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Surviving the Mobile Cliff

Continued hyper-growth in the mobile landscape is not a foregone conclusion, and factors that could lead to the "Mobile Cliff" are strengthening.

In my last blog entry, I talked about the 7-year cycle of evolution in the mobile market and some of the forces that shape it.  And I made the prediction that today's focus on apps will be replaced by a similar focus on multichannel enablement by 2017.

In the mobile world, that's a long, long time -- plenty of time for things to go wrong.  And that is natural, as new eras are sometimes a product of disruptions.  With that in mind,  what if there is a "mobile cliff" lurking that will shake up the industry?  

 To me, such a cliff is nearer than one might think. Consider: 

  • Mobile operators worldwide face great operational pressures to build out the wireless channels and supporting infrastructure for the coming wave of smartphones and tablets.  So, it is likely that end users in certain markets worldwide will experience ongoing issues with coverage and reliability.  And no, shifting to WiFi won't solve all the use cases that will make up the fabric of a multichannel world.  
  • In the past few days, old guard vendors like Nokia and Research in Motion have seen an uptick in market sentiment, reminding us all of the industry's global scale, and that the final set of app ecosystems isn't yet etched in stone.  Hence, all enterprises investing in mobile face near certain disruption of the code base(s) that they are using for mobile.   And no, HTML5 and the modern web won't solve all of this, as I will cover in an upcoming blog.
  • Economics:  the disparity in the amount of app usage/spend/network traffic between Android and iOS users is a compelling piece of evidence that a good part of the population simply doesn't have the disposable income to fuel ecosystems, and that one necessary refinement is a more complicated set of advert-based multichannel business models. 

So, what if these three factors coincide? Looking at the numbers/trends, this is is likely to happen around early 2015. What many enterprises and app developers will face is the need to rethink the architecture, platform, and business models that have carried them through the first stage of the current mobile app era.    

Are you rethinking yours?