03 September 2009

Travel M-Commerce - Still Birth Pains

I am a fan of the whole idea of M-Commerce. Particularly how it can have applications for the whole Travel Category.However my enthusiasm is tempered by (now more than) 10 years of experience in trying to get Mobile Apps off the ground without any noticeable success.

So I was very interested in reading the latest M-Commerce Report by eMarketer.

In particular there are two contrasting elements to their study.

Travel was one of the highest categories of product that people SAID they would be willing to purchase via a mobile app. However there is a huge gap between the desire and the execution - early adopters don't even rank travel apps on their radar.

So we have a chicken and egg situation. Further the obstacles to success of M-Commerce are many and varied. Of these the largest percentage are not going to get solved - in my humble opinion - any time soon.

So take a look at the list the ones that consumers in the report detailed this is illustrated on the top here. However consider both the small sample size and the audience.

I spent much of the summer roaming around Asia Pacific and Europe testing 3G networks and interactions. (OK this was a by product of what I was doing - I really am not THAT sad - even though the SFR shop in St Gilles Croix de Vie was getting pretty sick of me by the end of August). I found a lot to commend it. The networks in general are now reliable and robust. But the applications are clearly lacking. So the red hot market at the moment is the marriage of the Netbook to a 3G network and the corresponding Carrier sponsored products. EG Lease a Netbook for X Euros a month and get the device and the data included.

Steve Jobs - not so secret - iTablet project will hope to capitalize on this trend when it emerges likely at CES or MacWorld in January 2010. But by its nature this is likely to be a further obstacle to the deployment of robust Mobile applications. Namely the splintered client side applications environment.

In the various projects I have undertaken on Mobile - I have found that the stumbling block has been both the technology (lack of ubiquity of Client side application environment), the commercial model of making money. (This was usually the greed of the Mobile Operators who refuse to share the data usage revenue or alternatively at the very least figure out a way not to penalize the application with a surcharge). We long ago figured out solutions to the other problems.

The promise of Android (and son of Android aka Chrome) as well as other multi-hardware platform services such as Windows Mobile, Linux and Symbian has all so far proved to be a figment of the developers imaginations.

However I remain hopeful that this will eventually sort itself out. But as you saw from my post yesterday about Skype on Blackberry - the proprietary nature of the vendors and the networks seems to be at the root cause of the issue. However I am not holding my breath in the short term... So I am still bearish on this regardless of the optimism of others such as PhocusWright on the subject.

Thank you and have a nice day.

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