Mobile Is Now a Game of Ecosystems, Not Devices


Almost every manufacturer at Mobile World Congress this year seemed to be showing off their new tablets — and almost all were running some version of Google’s Android operating system, whether it was Android 2.2 Froyo, Android 2.3 Gingerbread, or Android 3.0 Honeycomb. Likewise, we saw a plethora of “smartphones” with 4-inch or larger form factors. The distinctions between device types are blurring.

The trend amongst mobile workers, particularly at this Congress, has been firmly toward carrying many different devices with many different form factors around to support different patterns of mobile working. This will be supported by current trends in data charging. T-Mobile announced on Tuesday that it is introducing flat-rate charges across all of its European markets to encourage users to access data when roaming, and other operators are likely to follow. With the advent of flat charging, the decision about device no longer becomes a decision about cost, but becomes one about function.

Manufacturers increasingly want us to buy not just their device, but their ecosystem — and are using interoperability between devices as a selling point. The new HP TouchPad, for example, features the ability to easily share a URL with another mobile device running WebOS such as a Palm Pre. The Scrabble “Tile Rack” App is an example of the same kind of phenomenon for iOS — an additional iPhone or iPod Touch being used to solve a design issue.

Leading providers of internet services have also picked this up through their market research, and are designing their services accordingly. Facebook is leading the way with the new version of its Messages, which promises to provide a seamless experience across devices. Comparing types of devices is misleading: a more apt point of comparison would be ecosystems and form factors within them.

Naveen Tewari is the CEO and founder of InMobi, one of the world’s largest independent mobile ad networks.

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