Archive for December 3rd, 2007

From the “next big thing” file, the latest in mobile’s long tradition of incredulous, industry-promoting “research studies” comes from Screen Digest, who conclude that there will be over 28 million mobile video subscribers in North America by 2011. That’s right folks… in a scant three years mobile video is expected to increase by a factor of 20! Never mind that recent surveys have demonstrated that US consumers have little interest in mobile video, or that m:metrics has shown that only 0.6 percent of US mobile subscribers are currently utilizing mobile video services.

The Screen Digest press release makes little mention of research methodology, other than that “The data in this press release is taken from Screen Digest’s latest report, Mobile TV: Business Models and Opportunities. The report includes analysis of the current market situation, business models and value chain, as well as analysis of the delivery mechanisms, broadcast technology and the impact of regulation. 25 countries are reviewed in the report.”

More than likely Screen Digest’s release and corresponding “report” are designed to fuel the speculative bubble that has enveloped the mobile space for the better part of the last decade, giving the pitchmen another bullet point in their case for the “huge, can’t miss opportunity” that is mobile video.

Too bad, really… as it’s “research” like this that has continued to misalign expectation of the channel, and usually only serves to thwart the efforts of legitimate mobile marketers in the space.

So much has been written in the last week or so following the announcement by Verizon Wireless that they would be opening up their network to handsets sold by third parties, and that they would be streamlining the (currently) painstaking process of third party application development.

Most have focused on the reactionary nature of Verizon’s move, that it was simply a defensive move to counter the coming Android threat, AT&T’s iPhone, as well as to satisfy the new FCC rules governing the upcoming Spectrum Auction… rules also pushed through in large part to Google’s marginally-successful Congressional lobbying efforts. In general, the bulk of the coverage from the mainstream media and major industry blogs have largely written off Verizon’s move as a token gesture that will have little impact on the market for at least the next several years. In many ways these publications are correct, yet clearly they have missed the larger picture.

But to the mobile marketing community, as well as the marketing community at large, the shift represents the beginnings of a long-awaited shift towards a working Mobile Marketing system. I say “working” because the current environment of carrier-specific technology standards and business practices makes for an overly-fragmented, cumbersome system that seems counter its own ends. Divergent carrier technologies notwithstanding, the idea that third-party developers can now publish applications on the Verizon network without having to be “approved” by the carrier is a watershed moment in US mobile marketing, opening up roughly 25% of the marketplace that was, until now, more or less unreachable to the “free to the end user,” advertising-supported model.

For US consumers, innovative and (just as important) inexpensive (handset and/or ad-supported) mobile applications will become far more commonplace, as handset manufacturers will now have the freedom of preloading applications that consumers (rather than the carriers) are interested in using. While these handsets will inherently carry a higher MSRP due to the lack of carrier subsidy, it is my prediction that pricing for “non-carrier subsidized” / D2C handsets will ultimately not become a barrier to purchase, as consumers will value the benefit of getting the handset they (actually) want, rather than being forced into the handset the carrier wants them to have.

Change is a beautiful thing.