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The Suicide of the Mobile Internet
Posted: 11-Feb-2001 [Source: Melody Interative Solutions]

[Is poor adoption by end-users of the Mobile Internet due to poor marketing or the "symptom of a solution trying to find a need"?]

by Fadi Pharaon, Senior VP -- One vital market actor has been left out of the Mobile Internet party: the mobile consumer! Seriously, what has the consumer really gained from the Mobile Internet hype so far? Not so much, if put in relation to the staggering expectations of this highly promising market phenomenon. Technology advancements have always been the first driver towards the creation of new market phenomena. But the time it has taken these same technologies to become a success has been related to consumer adoption. The current slow uptake of WAP-enabled (Wireless Application Protocol) phones among end-users is one example of the slow embracing of Mobile Internet by the mass-market. Is this a symptom of a solution trying to find a need, or simply a problem of poor marketing?

We may well be about to witness the largest marketing fiascos ever -- the Mobile Internet. Not because I do not believe in the aptitude of the technology. On the contrary, I have been working with and promoting Mobile Internet for over five years now. However, I still do not understand this obstinate attitude of constantly marketing non-available future technology and pushing for new solutions in such a pressured schedule.

We need to stop giving fantasy examples of usage and stop spending the majority of our marketing resources on future possibilities. Instead, let us start promoting mobile services, let us start giving realistic examples and thereby help people adapt to what lies ahead. In short, let us start spending more on marketing today's capabilities.

Actually, the very term "Mobile Internet" is in itself not representative of the actual services offered. "Mobile Internet" has even a misleading connotation. It surely is not about making the Internet mobile, even though some vendors claim that this is how the Mobile Internet (r)evolution started -- enabling wireless access to the Internet. The word Internet has a deep-rooted meaning for many. Internet is in most cases experienced through a full colour 15-inch screen accompanied by high-quality multimedia loudspeakers, a feature-filled browser and a mouse for speedy handling of the surfing. When launching the successful mobile I-mode service in Japan the word Internet was completely avoided in marketing campaigns. Instead, the I-mode services were, and still are, marketed as mobile services, irrelevant of how advanced or high-speed they may be.

Mobile Internet is obviously not a matter of speed only. It is probably more a matter of presentation and ease of control and input. The Mobile Internet is about offering the mobile consumer a whole new range of services that take advantage of four important cornerstones. The first one is being able to access services and interact with others while on the move. The second one is the ability to carry out small payment transactions via the mobile device. The third one is applications taking into account the geographical location of the user. The fourth one is services that are oriented towards the individual considering his / her personal profile which is identified through the SIM card.

Many service providers are avoiding the introduction of mobile services over SMS. The medium is regarded as obsolete, primitive and old. However, all market figures show that SMS generates the largest volume of usage and revenue for the service providers. I am convinced that SMS will still live a long time ahead.

GPRS (General Packet Radio Services) - often depicted as the ultimate replacement of SMS - will not succeed in replacing its predecessor in a short period of time. Mass-market adoption of GPRS in 2001? Definitely not, but mass-market adoption of services over SMS is more likely within this timespan. The SMS behaviour is here, especially among the young, and has a viral effect on other customer segments. GPRS phones will most probably be high-end phones targeted towards business users. Also, pricing models for GPRS will undergo many alterations until the most optimal one is found, and the roaming agreements between operators will take time until they are settled.

Prepaid subscribers, who are not necessarily WAP or GPRS savvy, represent the biggest growth in most markets. Some characteristics of SMS are its store and forward mechanisms and its simple price structure. SMS is being widely used today; the market has already taken it to its heart. It took many years to achieve this successful state of SMS, so why not benefit more from it? My recommendation to service providers is that they should launch their services over SMS and not only over WAP. Why postpone revenues into the future when you can make money now?!

Melody Interactive Solutions has realized this huge opportunity and has for this reason adopted a business and product strategy that allows mobile users to really benefit from the enormous amount of existing Mobile Internet services -- many of whom are WAP based - already today. In a click, mobile consumers are given instantaneous access to the Mobile Internet services they have heard so much about. A mass-market could be created in a very short period of time.

The formula of marketing success is simple, but its execution on a broader scale might turn out to be complicated. Let us all start with a relatively easy task. For the sake of the consumer, let us get rid of the label "Mobile Internet" and go for Mobile Services! As a consequence of this, we need to live up to our promises by really utilising SMS to its full extent!

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