2010 – the Year of The Tiger, according to the Chinese calendar – and the Year of Mobile, according to technology experts.
The plethora of internet-enabled, handheld devices means analysts and journalists are queuing up to report how important mobile will be in this first year of the new decade.
There’s just one catch; every year – since the hype surrounding WAP at the turn of the Millennium – has meant to be the time mobile comes of age. So, why should 2010 be any different?
The rhetorical question – given previous false dawns – is a good one. But let’s not be too negative. Now is your opportunity to take the challenges associated with mobile and make a real, lasting difference.
Mobile is hitting the mainstream this year, but not in the way your business might expect. The high profile nature of certain platforms – notably Apple’s iPhone – will mean the IT department is likely to come under pressure to create a public-facing app.
Before you follow the herd, take a step back and think about the business reasons. How will your application create a return on investment (ROI)?
Take mobile banking as an example. Certain high profile financial institutions are heavily promoting their newly created iPhone Apps as a way of completing banking on the move.
Great, but how many people will really want to complete banking transactions on their mobile phone? First, not everyone will have an iPhone; of those that do, not everyone will want to use their iPhone to complete banking.
Second, think of the interface. Not every transaction is best suited to being completed in the palm of the hand. Third, think of the security implications. Many consumers all still not keen to undertake home-based online banking, never mind on the move through a portable device (which they often lose or change without wiping data !).
What you’re left with is probably a small percentage of users that are willing to use their phones to complete transactions. And that means creating an ROI is difficult, especially once you’ve spent a great amount of money developing the app – which is likely to be for one device (the iPhone), rather than multiple platforms.
Such issues mean you will need to make sure the business understands the challenges and opportunities of mobile. There’s nothing wrong with creating an iPhone app as a means of advertising and as a means of showing your company is first.
But don’t – at the same time – expect a big financial ROI. Being first has an associated range of pitfalls. And if you’re second, don’t fear about being left and behind.
Sometimes, slow and steady wins the race. And in the fast-changing year of the mobile, well thought-out business plans will always win in the long run.