Friday, September 17, 2010

Canada's Role in a Mobile Media World

By now, you’ve no doubt heard 2010 proclaimed as the year of mobile. Auguring the profound impact of mobile media, a speaker at this year’s Mobile Media World conference believes 2010 is instead the year you do mobile or you’re dead!

Mobile Media World 2010 is a two-day conference in Toronto that is part of Mobile Innovation Week. The week offers series of events, tradeshows, thinktanks, and conferences dedicated to the many business, development, and social facets of mobile telecommunications.

The conference nicely balanced futurist predictions and industry hyperbole to foster excitement on the impact and potential of the medium with present-day practical advice that businesses could implement. Over twenty speakers presented, mostly business leaders from domestic and international companies, with the exception of OCAD University (continuing their leadership role in this space amongst Canadian academia).

The conference was also the platform for some significant announcements. Bell Canada, fresh off its purchase of CTV, announced the Business News Network would be available on their mobile television service. Also, ComScore announced the extension of their mobile market data to the Canadian scene.

Rather than recount a chronology of speakers’ points – I’ll identify the main themes raised today:

1. Mobile eclipses PC-based Internet access
As popular as Internet access is via home and work-based personal computers, mobile access greatly surpasses it. With the increasing uptake of mobiles in developing world this trend will only increase.

2. Mobile does not mean smartphone
Smartphones generate more hype than traditional cellphones or feature phones, but even despite the continued adoption of smartphones, older types of phones will continue to occupy a large share. Add to this the increasing adoption of other networked devices, such as tablets, netbooks, and e-Readers, and the mobile space is indeed quite diverse.

3. Don’t forget SMS
Sexy multimedia can distract one from the dull but phenomenally popular usage of text messaging.

4. O.S. war rages on
Don’t expect an end to the mobile operating system war any time soon. The market is still too young and there are too many major players (Apple, BlackBerry, Android, Symbian, etc. – and Windows soon to be coming on strong) for this battle to be over in the next two to three years. To further make development difficult, there are also various O.S. iterations that remain – making unified development or universal access unlikely.

5. Mobile Web or mobile app? Answer: both
Usage of both downloadable mobile applications and mobile browser-based content are both too strong to ignore either. Speakers suggested that if developers have to choose, then a mobile website is easier and more affordable to build and maintain.

6. Emerging form
As with any new technology, it takes time for standardization. Speakers noted that mobile usage tends to be broad but not deep. Those developing mobile content must consider the implications of the new – if developing – form to be effective.

7. mCommerce builds momentum
More people are expected to bank via their mobile than via their PCs, but it may still be a couple years before Canadians are able to pay for purchases via their mobile device.

8. Bandwidth catch-up race
More mobile customers and increasing consumer demand for more mobile content and services will strain networks even as the providers continue to improve their networks.

9. Enabling technology for mobile revolution is here
The network infrastructure, security mechanisms, physical devices, etc. are all already here to allow for mobile media to integrate into and improve more realms of lives.

10. The grass is greener on the other side
Canadians need to stop navel-gazing and consider global markets. The Canadian market is smaller and less mobile-frenzied than other markets (such as Japan & South Korea). As one speaker noted,“Why sit and wait for this market to develop? Why not go to a mature market?”

Mobiles are clearly a technology impossible to ignore. Acknowledging this role, Ontario premiere Dalton McGuinty recently sparked debate by supporting mobiles in classrooms. The conference organizer opened the session today by encouraging participants to keep their mobiles on and beep away freely. No such invitation was necessary to glue attendees to their devices, but a telling moment arose when one of the speakers momentarily delayed beginning his presentation while he checked his mobile.

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