Last night was our 2010 wrapup Mobile Monday in Silicon Valley. We had an awesome lineup for the panel, fantastic turnout, and great conversation. Having Om from GigaOm was spectacular, I got a lot of positive feedback on the dynamic he added to the conversation. He has strong and direct opinions on things like mobile advertising and location based services, and drew out some great commentary from the rest of the folks. Rich Wong and John Malloy in particular had great things to say. And Mario did a fantastic job moderating! Thanks to all for participating and making the night a success.
Of course, there was plenty of conversation about mobile advertising. One of the most interesting comments of the night was that Rich Wong said he’s no longer sour on consumer mobile apps. He was involved in AdMob and GetJar, but for a while was holding off while the mobile market shook out. And it’s just in the last 6 to 9 months that he really started to feel like the right mix was there for being able to build a business. He said that it’s not just mobile advertising (which really has progressed a long way, yet still has a long way to go). But also everything in the environment that helps folks to build their app or service. When we were growing AdMob there was no such thing as the iPhone. The technology has shifted significantly over the last few years, but the solutions haven’t shifted by the same amount. Everyone on the panel thought there’s a lot of opportunity, particularly in mobile advertising, in extending the evolution of services and pushing in some new direction. For example Accel recently invested in a new mobile advertising company called MoPub because they think there’s still plenty of open space in that area.
Om had a really strong opinion on mobile ads, saying effectively that the whole segment needs a complete reboot. The technology of mobile has changed to supposedly allow highly relevant and personal experiences, but the advertising networks really aren’t delivering on that promise. Plus, advertising itself is shifting as brands start to engage more directly with consumers. However all the networks want to just put their banner on the screen and that’s it. The mobile advertising services really need to step up and start thinking about how to take advantage of the medium they’re working in and position themselves in the shifting advertising market properly. He said that based on his experience with trying to mobilize GigaOm that the ECPM values for mobile inventory are just too low with the existing networks, but that there’s really no other option yet.
There’s was also a decent amount of talk about location based services. Everyone on the panel pretty much agreed that the introduction of location afforded some huge opportunities, but that the models there were really still shaking out. Anyone who was at the SXSW conference and was using a checkin service saw the value of what checkins can provide. But the model that goes around something like that, and turns it from a niche behavior into a mainstream service still needs to be discovered. Most people state that checkins should be a feature and not a standalone service. But Rich said instead that checkins are a great substrate. They can allow for interesting services, but the additional layers to be built around them to provide proper value to users consistently hasn’t arrived yet. I think the distinction there is subtle but significant.
In terms of predictions for the future, John Malloy said he expected HTML5 to come to the front as one of the major development avenues in mobile during 2011. Android starting to peek above the waterline and really challenge iOS as the dominant player in mobile has made developers start to think multi-platform again. Once you start having to weigh that decision, to either go native and port or develop for the web, the web starts to look a lot more appealing. There’s a lot that still needs to be done to make it viable from a business perspective, but the playing field is setup in a way that should encourage the development of solutions to the existing problems. Rich thought that 2011 was going to be the year for Android – that we were going to see Android outstrip iOS and carve out a significant lead. Related to that, Om thought 2011 would see Samsung continue to rise in power and Motorola start to fade away.
Although there was plenty of disagreement on the panel about specifics, I was surprised to see so much consensus on the major themes. That mobile advertising is just at the start and poised to grow astronomically, which should be good for folks looking to push advertising itself in new directions as well as folks building businesses based on mobile advertising. That not only is the rise of Android significant and real, but that it’s going to continue and needs to be front and center in everyones mind. And that there’s huge potential in location based services, but that the models we’ve seen so far aren’t the ones that are going to drive real mass use and big businesses. 2011 is looking like it’s going to be an even more interesting year to be in mobile than 2010 was. And 2010 was pretty spectacularly fantastic.