Now that the Mobile World Congress is over, the question is: What’s next? For sure, companies will move even more mobile devices into untapped markets. Tablets will proliferate at breakneck speed, and the worldwide market will remain fragmented as regional players launch their versions for country-specific markets. Other kinds of consumer devices, like cars and medical equipment, will benefit from advances being made in ubiquitous connectivity.
And, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, there’s even been a call for the industry to innovate in new ways and make organizational changes that will help the ecosystem move at mobile speed. And, yes, suggestions even included adopting social networking strategies.
"The challenge is not whether you have the capability within your own four walls. The challenge is whether you can marry the capabilities within your four walls with capabilities outside," said Ben Verwaayen, CEO of Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) during a panel discussion. "The idea that you can simply do innovation within your four walls is dead. It's all about the ability to get a kind of passion in the organization to achieve something together with the environment in which you operate."
He added that his company had begun using social networking "from the beginning" to share ideas and models, not just to work with external partners but to break down internal silos.
Moving the industry forward, and maybe even in new directions, was also on the minds of other OEMs. Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) CEO Stephen Elop said during a keynote speech that, apart from focusing on its partnership with Microsoft, his company was investing in new ways to reach emerging markets with low-cost handsets. He cited features such as dual SIM card capabilities, dual touch and type screens, and things that make people "feel great about what they carry in their hand" regardless of their socio-economic status.
Jim Balsillie, co-CEO at BlackBerry (Nasdaq: RIMM; Toronto: RIM), talked during the same session as Elop. His take was that there has to be a constructive alignment between carriers and consumer electronics to create a "transformational experience for consumers" while adopting a business model that provides "sustained prosperity for carriers."
Looking more broadly across the industry, Stefan Zehle, CEO of Coleago Consulting, noted that the conversation has evolved from being about voice devices to being about push-through devices for data, content, multimedia, and applications. "The mobile phone business is changing from an 'ears' business to an 'eyes' business where people are actually looking at the screen," he said. "It's everything around that. 'Phone' is almost a redundant term. It's about the Internet you carry permanently with you. It’s like you're walking in an IP cloud all the time."
How much of this innovative cloud-walking will take shape over the next year is still nebulous. But, even if only a few of these big ideas take off, there will be many supply chain implications. Maybe there will be shortages or, perhaps, inventory write-downs after the ramp-up loses some of its luster. There will most certainly be dialogues about building healthier partner-relationships to deliver even more through the mobile channels. And, if we’re lucky, people will Tweet about it so we can all learn something collectively.
Over the next few weeks, I plan to share more of the conversations I had and heard at the conference and how the issues raised will affect the supply chain. I’ll be looking especially at mobile applications in the automotive, embedded, and healthcare segments.