Call Open Mobile Summit a geekfest because this event, held in San Francisco naturally, gathered cutting edge mobile innovators with dazzling success stories for a multi-day deep dive into what’s next in mobile.
Google, Sprint, American Express, Home Depot, MCX, Wells Fargo – they were all there. But so were startups operating out of garages in the East Bay and they of course brought their aspirations to be among the big players next year.
Some just may make it.
A baseline fact: mobile is disrupting the credit union industry. How business was done, as recently as in 2010, won’t fly in 2020, probably not in 2015. That’s because, suddenly, most of us never leave home without a powerful personal computer – and in a flash poll of the audience, only a scattering of hands went up when the crowd was asked if they still used their smartphone to make lots of voice calls. Texting is in, so are apps and left behind are old analog ways.
Also from Open Mobile Summit
That’s the subtext of what the crowd absorbed. Here are five specifics you don’t know because you weren’t there.
Next Page: Mobile Tipping Point
We Have Passed the Mobile Tipping Point
“We are passed the tipping point,” said Coleen Carey, director of product marketing at digital agency Urban Airship. “Seventy percent of people sleep within three feet of their phone – it is always with them, always on.”
The worrisome fact: “Many mobile strategies haven’t evolved,” said Carey.
Speaker after speaker at Open Mobile Summit railed against companies that have simply ported their online channel into mobile, essentially shrinking it to fit a smaller screen. That, they said, is a big fail that will only get bigger.
The mobile game changer, Carey said, is location – but that’s just the opening gambit. “What it allows is much greater relevance.” In other words: with mobile it becomes feasible to shrink the content to fit the specific user and location, and that is a huge deal, said Carey.
“Consumers are demanding more from mobile,” said Carey. “2014 will be a make or break year for you,” she predicted.
Dodd Roberts, a senior executive with Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX), insisted at the Open Mobile Summit that ordinary consumers still don’t know, or care, about digital wallets and “that is why our focus is on the merchant.”
Get merchants on board – and MCX claims Walmart, 7-11, Lowe’s, Sears, Shop Rite and many more national retailers – and, suggested Roberts, the pieces just may fall into place for a fast adoption of a new digital payment tool.
Enter MCX, which says it is working on an innovative mobile payment platform that should be usable on just about all phones.
MCX remains coy about when it will roll out – “keep checking the newspapers,” said Roberts when a reporter asked him.
But, in a short interview at Open Mobile Summit, he insisted that MCX is indeed planning to come to market (some had seen it as a ploy to win better deals from MasterCard and Visa) and, he added, that in fact MCX “has had talks with Visa and MasterCard” about how they might work with MCX.
Next Page: Google vs. Samsung
It’s Google vs. Samsung in the Main Event
Don’t believe the main event in mobile is the Google–Apple faceoff. The bloodiest brawl will be for all the SIM cards and it will pit Google vs. Samsung, predicted Richard Windsor, who crunches numbers and predicts trends at Radio Free Mobile.
By Windsor’s count, iOS (Apple’s iPhone) is getting left behind globally, and “On the surface Android looks unassailable,” said Windsor.
The iOS problem is its price point and Apple is unlikely to budge very far on that score. But as Android prices continue to fall, its ecosystem – that’s the app developers, phone makers, consumers and more – strengthens.
Samsung, meantime, is the Android rock star – its Galaxy phones have given glamor to the sector, as other Android phone makers such as HTC and even Google-owned Motorola stumble. There are mounting signs that Samsung is restive playing second fiddle to Google and it may make a play for Android dominance, said Windsor.
“Only Samsung is making money in Android. The others are at breakeven or losing money,” said Windsor. “Android is totally commoditized.”
“So Samsung may decide to seize control.”
The fight could be interesting – “User loyalty to Android is low,” said Windsor who indicated there is room for another player. What?
Not Apple, according to him.
“Windows could be in this,” said Windsor. He pointed to the continuing, huge presence of Windows in the enterprise as a building block for a resurgent Win Mobile marketing push.
Why haven’t Win phones sold? “The experience at retail with a Win phone is awful,” said Windsor. “No one has a clue why they should buy a Windows phone.”
But, unexpectedly, “In general, Win phone owners are pretty happy,” said Windsor.
Bottom line: when Microsoft gets new leadership next year (longtime CEO Steve Ballmer has said he is retiring), it might bring to the Win phone a dynamic marketer who figures out how to make Win phones cool must-haves.
And that could raise the competitive stakes for Android.
Next Page: Wearable Computers?
Do You Need to Be On Wearable Computers?
There’s Google Glass – widely popular in the media but estimates are that only a few thousand products are in the market. There’s a stream of tricked-out watches that can sync up and display email, Tweets, calendar entries, you name it. There are ever more special purpose wearables – such as Misfit Wearable’s Shine personal activity monitor.
The question: Does your credit union need to develop an app for wearable computers?
Know that only one mainstream company spoke up at Open Mobile Summit to say it had an app for wearables (real estate info app Trulia has a version for Google Glass, said head of mobile Steve Yarger. He added: “Sometimes you do products for the learning, not because of what you expect to immediately get in return”).
One other fact: most conference attendees seemed to think that wearables will become both more numerous and more sophisticated – but that does not mean every organization needs to be there.
Sam Shank, CEO of booking app HotelTonight, flatly indicated that he saw no need for his app to be available on wearables such as Google Glass.
At least one panelist said wearables already rule – but we need to think more broadly about what they are. “A smartphone already is a wearable of a sort,” said Prashant Fuloria, chief product officer at mobile analytics company Flurry.
Certainly, too, it is easy enough to imagine specialty marriages of financial services and wearables – picture pressing a button on a watch and seeing one’s account balance – but, cool as those uses may be, there is no reason to stampede into wearable apps development.
At least not yet.
Next Page: Don't Fear Failing
Is failure good for you?
If you never fail, is your credit union on the fast track to extinction?
Abhi Ingle, vice president of innovation at AT&T, said in an Open Mobile Summit presentation that in fact in his labs the metric is that he wants half the projects to fail.
Sounds crazy? Ingle’s point is that a lower rate means the organization has become risk averse and, for that reason, it is staying conservative in its experimentation. That also means the chances of game changing breakthroughs sharply diminish.
Of course, AT&T limits its exposure on high-risk gambits – it is not betting the company on these endeavors – but thinking big happens best when failure is not simply a possibility but perhaps even a probability, suggested Ingle.