Sunday, March 16, 2008

Vision meets Practicality

Vision meets Practicality; Image Courtesy FlickrRecently I've heard of quite a few mobile startups who decided to be practical about their strategy. Got me thinking of how far do you go believing in a future vision vs. solving a "today" problem.

More and more startups are saying client applications are difficult (dev, QA, distribute, make people aware and use), and so is mobile web. In that kind of environment, why bang your head against the wall? why not use existing well known channels (voice+SMS) to provide the offering? here are a couple of examples:
  • Mobivox (BTW, Thanks Nitzan for the good talk you gave this W/E) are saying: mobile Skype is difficult. Let's create a mobile voice portal, where people can dial a number to call their friends, email or text, search, shop,...
  • Kadoink are into experiencing music predominantly using a voice call?
  • Padpaw are facilitating small social groups using SMS
  • and Locamoda are saying location oriented interaction could be done in front of an electronic display over SMS
So I think its an interesting trend, which could very well take off and make these guys a lot of money (it better be given the $$ VC put into it). And it's very practical, can't argue with that.

My dilemma as a wireless geek, if you will, is where does that leave the technology, the industry and the consumer.
On one hand it can't be good. Take Mobivox solution for example. A voice portal vision begs the question why do we need WAP portals at all? If they figured out people would rather call a number to search then go to Google's WAP, then that's a very serious point to consider. If people rather make a local call to make a long distance call cheaper, then it begs the question what happened to the hyped "presence (your friend status change) will drive increased traffic"? Reality check: Presence did not take off, nor did IMS, and possibly will never take off. Especially if there's no more business drive behind it.
Why sweat IMS (as example) if nobody cares?

On the other hand it's not so bad news. The "workaround" (sorry if blunt) that uses existing known methods to achieve a functionality could in fact drive the awareness needed to make the case for the "appropriate" solution. For example, some will remember 4-5 years ago there was a discussion of IP vs. CS PoC and IM. Everybody was thinking IP was the way to go. heck, we're talking all-IP networks right? Kodiak's CS solution was treated as the black sheep. well guess whose solution is making strides today. But if users get hooked on PoC, this could eventually drive investment in IP-based PoC.

Anyway, interested in your thoughts re making the "visionary" vs. "practical" strategy direction isn't obvious.

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