3 Insights from 2013 World Mobile Congress

March 1, 2013

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The 2013 World Mobile Congress was held in Barcelona Spain this past week. 70,000 people representing most of the upper echelons of the mobile business world were in attendance.

Their agenda: Develop strategy, do deals, sell product, gain market share, and just move, above all else – keep moving. The event is a whirlwind of activity and intensity and depending on who you are and what your agenda is, you are going to have a different experience. Since I am always looking at the current landscape and what it means as to what we have to do next, my experience revealed three themes that seemed to permeate and should be considered in your strategic thinking.

1) The Mobile Operating System.

This is the center of the battlefield and everybody knows what is at stake. The tech industry seems to have learned from the past that when one company has market dominance at the operating system level they have exponential leverage to dominate everything that touches it. So rather that seeing bigger players give up and follow suit with the market leader, you are seeing everyone scraping it out for a piece of the action, almost regardless of how small it is.

The mobile operating system landscape has iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows 8, a surprising number of non-brand names, and very interestingly unveiled at the show was Mozilla HTML based mobile operating system/platform. My sense was not that any of the upstarts were going to immediately revolutionize things at the operating system level but, with so many players in the market, innovation is happening at a record place. Though BlackBerry did not have an active presence on the floor they were there very active at the BD level, and their presence was felt – BlackBerry is back and they are going to be winning back some notable market share.

2) Differentiation.

As would be expected in a market that is crowded and growing, differentiation is the key. The bigger players are doing this two ways. First, the user interface, and its features.

What is cool about the current timing is that everyone has caught up to Apple and now are pushing the limits themselves. Whether it is Microsoft’s Window panes and flexibility, (which, by the way is very cool – on a consumer level) or BlackBerry’s dual mode personal/business “bring your own device” solution or Mozilla’s build any HTML app on the phone, (no app store dependence) strategy everyone is innovating and scrambling to differentiate.

Second, they are looking to attract apps and developers to their platforms that can provide uniqueness. To do this, the operating systems are now migrating, at least on a enterprise level to move into verticals, and partner with companies that provide not just apps but full solutions, into an industry. An example of this is cDemo, which provides a solution via an app as the main user interface tool into the automotive industry. The app is poised to be the dominant piece of the ecosystem for dealers to sell product and manage inventories. Operating systems recognize the importance of this app solution being on their platform or they could lose market share or get shut in this important industry. cDemo was courted in one way or another by most of the operating systems to develop for them and the larger operating system’s are looking to partner into the whole space deploying capital and people to build and own the specific knowledge expertise such that they are the trusted operating system within that industry.

3) Get Noticed.

This cannot be stressed enough. With so many players, so much talent and the cost to entry lowering all the time, anybody in mobile has to be good at getting noticed. Not to take away from design, function and engineering but if you can’t get noticed you are done. Expect to see bolder, more pervasive and more provocative branding, marketing and PR.