Mobile 2013 and Coffee

One of the most prolific publishers of research of mobile technology is Chetan Sharma. Chetan is also the host of the (almost quarterly) Mobile Breakfast Series, a gathering of industry professionals from all over the Pacific Northwest who come to network and attend always fascinating panel discussions of industry topics. His panelists are always key executives who play important roles within the industry.

Mobile Breakfast SeriesEllie O’Rourke and I attended the Mobile Breakfast Series panel in Seattle which presented a preview of what to expect in the new year. The “Mobile 2013” panelists included Todd Achilles, vice present of mobility at HP; Tracy Isacke, director of business development and investments at Telefonica Digital; Omar Javid, managing director of BBO Global; and Zaw Thet, advisor with Signia Venture Partners. Moderated by Chetan and speaking to an audience of easily 100 industry professionals, this panel had a lot to say.

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A Look Back at 2012

Chetan began by asking the panelists what they believed was the most significant development or event in mobile in 2012. Omar believed Google’s acquisition of Motorola to be the most significant event this year, tied to the development of the growth in smartphone adoption globally. Zaw followed by stating that it was the rise in mobile gaming, which changed the development paradigm in which developers of both mobile and desktop apps began to develop for mobile first. Todd’s view was that it was the actions of the FCC, which stepped in to block major acquisitions – such as AT&T’s attempted acquisition of Sprint –preserving competition in the wireless and mobile industry. Tracy, herself a Brit, said it was the London Olympics, which was truly the first “mobile event” – a major event in which athletes, attendees and staff were all interconnected via mobile apps that made the event richer and more enthralling at venues, and accessible to fans around the world.

The remaining 75 minutes of the panel was devoted to 2013. Here are some of the highlights from this fascinating discussion.

A Post-PC World?

Chetan asked the panel what we can expect for computing and whether we have entered a “post-PC” world. Todd, whose company has either the first or second largest market share in the PC business depending on who is measuring, said that we’re not in a post PC world because the computing power on mobile devices have in effect made them computers. But he acknowledged there is a significant difference between data-centric devices such as PCs and tablets, and voice plus data devices like smartphones. Zaw instructed the audience to pay attention to smart TVs. Though not mobile, these devices will interact with mobile devices and there will be a more aggressive battle for who owns the living room.

Mobile Platforms

The conversation then moved to platforms, and from Tracy’s perspective working for a major carrier, she firmly stated that Mozilla’s approach to the open Web is better than the walled garden approach to app stores. To illustrate her point, she spoke about the process of updating apps which in her view is a major step backwards in user experience. Omar predicted that we’ll see many different devices “talk” to each other and work together. He also sees, perhaps later than 2013, Apple building Siri into an operating system.

Carriers Adapting to Change

The next topic involved the wireless operators adapting to digital content. Tracy again had a unique perspective, and spoke about revenue declines, cost increases and over the top competition driving big changes in the carrier business model. She predicted the rise in carrier-based OTT services as core enterprise and consumer services, as well as an increase in M2M communications. She sees this expansion in OTT services fulfilling the promise of mobile as the “remote control for your life.” Chetan agreed with Tracy’s premise stating carriers are moving to a model where they only sell data and all other services are OTT. Later in the panel, Tracy said there was a growing trend toward more cross operator services as carriers see the opportunity in cooperation to further monetize services.

Todd sees a different fundamental change in the carrier business model from voice-centric to data centric. In the voice-centric world, operators discount the hardware to sell services, such as when you purchase a subsidized smartphone with a 2 year contract. In the data-centric world you discount the service to sell the hardware, such as when HP bundled its first Windows 8 laptop with 2 years of T-Mobile mobile data.

Other Highlights

Zaw sees the rise of wild new technologies like smart glasses, which gives people real-time information on a screen worn like a monocle, whereas Tracy sees more mundane activities like shopping or paying for parking driving mobile development and a better overall user experience.

With respect to the chipset wars, Omar pointed out that Qualcomm has overtaken Intel in market cap because of mistakes the chip giant made early on in mobile that allowed Qualcomm to overtake them in this hugely important market sector. He believes it will be difficult for Intel to catch up very soon.

Zaw’s take on mobile commerce is that social commerce will be very important in 2013 as commerce becomes increasingly driven by social recommendations. But the real question remains: who will own the wallet.

Regarding app stores, though she believes the app store model is fundamentally flawed, it will continue to be important throughout 2013. Omar also noted that the era of the big app suite is over, and the only current alternative is the app store. Because apps deliver specific functions and content, they are actually becoming an alternative to the Web itself. And data such as how much time a person spends in an app and what he or she does while using an app is far richer, and therefore more valuable, than data on Web use.

While Omar previously predicted multiple devices working together, Zaw says the big development coming in 2013 is app interoperability. On the devices themselves, Omar sees more sensors being part of the design paradigm, including the camera becoming a sensor, and these sensors playing an increasingly important role in how mobile devices are used.

Final Event Observations

Before and after the panel there was great networking among the gathered professionals and continued conversations with panelists on panel topics. One of the most interesting takeaways for me was Tracy showing me a new app that has funding from Telefonica Digital called I installed it on my iPhone straight away (it’s also available as a beta for Android). is a dynamic organizer for all the apps installed on your phone. It learns from how you use your phone to present the apps and content you need “right now.”

It was very gratifying to hear some of the predictions made by these industry pundits as clients of Mobility PR are playing roles in some of these very same trends and developments. Ellie and I know what our clients’ announcement calendars look like, and we can tell you that 2013 will be the most exciting year yet in mobile, and that some of these predictions are only scratching the surface of what will become possible in the coming year.

Tell Us Your Thoughts

What was the biggest development you saw in 2012, and what do you think will be big in 2013? We invite your comments.

John S