To most this may seem like a ridiculous statement, but a simple trek through history brings to light the fact that mobile content has existed in various forms for decades. The invention of the printing press led to the publishing of newspapers which provided mobile consumers with local and national information on a variety of topics. The later invention of radio ultimately led to portable radios which provided consumers with an alternative means of mobile content delivery superior to the newspaper in that radio delivered information in “real time”, which isn’t possible with newspapers. Eventually, magnetic media was invented which provided a storage medium for the rapidly growing music entertainment industry. This magnetic media was used to store and market music in the form of cassettes. Sony Electronics expanded the mobile entertainment market which previously featured portable radios by creating and marketing a personal portable cassette player called the Walkman. With further technological advancements in storage media and radio communications, Sony would later market the compact disc based Walkman, and the personal portable television, the Sony Watchman.
During the 1980′s as transistor based devices evolved to include everything from watches to clock radios, Coleco introduced portable electronic games. These games provided personal entertainment in the form of LED (light emitting diodes) based racing, football, and other basic forms of mobile gaming. In the late 80′s, Nintendo introduced the groundbreaking GameBoy, which not only provided personal mobile entertainment, but more importantly featured interchangeable software. This key success factor for the Nintendo Gameboy was, and remains choice. The Nintendo Gameboy has evolved to today’s Nintendo Gameboy DS, which is still a hugely successful personal mobile product.
Summarizing the previous decades of personalized mobile content, consumers were easily able to access news, music, and games easily with very little effort. Now let’s take a look at where we are today with another type of hugely successful personalized mobile technology, the cell phone. Unlike the previously discussed mobile mediums, the cell phone enables the killer communication application of voice. The cell phone also is responsible for another killer app form of communication, the short form messaging service, also know as the text message. In both cases, use of voice and text messaging has ease of access and ease of use.
The emergence of the internet in the 1990′s as a commercial medium combined with the convergence of voice and data technologies has led to a natural emergence of technically sophisticated cell phones which are capable of both voice communications and data services. Data services available over the internet today include news, music, games, and many other types of services which have been made possible because of the internet. However, unlike all media predecessors to the cell phone, access and use of the news, music, games and other data services is complicated, confusing, unnatural, and non intuitive. These issues exist for numerous reasons ranging from a lack of standards amongst phone manufacturers, poor product design, and technology constraints. The most significant and most obvious reason is due to the carrier’s desire to control the customer experience in order to maximize their service revenues. This is the so called “walled garden”.
Interestingly, today’s mobile carriers could learn many lessons in revenue generation from the past. Ease of access and ease of use will ultimately lead to maximum revenues from the consumption of news, music, games, and any other services that are readily consumed over the internet today. The carriers must recognize that they provide the technology that is the medium, and that they are not responsible for providing the content that is consumed over the medium. In other words, the carriers are not news media, music labels, gaming companies, social networks, or any other content that is consumed over the media that the carriers provide. By contrast, the carriers must and should continue to innovate the merged medium that now carries voice and data. If the carriers continue to make innovations in voice and data technologies, then the carriers will avoid the fate of the media which is at or nearing its’ end of life – newspapers, magazines, radio, cassettes, VHS, compact discs, and the wired telephone. Simply put, the carriers will maximize their revenue by skating downhill using their known competencies, and will minimize their revenues by skating uphill remaking themselves as providers of news, music, games, and internet content.
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