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Beyond the PC - the mobile revolution

Written by  Daniel Alegre
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Daniel_Alegre Issue: Asia-Pacific III 2010
Article no.: 5
Topic: Beyond the PC - the mobile revolution
Author: Daniel Alegre
Title: VP, Asia Pacific & Japan
Organisation: Google
PDF size: 369KB

About author

Daniel Alegre is Google’s Vice President for Asia Pacific and Japan; he oversees all of Google's sales and operations for the Asia Pacific and Japan regions. Previously, he was Vice President for Latin America sales. Additionally, Mr Alegre oversaw APLA (Asia Pacific and Latin America) business development, and was responsible for all international wireless, syndication, content acquisition and reseller strategic partnerships. Previously, Mr Alegre worked for seven years at media company Bertelsmann AG; he was Vice President of business development of the Bertelsmann eCommerce Group in New York, Managing Director of the record division of BMG Music in Latin America; and Director of new Internet initiatives in the company headquarters. Earlier, Mr Alegre started and ran an FM radio station in Mexico. Daniel Alegre holds dual degrees from Harvard University - an MBA from Harvard Business School and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He graduated, cum laude, with a bachelor's degree from Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

 

Article abstract

Half of all new Internet connections come from mobile phones. By using servers in the cloud instead of the phone’s computing resources - even basic mobile devices become very powerful. Users interact differently on a mobile. Since they have approximate equivalents to eyes, ears, a sense of direction and a sense of place and the Internet’s massive processing power to back them up, the mobile will let people communicate, share, and engage in commerce in wholly new ways.

 

Full Article

Although your first introduction to the Web may have been via a PC, for many people around the world today, the main gateway is the mobile phone. More than half of all new Internet connections come from mobile phones. At the end of last year, mobile-data traffic already surpassed voice traffic as the largest portion of traffic on the world’s mobile networks, according to Ericsson. Our search traffic from mobile devices has grown more than four times in the last year alone. That’s faster than our desktop traffic ever grew. This revolution in connectivity is particularly profound in Asia, where it has had a huge impact upon varied economies, cultures, and infrastructure. While the tech hubs of Korea and Japan are often cited in any commentary on mobile growth, it’s just as important to consider the impact that mobiles will have on emerging Asian markets, where a whole generation of people will come online for the first time via their mobile. For example, much has been written about SMS services in India and Africa that allow farmers with cell phones to figure out what to do with their crops by sending text messages with market data, weather forecasts and any relevant news. In this, and countless other examples, basic mobile technology is acting as a thin rope-bridge between the Internet and peoples’ daily lives. With 90 per cent of the world’s population living within range of a mobile network, this bridge, though narrow, is a more direct route to the Internet than a PC. Success in the mobile space has been made possible by moving computing resources away from clients and onto the servers in the cloud - in this way, even a basic mobile device can become very powerful. The advances in smartphones will obviously be key to how the mobile Web develops, but what will count more are the robustness and the strength of those links between mobile devices and the Internet. The signs are good. research house Ovum say that 3G or faster technologies will climb from 21 per cent of mobile subscriptions globally in 2010, to 43 per cent in 2014. We can learn a lot about the future of mobile growth globally by looking at Japan, where Ovum expects 100 per cent of mobile subscriptions to be 3G by 2014. Over the past decade, while the rest of us were happy to use our mobiles for simple phone calls, the Japanese have been using their phones to write email, buy games and other mobile apps, and chat with friends made on mobile social networks. Phones have been able to receive high-quality broadcast television for years. And before there was the iPad or Kindle, there was the Japanese mobile phone novel, a literary phenomenon unique to Japan. A few authors started uploading novels to mobile websites, where they were downloaded and read by millions of fans. By 2007, five of the ten bestselling novels in Japan were originally composed on mobile phones. Over the past two years, thanks to the explosion of smartphones, consumer habits around the world have followed the path of Japanese users. There is a tremendous amount of innovation in this space, and a new ecosystem of carriers, developers, and telecoms is thriving. We are particularly excited about the success of Android, an open source platform designed specifically to bring the open Internet onto mobile phones, but any mobile phone that gives the user full access to the Internet is making an evolutionary leap beyond the capabilities of the PC. The growth and change that has already happened suggests the mobile Internet we’ll be used to five years from now will be radically different both from what we have today and what we’re forecasting now. Still, we’ve had enough progress to be able to make out a few general rules. First, things that seem marginal on a PC can be central to the mobile web. For instance, the new devices’ ability to record movies and images anywhere and to share them on the fly turned out to be as appreciated by users as the ability to watch movies on their phones. The pace of social networking has increased as people post photos instantly and share with friends. Second, users’ interactions with the web change when they are on a mobile. We first saw this with search - about 10 to 20 per cent of searches are for local information; on mobile that proportion is over 30 per cent. Similarly, the ability to link your thoughts and acts with a precise location while you’re on the road is becoming a key difference between being on a social network on a PC and on mobile. Even email - the classic killer app of the PC Internet revolution - changes on mobile. People use mobiles to respond rapidly to work email, and continue to use PCs for longer email replies; among information workers it’s a familiar ritual to check email before going to bed and after rising to quickly scan what lies ahead. Third, one can’t innovate for the desktop, with mobile as an afterthought. Five years ago, most products were first developed to use online and were only later adapted for mobile. Now, the mobile market is so large that it seems pointless to design a product without considering first how it will look on a variety of mobile devices. Gartner estimates that the global revenue from mobile applications, including revenue from ads sold against the app, will be US$7 billion in 2010 and rising to US$29.4 billion in 2013. By way of comparison, worldwide box-office receipts for movies were close to US$30 billion in 2009. Many recent innovations in search have been aimed at making full use of the smartphone’s equipment - its camera, microphone, and GPS device. Search by voice is one such example, and is especially useful in countries where keyboards aren’t that good at rapidly conveying non-Roman scripts. Finally, we’ve learned to make the most of the cloud. Mobiles will always be limited by small batteries and processing power, but if you remove the brunt of processing from the device, and take it into the cloud, then the small device in your hand can be as powerful as the desktop at your office. That connection makes the phone thousands of times more powerful than it is when it’s offline, enabling phones to do many things that require additional processing power, like recognize snippets of songs or a photo of a painting. So what’s next? Obviously, smarter phones - and more of them. Analysts predict smartphones will begin to outsell PCs as early as 2012. Phones already have approximate equivalents to eyes, ears, a sense of direction and a sense of place. With the Internet’s massive processing power to back them up, we can expect phone’s sensors to become more refined as cameras take sharper photos and mobile compasses become more accurate. Another step will be to push those capabilities further to find new links between peoples’ needs and the world around them. In the process, people will be able to communicate, share, and engage in commerce - and in the world at large- in ways that the desktop has yet to offer.

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