Remember that in these times of chaos that there is money to be made by sorting it all out.
Just ask Citigroup, AIG, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs Group, Ford, GM …
The mobile industry makes chaos appear orderly by comparison. Like the internet (and other largely unregulated industry) innovation occurs so rapidly in the mobile market that your new handset is obsolete before you make your first call.
(Did you know that you could call people using a mobile device!?!?!? I thought they were tiny personal computers – a means for letting Outlook nag me while away from the office.)
There are three markets where making order from mobile chaos is proving profitable. These include mobile web application platforms, mobile application testing, and mobile analytics. In other words making apps, testing apps, monetizing apps.
Mobile application platforms are application servers with hooks for managing myriads of mobile machines. These servers go a few steps beyond regular web servers in that they map all the different mobile device screen sizes, resolutions, Java versions, bugs and quirks, etc. In rendering an application, these servers compensate for as many of these variables as possible. The Java inspired theory is that an application should be authored once and executed well regardless of the underlying hardware, operating system, browser as well as the phase of the moon and mood of the gods.
Since mobile devices have become an extension of our lives, these app servers also handle a fair amount of data interchange. Tying the mobile device and data resident on it with back-end data pools is now a common reality. Well, that has been a reality since the advent of two-way pagers (I know – I helped devise some of that madness). But mobile apps servers abrogate the need to either tailor the application for many different devices or the risk of locking into one vendor’s handsets. Mobile app server vendors leverage industry chaos to earn their keep.
Akin to this are mobile application testing service. Silicon Strategies Marketing client DeviceAnywhere basically own this market, though there are some pretenders to their throne. DeviceAnywhere doesn’t try to mask the difference between handsets. They quite purposefully expose every quirk and variant in an end-to-end suite of testing tools (hands-on, scripted, unit and system testing) using real handsets. DeviceAnywhere leverages industry chaos to earn their keep.
Most interesting though is analytics. The folks at Omniture seem to be a couple of steps ahead of the game. I had a nice long chat with one of their mobile analytics experts about what is different and compelling about monitoring mobile application usage as opposed to plain web applications.
It was an eye popping conversation, and you can catch their continuing observations at http://blogs.omniture.com/.
The simplest need in mobile applications is obtaining a list of device hitting your mobile web site and comparing that list with error logs. If, for an exotic example, you noticed a lot of errors generated on the same day Blackberry Bolds hit the market, and all the errors were on these devices, then you knew you had an application bug (at which time you fired up your DeviceAnywhere account to test your app on real, live Blackberry Bolds that DeviceAnywhere had available to you many weeks before the launch).
Trending metrics on carriers is also important. Mobile application analytics has the advantage of being able to ID the carrier connecting the handset to the server. Spotting page drops and other errors and tying that data to the carrier ID helps to isolate problems with carriers, who have been known to induce errors in the proxy servers with alarming frequency.
Simple metrics on the screen size and dimensions of mobile screens gives application providers data on when they need to either expand the physical presence of the application, and perhaps more important stop supporting older and lower resolution device.
But unique visitors are a biggie. Unlike desktop computers that may aggregate to a single IP address, each handset has a unique ID (and with GPS built in, the government can not track damn near anybody, anywhere). Mobile devices give much more accurate pictures of truly unique visitors, which helps target the user. Keep this in mind if a web site that you use from your desk top ever asks you for your cell phone number. They will correlate your desktop and mobile activities in an effort to channel highly targeted advertising to you. If your credit card is suddenly maxed out from spontaneous clicking of links, then you know how they got ya.
So why have I rambled on for 700 words? Because a marketing lesson is at hand. Chaos always provides a mid-term market (in the long term standards win out and reduce the profitable chaos). Look for markets where there are many suppliers offering many different “standards”. Creating solutions that manage the chaos these vendors create will put a nice wad of cash in your pocket.