I attended last week's Open Mobile Summit in San Francisco last week. This is a twice-a-year event, once here and once in London. The conference attracted over 600 attendees to discuss the world of mobile applications -- open mobile, to be precise. There were chip suppliers (TI, Qualcomm, Intel, etc), device suppliers (HTC, Motorola, RIM, Samsung, etc), applications developers (Zynga, LinkedIn, Foursquare, etc), carriers (AT&T, Orange, Verizon, Sprint, Rogers, etc), advertising agencies, content providers (Disney, NPR, BET, NBA, MLB, etc), and more. The main topic discussed was monitization trends. No surprise, we were all there to figure out how to make money.
Several interesting comments and questions arose during the panels:
- Application development for mobile devices is targeted at 6 weeks
- Porting applications between devices/OS is non-value add; they want a "build once, sell everywhere" model
- How will the industry ease application development, porting, and testing for new devices, while simultaneously enabling chip differentiation (innovations/features) to be leveraged by applications?
- The dominant device (billions of users) for the next several years will be feature phones (camera, music, text, etc)
- The future important wireless device categories are smart phones, tablets, and machine2machine (M2M). M2M is seen as a 2 order-of-magnitude larger volume over phones. Coming smart phone innovations will be in the area of display (projection) and control (virtual keypads, kinetic input).
- Google is claiming there are 300,000 software developers writing for Android
- Will applications be packaged with bandwidth, or will the business models of carrier/bandwidth, device, and applications remain separate?
- The advertising world is finding great value in the targetability of mobile-enabled advertising and branding, though it is not yet possible to launch an ubiquitous campaign
-The speed of Android code revisions is causing serious headaches for both device and application developers
One of the panel discussions in particular discussed the device and chip market place. It was titled: Mobile Platform Wars and the Device Future
On the panel were:
Each made some very provocative statements about their businesses and prospects:
"In 3 years there will be no difference between PC and mobile devices." Android will displace Windows, or is it the other way around?
"I've forced myself to use the Microsoft phone OS for two months. Don't count them out!" Does he personally prefer Android?
"We have accelerated our transition from traditional hardware manufacturer to differentiate on software/user experience, designing the hardware to enable that." Is HTC getting into applications?
"Those that invest in Android will benefit in the long run. There will be consolidation in the device area, and they will be differentiated by applications."
"We have 100,000 applications, and are developing a signature user experience on top of that. We invested in a few services (aka Apps) to standardize across mulitple platforms for a common user experience."
"We want to deliver specific promise around innovation in each device, in services (eg Apps) and hardware enabled experiences. Supply chain planning must now consider software lifecycles as well as hardware availability."
Another fantastic panel delved into super smart phones: What Makes a Superphone Super?
They started by distinguishing the Superphone in the spectrum: Fossil phones, Feature phones, Smart phones, and Super phones
"More performance for same power. Human/machine interface innovation is in the future...smell, touch, gesturing, projection, etc"
"All phones will be smart phones in 4 years time."
"All chipset vendors are software guys. We offer software with hardware, but it is enabling technology."
"Joules law - the battery is more limiting than Moore's law is giving."
"Android isn't a performance core base, and must be tuned accordingly. Enabling Android well is what is so expensive."
"Google will be foolish to stiffle innovation and require Android compliance."
"We have more software people than hardware. We develop software and throw in the chips for free."
"Apple monetizes through devices, iTunes is the razor. Google is making ad sales revenue, and zero on devices. RIM Blackberry enterprise server is how they make their money. Nokia is using OVI. All these plays have a strong services (eg Apps) revenue stream, or an agenda around that play."
"Aggregation of software, brought together in a meaningful way, is what will be enabled and will distringuish the Super phone."
"Apps have to be hand tuned/compiled to take advantage of the multi-core devices, and we don't have those tools yet. Using multi-core is rocket science."
"Intel has more people working on Android than Google does."
In summary, this was an excellent conference with very dynamic discussions around chip, board/device, OS, and application trends. Much was debated, but not a lot was decided. One thing is clear -- this group firmly believes that the explosion in applications (290 applications are downloaded to smart phone/iPad every second) is the driving factor around which we must organize our business strategies.