Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Has The iPhone Changed The World?

The Apple iPhone is a remarkable device. It certainly saved Apple from a long, slow death but it has arguably changed our view of mobile phones forever, moving away from the world dictated to us by the Scandinavian and far eastern manufacturers. But in the world of mobile, has the iPhone really reinvented the model?

To be sure, the iPhone has changed our perspective in many ways. As you would expect, Apple brought us an easy to use, sophisticated user interface, as they brought windows to the world of PCs long before Microsoft did. Apple also destroyed the mobile store model as they invented the concept of an online mobile store that allowed not only ringtones but applications, music, movies and much more to be bought and downloaded on the go. They also brought us a flat-pack price model even if you have to pay a premium for the phone. There is no doubt the world they brought us on the mobile is here to stay as others rush to follow and the growth of 'Smartphones' as they are called is causing a rise in network traffic.

This rise in traffic is enormous but smartphones are not the lone or even the biggest contributor to the rise. Netbooks, laptops and the growth in the mobile browser, peer to peer data calls, application downloads, multimedia streaming and other things are contributing to a truly phenomenal rise in data traffic on mobile networks. As subscription penetrations reach saturation point, the pace of innovation keeps the market driving forward and for the first time last quarter the market reached $10bn in revenue in the US alone. By 2010, the global codified information base will exceed 1 'yottabyte' or 1,000 billion terabytes (a terabyte being 1,000 gigabytes which is 1,000 megabytes). The future we will be fast talking about 1 zettabyte (1,000 exabytes or squillions of bytes to the rest of us). We are talking more data than bank bailouts here - at last a number bigger.

We are entering the 'yottabyte era' as some call it and the one thing you can depend upon is that the mobile network providers are not ready for it. The financial strain of keeping up with this incredible growth in data is enormous and with the laughable prices of Government tenders around the world for airwave licences, it has not been easy for companies to make enough profits to keep reinvesting at the right pace to get ahead of the traffic growth.

With the exponential growth in mobile applications, mobile media viewing and advertising expected mobile operators are going to have to accelerate deployment of new 4G technology, they are going to have to take some of the load off networks by implementing femto or Wifi technology faster, get a better grip on managing the network and optimising it, look to standards on broadcasting mobile video rather than let it grow itself without control and look to get smartphones defined properly.

It's a hard job and very cash consuming but we are only now seeing the kinds of possibilities that mobile technology really offers. It's a far cry from the bricks that we used to use as mobile devices when, from a small, flat device, I can browse my emails, make video calls, view films, listen to music and browse the internet, all for a flat monthly charge.

And it has only just begun.

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