Sunday, May 27, 2007

Great post today by Tomi Ahonen, one of the authors of the Communities Dominate Brands book and blog about the sea change in awareness of how mobile computing will change after the release of the iPhone. If you haven’t read this book or added this blog to your aggregator and you have any interest in the inexorable migration to mobile computing you’ve missed out on two incredibly important resources.
Ahonen and his co-author Alan Moore have been telling anyone willing to listen about the true scale of the mobile industry and the impact it is having on a worldwide basis for years. But, as Tomi points out in his post today, the mass consciousness, particularly here in US where we tend to be laggards (in the Geoffrey Moore sense) in our adoption and use of mobile technologies, will have a sudden epiphany next month when the “iPhone era” begins.
In much the same way that the iPod redefined the portable music player market and established an ecosystem that had eluded pioneers in the space, Ahonen predicts that Apple will enter the mobile market in similar fashion and succeed in earning accolades for things that have already been happening largely on their mastery of marketing.
What will change? Pretty much everything. And funnily enough, most of it is not actually caused by the iPhone, they only happen to occur so closely to the iPhone, that the iPhone will be given much of the credit.
Ahonen provides the same kind of empirical data he always does to support his claims. Consider the following numbers:
Music on mobile phones is already worth $8.8 billion dollars last year, with ringing tones, ringback tones and MP3 files sold to musicphones each larger than all of iTunes.
Messaging is a multi-billion dollar business on the web. But messaging is an $80 billion dollar industry on mobile (mostly SMS text messaging).
Social networking and digital communities are big business on the internet. But at $3.45 billion dollars it is already bigger on mobile.
The total content industry on mobile was $31 billion dollars in 2006.
On this last point, Ahonen makes the following observation (pay attention here because this is one of the keys to understanding the CDB world vision):
Then some clever analysts will have an “heureka” moment and exclaim that woa, the total content industry on mobile at 31 B dollars in 2006 is larger than on the fixed PC based internet (duh!) and some clever dicks will then observe that actually, since the majority of content revenues on the fixed side of the internet are pornography and gambling, but the biggest content revenues on the mobile internet are from music and social networking - yeah, they will tell you this in amazement, just watch them - some clever media pundits will conclude that while the mobile internet is younger, it is also more mature than the fixed landline internet on PCs. (and our blog readers will say, told you so, if you’d read the book Communities Dominate Brands, you’d have known all this already..)
So… does the world change with the release of the iPhone? Are we (metaphorically) looking at the same kind of before-and-after demarcation as the Western calendar’s B.C. and A.D. or the computing world’s “before Macintosh” and “after Macintosh” as Ahonen suggests in his opening? I think so.
I’ve seen Apple pull this off four times already. The introduction of the Apple II completely and irrevocably changed the way we looked at personal computing. The introduction of the Macintosh is inarguably one of the most significant events in the history of computing. The launch of the Newton (flawed device though it was) ushered in the PDA era which evolved into the smartphone era. And the iPod ecosystem singlehandedly redefined the music industry (at least in terms of popular awareness).
Given that track record, why would anyone believe the imminent arrival of the iPhone represents anything less than a similar watershed moment?
The AI (After iPhone) era will be a different place than the BI (Before iPhone) world we’ve been living in. It took a few years for the real impact of the iPod ecosystem to be fully appreciated. Lessons were learned. I suspect we’ll see a similar awakening this time around but on a grander scale and at a faster clip. Why? Because (as Ahonen and Moore have been preaching for years) the phone is simply more important than a music player – especially to the Generation C marketplace that is defined in Communities Dominate Brands (one guess what the “C” stands for). And when the phone and the iPod converge as they do in the iPhone (which I believe is a decidedly different convergence than the musicphones introduced BI) with the UI experience Apple is better at delivering than anyone else, the game changes.
The implications for mobile computing, personal productivity and entertainment, and how the network fits into our lives is about to change for the masses in much the same way it already has for us gadget fans, early adopters, and power users. And it’s going to be great theater.

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