Open Mobile and the evolution of Open Gardens

Open Mobile

From the early days of this blog, I have been addressing the problem of walled gardens and talking of ways to overcome the problems we face in the industry today

Over the last few years, things have indeed changed .. Not even the most ardent supporters of walled gardens, on-portal strategy, per Mb pricing etc can deny that now.

But where is this all leading to – especially for the developers?

I have been thinking of the evolution of the Mobile data industry for my forthcoming book Open Mobile ecosystems: The disruptive potential of open systems and open source in the mobile environment

Co-authored with Anna Gatti and Mauro Del Rio(and with strategic insights from Dr Andreas Constantinou Director of visionmobile and support from Al Briggs and Alex Kerr ), this will be a very interesting book.

The book is about the interplay between a series of recent developments like Webkit, iPhone, Android, open source, Open social, facebook, cloud computing and others. For the first time, the combined impact of these developments create the potential for a truly open mobile ecosystem.

Certainly, the problem still exists at a network level as you can see from my recent post The rise of the stupid networks 2.0

However, inspite of network layer issues, services level integration and social layer integration have always offered an avenue to overcome the drawbacks we see in the mobile data industry today.

Service layer integration

Service level integration originally manifested in the rise of Mobile Ajax with the simple proposition that – as the Mobile Web starts to adopt full web browsing standards(CSS, Javascript etc), web applications(and that includes widgets) may be distributed over the Web and the Mobile Web – thereby providing a critical mass and overcoming the bottlenecks we see (such as high revenue share by portals)

This thinking underpinned my now well known blog – Mobile web 2.0: AJAX for mobile devices – why mobile AJAX will replace both J2ME and XHTML as the preferred platform for mobile applications development – Part two

The iPhone is a classic implementation of that philosophy as I said in – The iPhone is extraordinary not because of it’s UI but because it’s the tail wagging the dog ..

and iTunes is a wider disruptor to the sacrosanct Telco billing model as we see in

Is ARPU outdated? The wider impact of Billing in an open mobile environment

Predictably, in the March release of the SDK, itunes has evolved to include mobile applications in addition to content


Apple will publish all iPhone applications, regardless of the developer, making them accessible through iTunes and a new App Store icon on the iPhone and iPod touch. The applications will be hosted and distributed solely by Apple, and all transactions will be processed by the company, with a 30% cut of all sales going to maintain the App Store. This figure, roughly the same percentage as what is paid to Apple by artists selling music through the iTunes Store, leaves 70% to the developers, who will be paid on a monthly basis. Developers who do not want to distribute through iTunes can create web applications or stay off of the platform altogether.


In addition, The FUD driven certification process is also under scrutiny and will not survive for long under the impact of an open ecosystem See iPhone and Android herald the end of the FUD(Fear uncertainity and doubt) /certification model ..

So, lots of changes at the service layer and especially changes which unify the Web and the Mobile Web.

But that’s not all. Remember the web itself has been morphing to Web 2.0 over the last three years. And one of the characteristics of Web 2.0 is its social impact i.e. social networking.

Social layer Integration

Why is the social layer becoming important? Let’s put it this way – currently – for most part – we go to the Web to search content. Increasingly with the rise of social networking sites like facebook and myspace, we are logging on to the social web i.e. primarily logging on to seek people and not just content. In fact, this social layer can be viewed as a ‘meta’/umbrella social network spanning both the Web and the Mobile Web. I introduced this idea in a blog called Beyond Web 2.0: The social web or the semantic web ? and the rise of the Umbrella social networks

when viewed in this way – social networks are very important especially because they can act to become recommendation engines and consumers of content as a recent Nokia study reveals that 25% of entertainment by 2012 will be created and consumed within peer communities

Where is it going to?

Coming back to the original problem – we seek service, social level integration between the Web and the Mobile Web in order to overcome the walled garden. Here are the most promising technologies/initiatives that span the Web and the mobile web

On the services layer: full web browser(Mobile Ajax), open standards, open source, Android, iPhone and Webkit

And on the social layer: Umbrella social networks, cloud computing, Open social and facebook among others

By all means .. the jury is still out and not enough is still known.

The iPhone’s strategy is to cut down the friction/fat in the value chain by providing a unified ecosystem and serving their customers through fantastic products. Google’s strategy is to also unify the value chain and make it easier for people to use products across the Web and the Mobile Web(Google products that is!). Nokia continues it’s transformation into an Internet company.

More players will emerge

While the iPhone will never be mass market and it is yet unclear how Android devices will actually look and be welcomed by the customers .. all that does not matter ..

What matters is – an irreversible trend has been set and it is accelerating and much as I like the betavine folk .. they don’t stand a chance against 100 million dollars

Finally let me conclude with this classic from Michael Mace Mobile applications RIP

If you have not read it – don’t miss it!

It’s nice to see others like Micheal are now saying effectively the same thing as above

Here is a section called The mistake we made


We told ourselves that the fundamental rule of our business was: Mobile is different. But we lost sight of an even more fundamental law that applies to any computing platform:

A platform that is technically flawed but has a good business model will always beat a platform that is elegant but has a poor business model.

Windows is the best example of inelegant tech paired with the right business model, but it has happened over and over again in the history of the tech world.

In the mobile world, what have we done? We created a series of elegant technology platforms optimized just for mobile computing. We figured out how to extend battery life, start up the system instantly, conserve precious wireless bandwidth, synchronize to computers all over the planet, and optimize the display of data on a tiny screen.

But we never figured out how to help developers make money. In fact, we paired our elegant platforms with a developer business model so deeply broken that it would take many years, and enormous political battles throughout the industry, to fix it — if it can ever be fixed at all.

Meanwhile, there is now an alternative platform for mobile developers. It’s horribly flawed technically, not at all optimized for mobile usage, and in fact was designed for a completely different form of computing. It would be hard to create a computing architecture more inappropriate for use over a cellular data network. But it has a business model that sweeps away all of the barriers in the mobile market. Mobile developers are starting to switch to it, a trickle that is soon going to grow. And this time I think the flash flood will last.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m talking about the Web. I think Web applications are going to destroy most native app development for mobiles. Not because the Web is a better technology for mobile, but because it has a better business model.

Think about it: If you’re creating a website, you don’t have to get permission from a carrier. You don’t have to get anything certified by anyone. You don’t have to beg for placement on the deck, and you don’t have to pay half your revenue to a reseller. In fact, the operator, handset vendor, and OS vendor probably won’t even be aware that you exist. It’ll just be you and the user, communicating directly.

Until recently, a couple of barriers prevented this from working. The first was the absence of flat-rate data plans. They have been around for a while in the US, but in Europe they are only now appearing. Before flat-rate, users were very fearful of exploring the mobile web because they risked ending up with a thousand-Euro mobile bill. That fear is now receding. The second barrier was the extremely bad quality of mobile browsers. Many of them still stink, but the high quality of Apple’s iPhone browser, coupled with Nokia’s licensing of WebKit, points to a future in which most mobile browsers will be reasonably feature-complete. The market will force this — mobile companies how have to ship a full browser in order to keep up with Apple, and operators have to give full access to it.