selling on the mobile phone

Tokyo, 2010.02.08

Tonight was my first "mobile monday", a get-together for schmoozing and presentations pertaining to that industry in Tokyo.

It's amazing how big the mobile industry has gotten, recently. One of the presenters made the bizarre claim that taken in whole, the 3.2 billion mobile phone subscribers on this Earth (totaling 4.6 billion subscriptions) generated as much revenue in handset sales, contracts etc as the entire global petroleum industry. Patently false, of course. A bit of math shows that crude oil production alone is some 14x the size of the $1T annual mobile phone market.

But at the same time, there is some interesting stuff going on. When I got home I dug up these interesting paragraphs.

"In many parts of the Emerging World there are poor people living in villages where there is no traditional media at all. No TV coverage, no newspapers, no internet, no fixed landline and even no FM radio coverage. But increasingly there is mobile telecoms ie cellular telecoms reach. For example out of the Billion people of India, about 200 million live in such villages where there is no FM radio coverage even, but there is cellular mobile phone reach. What happens? These people are poor but not without any funds. And they have almost no 'media' to entertain them at evenings. But they are human, they still enjoy music and drama and sports and news. How can they get it? Through their mobile phones of course. In India there are countless mobile phone premium voice services (like in Western markets we have sex phone lines) which deliver news, sports scores, pop music. The latest Bollywood musical hits and the scores or even live game broadcasts of Cricket games etc. This type of new 'mobile radio' deliveres as much income in India as the total radio industry of India. Amazing.

Since 2008, mobile has become the most widely spread technology on the planet. The phone is also the most commonly used clock, as many abandon wristwatches; it is the most used alarm clock; there are three times as many cameraphones in use today than any kind of stand-alone camera, digital or film-based - ever manufactured. More people have an MP3 player on their phone today than own any kind of music player including iPods and home CD players."

Google was also present tonight they presented an interesting slide that showed that Internet use via the computer and mobile phone neatly complement one another in this country. They admitted, when I asked, that the vertical scale on their charts was out of whack, so I have to imagine that mobile traffic to Google is only 1/10th of PC traffic (this is based on some of the other figures presented during the evening). Not only did the traffic for mobile phones go up when PC traffic tapered off at lunch time, but it did so again in the evenings, on weekends, and especially on holidays.

I reckon that there's value that we can add to the mobile 'net in Japan. Just as we're making it easy to buy the exact diamond ring you'd like on your PC, so too we should be able to on the cell phone.

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