Mobile. A New Market?

As I sit in the hotel prior to heading over to meetings at the National Retail Federation “Big Show” (known on twitter as #NRF11), I’m following a somewhat standard pre-conference routine. The process is relatively simple and includes:

  • A cup of coffee
  • A music list set on random
  • A view from a hotel window
  • An open computer (or iPad) reading the conference hashtag and press releases from the event

The goal is simple…a bit of insight into the prevalent themes at the event prior to walking onto the show floor. The routine is only employed, and useful for that matter, when I am an attendee…but it has served quite well in the past.*

This time about I am struck by a theme that is prevalent not only at this event (which is retail focused)…but in many of the conversations I have in the payment industry…”mobile”.

The moniker “mobile” is viewed in many ways depending on the person using the term. It is either a panacea for a flagging industry (be it sales or acceptance or what-have-you), a “new” market segment to be addressed, or simply a distraction from core.

My perspective differs somewhat.

Mobile is, simply, software. I’m listening to music, composing this blog post, reviewing headlines, engaging in social media, all on a mobile device (iPad). But I’m not viewing my interaction as “MOBILE SOLVES PROBLEMS”, instead my usage patterns indicate that the applications resident on the device are meeting some needs. In many cases, these are the same applications I use on a full-fledged device…simply a device specific port of the application.

So if mobile is simply software, what does the moniker mean to me?

The importance, impact, perhaps even utility** of the “mobile market” is simply ensuring you are connecting with customers where they are at. What enables this interaction and engagement with customers is software…more specifically software that connects to services, your services, that is then leveraged by your customer.

It is, perhaps, a fine distinction…and there is value in a high-level view. But the discussion/debate of “opportunity in the mobile market”, is really a distraction from the true question.

How will you ensure your capabilities are available for the software community to use when building applications your customers rely upon?

Mobile is simply another software modality. A convenient one…a popular one…but software nonetheless.

* As an aside, remind me at some point to pontificate on the logic why a 2nd day on a show floor is more productive than the first.
** A different discussion entirely.
Written while listening to Hammock – Dust In The Devil’s Snow

January 10, 2011

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