internet services will extend to mobile services and there lies a danger in the value model. Unlike going from Mobile to the Internet, it won’t be easy for Internet service creators to extend a free service to a payed mobile service, especially since many are already making mobile access to the Internet service free.
Having said all this, I am still inspired by the examples of Toni and would definitely enter this exciting market and start experimenting with mobile services. The endless possibilities, the always on, the presence information, the easiness to quickly send messages to the world, the always hungering for message by its user (how often do you check your mobile for new messages?), what better test ground could you have for new services!