In a world full of answers you start your journey by asking the right questions
Rebtel’s Andreas Bernstrom posted his 5 Bold Mobile Predictions for 2011 on Business Insider last week. One of which is Microsoft buys Nokia. It’s an interesting idea particularly given the fact neither company has the ability to offer the other what they so desperately need at the moment : A game changing Mobile Operating System (OS).
That’s why I suspect MeeGo has become something of a make or break strategy for Nokia (See Mashable’s Nokia Wants to Revolutionize the Mobile UI in 2011) and that 25 years since the launch of its flagship OS Microsoft is now out in the market searching for what life will be like in a post Windows world.
I had hoped to continue on with my analysis of how the new mobile app store economy shapes up against the old dot com economy by taking a step further back and looking at how the Windows App economy evolved between the release of Windows 3.0 and Windows 95. This would have taken us back another cycle or wave in the information revolution and the data would have allowed us to explore what if any correlations exist between the 3 cycles or waves and what if any indicators these correlation may offer us as an aid in speculating what the next wave of the MobCon may look like.
Unfortunately I have been unable to Google the necessary data to build a chart displaying the growth in Windows 3.0/3.1 Apps over the 5 year period 1990-1995. So at this stage the idea of the 3 cycles following similar paths of rapid growth, a focus on Freemium to secure enough volume to spark ignition and then over-supply remains just an idea or at best a distant memory.
The reason these cycles interest me is back in the mid 1990′s I began to suspect the wave was cyclical.
The 1990-1995 period was the Windows boom Apps. 1995 was the dawn of the Web Boom. By then I began to anticipate that 2000-2005 would see the Mobile Apps Boom and 2005-2010 the Mobile Web Apps.
Reality didn’t happen to match the original forecast largely because Silicon Valley had another go at trying to make the web apps boom pay (Think Web 2.0) rather than moving on like the Japanese. But we’ve already covered that topic elsewhere (See How Japan leveraged the MobCon to jump past Silicon Valley).
The 4 cycles – Desktop OS Apps, Desktop Browser Apps, Mobile OS Apps and Mobile Browser Apps – are based on the idea that the market isolates between revolutionary OS’s and surrogate OS’s. Revolutionary OS’s are hardware interdependent. Surrogate OS’s are hardware agnostic.
In the case of Windows the OS became the dominant market player however in 1995 its leadership position was challenged by the Internet Browser – an OS agnostic layer that sat across all desktops and allowed all computer users to share the same [somewhat limited] experience. The Web browser allowed portals like AOL and Yahoo! and later Google and Facebook to become the defacto desktop experience for most personal computer users. In the beginning desktop icons where merely hyperlinks but today the usability, the functionality and the content of the desktop web browser is superior to the Windows 95 platform upon which it originated.
This of course is what Google’s “back to the future” investment in the Chrome OS such an interesting moving. They appear to have taken the evolution in the MobCon OS’s a step backward in an effort to back fill their suite of MobCon OS product offerings.
Moving forward the focus today is on the battle royal being waged between the Mobile OS’s Symbian, iOS, Android, RIM and Windows. The winners and losers are already starting to emerge from this 3 -5 year battle. If we assume – like a growing number industry commentators at this stage – that Google’s Android will become the undisputed market leader then the players will have to decide if they are going to continue with the fight or if they should be investing their energies in bringing to market the next generation surrogate (i.e cross platform) Mobile OS.
The key challenge here of course is probably already exists. Not in the form of the mobile web browsers (Think: Opera and Safari) but in the world’s most popular mobile phone app… Facebook.
This then is what I find interesting about Facebook. It has become the world’s most popular surrogate Desktop OS with a user base 10 times larger than Apple’s iOS platform (See Who makes more money? Bloggers or Developers?). What’s more The Next Web reported in October that Facebook had 150 Million active mobile users or almost 2.5x the number of people who own Apple’s iPhone. (See Facebook’s Mobile Growth Visualised [Infographic])
With its global mobile reach Facebook’s very presence as a potential surrogate mobile OS tends to render the whole Android vs iPhone vs Nokia debate obsolete if you stop and think about it.
“Bottomline: Purely economically speaking – it sucks to build iPhone App relative to Facebook Games. iPhone games have no good distribution options, little virality, extremely high churn, revenue share requirements, pain in the ass approval process, a relatively small total addressable audience (compared to FB).” - Facebook Faceoff: Facebook vs. iPhone App Economics
This of course assumes that Facebook has the expertise, capability and the vision to fully capitalise on the mobile opportunity. At the moment there are few – if any – indicators to suggest this is the case.
For example: Facebook launched its developer platform in September 2006 about 9 months before Apple’s App Store went live and Flurry has already undertaken a comparative study of the growth across both platforms (See Money Talks: App Store vs. Facebook Platform) that suggests Apple’s strategy has significantly out performed Facebook’s in its ability to attract Apps to its platform over the first 2 years of operations.
If we combine the audience reach with the Flurry data we can see just how much more effective Apple’s approach has been to date in attracting developers and applications to its mobile OS platform that Facebook has been in attracting developers to its surrogate desktop OS platform.
If Facebook can revamp its platform strategy and reinvent itself as the surrogate Mobile OS of choice for cross-platform mobile apps development it would go a long way towards justifying its $50 Billion second market valuation.
“The Google Revenue Equation, as I defined it back then, is “Revenue = Amount of Time on the Web.” For every minute we spend on the web and every page we visit, Google makes more money from its vast advertising network… Chrome OS completely eliminates the desktop and challenges you to only use the web to get things done.” – Mashable Google, Chrome OS and the Big Picture [OP-ED]