On his blog, Seth Godin asks himself “Why hasn't the whole cell phone industry exploded?“. While Seth's believes it is because "we've been trying to solve the wrong problem.", that is not the true reason…
The problem is twofold – from the technology perspective, the technological capabilities aren't where they could have been by now, and from the end-user perspective, there are no enough compelling services.
And these problems are rooted at the “network (over) control” by the carriers that results in a pretty much closed system. And this control results in slow adoption and deployment of new technologies, and in the “carrier's inner circle”, which is hard to get into. And the end result of all this is lack of compelling services for end-users. One thing leads to another…
There are thousands of very smart developers and product people out there, but not everyone can bootstrap themselves, or go raise and initial $300K-$500K to create an initial demo or product, and get into the "inner circle".
Many years ago I realized that the carrier's network concerns are really historical, and have to do with how the networks have evolved – it all is a direct result of network “overloading” – offering new data capabilities on top of the voice services over the same network, which raises concerns about voice service disruption. Those concerns makes the carriers restrict the kind of services what can be done on their networks. This is in contrast to the Internet in the 80s and 90s and today, that was and is pretty much open, and there were NO restrictions to innovation AND on deploying such innovation. Deployment of technology and services over the carrier's wireless networks have been VERY slow due the aforementioned concerns, including the deployment of the solution to these
problems, the 3G+ networks, have been very slow as well…
We are now getting closer to true 3G, and the added bandwidth will help address some of the carrier's concerns, and we will see new services coming out – I've no doubt. But I am afraid that unfortunately we will continue to see the “carrier inner circle” for the time being, meaning the number people and companies with ideas that get in are fewer, thus the number of great ideas and services that could come out will be less than it could be.
So mobile does have a problem. And the problem is not innovation, or the entrepreneurs, or product people, but the problem is the closed network, the over controlled network, the "carrier's inner circle", that results in slow adoption and minimal services… At this rate, it could be another 5 years until we see a more open and neutral network, but I am afraid it will never be as open as the Internet.
Can product marketing folks help here? Yes, the carrier's product marketing folks can push to open the network, and do developer campaigns such as sponsoring developers, as Russell Buckley writes in his blog, and to push innovation and control to the “edge of the network”, while keeping differentiation, similarly to how the Internet has evolved – it is possible.
Things will get better – I just want them to get better in my lifetime 😉