Cloud Four Blog

Technical notes, War stories and anecdotes

Mobile Tsunami Presentation

You can now view the slides from my presentation on the upcoming Mobile Tsunami at Portland Web Innovators last week including an audio recording or presenter notes.

If you would prefer presenter notes, you can find them on the SlideShare web site in the comments.

Thank you to Ryan Williams for inviting me to speak, Portland Web Innovators for organizing the event, Nemo Design for being such gracious hosts and for the free beer, and for the large number of people who took time the time to attend the presentation.

Mobile Portland User Group

At Portland Web Innovators last night, we announced the formation of a new user group called Mobile Portland.

The idea for Mobile Portland came from our desire to have a place to share what we’re learning and collaborate with other mobile developers. The idea took hold when during a conversation with Jon Maroney of Free Range Communications after the recent PAF panel on mobile marketing.

In addition to Free Range, early enthusiastic collaborators for a local mobile user group include individuals from eROI, GoLife Mobile and bBoing (a.k.a., Summit Projects). We’re pleased that we’ve got a group of people interested in making this happen.

It seems like the last thing Portland needs is yet another user group meeting. However, mobile development has numerous unique challenges. These challenges deserve their own attention and focus.

We’re still working out logistics on how Mobile Portland will work. If you’re interested, go to to be notified about our first meeting.

Short on Specifics

This is the fourth post in a multi-part series on the mobile web that previews some of the topics for my presentation next week at the Portland Web Innovators Forum. RSVP for the event here.

Now that you understand the size of the mobile market and the fact that it is ripe for explosive growth, what should your business’s mobile strategy be?

The answer is: no one knows for certain.

The reason why many businesses don’t have a mobile strategy is because mobile is long on potential and short on specifics.

The specific strategies that will be successful for your business are varied and many are unproven. We can look at compelling case studies like:

These case studies show what is possible when you combine the right strategy with mobile-optimized content. But in both cases, you would be hard pressed to argue that either Blyk or ESPN are following proven strategies.

Instead, mobile is most reminiscent of the early days of the Internet when companies were just beginning to think about how this new technology might transform their industries. This period was full of experimentation as everyone rapidly tried to figure out how to build successful businesses and corporate strategies in this new world.

Our experiments will be better this time around because we have better infrastructure. We can draw on the lessons we’ve learned over the last decade. And we will be better equipped to measure our success.

But just like the early days of the Internet, those companies that are forward-looking—the companies that take risks and explore what is possible—will be rewarded with an early lead in this emerging market.

Long on Potential

This is the third post in a multi-part series on the mobile web that previews some of the topics for my presentation next week at the Portland Web Innovators Forum. RSVP for the event here.

In the last post in this series, we examined the size of the mobile market and how mobile adoption dwarfs that of television, PCs and automobiles. With such a large market, why aren’t more businesses working on their mobile strategies?

One reason why many businesses haven’t taken the mobile industry seriously is because we’ve heard the story before. Every couple of years mobile carriers or phone manufacturers would tout the soon-to-be-released dream of a smart mobile device in your pocket.

The title of my last post quoted Dr. Eli Harai of San Disk who recently called mobile the mother of all markets. But this isn’t the first time the mobile market has been called that.

In 1992, then Apple CEO John Sculley told the New York Times that “pocket-sized digital communicating devices” could be “the mother of all markets.”

Fool me once.

For the last few years, mobile phones adoption has out-paced other technologies. So the widespread adoption of mobile phones alone isn’t enough to warrant new optimism.

What’s changed that makes 2008 different than 1992 or even 2006 when it comes to realizing the mobile potential?

  • The iPhone’s easy-to-use interface.
  • Full web browsing experiences led by iPhone’s Safari browser and Opera.
  • Flat-rate data plans.
  • Phones with Wi-Fi support built-in and the many public Wi-Fi hotspots
  • The push for open platforms—whether truly open like Google’s Android mobile operating system or the pressure that led Apple to release an iPhone SDK.
  • The push for open networks including the open network requirements placed on the recent wireless spectrum auction and the commitment by major U.S. carriers to be open networks by the end of 2008.

Momentum in the mobile market has accelerated to such a degree that not a day goes by that there isn’t another company releasing some major new initiative. Today alone, AOL announced a mobile platform, Nokia launched a major mobile advertising platform, and Microsoft bought Danger, Inc., the producers of the HipTop/Sidekick phones.

There is still work to be done and the question remains whether 2008 will be a transition year or the year mobile technology skyrockets. But it is no longer possible to look around and conclude that mobile isn’t poised to take off.

It used to be that when people would tout what was possible with mobile phones, we had to look no further than our own phones for a harsh reality check. Now when someone pulls out their iPhone, Blackberry or Nokia N95, the future seems a lot closer than it ever has before.

The Mother of All Markets

This is the second post in a multi-part series on the mobile web that previews some of the topics for my presentation next week at the Portland Web Innovators Forum. RSVP for the event here.

Dr. Eli Harai, CEO of Sandisk, recently declared that “The mobile phone market is the mother of all growth markets.” I usually recoil when hearing what sounds like hyperbole.

However, Dr. Harai isn’t exaggerating when it comes to the size of the mobile market.

There are 3.3 billion mobile phones in the world—that is one for half the world’s population. Tomi T Ahonen has an exceptional article that helps put 3.3 billion in perspective by comparing it to other technology:


As you can see from the chart above, there are more mobile phones in the world than there are cars, televisions, telephones, PCs, and credit cards. And the number of mobile phones continues to grow at astronomical rates:

The global population expands by three people a second, according to International Data Base, an arm of the U.S. Census. In the same second, 38 wireless devices will be sold. At that rate, within 24 months another billion devices will be added to the 2.5 3.3 billion currently in circulation. — Source: USA Today [ed. number of phones corrected]

With 3.3 billion phones in use today and only 6.6 billion people on the planet, it would seem like growth would slow down, but instead the number of mobile phones being sold continues to increase. There are a couple of reasons for this.

First, in many countries in the world, mobile services are over subscribed because people have both a home and a work cell phone. Italy, for example, has a 140% subscription rate. Therefore, while there are 3.3 billion phones in use, there are not 3.3 billion people with mobile phones.

Second, many developing countries have eschewed building the costly infrastructure required to support land lines and have instead focused on building mobile networks. Recycled phones from other countries are often sold or given away in developing countries.

So we have a very large market and one that continues to grow. What does this mean in real dollars? Again, we turn to Tomi T Ahonen:

The total service revenues for mobile already passed 720 billion dollars last year (Informa Jan 2006). Toss in another 100 billion for handset sales and some more for network infrastructure and we’re at a total industry of over 875 billion in size by 2007 – well on target to hit a trillion dollars as an industry by the end of the decade.

Tomi also asserts that SMS alone accounted for 100 billion in revenue last year. That is as “big as total Hollywood box office, total Hollywood DVD sales and rentals, total music industry revenues and total videogaming software revenues in 2007 – combined.

If that doesn’t cause you to sit up and take notice, I don’t know what will.

What we have with mobile phones is the largest media market in the world by a long shot and a market that is continuing to grow.

So why aren’t more businesses working on their mobile strategies? To answer this question, we’ll take a closer look at both the history of the mobile phone and the parallels to the ’90s Internet expansion in future posts.