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Third mobile era can kill or enhance any business

Jouko Ahvenainen (via Computerworld HK) | Oct. 8, 2013
The third era is now becoming more important: how mobile can really be utilized in the infrastructure and within all businesses to make them more effective and create a real positive impact on the economy.

I was recently in Finland with an American business partner. Finland and Nokia were leaders in mobile in the late 1990's and early 2000's. Unfortunately their domestic mobile ecosystem is stuck in that era, although Finland has several very successful mobile apps companies.

One of our hosts, a corporate executive, recommended that we order a taxi with an SMS service; he was proud how advanced a service it is. Then the American partner had issues paying the taxi with his credit card, when the taxi's payment terminal didn't get a mobile connection. This happened twice.

The American guy wondered out loud, as he hasn't ordered a taxi or paid for it in a long time, because he uses Uber or some other similar mobile-based services. This event pushed me to think about different phases in creating and utilizing mobile in business.

We can divide mobile services into three eras: 1) mobile calls and SMS and services based on those, 2) Mobile internet browsing and media applications and content, 3) applications and platforms that enable any business or company to utilize Mobile internet in its sales, operations and admin. There are probably many other ways to see mobile development phases, but this one can help to think about influences and opportunities for different businesses.

The first era of mobile was a true gold rush for mobile carriers. As it was said in 1990's mobile frequencies were a license to print money. Many carriers also thought this trend would continue when they went to 3G auctions, but the business was changing and it became hard for carriers to make money. Then came Apple's iPhone that opened new revenue sources. We entered the era of apps, content and app stores.

Now we are approaching the third era. Taxi services like Uber are simple examples, of how it is not only about reading or doing something with mobile, but it's a way to use a physical service.

We can expect business applications to handle mobile work, many payment solutions starting from the Starbucks card and in the future many more services where mobile is the device to do things. Examples include health services, identifying the user, payment, as well as logistics to avoid queues and handle activities remotely.

It is not rocket science to innovate these services (and many of us have probably heard far too much about those ideas), but it has been very slow to actually implement them, because it is not only a matter of writing one piece of software and distributing it or having a mobile internet service. It is actually much more important to re-imagine the whole process and also modify physical services and devices.


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