“Disruptive”. The beloved term that labels some of the great technology, processes or businesses that displace or largely disrupt an existing market or industry. Google has earned this title on many levels, for many products and consumer behaviors that they have spawned. So when CEO Eric Schmidt states that the cellphone market is the largest growth opportunity for Google, it presents the mobile marketing world with an indication that some of the [much needed] innovation is on the way. Not just from the likes of Google, but from the carriers and device manufacturers as well.
I’ll never forget the day that I received the demo of how Sprint planned to open their deck to advertising in 2006. The initial response to my inquiry about mobile search and Google was that they were developing their own and may end up blocking access to Google for bandwidth reasons. I know that carriers are the last of a protective-pipe-breed, but what an odd approach. Obviously the potential of muscling out the search providers already failed, as just one year later each carrier has partnerships with major search providers.
The prospect of billions of mobile ad impressions was exciting … for the carriers. Although I am a proponent and active practitioner of mobile marketing, I still feel that both the existing on-deck and WAP experiences are poor, and the main barrier to widespread consumer adoption of the mobile web.
Think about it – the mobile web today is the equivalent of the wired-web back when it had low adoption and penetration, but everyone had a computer. We still tried to pump rich media through small pipes back in the late ’90s. The device was in place, but adoption and penetration only improved with the quality of the experience – mainly the speed of the connection and the evolution of the types of content and utility offered. Marketing opportunities followed the curve closely.
The same way consumer behavior varies from a medium like TV versus the web for example, so does it vary from the web to the mobile web. Hence the reason why SMS is effective and embraced, as it is appropriate for the on-the-go mode of a mobile device.
Enter the iPhone…Enter the perception of what the iPhone stands for – a mobile web experience wrapped in a slick device that becomes the embodiment of your digital lifestyle. Plagued by their weakest link, the speed of the network, and Apple’s decision to keep the device free of most 3rd party applications, the iPhone increased perception of the mobile web, but didn’t do all that much in improving the experience (ok YouTube is easier to access than it was before) – albeit a valiant attempt.
However, the G-Phone isn’t competing with the iPhone, but rather with Microsoft. The effort is a smart attempt at a land grab for the mobile operating system, currently dominated by Microsoft, but very much fertile ground for innovation and competition. The open source Linux based operating system will become a conduit to generate ad revenues and continue to strengthen the Google brand.
If Eric Schmidt’s statements about the cellphone market presenting the largest growth opportunity for Google are true, we’ll have an interesting round of progress which will vastly improve the experience for consumers and over the next 12 – 24 months provide marketers with a brave new mobile marketing world to play in.