Mobile internet to be bigger than TV and PC combined


15 May 2009

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With more than three billion out of the world’s six billion people carrying mobile devices, and operators in China signing up 10 million new subscribers a week, the mobile internet could soon tower over the computer-based internet we know today, the head of DotMobi Trey Harvin has told siliconrepublic.com.

The DotMobi organisation, which now boasts 1.2 million .mobi domains with 800,000 active domains, is backed by a consortium of tech industry giants including Microsoft, Vodafone, 3 and the GSM Association and established its headquarters in Dublin 2006. In 2008, credit-card giant Visa took a strategic investment in the organisation.

“We’ve used most of the revenue from the DotMobi domain to fund applications for businesses that help them use the mobile web,” Harvin, who is speaking at next week’s IIA Congress, told siliconrepublic.com.

Harvin said that with 1.2 million domains now sold, the DotMobi service is the 25th largest domain name provider in the world.

He said that the mobile web is still in development, but with the increasing rate of handsets globally and the sophistication of the underlying internet technology on devices from the iPhone to the Google Android operating system, the mobile web could become the dominant internet access point for the world.

“What you are beginning to see is phones getting better at providing a PC experience. What they’re going to do and what consumers will demand is they will provide a great mobile internet experience.

“The mobile web will see people take advantage of the great thing mobiles are – always on, always with you – and they will provide more services, a marketing experience, a scanner, a camera, a GPS, an address book.

“What’s going to happen is the businesses that really embrace mobile web early will take advantage of what the mobile phone can do, and will better communicate and integrate with customers; that’s going to provide real value.”

Harvin said the commercial model for mobile marketing and doing business is rapidly evolving.

“Just like when the internet came out and people stuck billboards to their website and that was thrilling, the same thing is happening with the mobile device, it’s developing a persona completely of its own. Businesses that understand this shift early and take advantage of what devices can do uniquely will have better returns on their marketing budgets.”

Harvin said that there are roughly three billion phones in the world of six billion people, with Chinese mobile operators adding 10 million subscribers a week. “This means that mobile phone penetration is bigger than all PCs and TVs in world combined. From a global perspective, the mobile commerce opportunity is tremendous. From an Irish point of view, the opportunity is enormous.

“Ireland has the third highest mobile penetration in Europe behind Germany and Italy, according to the Mobile Marketing Association. It has the second highest turnover rate for mobiles in EU behind Italy. Irish people tend to get the latest and greatest phones faster than other countries. Ireland is the top three for the likelihood to use the mobile web.”

Harvin said that the Irish business community is ripe for taking advantage of the mobile web opportunity. “From simple things, like if a plumber puts a coupon on a phone with a click-to-call function, the user doesn’t have to think about it. That’s a very simple example of something that a small business can do.”

In recent months, DotMobi launched a technology called Instant Mobilizer that allows businesses to take a standard PC-based website and automatically create a mobile site that includes features such as Google Maps. “This is just the start of a long list of made-for-mobile capabilities we are going to be adding over the next year.

“I like to tell people that the last decade was the decade of professional productivity, more people are using Windows Office and the web and tools such as BlackBerrys. The next decade is going to be decade of personal productivity – data and information will sit on phones, such as your habits, likes, dislikes all co-ordinated and packaged to provide the best service they can render.

“I don’t think Google Maps is killer app for phones, the phone is the killer app for Google Maps.”

Asked if he believes Irish businesses are paying enough attention to the web as a viable route for revenue, Harvin said: “I don’t think so. But in all honesty, no one is. It’s not just Irish businesses, it’s global businesses. The mobile web will be without a doubt a major way businesses will keep in touch with potential customers. Companies that are using mobile as part of marketing are having success, but those examples aren’t getting out there enough. A large pizza chain in the US called PapaJohn’s put up a simple mobile site and reaped US$1m dollars in sales in a few months.

“The most important thing that a business can do is think about mobile marketing, just like any other marketing. If you are running a store that’s not easy to find and the parking not easy and people driving by, get your information into their hands at the time they are thinking about it.

“Take advantage of geography, proximity or their just knowing how to get in touch with you, and make it quick and easy. Once they know about you, it’s about finding a quick message and incentives to contact you. Easy things such as couponing, putting comments down or requesting email could do the trick. Mobile is more immediate for them than the PC is.

“If you don’t think about it and are not on mobile web, your competitors will be. That ease of access and basic knowledge will be difference for customers between selecting you or a competitor.”

Harvin said that mobile devices of the future will be intelligent enough to interact with nearby marketing and drive business to suit the user and the business trying to target them.

“It’s almost there already because the phone is smart enough to know where you are and where you are going. If you take a trip to Lisbon and it’s dinner time and your phone knows that you typically like to eat Italian and Chinese, why shouldn’t it proactively comes back with a message: ‘Here are the restaurants that are nearby, do you want to reserve a table?’ That kind of capability is certainly very feasible.

“When you think about what capabilities a mobile phone will have and what value it can provide, you will start to see how powerful these devices can be and how important it is for businesses to be part of that global web world,” Harvin concluded.

Trey Harvin will be one of the keynote speakers at next week’s 2009 IIA Congress, which takes place on 21 and 22 May at the Crowne Plaza Dublin Northwood. For more information go to: /www.iia.ie/events/iia-congress/

By John Kennedy

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