11 Lessons For the Mobile Industry from GigaOm

September 26, 2011 by Lisa Oshima | Developers, Enterprise, Mobile, Review

Today GigaOM launched a report entitled, “The future of mobile: a segment analysis.”  Among many other things, the report summarizes 11 critical lessons learned by the mobile industry, many of which I discussed in my recent post: “Waging the Mobile Patent War and the Future of Mobile Innovation…”

  1. “Avoid channel conflict” There have been several examples over the years of mobile companies struggling to make/maintain meaningful partnerships because they’re playing both sides of mobile – hardware and software. As GigaOM points out, Nokia had difficulty getting other OEMs to adopt Symbian because it had a head start on developing hardware for it. Google may have the same issue now that it’s acquired Motorola Mobility.  I talked about this one a lot in the above mentioned post.
  2. “Work in six-year cycles”  Historically, OS popularity has run in semi-predictable cycles, with old OSes making way for new ones every six years.
  3. “Start Fresh when necessary” iOS was revolutionary because Apple started it from scratch. These days it’s difficult for a company to build its own OS from scratch without getting sued, but adding too many band-aids onto an OS can make it unstable or unusable.  As I like to say, “You can put lipstick on a pig, but you can’t dunk a pig in a vat of red lip gloss and make it look a ruby.”
  4. “Offer Useful Updates” I agree, when you can’t start fresh, adding incremental changes can often satiate users until a “fresh start” emerges.
  5. “Make the UX job number one”  This is a tough one for many companies – particularly because time to market and COGs often come first for management.  Making a great UX involves doing a ton of user testing and thoughtful design isn’t always quick.
  6. “Offer something for IT and something for users” GigaOM points out that selling a phone that device managers love is a sure fire way of ensuring that it is sold, but since the introduction of the iPhone, this seems to be less important
  7. “Keep a dev team small”  There’s something to be said for limiting the number of people who can have input into a device that seems to help OS providers make better product. As GigaOm’s report points out: “IOS’ was under 100. Android was a small project inside Google, and BlackBerry was small in the late ’90s. The team that made the Windows Phone 7 OS was a small team spun out of Zune. Jon Rubinstein left Apple and put together a small group that built webOS.”
  8. “Create Ecosystems, not just phones” This is a critical lesson, and companies seem to learn it the hard way over and over again. Palm for example, had one of the strongest developer communities around, but they lost it because they couldn’t offer developers strong way to monetize and distribute content, which made room for Apple, Google, and others.  Likewise, many developers these days discount the value of carriers, but as GigaOm points out, “Many will guffaw at the above inclusion of carriers, saying they are an impediment, not an essential part of the ecosystem. That would be naive. Carriers are essential, not because of their role as bit pipes but because of their powerful role in choosing and subsidizing the handsets that actually make it to retail.”
  9. “Keep a strong hand at the helm”  This one reminds me of #7.  When there are too many cooks in the kitchen, nothing turns out well.  Benevolent dictatorship is often effective…”Open” solutions and standards bodies-based decisions often get bogged down in either too many possibilities without a definitive decision and/or too much red tape.  There are countless examples of organizations haven’t done well because no one “owns” the decision.  Sometimes, what a company needs is for someone confident to take the reins and make tough decisions… Look for examples of how this has worked well at Apple and not so well with Java, LIMO, HP, etc.
  10. “Consider how many devices to offer”  More isn’t necessarily better. Trying to cater to every market segment is a horrible idea. Instead, consider Apple’s approach of having one prominent product in the market at a time, and make it a great one.
  11. “Lawyer Up” This report highlights one of the biggest issues in the mobile industry today – the war on patents.  As I mentioned in my recent post, “These days, it’s difficult if not impossible to build your own mobile OS from scratch, given the litigious landscape around smartphone IP.  Google acknowledged that a big reason why it is acquiring Motorola Mobility is to bolster its patent portfolio and therefore position in the market. “

In addition to talking about the future, the introduction includes a brief history of mobile by OS and OEM provider – well worth reading, particularly if you’re new to the mobile industry. GigaOm Pro users can download the report here.

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