Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Mobile Internet Revolution for South Asia
Mobile application developers and high-bandwidth wireless data network operators are being dramatically boosted by latest innovations, growing popularity and rising demand of smartphones such as iPhone, Blackberry, Palm Treo and other mobile platforms. Some 10 percent of phones shipped worldwide — and some 19 percent of phones sold at retail in the United States — are smart-phones. Taiwanese smartphone maker High Tech Computer Corp. (HTC) expects its sales in India to double in 2008, from 100,000 in 2007 to 200,000 in 2008. Although reliable figures are not available, Blackberry is finding traction in Pakistan and HTC is promoting its low-cost smartphones. Overall, there is room for substantial growth. In terms of wireless voice and data, markets with large populations and relatively low penetration rates, such as India, China, Philippines, Pakistan, Vietnam and Indonesia, will continue to grow at a rapid rate, according to an Aug 2008 report by Paul Budde Communication Pty Ltd.
Each platform provider is vying for greater developer mindshare and faster wireless networks to add value to its device and gain market share to become the standard in mobile computing and communication. These developments are pulling together all of the necessary ingredients for explosive growth of mobile internet business in the coming decades. Though it's early, this ongoing mobile platform revolution could easily eclipse the PC and Internet revolutions of the 1980s and 1990s. The reason is simple: The cost and convenience of mobile devices makes them much more affordable and useful to a much larger population of the world today.
In an earlier post titled Mobile Internet for Pakistan, I wrote as follows: With the personal computers and the Internet penetration in Pakistan in single digit percentages and the mobile phone penetration approaching 50%, should Pakistanis still aspire primarily for the Western style PC/Internet access model? The answer to this question is clearly a resounding NO. Here is an opportunity for a strategic leapfrog to ubiquitous Internet connectivity via the most prevalent device owned by the largest number of people--the mobile phone. It makes sense from many perspectives: Device cost, connectivity options, electricity availability, usefulness for the vast majority of people, etc.
So what would the mobile internet do for people? Many consumers already use programs that come with their phones to send text messages, browse the web or take and email pictures. In addition to standard widgets like time, temperature, stock prices, and maps, Apple is offering an iTunes like online store called AppsStore that lets users download and install applications. iPhone owners can install programs that let them tune into Internet radio stations or get directions to the nearest gas station.
In future, phones will be able to do a lot more. For example, San Jose Mercury quotes analysts as saying:
1. By simply using your phone's camera to take a picture of a bar code, you will find out instantly whether the store across the street or one online is selling a coffee maker at a lower price than the store you are at.
2. Whenever your bank account dips below a certain balance, your phone will notify you — and allow you with one click to instantly move more money into the account.
3. If you have a medical device implant, you will be able to use your phone to instantly and automatically alert your doctor to any troubling conditions.
4. Your phone will be able to tell you when you need to leave your house or office to make an appointment on time, given existing traffic conditions along your route.
As PC-like standards emerge in the mobile space and all-you-can-eat data services become inexpensive , the natural progression toward cloning and commoditization will happen, thereby making highly useful and multi-functional mobile platforms more affordable and ubiquitous in emerging markets such as India and Pakistan.