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Two development streams needed for next mobile killer-applications

I’m trying to cut through the mobile madness out there and distill some thoughts on where, globally speaking, the next generation of killer mobile apps will develop.Why am I doing this?
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Written by Adrian Bridgwater on

I’m trying to cut through the mobile madness out there and distill some thoughts on where, globally speaking, the next generation of killer mobile apps will develop.

Why am I doing this? Well, maybe it’s because I am hearing more than one opinion on this topic from different sources – so my suggestion to you is that we should talk about two different development streams in this space.

Here’s the deal: some vendors and analysts talk about the proliferation of simplified email to handsets used by low-income users in emerging markets and the BRIC countries. Others meanwhile point to higher cost value-added (perhaps location based) services which are proving hugely popular in the developed economies of the Far East.

But nobody seems have separated these and defined two distinct streams in this sense for application developers to consider.

Forecasts point to emerging markets as a breakthrough area for mass market mobile email. According to Informa, there will be 4.81 billion mobile phone subscribers by 2012, with the next billion subscribers coming predominantly from emerging markets, where PC and fixed-line penetration is low.

But at the same time…

In Hong Kong and Singapore, demand for Internet Protocol (IP) based ringback tones has outstripped demand in any other market globally. I spoke to ‘technology futurologist’ Professor Peter Cochrane on this subject some time ago now and he told me that since all new mobile phones in Japan must ship with GPS technology, that this enhancement will mean that firms can track repair crews, mobile care workers or transport and logistics teams and parents can even track their children’s location. “Handsets that are able to communicate information about their location will open the door to new revenue streams for Asian mobile players at all levels,” said Cochrane.

On the one hand, we read about companies like Synchronica sinking investment into mobile email middleware (they acquired consumer mobile email specialist AxisMobile back in August) to produce a product that allows owners of really basic mobile phones (they’re selling this well in India and Africa) to send and receive email, including attachments.

But at the same time…

According to a report by (ah-hem *blush*) me in the Wall Street Journal, “Asia-Pacific is often described as the world's technology barometer because its consumers, particularly those of telecoms services, are so technically discerning,” said Kuala-Lumpur based Michiel Verhoeven, general manager for Microsoft’s communications sector, Asia-Pacific and Japan. “As high demand for customized content spreads across the globe, many Asian operators are working to offer next-generation services to give users more heavily personalized content to increase revenues and help cut costs.”

I’m sure this topic has been discussed in the mobile trade press in various forms, but I think it’s rare to see anyone mentioning both sides of the equation in quite this way. If you think this argument holds water I guess the next step is to question which sector (from a financial rewards viewpoint) you would most like to see your apps end up in – and which will make the most difference to peoples’ lives.

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