The Long-Term View of the Mobile Market

Everything moves in cycles, the overarching themes are predictable – the specifics, not so much. One man who has radically influenced my view on technology is Ray Kurzweil, author or the “Age of Spiritual Machines” and other books. He works for Google as Director of Engineering, is associated with NASA Ames Research Center and the Singularity University. Impressive credentials if nothing else.

Per Wiki – Singularity University Labs is an accelerator and incubator program that aims to “build and launch sustainable organizations that will positively impact one billion people within a decade.”

Heavy duty.

It’s not that his predictions are always accurate so much as the futuristic themes he pushes are coming to life. Computers are becoming faster, stronger, smaller and cheaper. The mobile devices of today are more powerful than the complete systems — the TSR 80, the Apple IIe, PS/2 386, 486 and early Pentiums we had in the 90’s. So, if we look back over the advances of the past 15-20 years and project them 15-20 years forward – what are what we going to have?

Barring something like a catastrophic Coronal Mass Ejection, there will be more people on the Internet and proportionately more of them will be using mobile devices. That means more developers, more apps, more competition.

Concurrently, markets are going to shift, they are shifting now if you are paying attention to the news, financial markets and trade arrangements, especially within BRIC – Brazil, Russia, India and China. Add Turkey, too. Equally, peripheral developing markets are shifting, too. Most developing markets are demonstrating long-term growth trends. There are periodic fluctuations, but within a global semi-free market – there is an ongoing trend of osmosis – a very gradual evening out.


I’ve not used some country data simply because I consider it suspicious. Average wages really don’t say a lot unto themselves, but the trend above is sufficiently widespread to be worth pondering. Consider, in 1962, Taiwan had a GDP of $1353 per capita — but $37,000 in 2011. Simply amazing. It does not happen overnight, but little by little until one day you wake up and the world has changed… Well, it has changed already and changes a little bit daily.

So, what is the point here? Plan accordingly.

1. Add your apps to different stores because no one, not even Google, has a market monopoly. For that matter, do you really want to see a mobile monopoly? If you don’t – that serves as even more encouragement to participate in the free market.

2. Get connected – develop relationships with the people and companies in different markets. Consider it an investment – some sour, some grow. The idea with any investment is to be in on the ground floor – before it becomes available to the broader public. Buy low, sell high. It is a lot easier to make headway when interest in a specific market is low. Of course, you could wait until everyone else is in before jumping in…

3. You probably have enough time to learn a new language; hire multilingual employees or develop relationships with others willing to collaborate with you in localizing your mobile apps for each market.

4. Begin implementing payment methods for in app purchases that enable people within a specific market to purchase your upgrades, like Opera has recently announced with Lotaris.

5. If your apps are really good, start connecting with OEMs to have your apps pre-installed on new devices for sale in specific markets.

This could go on at length, each market you attempt to engage is worthy of its own action plan.

One of the big concerns of mobile today is bandwidth, especially for developing markets. That was the same exact thing that everyone in major markets was concerned about back in 1998 even up to 2002-4. Bandwidth… We’ve been through that and we can have fair confidence that the big players involved will make sure (one way or the other) that everyone gets plenty of bandwidth.

Meanwhile, Ray Kurzweil is taking lots of vitamin supplements so that he can live long enough to see the technology that will help him (and maybe some of us) live forever. Laugh, if you like… But, it takes just a little bit of an imagination to have a profound impact on people. You, the developers of today, have at your fingertips an ever expanding amount of diverse technology — and soon, most of the world will only be one link away from seeing what you have to offer.


Project Manager at the Opera Mobile Store providing Sales-Marketing support. Content development and research.

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