Sunday, March 13, 2005

Mobile Data

After an almost 2 year hiatus, a recent meeting with a colleague who has his own blog got me thinking about writing again. I've been spending most of my time recently in mobile / telecoms, in particular looking at mobile data and the kinds of services that can drive its adoption.

Most of the excitement in mobile data is happening in Europe and now, in Southeast Asia and as such I've been spending time in Singapore, Bangkok, Hong Kong and the region in general. The rate of adoption of mobile services is significant, and unlike the European or North American markets, mobile data is taking off early i.e. with the deployment of new networks vs the market penetration saturating.

Most people in the region do not have a PC, but they have a mobile phone (or two). Services like messaging are the among the most common, and one of the services we have been working on focuses on the fact that the mobile phone will be the primary interface for accessing content in general, and specifically, Email. In fact the biggest growth in Email addresses worldwide is coming from - you guessed it - Asia.

It's early days, with over 1.5B plus mobile phones in the global market (and growing), and only a few million devices being used for Email - mostly for the professional elite, and not the everyday consumer with an everyday handset. The market is very brand conscious and price sensitive - meaning that consumers look to their candybar or flip handset (typically free / subsidized) which is highly personalizable to be their interface to the world .... vs carrying some kind of corporate/boring/ugly device. Despite the advantage you would think Chinese manufacturers would have, Nokia is proving to be very successful in the market, no doubt (at least in part) due to their superior supply chain and focus on innovation.

Only 2% of the Indian market is penetrated, and China is in the 20's. Both are billion person the math and you'll get to the conclusion that 2B mobile devices is not only possible, but it will be surpassed in the next few years.

So if a mobile phone is going to be the primary interface / access method for the majority of the humans in the world, someone has got to find a way to get the content that people want - the Email, News, Music....on to a mobile phone in an affordable, easy to consume way. No crap - spam - noise - but the stuff that consumers want, on a very personal basis. The idea of using reputation, and establishing personal priority on an ongoing real-time basis, as a screen for content isn't new, but it is only now evolving into applications that we humans find useful on a daily basis. Combine that with what is going on in Search these days, and some very interesting applications definitely arise.