Local Mobile: Dinner table market observations

On my last night at SMXEast, I took four 20 somethings out to dinner, two women and two men. It was interesting in that they all seemed to be connected to local mobile across the spectrum of possibilities. One had an iPhone, one could barely use her cell phone for texting, and two would have an iPhone if they could afford a data plan.

Of the four of them, two thought Windows Mobile was an abomination (volunteered not solicited), and not one of them had heard of the impending G-phone rollout from T-Mobile. The iPhone user immediately started wondering if it would make her iPhone obsolete and whether she should get one.

Admittedly not a huge sample but interesting none the less. The iPhone has a great reputation amongst all of them, Windows Mobile sucked (from their point of view) and their was immediate interest and trust in a Google phone. 

The next day, having returned to Olean and I dined with a 50 something, female lawyer friend who owns an iPhone. She didn’t have her iPhone handy and we wanted to locate the neighborhood where one of the previous evening’s 20 year old lived. I pulled out my four year old Nokia 3620 with its early WAP browser and successfully pulled up a Google Map of the location. I handed the phone to the lawyer who immediately started poking the screen and double flicking in an effort to zoom the view. She was annoyed at the lack of response and just assumed that all phones had an interface like the iPhone. It points out the huge advantage of being first with a usable design and if that translates to significant market share how hard it would be to unlodge that early leader once the habit is ingrained..

The anecdotes demonstrate how deeply the iPhone has penetrated our culture and their ready market for a lower priced phone/plan. It doesn’t bode well for Microsoft’s mobile future and it is clear that Google, while having a lot of brand equity, has not yet moved their phone onto the radar of most people.

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2 thoughts on “Local Mobile: Dinner table market observations”

  1. An interesting look at how people use their mobile devices, and how they view the market Mike.

    I just saw an article where Steve Ballmer was quoted saying “Nokia, RIM and Apple will all lose out as the mobile market expands over the next five years, because they design their own proprietary hardware and tie it closely to their software.”

    But I believe it is the user experience that people are looking for, which is one of the reasons the iPhone has done so well. I’ve used Windows Mobile, and it was awful. Even version 5. The iPhone is much easier to use because it was designed as an end-to-end solution. It has really set the bar for what people expect in a mobile device, and it seems like Microsoft doesn’t get that yet.

    So I guess I’m agreeing with your conclusion – that your observations don’t bode well for Microsoft in the mobile space (which hurts to say since I used to work there!)

    The article I referenced above is at: http://www.thestandard.com/news/2008/09/26/ballmer-still-searching-answer-google

  2. Hi Don-

    Thanks for your thoughts. It is interesting to me that Microsoft is emulating Apple with the Zune and to some extent the xbox…. so they don’t completely dismiss the strategy. They obviously think that phones are different in this regard and have chosen the Windows model.

    For Apple et. al designing their own proprietary hardware is only a problem if they can’t get the volume up to achieve efficiencies of scale. Apple has learned how to do that so if one assumes that the price is within the ballpark it comes down to what you noted: the user experience.

    Even if Microsoft came out with the best mobile software in the world tomorrow, they have their work cut out for them with the 20 year old crowd, thats for sure.


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