Mobile presence, availability, and community were the central issues brought to Spring 2006 VON by Borough Turner of NMS Communications. As explored in Turner's session, here's how mobile IM/IP could become Web portal killers:
We're always present somewhere....so in Turner's view, it's not really about presence, it's about availability. Your phone is always with you and it's always on, but you may not take a call. Our communications, rough though they may be given the possibilities, are still context-aware. For example, I always pick up calls from my husband. I never take live workday calls from my chatty cocktail clique, only text messages.
Automating this sort of filtering is enabled by IP communications that can
overcome today's silo applications. iotum took a first stab at this problem with their recent launch at DEMO. And as Turner puts it, your choices from a buddy list are
based on availability information. Why isn't this also true for mobile?
Should we have a "one click" to connect over text, voice, or video based on both
Turner posits that community and identity comprise the real value for users in this scenario. Person-to-person connections, soaring numbers of individuals joining online communities, image hosting...communities are happening, and IP is the enabler. Social networking is about the community, not the network. Turner thinks that Friendster fails because they keep diverse communities from forming, and that MySpace succeeds because people can connect over shared interests.
If you're interested in facilitating a
community, you need more than a good interface; you need ubiquity - and
the mobile industry is blowing it. Mobile walled gardens inhibit community
Mobile operators need to foster interoperability, and VoIP operators need to work from the user's point of view, and to raise their own understanding of mobility. In Asia, where mobile operators are more advanced in this effort, WAP is as important as Web, and 90% of teenagers have a CyWorld home page.
In most developing markets (Central America, Africa, etc.), mobile Internet is key. Mobile phones outnumber PCs, and if mobile IM worked across operators, then mobile players could dominate the developing world. Turner predicts that in 2007, developing-world competition will emerge from mobile for AOL, Yahoo!, and other portals. The first steps were taken when ubiquitous mobile IM for GSMA was announced at 3GSM last month. Full interoperability is targeted for late 2006.
Given that next-generation communities are innovating worldwide, we have a new question: who will combine mobile and Web 2.0? (Note: looking for web 2.0 trends in the voice world will be a topic that I bring up on Friday's VON blogger panel.)
Turner states that telecom does more for wealth and community than any other infrastructure investment. In his view, communication drives economic, social, and political benefits globally, and the underlying technologies are improving exponentially. There's natural debate here around the value of other infrastructures - would you rather have communication, or water? - but the value of communication in developing economies is hard to overstate. Mobile has an opportunity to take the pole position in the developing world for delivery of Web-style interactions and community. In that brave new world, western Web portals could find themselves in the back seat.