Mobile devices and Swiss army knives...
I've had several discussions online with Tomi Ahonen over on the Communities Dominate Brands blog. Tomi's not afraid of coming out with bold statements about the future of the mobile market and then finding some 'statistics' to back them up.
Most of the time I only disagree with the premise that a mobile phone will be umbilically tied to a specific mobile network and be a universal 'Swiss army knife', able to do everything that it's owner requires. (David has a more logical view of the 'Swiss army knife' comparison here)
In summary, my differences from Tomi's predictions are:
- A mobile phone (i.e. voice) will be a service, that can be utilized on any wireless or wired device that supports it
- The device is likely to be a collection of components that perform specific functions. E.g. the basic unit might be capable of some services but typically people will integrate specialist devices into a PAN (though I'm not sure Bluetooth is up to the network job).
It does seem that mobile devices are trying to become universal devices, BUT they are also becoming specialised.
Currently, for most people, the mobile phone's primary function is voice, but as voice (as a service) becomes more widely available and cheaper, it will cease to be the driver for purchases of mobile equipment (i.e. a device that is capable of networking wirelessly)
When Apple produce an iPod that is networked, and capable of voice (an iPhone?), then there is less reason for people to buy a phone from another manufacturer.
In the short term, the universal, tied device will continue to encroach into specialist areas (e.g. PDA, MP3-player, video recorder, camera), but essentially by expanding the market, not stealing (many) customers from current specialist suppliers.
This is not the endgame, and it's not over until the fat device sings (or gets so fat it collapses under it's own weight).
Right now it's still easier for a mobile phone to integrate other features than for other devices to integrate voice - but it won't be that way much longer...