The Future of Mobility

The announcement of the iPad 2 kindled (not the Amazon one) something inside of me this week.  I have provided a few angles on the new iPad, but wanted to close out the week looking at how I view the future of the mobile market. 

Undoubtably, mobile devices have finally taken off and are becoming more mainstream.  What was once seen as a techy item, is being used by professors, business people, mothers, students, and even Grandma and Grandpa Joe. 

The evolution of the smartphone has taken a turn.  What was once a push for smaller is better has turned to a balance between functionality and size.  With the smartphone becoming more functional, allowing users to surf the web and watch movies etc, consumers started seeing the benefit to larger screens.   What we are seeing now is the advent of larger screen smartphones and tablets to satisfy the increased functionality.  A new strike between functionality and convenience.  

So what does the longer term future look like for smartphones and tablets.  Who will be the front-runner, and what will they need to do to stay on top.  Obviously, Apple is seen as the leader at this time, but can Android or even Blackberry catch up?  Keep in mind, when I present these questions, I am writing with regards to the US market.  The addition of the International markets would change everything and add some more players. 

Right now, I see the major US players in the mobile space as:

  • Apple
  • Google – Android
  • Blackberry
  • Microsoft

What do each of these players have to do, in order to stay competitive?  Well, for starters they need to continue to innovate and improve on their products, while keeping their costs down.  This is a given for all of the players above. 

Let’s look at the specifics for each player:

Apple

  • They need to open up.  They are too stuck on a proprietary mindset and this already got them in trouble in the 80s.  Add a USB port to the iPad, allow an SD port, let me see my files and folders and transfer stuff without using iTunes.
  • More product lines – the one reason the Android devices have better specs is because Apple only provides product upgrades once a year.  You want the next best iPhone, it could take 1-2 years.  With the Android, HTC is coming out with one phone, while Motorola is already working on the next best thing.  This keeps the product line fresh. 
  • Realize Google is for real.  I know no one has been able to touch the iPod, but Google has a good chance to make a run at Apple with phones and tablets.  According to Steve Jobs at the iPad 2 unveiling, iPad is 90% of the market today, but keep approaching it from a standpoint that no one can beat you and someone will…especially when it’s Google in the rearview mirror.

Google

  • Push to become more mainstream and less techy.  Nothing wrong with techy people, I could be considered one of them, but a phone branded as “techy” for some is an automatic classification of “scary” for others.   Start marketing campaigns branding your products towards less tech oriented market segments.
  • Improve your security model.  This might be a difficult one since Google’s model relies on openness.  Education might be the best practice here or having a security program pre-installed might help reduce the risk. 
  • Lower your price points of your higher end products.  The Motorola Xoom was deemed the iPad killer.  I must admit, it looks pretty nice, but the price point is too high.  $600+ and I have to sign a contract with Verizon?  Apparently, a cheaper model in the $500 range will be released at Sam’s Club with only Wi-Fi, but when there are cheaper iPad options, who do you think will get the majority of the market?  Android is in the position where it need to impress and get itself out there, not price itself out of the market.  Think of Vizio TVs – they were high quality and in a lot of cases a better product, but the main way they got out there in the market and proved themselves was on price. 

Blackberry

  • Stick with what you are good at and appease your main market.  Blackberry is still alive because of the security and their seamless Enterprise integration.  Businesses that require tight controls, especially government related, will turn to the Blackberry.  For Apple and Android, they are out to appease the average consumer right now with new and innovative things.  Their models aren’t tied around security and in some cases, like I mentioned with the Android,  harbor less security.  For Blackberry, they are seen as lacking in innovation, but sometimes boring means stability and security. 
  • Don’t lose complete sight of innovation. 

Microsoft

I only mention them because I am sure they will make some kind of run in the mobile space, but they have a lot of catching up to do.  So did Apple in the 90s…

What about tablets?  Are they the future or a fad?  I think they can be the future, but they can fizzle out if not marketed properly.  The main way to keep the tablet heartbeat alive is to get it into the workforce; Seamless integration within the Enterprise.   This is key!

I have had my iPad for two weeks now and I love it.  I am also starting to realize everything I do on it, I can do somewhere else and better.  For example, it acts as an e-reader, but so does my Kindle and the books on my bookshelf.  It plays Netflixs, but so does my 65 inch TV.   It acts as a computer, but my netbook definitely is my device of choice when working or writing.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my iPad, but others might come to realize, they don’t really need it. 

If the tablet can get itself into the Enterprise workforce, it can prove that it is more than just a cool gadget.  I think this is achievable and already in the works in many places.  During the iPad 2 announcement, there were many examples of different professions using the iPad.  And now with the camera, the options are even greater.  Remember when we use to watch sci-fi shows with workers communicating with each other via tablets – can you say Facetime on the iPad!  The industry must continue to come up with more practical uses of tablets; otherwise, people are going to realize their smartphone does enough for them on the go.  If I had to bet on tablets continuing to be a future game changer, I would probably take the bet.

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