I recently chaired a two day global conference on mobile user experience in London. Delegates came from US, Europe, Korea, Japan, China, and elsewhere. The usual major players were there, including Vodafone, Telefonica, Samsung, LG, BBC, News International, and Qualcomm as well as boutique design houses.
I got the sense that this was a tricky area for all players.
Whilst in some sense Apple had set a standard with the iPhone to which many aspired, its impact on revenues and bottom line remains small.
Operators are culling their device portfolios (from thousands to less than a hundred in some cases) simply because of the customer service and support costs. Yet the arrival of iPhone has operator CEOs taking a real interest — possibly for the first time — in user experience and saying “this is what we want.” However, we didn’t hear that iPhone would become a major player in the market; its impact on financials is low. Rather it is an exemplar which others are now following.
Of real interest is the App Store, ads and add-ons. But while the iPhone store contains over 90,000 apps, only a few get real usage and traction. Costs and IPR are barriers to more uptake of media applications.
Many spoke of the intellectual property challenges in delivering quality user experiences. Complexity abounds. Designers know what they want but are thwarted in the challenges of bringing quality user experience to market.
And this is at a time when clearly the industry is moving towards the virtualization/cloud computing model and taking functionality off the device to the core. The newly launched Vodafone 360 is such a service. It has a rich App store in which they’ve been able to make some progress in thinking through the IPR and technology issues from an operator and device vendor perspective – a rare development and not an easy thing in this commercially polarized world twixt operator and device vendor.
But corridor gossip also spoke of Intel bringing out a dual processor for mobile devices next year; this will bring significant functionality back to the device.
The other significant vector was the way in which convergence is becoming a reality, leading to similar experiences on the mobile phone screen and the PC. Some spoke of mobile devices now becoming primary target environments for applications that are subsequently adapted for the PC rather than vice versa. The industry recognises that the installed base of mobile devices globally is greater than PC’s.
Finally, managing the IPR issues in social networking was also a challenge to which few answers were proffered.
Bill Jones is CEO of Global Village Ltd.