Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Future is Definitely Mobile

The Pew Internet "Future of the Internet" report was just released, and the results are clear - The future is MOBILE. This Report is a MUST read for anyone interested in the future trajectory of the Mobile platform, and it highlights a number of important facts. Probably one of the most important take-aways from this report is the fact that even the "experts" in this field are not certain the the evolution towards a more mobile future will better empower individual consumers.

Issues such as the further blending of personal vs. work time and physical vs. virtual reality are something that the Mobile Consumer Lab will continue to focus upon over the coming years.

Although this report is fairly long (100+ pages), it's completely free and well worth the time spent reading it.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Future of Mobile Interfaces

I've been talking a great deal about the future of mobile and wireless devices these last few weeks in classes here at IUJ and at presentations in and around Tokyo. The heart of these discussions has been the concept of a Simple Front End merged with a Complex backend - or Simplexity, a term my friends Marco and Ludovico have also been endorsing. And in perfect alignment with these conversations, Priya Ganapati from Wired just blogged about this exact same concept today.

The idea of more elegant and user-friendly interfaces are vital to the future success and development of mobile content and services. And while these ideas may not ultimately work, the concept that is driving them, Simplexity, is sure to be a major force going forward.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

IBM Concludes that the Future of the Internet is MOBILE

IBM has just released the results of its new study which explored the growing importance of the mobile phone as the "platform of choice" for accessing the Internet. They received responses from 600 respondents in the U.S., the U.K. and China and lead researcher Dr. Sungyoul Lee concluded that: "With 70 percent of consumers worldwide who believe that the mobile Internet has the potential to add significant to moderate value to their day-to-day lives, the time is now for companies to develop intuitive applications and services that allow people of all ages to effortlessly access and use the Internet while on the go -- anytime, and anywhere."

But company executives must not take this as an open mandate to simply port their existing Internet content to the mobile platform. That would be an enormous and costly mistake.

Instead, business leaders must look at the Mobile platform as an entirely new channel, with distinct differences from the fixed PC (or even portable, laptop PC with a wireless connection). Consumer behavior on the mobile platform mandates a different approach that leverages the power of the mobile platform.

For example, here in Japan did not replicate it's PC site experience on the mobile platform, but instead significantly modified it to match with the mobile consumer experience. One of the most important innovations (one that I believe suggests a complete paradigm shift in marketing competition) is their development of Scan Search. Through the use of a simple bar-code reader, they have turned the mobile phone into a huge competitive advantage. With a consumer shopping in a competitors store, using Scan Search, that consumer can get an immediate price comparison, read peer reviews, and explore recommendations for similar books all at Amazon.

While such a model may not be possible to replicate in other sectors or industries, this is a clear lesson than the mobile phone and its enormous set of capabilities has the opportunity to truly re-shape how we develop and implement our "eMarketing" initiatives.

This IBM study offers a very important glimpse of what will come, and look forward to continuing our own studies in this area.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The meek shall inherit the Web

The Economist just recently published an article on the growing power of the mobile platform to bring the Internet to developing economies. While Nick Negroponte and his colleagues at OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) captured the world's attention with the concept of the $100 PC, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the PC is a far inferior platform to the mobile phone for bringing the Internet to the world's least developed nations. Instead of thinking about the $100 PC, let's start thinking about the $1 handset which is capable of accessing the Internet.

But the PC Internet is not built to be viewed via the mobile phone. And while mobile browser companies such as Access , Opera and others do amazing things in bridging the gap between these two platforms, the onus is clearly on site owners and content developers to re-think their approach to content and service delivery, creating sites specifically designed for the mobile phone and not the PC.

Such developments are already underway. And what is most exciting about all of this, is that the future of the mobile industry is clearly aligned with developing economies. And as we continue to study the impact of mobile services and solutions on consumer behavior here at the Mobile Consumer Lab, we are regularly applying these lessons to student business ideas in developing economies within this region and around the world.

If you'd like to get involved in our efforts this year, please feel free to let me know!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Two NEW Thesis Reports Uploaded

Today, we have just uploaded two new final MBA thesis reports to the MoCoBe website. The first is written by Kenny Yand and Rich White, who studied the Japanese Mobile Gaming market for nearly two years while at IUJ. Their thesis looks into the key drivers of gaming in general including console gaming, portable gaming and mobile gaming. Based on this analysis they then create a roadmap for the future evolution of mGaming in Japan (and globally) based on these factors.

The second thesis was written by Kazunori Otsu, who looked at the diffusion of mobile full browsers in the Japanese mobile market. Specifically, he applied Diffusion of Innovation Theory to understand why mobile full browsers have not reached wide levels of usage and adoption. He conducted both in-person and online surveys in order to gather data for his analysis.

We will be adding more thesis papers when they are finalized. Stay tuned for our reports on mBanking, mPayments and more!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Mobile Phones and Kids

Brandon Baker has just completed his graduation thesis about the role and potential effects that the mobile phone use in "hero" shows in Japan has on children.

While each of the major operators here have rolled out phones, and service plans geared specifically towards children, this paper suggests that children actually should not be given a fully-equipped mobile phone until they are at least 16 years old. Additionally, this paper concludes that mobile businesses must take a more vigilant role in their efforts to profit from the "youth" market, as the negative consequences that mobile phone usage has upon children seems to far outweigh the benefits.

If this latest news from Spain (thanks to Brandon for the update on this!) isn't enough to convince you of the seriousness of this issue, please read through Brandon's entire thesis for a long list of other instances in which mobile phones have led to serious threats to children.

If you agree with the conclusions of this paper then, I believe that it's time for everyone within the wireless ecosystem to begin to carefully reconsider how we are approaching the issue of children and mobile phones.

The Mobile Consumer Lab will be taking this on as one of our initiatives in the Fall 2008 semester, and are hoping that these efforts will lead to more effective rules and guidelines for how all of us approach the issue of children's usage of mobile phones.

Nokai (Symbian) vs. Google (Android/OHA)

In our report published last year about Google Android and the Wireless Ecosystem, the excitement that we felt in our Lab about this effort was the fact that Google seemed to be the only company who was in the correct position to truly spark a robust Wireless Ecosystem similar to what has already been created in Japan. The argument that was made in this report was that because Google's revenues would be derived from advertisements placed within Mobile Internet content, that it was within their best interests to have the most compelling mobile content and services developed upon Android.

On Tuesday, things have become even more interesting. Nokia has just purchased the remaining shares of Symbian, created the Symbian Foundation and will make the entire Symbian "platform" available for free for all Foundation members. Symbian will therefore be open source.

While media reports appear to be extremely positive about this move, some questions we'll be discussing in the lab next semester will be:
1) How such a move truly influences the "ecosystem" that exists for content and service developers?
2) Will end-users truly benefit from this move, or is this just a competitive move to thwart Android and the OHA?
3) Can Android truly compete now that Symbian is Open Source?

We will continue to watch how this story unfolds, irrespective of how things evolve, it is clear that Open Source holds one of the keys to the future of the Wireless Ecosystem.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Japan's iPhone - A Portal to the World?

The world continues to be "lit up" by the iPhone, and the latest news that the 3G version will soon be launching in Japan ( correctly called by Lars and the team at Wireless Watch Japan), the question that keeps being launched our way is "does this really matter?"

Japan is a market that accounts for less than 3% of the world's total mobile subscribers, but generates 19% of the world's total data revenues, and stripping data communications revenues (like SMS and mobile messaging) out of this equation, 36% of global mobile internet revenues. All of this without the iPhone.

So the prospects that the iPhone will spark further usage of mobile internet content and services in Japan seems to be a little far-fetched. But where the iPhone is likely to make it's greatest impact is bringing the Japanese market more closely in line with other markets around the world.

As Japan has spent nearly a decade separated from the rest of the world in terms of mobile internet usage and adoption, the iPhone may turn into the great equalizer. Exactly the right platform to begin to help the most successful content, services and applications gain the global attention that they deserve. And at the same time, create a platform for future innovations that may help the world catch up to Japan's levels of mobile internet usage.

So while the overall impact in terms of total sales may not impress the analysts, something more subtle, but potentially more important to the future of the mobile internet may be underway. Although I believe that Google's Android is a more blatant attempt to make Japan's overall ecosystem model relevant around the world, the iPhone may also go a very long way in bringing an entirely new level of collaborative innovation between Japan and the rest of the world.

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Path to mPayments

In this new video from TellLabs experts from Japan (including our friends Marco Koeder from CyberMedia and Christopher Billich from Infinita) discuss the importance of mPayments and mCommerce, as well as the roadmap for how such applications should be implemented.

The work of our mPayments team in the lab this year has actually identified some more fundamental issues that are outlined in this video however. While this video briefly outlines mobile banking in South Africa, actually our research team has concluded that the linkage between mobile finance and mobile payments is of fundamental importance to the future of mobile-based payment solutions.

We will be following up with a full report from our mPayments team later this month, and we are also hoping to conduct an mPayments workshop in Tokyo in July. Stay tuned for more information as it becomes available!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Brand new Google Reader for iPhone

Here is interesting news about mobile browser for iPhone. Mobile Safari, can it be comparable with Opera's mobile browser?

The article is here:

Brand new Google Reader for iPhone

Monday, May 12, 2008 by dolapo

Reader on the iPhoneMobile web browsers have come a long way since we first introduced an XHTML version of Reader back in 2006. For example, iPhone and iPod Touch owners know how powerful having a full-featured browser is. We on the Reader team are heavy mobile Safari users. Sometimes we use it to kill time, other times for answering important questions that come up during brunch: What is Tyrol's first name? How is maple butter made? How do you sweeten rhubarb for sangria? What is John Gruber saying now? For questions like the last one, we of course use Reader to keep up with our subscriptions.

To make our (and your) Reader iPhone experience better, we wanted to really take advantage of the iPhone's capabilities. Today we're releasing a new beta version of Reader designed for the iPhone and other mobile phones with advanced browsers. You can use it by visiting on your phone.

This new version is designed to offer many of the same features as the desktop, while making it quick and easy to act on items. If you've used list view, then it should be familiar to you. Scan the titles for an item that interests you, tap and it expands in place. Starring, sharing, and keeping unread are done in place, so you never have to leave the list view or refresh the page. We think it's a very fast way to power through your reading list.

Since it's still in beta, we're not going to automatically send you to it, so bookmark the site so that you don't forget the address ( We love getting feedback from users, so let us know what you think in our discussion group or the other channels.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Cloud Computing - It's for real

Norio Murakami, President of Google Japan was just here on campus yesterday. And one of his major points during his presentation was the coming reality of "Cloud Computing," or having services and applications resident on the network rather than our own devices.

He also said that Google is not competing with Microsoft or Yahoo! or anyone else for that matter, as they were moving forward towards realizing this "Cloud Computing" future.

This is in line with the latest article in Wired Magazine about and their Cloud Computing efforts.

Now here's a question. If PCs will become thin clients that link into this "cloud," won't mobile devices take this same path? Instead of rushing to develop or create the next best application for individual devices, it seems like the better bet is to design for the cloud.

Friday, April 18, 2008

2008 - The Year of MVS (Mobile Visual Search)?

KDDI just announced today that it will launch a new "visual" search capability this Spring. With this technology, KDDI subscribers with these phones will be able to use their camera to take a photograph of something (this article mentions things such as CD covers or Wine bottle labels) and immediately get search results related to these objects.

The engine behind this search tool is a company out of the U.S. called Evolution Robotics and its ViPR object recognition software. A demo of this software running on the iPhone shows how you can take photos of different things and get search results returned via email.

Earlier this week, our friends over at Wireless Watch Japan clued us into a new Google Android GPS Application that allows users to have a computer-mediated mapping and navigation services available through Android-enabled mobile phones.

These, and the many other related solutions that I haven't mentioned are truly amazing, and suggest that in the near future we will see a number of attempts to use the mobile phone as a bridge between the "real world" and digital information related to it.

But beyond the hype, I'm very interested in seeing how these new technologies can and will be used by mobile consumers. Are these recent announcements true harbingers of the future, or will they lead to consumer apathy and confusion?

Today's announcement from KDDI, Bandai and Evolution Robotics suggests that it will only be a matter of a little more time before we get some initial answers to these questions. But in order to succeed, the user interface must be extremely elegant, the database overly robust, and the value of such services versus competing technologies must be clearly communicated.

Will this be the future? Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Disappointed about Mobile TV

As I discussed in this article for Wireless Watch Japan in 2004, both the underlying business model (or lack of one) and the mismatch with consumer usage of the mobile platform make the concept of a robust Mobile TV experience continue to keep the reality of mobile TV as a distant hope. Just yesterday, Nokia announced that it was "disappointed" by the failure of consumers to use Mobile TV on Nokia handsets. Why is there such a surprise?

The full press release went like this:
HELSINKI, April 11 (Reuters) - Nokia (NOK1V.HE: Quote, Profile, Research) said on Friday its push to promote mobile television broadcasting has not succeeded as the world's top cellphone maker had hoped. Nokia has been for years promoting television broadcasts to cellphones and its digital video broadcasting handheld (DVB-H) technology won EU support earlier this year, but only a few operators in Europe have opened any TV broadcasting services.

"It's a bit in a turmoil," Niklas Savander, head of Nokia's Internet services, told a conference in Helsinki.

Most people who watch TV programmes on their cellphones use third-generation (3G) mobile networks, bringing in long-awaited data transmission fees to operators, but these limit picture quality and user numbers.

"We have seen that there are multiple segments who are not interested in the broadcasting, but rather in downloads. Roll out is slower than also we anticipated a couple of years ago," Savander said.

(Reporting by Tarmo Virki; Editing by Erica Billingham)

Although it's been four years since my original article, I believe that the points raised remain the same. The intersection of Mobile TV and the mobile phone mandates that TV broadcasting must change, or as this press release from Nokia explains, consumers will simply move to using the mobile phone as a time-shifting, or record and playback device.

Here's to the future of Mobile TV!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Made to order phone

With research showing that consumers use less than 80% of the features that come pre-packaged in their phone, the rise in startups dedicated to creating made-to-order phones will surely rise. For example, US-based zzzPhone is already making GSM phones on demand. This seems to be the beginning of an important trend in mobile handset design and development. Should the Mobile Consumer Lab incubate a new business in this area? Your comments would be highly appreciated!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Mobile Senses

I usually get a number of strange looks from Lab students when I start to talk about the mobile phone enabling or extending our human senses. I get most of my inspiration for these ideas from Marshall McLuhan, whose books serve as regular guides for the work that I do. But now this week, two separate announcements are proving that such innovations are clearly moving forward. The first announcement (and the one that will likely have far quicker and more immediate uptake) was the introduction of a Braille phone that allows for person to person communications through vibrations rather than text. While the current application is geared towards text messaging, an obvious next step is to integrate this with Location Based information to create a wide range of services to support those with limited or no sight.

The second, although far more bizarre, is the announcement by NTT DoCoMo of its "breakthrough" smell-phone , equipped with a fragrance emitting plug-in. Aside from the obvious questions about the consumer adoption of such technologies, Marshall McLuhan must be smiling about this one. These two announcements clearly take the mobile phone to the heights of being both a "hot" and "cool" media.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

RFID the next frontier.

There is an exiting experiment by the University of Washington's computer science department. Volunteer students and faculty are using RFID to track themselves and their personal belongings within the computer science research building. Location data is used to help people find each other, locate lost items, and track how time is spent. With the speed of life in the developed world, I dare say that this team is going to come out with a breakthrough for the next trend of RFID in a B2C model

This gives the other side of RFID that has been received with mixed feelings in the western world due to the first models of its deployment not being in tandem with the citizen's need for privacy.

AeroScout this also released a temperature monitoring solution for the health care industry, which can alert hospital staff of threatening temperature fluctuations on tagged health care items and products.

This is where ingenuity is taking us in the RFID field.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Bridging the Digital Divide

I just had a long conversation with one of my students on the the bus from campus last week, talking about the Mobile Phone as the de-facto bridge for the digital divide and NOT the PC. In this very timely article, Mark Dean in the San Jose Mercury News clearly explains that the age of the PC is "drawing to a close". He says that "connectivity trumps processing power in this new era," an idea that has been the heart of many of our recent conversations in the Mobile Consumer Lab.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Mobile Internet "As Important As TV"?

Yesterday at the CES held in Las Vegas, Nevada, Paul Otellini, CEO of Intel stated that he and Intel believe that the Mobile Internet offers an incredible opportunity to redefine Consumer Electronics and the Entertainment industry. "We’re now in the midst of the largest opportunity to redefine consumer electronics and entertainment since the introduction of the television."

Reviews of his keynote speech can be found at Wired and The Stateseman .

With global penetration of Televisions standing at approximately 2 Billion, and as of this month, total mobile phone penetration standing at approximately 3 Billion, I believe that Paul is being very cautious in his predictions.

Whether Menlow, and the Mobile Internet Device is the future of mobility (which I personally do not believe) or the mobile phone platform (which I do), the exciting thing to come out of this year's CES is the clear realization in the U.S. that the mobile platform is fundamental to the future evolution of consumer electronics industry, as well as all of the others that use Consumer Electronic devices to promote their products and services (entertainment, telecommunications, financial services, etc.).

2008 appears to be the year of the mobile internet. We hope that the Mobile Consumer Lab @ IUJ can be a part of the festivities this year!