Thursday, December 17, 2009

Crystal Ball to the American mobile future

It's almost the end of 2009. Mobile has come a long way since the turn of the century. The progression of mobile feels similar to the era when desktop computers first hit the internet. Speed and bandwidth were the issue, just like mobile. Let's take a quick look at mobile phone history from my perspective.

Picture the set of "The 70's Show". Little league parents were an excellent barometer for new trends back when I was a kid. They were pushing or dragging 30, had 2.5 kids and had a decent job. In the beginning doctors had pagers, followed by policeman and drug dealers.

One Saturday morning as a game was about to start an over-tanned yuppie dad showed up in the stands with a large metal briefcase. Slowly he freed himself of the restraints of his Hawaiian shirt and oiled himself around his gold medallion liberally. He spread out reflective material and kicked back wearing expensive sunglasses. He reached to his right, popped open the case and took out a telephone. The cheering that followed had nothing to do with the game. The children were fooled into believing they had just gained parental approval when in reality it was the birthing of their electronic leash. Bernie was mobbed by little league mom's, never to be seen again. What happened that evening is 70's legend.

The next versions of the cellphone were the size of walkie-talkies and weighed 20 lbs. Power was an issue and your car has a battery. The logical move was to have a "Car Phone". Having a phone in your car was a big thing. People faked like they had one just to look cool. Thieves would totally mess up a sweet ride to get a hold of a nice car phone.

In America, really cheap phones were offered with expensive long term contracts. SMS would become the huge moneymaker for the telcos, they had no problem giving away devices. Cameras would become more commonplace and people were itching to go online. PDA's became doorstops as telephones improved.

Someone asked Einstein his phone number. His answer was, "I don't know", I don't worry about things I can easily look up." How right he was, everyone with an iPhone and Wikipedia is a genius these days. In the 70's, when you left the house you made sure you had your wallet and your keys. Now add the cellphone to the pile, the cellphone has reached worldwide acceptance.

Things move extremely fast these days, but one thing holds true… Europe and Asia are two years ahead of what we do. We have progressed to the point of smartphone adoption in the US but the services available in other parts of the world surpass our expectations.

If we look to Europe and Asia they will give us a crystal ball to 2012. I would expect to see mobile TV in the the US in the very near future.

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