Daniel Taylor: Let’s Address The Industry’s Failures, Not Ignore Them

MH pal Daniel Taylor of the Mobile Enterprise Alliance made an interesting and eloquent response to Russell’s earlier post on mobile web stats, and we thought it was worth pulling out and highlighting on its own. Daniel’s made some minor changes and kindly allowed us to reprint it as a post. Take it away, Daniel:

In a market dominated by supply-side business models, few parties have a vested interest in acknowledging how fragmented the market is and how slow it’s actually growing. For MDA to publish detailed statistics would force the entire industry to very publicly ask the question of what everyone is doing wrong.

Of course, on the pages of weblogs like this one, we have a very public ongoing debate about the rifts between licensing agreements, data tariffs, technologies and user interfaces.

And the research firms are producing reports outlining actual uptake. Last year, Gartner Group found that 3/4 (or more) of users with Wi-Fi devices don’t actually use Wi-Fi while traveling. Recently, In-Stat found that even though the smartphone sales are increasing, IT departments are unaware that Java applications can run on (lesser) regular mobile telephones, and users still carry a second mobile for voice calls.

Findings like these are both stunning and disappointing, indicating industry-wide failures in product definition and service introduction. We have failed to understand both market and product requirements, and we still don’t understand what users actually want. The reasons for this are myriad, and there is plenty of blame to go around.

I prefer to identify the over-MBA-ification of the business world which applies an ever-reductionist set of analytical models to virtually every decision to the point where every business decision is simultaneously logical, considered, analyzed and meaningless. This abstracted, cool and rational decision making results in a few innovations and a large swath of horribly-misguided products and services. It gives us mobile browsers that don’t work. It gives us soft buttons that keep taking us to services not worth paying for. And it gives us an ongoing love-hate relationship with devices and wireless operators.

From a business IT perspective, mobile data is a disaster, and organizations like MDA are ill-suited to address this topic head on. The reason is simple, membership organizations are designed to serve classes of members, and it takes managerial vision to gain support and develop sufficient budgets to actively involve the so-called “user” community. MDA membership is currently restricted to the vendor community.

I believe strongly in the MDA mission, and I applaud their efforts to date. And yet it is a mistake for MDA management to continue to sweep the disappointing results under the proverbial rug. This topic requires a meaningful and controversial debate about where the market is and what we need to do next. The standard approach of “closing the ranks” most likely keeps the vendors happy and the membership dues incoming. But in today’s electronic online dialogue, we need more than that. We have the ability to talk about “challenges,” “opportunities,” and places for “improvement.” Without pointing fingers, we can address the underlying question of why the market remains fragmented and poorly defined. Failure to do so will continue to quash virtually all legitimacy with the supposed “user” groups the organization purports to encourage and represent.

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