Mobilize 2010: The Next Big Idea

Andres Bernstrom

New mobile services and devices are affecting the way users interact with each other and how business gets done. Today, at Mobilize, executives from Rebtel, iPass, Skyhook and Motricity shared their views for how new mobile Internet capabilities are changing the world.

When mobile voice goes mobile VOIP, what happens to the carriers that have made their business selling voice minutes to customers? In 1990, there were 10 billion minutes of international calling, but now it’s 400 billion minutes, according to Rebtel CEO Andres Bernstrom. But Bernstrom believes that technology has advanced so that the folks who own the pipes no longer own the connection between users. Other services are now leading the way for international calling, including Skype, Google Voice and Vonage, as they push the boundaries of technology and price. Facebook is also moving into the space, which would mark an enormous shift, as the network already owns the social graph, knows your friends, and knows who you want to talk to. The big question is who will win this trillion-dollar land grab. The answer is that it’s likely not going to be the mobile operators who own the pipes.

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It used to be that having a BlackBerry handset meant workers were on a shorter leash, but now the tables have turned. According to iPass President and CEO Evan Kaplan, smartphones and new wireless capabilities have changed the global workforce. Kaplan says that a bleeding edge of 10 percent of mobile workers, led mostly by millennials, are defining the future of the mobile web. These “rainmakers,” as Kaplan calls them, use networks differently than other users do today, and show how users will work in the future. At any given time, these users have more than one device and lean toward consumer technologies, causing enterprise IT departments to follow suit. Kaplan believes that users need a new “Enterprise Mobility Bill of Rights” that allows IT departments and service providers to serve these leading users. To do that, companies need to provide connectivity all the time, allow their employees to choose the device they want to use and allow them to determine the network and the services they want to use. If enterprise and service providers do that, Kaplan says those users will be more productive and useful to their organizations.

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Beyond mobile apps like Foursquare or Facebook, most apps aren’t made for purely social usage. But even those that aren’t implicitly social need to begin leveraging social capabilities, according to Skyhook CEO Ted Morgan. Apps that integrate social network capabilities do better than others, according to Morgan, and location is becoming a key part of that social experience. Not just that, but using social networks and using location gets people to use the app more. If you integrate social networking features, Morgan said, people become more loyal to the app.

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The mobile Internet has provided a vast opportunity for new capabilities and services on smart phones and other devices. But according to Motricity Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer Jim Ryan, there’s a much bigger opportunity and a better mobile experience that can be provided, designed just for end users. To do so, Ryan said mobile Internet services need to know more about you. Therefore, users have to trust the mobile carrier with their data to make service more personalized and relevant. The carriers need to act as the good stewards for data, in order for the most valuable information and data to be delivered to the end user. Ryan argued that mobile companies shouldn’t allow mobile Internet to be just the Internet on the mobile phone, but something different and something better.

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