The Ultimate Killer App – Mobility
Since the web began people have been talking about the next “killer app”. This refers to new / innovative user experiences (usually which didn’t exist in the non-web world). For example, Skype video calling has been referred to as a killer app.
A lot of killer apps suffer when the user is stationary or tied to a “fixed” connection (think about the outcry for AT&T to allow Skype over mobile). Traditionally, we’ve associated subscribers with a home address (cable) or a phone number. In mobile, this paradigm is changing – subscribers are increasingly viewed as mobile entities which can seamlessly access content regardless of location. As this delineation between fixed and mobile blurs, consumers will expect more of their mobile experience. For example, cable subscribers want portable access when they leave the living room. The techie crowd has already found ways to do this (e.g. Slingbox).
I touched previously on how the decoupling of traffic and revenue at service providers necessitates that they look for new revenue streams on top of fixed access fees – these will increasingly be mobile applications and services.
If a carrier has location data about you, they can serve content which fits your needs at that time. For example mobile optimized / transcoded video of a missed TV episode, or an opt-in ad/coupon that knows you watch Top Chef at home and might like a nearby restaurant. This info is difficult to attain without a holistic view of the subscriber which blends location data between devices and networks.
The ubiquity of mobile also serves as a driver for network traffic – many applications (e.g. social networks) require a critical mass of users. As the number of people on services like Foursquare increase, bandwidth and signaling demands increase exponentially.
As this occurs, mobile datasets grow, which in turn will provide new monetization capabilities. Contextual and behavioral data tied to users will ultimately be very valuable for service providers. But much of the value resides in pinpointing the location of the user and taking into account all the places where they consume content – in a Boeing 757, on vacation in Florida, or on their couch.
It will be interesting to see whether service providers can get in on these revenue streams by trying to commoditize applications and services (the complement of broadband infrastructure). Google’s newest move into high speed broadband demonstrates their relentless drive to commoditize the network so they can serve ads.
When mobile moves to an all IP infrastructure (2011 with the rollout of 4G/LTE), data sets will really explode. We can be certain that the network intelligence that IP enables will have massive implications for how these new services will be delivered to users. It’s becoming clear that mobility is the “killer app” which will truly drive revolutionary user experiences and network innovation.