The look on his face is priceless.
"Mobile, Mobile, Mobile!": How far have we come? How much further can we go?
I spent a lot of time traveling last month and did not have much access to my laptop. Even though I consider myself a power mobile user, I was inclined (sometimes forced) to use my mobile device more than usual. It was incredible to see how many day-to-day processes have become easier to perform on a mobile device.
This post is a work in progress that I would love your help on! I have divided the post into three separate lists.
1) Processes that we used to perform on a laptop/computer that are now replaced by mobile.
2) Processes that have been made possible only by mobile.
3) Processes that we still need a laptop/computer to perform. Perhaps these are areas where we expect future innovation/growth.
Replaced by Mobile:
- E-mail sending/receiving
- E-mail management
- Watching TV/Movies
- Ordering Food
- Reviews (yelp, foursquare)
- Social Media activities (facebook, twitter, pinterest)
- Fitness tracking (fitnesspal)
- File storage (dropbox, google drive, box)
- Payments (venmo, paypal mobile)
- Ticket purchase (eventbrite, kayak, expedia, stubhub, viagogo)
- Travel services (airbnb, hotel tonight, other transportation apps, peek)
- Mobile Ticket access (passbook, airline mobile apps)
- Expense management (concur, expensify, abacus)
- Finance (billguard, betterment, wealthfront)
- Music services (spotify, songza)
- E-book reading (kindle, iBook)
- Blogging (tumblr)
- IT management (still a long way to go but lots of downtime tracking availability on mobile now)
- CRM (salesforce, relateIQ, intercom)
- Reservations (fitness: mindbody, restaurants: opentable)
- Legal services (shakelaw)
- Productivity apps (wunderlist, evernote)
Made possible by Mobile:
- On-demand car service (uber/lyft)
- Photo capture (instagram, snapchat)
- Check-ins/Location services (social: foursquare/swarm, fitness: nike running)
- Full-suite event management/tracking (doubledutch)
- Communication (whatsapp, viber, LINE, wechat, facetime, etc.)
- Real-time navigation (waze, google maps)
- Check deposits
- On-demand beauty services (glamsquad)
- A variety of healthcare services (propeller health, doctor on demand)
- Dating (tinder, hitch) —- match and eharmony brought this to the web years ago but tinder/hitch are mobile only.
Not on Mobile yet:
- Full-suite productivity (office suite caliber)
- 3D modeling (editing/viewing/navigating)
- Heavy data analysis
- YOUR INPUT!
There is nothing wrong in America that can’t be fixed with what is right in America.
Aggregated Functionality is the New Black: Innovation in a Homogeneous World
As a student of political science, I was fascinated by the effects of globalization. Technology bridged gaps in the world that were wide and disparate, helping bring people together and making differences in culture/upbringing less relevant. The togetherness, though more effective at solving large problems, threatened heterogeneity and culture and called into question the true merits of combined creativity.
I see a similar trend in the technology ecosystem today. Feature parity is becoming more commonplace than feature difference. Agile development makes it easier for companies to integrate a competitor’s feature set rather than build new, untested, uncategorized products for the future. Togetherness is seen more as a quest for parity than a healthy melange of differentiation. As a result, the world of technology is becoming more homogeneous.
One reason for this homogeneity seems to be consumer demand for aggregated functionality. We have moved from a world of having different services perform different functions (vertical efficiency), to a world where one service is trying to perform the same/multiple functions (horizontal saturation.) It seems as if it is a step in the right direction; we demand remarkable efficiency and our products must follow suit. In reality, the ruthless competition of products and services has produced a need for feature parity.
I’ve outlined a few examples that help represent what I mean:
Music: With the advent of the iPod, we saw a sharp increase in innovation around music technology. For the first time, consumers demanded more access to music because it could be stored on a small device indefenitely. The iTunes music store made it incredibly easy to purchase music online without having to worry about walking into a music store or browsing through rows of CDs. Pandora targeted a different angle - now that access to music was easy, consumers were more worried about discoverability. As a result, they built an algorithm that allowed you to discover music which was similar to the music you liked in the past. SoundCloud approached, yet, another angle - it gave long tail creators rather than famous musicians the power to be discovered more easily but also built a dialogue around the music to help music makers get feedback and drive awareness. Today, much of these separate approaches are merging together - Apple launched iTunes radio, Spotify launched music discovery and heavily designed around share features. In a sense, its made my life easier - I no longer use my iPod, Pandora or iTunes. Spotify brought all these services together for me (cheap access to new music, music discovery, and sharing.)
Content: In the past, companies that focused on content derived revenue from advertising. It was a simple business model that became challenging because of the competitiveness of CPMs and premium inventory. Today, content companies have become more creative to work around these challenges. Refinery29 is a great example. From the outside, Refinery29 looks like an editorial website focused on content for women (health, beauty, fashion.) However, Refinery29 derives its revenue from a variety of services: pure advertising, online retail, and fees for creative content around brands. As a result, Refinery has become a publisher, agency, and a retailer in one. Social networks are pressured to follow suit - Facebook had a long struggle with powering commerce through their site and giving brands the platform to use the network as a foundation for creating content (e.g. wildfire.) Twitter did the same by building an ad unit within its news flow. It makes complete sense for companies to aggregate services to build better business models but is it best for the consumer? Do we like the efficiency or are we getting scared of the noise?
Local Discovery: Foursquare, Yelp, Google Reviews and OpenTable underwent a similar transformation. Foursquare was focused on the “check-in” and was meant to bring friends closer together. Yelp channeled local reviews but was expected to give more in depth feedback than Foursquare. OpenTable was used solely for reservations. Today, its hard to tell the services apart. I can make a reservation on Yelp instead of Opentable, I read local reviews on Foursquare rather than Yelp, and I use Facebook to check in rather than Foursquare. As a customer, it makes me less loyal to one service which I’m afraid is not advantageous to any of them.
There are new frontiers that are seeing similar aggregation:
- E-commerce software wants to power your POS terminal
- Diet tracking and fitness software utilizes wearable innovation
- Analytics tools give AB testing functionality
- Recruiting software monetizes through free job board analytics and marketing attribution
- CRM tools integrate with call center software
Most of this aggregation is looked upon favorably, but with Facebook’s large acquisitions in the past (Instagram, Whatsapp) many miss the nostalgia of keeping information separate and fear a more “open and connected world” where products look similar and we can run our lives with single sign on.
Of course, mobile is an obvious catalyst for the aggregation we see today. Accessibility everywhere engenders a more seamless and “aggregated” approach, but will it throttle creativity? Will entrepreneurs continue to innovate if their products simply become a feature set of larger companies? Is the world of innovation becoming a large Facebook - will it all connect somehow?
I don’t have answers to these questions but I hope to continue to use this dialog as a framework for when I evaluate startups. Let’s work together to find new frontiers, not features! And let’s help the entrepreneurs we back build features that don’t just reach parity - but blow the competition out of the water.