The statistics are certainly compelling: mobile subscriptions have increased by 45 percent over the past four years and – by the end of 2011 – almost 85 percent of the world's 7 billion people had access to a mobile device1; by the end of 2010, smartphone shipments had overshadowed PC shipments, making mobiles the de facto computing platform of choice2; and between 2008 and 2011, revenues for mobile apps and advertising grew by 153 percent (CAGR) to reach GBP12 billion3.
Will benefits materialize?
While all this may be true, when you look back at all the hype that surrounded the launch of 3G for example, it would be easy to argue that – in many ways – the progress that we have experienced in mobile to date does not match up to the innovation that was promised.
And as 4G/LTE begins to take hold, many are left wondering if today's projections will indeed materialize, particularly given the wild predictions now circulating: boosters paint a picture of populations using their phones for virtually everything, anywhere and at any time; from experiencing augmented reality shopping and conducting mobile video conference calls through to mobile payments and real-time mobile business intelligence tools.
Dialing up reality
Certainly, there are pockets of innovation that mark the path to this 'brave new world'. But the reality is that many of these developments are still not mainstream (some have yet to be perfected and commercialized), leading many to believe that we are still some way off from mobile becoming the truly disruptive technology that observers predict.
Depending on whom you ask, this belief can be attributed to a range of factors. Many businesses are reluctant to invest in a channel that they believe will cannibalize their existing business models. Others point to variable network quality, inter-operability challenges and complex technology roll-outs. And almost everyone agrees that security and privacy concerns are slowing the pace of adoption and need to be quickly addressed.
As a result, we have seen some of the most innovative advances made – not by the traditional global powerhouses and industry stalwarts – but by relatively new start-ups such as Square, Shazam and Twitter.
A changing balance of power
What is plainly clear is that the pace of change and the opportunities created by mobile are unstoppable. For businesses, the simple reality is this: it is no longer an option to sit on the sidelines or take a cautious approach to mCommerce, businesses have to strive to get ahead of the mobile curve to survive. The 'consumerization of IT' will mean that the next wave of mobile business models is being driven by users – whether in a consumer or enterprise context. And the dramatic rise in BYOD (bring your own device) - employees using their own devices on office infrastructure - is testament to this shift. Change is therefore no longer being led by enterprises but by consumers and end-users, and they are dictating the mobile business agenda.
The bottom line is that those enterprises that are either not willing or not able to change their business models to meet this new mobile paradigm will almost certainly miss out. Moreover, business leaders must recognize that the pace of technological innovation and mobile adoption is only just starting to pick up speed and is set to accelerate massively in the next few years. If they hope to survive the market transformation – businesses will need to devote serious and senior resources to ensure that they are leading rather than lagging the mobile charge.
There should be no doubt that mobile is finally about to take off into the 'brave new world'. The real question is whether today's businesses are prepared to survive the ride.
By Tudor Aw, Head of Technology, KPMG in the UK
1ITU World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators database
2IDC Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker, January 12, 2011