Mobile West vs Mobile Rest

Mobile is the next big thing.

Have you heard that before? I have. In fact lately that is all I’ve heard from every direction and every guru or evangelist out there. And I use the words guru and evangelist very, very loosely.

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Trying to figure out why everyone is saying that mobile is the next best thing, is actually the next best thing. Everyone is talking about mobile, but no one is being specific. All the big guns: TechCrunch, Mashable, ReadWriteWeb, TheNextWeb and many others have constantly been batting around mobile ideas, thoughts and concepts over the past 12 months, but none coherent, complete or steadfast. There is lots of talk, very little action, and even less knowledge floating around from the web-savvy smarts.

This is a new world. This is an emerging world and it is the emerging markets that are taking it on headfirst.

The West

Defining “The West” is always going to be a tricky business, but for the sake of this argument lets define it as follows: First World countries and markets such as the USA, Europe and China where web access has become almost ubiquitous and mobile is the next frontier.

Right now it seems as if the West is focused on developing the next killer application for the mobile market. Yet the interesting thing is that the world appears to be entirely filled with iPhones and smartphones according to these innovators. So we have $1000 applications launching in app stores that are geo-restricted, we have millionaires being made. Yet many see these millionaires as the exception and not the rule. We have future technology being “innovated” by people who seem to be so far removed from the global market that they don’t even know that there is a global market.

There is definite value in finding a market, researching it, innovating and catering for that market. There are many companies, organisations and developers pushing the envelope in their own way on their own soil. But don’t insult us, don’t call call your market the world and don’t say you were the first when you weren’t.

Let’s take Foursquare as an example. Initially it was available on iPhone then Android, then the mobile web, sort of, and finally Blackberry. This application “took off” globally and was heralded as the first of its kind, which is patently incorrect if you look at the real global market, which includes the developing nations such as South Africa. The global market for location-based applications is growing, and those who are entering the foray are doing fantastic work and finally seem to understand that the globe involves emerging markets too. There are only great things to come for applications like Foursquare and Gowalla, and luckily they have realised that the market is a big one and it isn’t north of the equator only.

The Rest

Defining “The Rest” is much simpler than defining The West. The Rest is everyone else, everyone left out by the knowledgeable big-guns who know definitively where it’s at.

But The Rest needs to be broken up in to two facets; those who are innovating on a global scale, across markets and for the masses regardless of handset, and those who are using mobile technologies as a primary resource to access the web and information.

Those developing are unseen, unheard of and out of the limelight. They do not blog and they do not make claims. They do innovate though, and they do build technology for markets that are untouched by The West while still catering for The West and its audience. These people are predicting that mobile web is the next “killer app” and hedging their bets on that future. These people are not sitting the fence, they are throwing their lives and livelihoods at their businesses and making themselves millions and no one knows who they are. Because blogging about it is irrelevant and talking about it wont help anyone actually.

Then you glance over at the emerging market user. There is an inherent hunger for knowledge and information that pushes users in the third world or emerging markets to innovate in their usage of cellphones. They figure out what Google is, how it works and what to do with it without ever having touched a PC or fixed line internet. They understand how to enter USSD codes that allow them to transfer airtime, purchase items, top up accounts and play games that earn them airtime while many of the smartphones users in South Africa haven’t a clue that their phone has a browser.

It is this hunger that sets apart the emerging markets from the established markets, and it is this hunger that is going to thrust mobile innovation in emerging markets to the fore of the game.

Oh, and one last thing; if I read one more blog post from a web tech blogger about augmented reality I’m going to throw up, virtually, in the real world, and anywhere else I can think of!

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