Google Highlights Openness as Major Mobile Trend


google mobile_smallADOTAS – “Twelve years ago I was promised one device that would do everything — phone, TV, toaster, lover…,” said Mike Steib, director of emerging platforms for Google, during his analysis on the five most important mobile trends at the Mobile Marketing Association’s Mobile Marketing Forum, part of Internet Week New York.

That cracked up the audience, but Steib continued that through the years Google has discovered there is no such thing as the perfect device, a one-size-fits-all mobile unit. There’s something for everyone; he cited Malcolm Gladwell’s talk about the CPG industry’s search for the perfect spaghetti sauce. The results found that there were several “perfect sauces,” different strokes for different folks. (RIP, Gary Coleman.)

His number one trend in the mobile market was that while the devices continue to diverge, the form factors are converging. As consumers increasingly jump on the smartphone bandwagon, they expect certain capabilities from their mobiles and use the devices more like personal computers.

In particular, mobile searches are becoming more diverse — a person on the go is more likely to look up some random thing on the spot rather than return to it later on a desktop. And while YouTube is the world’s largest video site, YouTube is number two.

No surprise coming from Google, Steibs second trend was openness will prevail, a fitting reply a day after Apple’s launch of the iPhone 4. He was chock full of impressive Android stats — 100,000 new Android activations per day, the second most popular OS in the U.S. smartphone market and the number one in total U.S. traffic.

While more than 3 billion apps have been downloaded and 25% of iPhone and Android users spend more than two hours a day using apps, Steib’s third trend was that the mobile web browser will become the most important app. He suggested that the future lies in web apps rather than native ones.

Noting that one in three mobile search queries had a local intent, Steib’s fourth trend was the increasing prominence of location-based services and advertising via social networks, couponing and augmented reality.

And in what seemed to be a poke at Apple’s iAd, his last trend was mobile marketers developing platforms to reach higher scale. Marketers need tools to reach great numbers of consumers across a wide variety of devices at a reasonable pricepoint. Certain spending floors (ahem, $1 million) are not viable for many advertisers attempting to enter the space, those that also don’t have months to do planning for a single simple campaign and hope to use dynamic tools.

Of course, the question on my mind was how data caps by carriers would effect the development of the mobile web and mobile advertising. In a move that may become a trend among carriers, AT&T dropped its unlimited data usage package last week in favor of a lower-priced plan that offered 200 megabytes of data a month or a higher-priced one with 2 gigabytes. Going over incurs fees, but not as brutal as one might expect.

While he wouldn’t criticize AT&T on its decision as he understood the thinking behind it, Steib lamented the limits on mobile broadband, arguing that there is no finite quantity. Currently, only about 2% of mobile browsers are likely to be affected by AT&T’s data cap, though this percentage will grow with increased mobile video viewing and advertising.

Development of the mobile web is just as important as the development of Internet, which he called possibly the most important development of the last 50 years. Supply will have to catch up with demand — as the mobile web continues to develop, the amount of broadband available must increase and with that growth, pricepoints likely will fall.

Stacy Adams, global director of marketing for Air2web, who was sitting next to me, made the interesting point that a lower price for data plans may encourage feature phone users to hop into smartphone land. Users disconcerted by a $30 monthly data plan on top of the price of a smartphone are likely to find a $15 plan less intimidating — especially considering that even moderately active users consume less than 200 MB per month.

But rich media advertising on mobile does suck up data — proliferation has the potential to raise consumer angst.

Finally, Steib answered a question on the recently approved acquisition of AdMob, and how that along with Apple’s integration on mobile ad network Quattro would effect the space. Steib commented that AdMob acquisition brought a great, experienced team to Google, as well as opening its reach to more users as well as a slew of badly needy apps. He stressed that the mobile ad network space is still highly competitive and is likely to see further consolidation, but he doubted that AdMob and Quattro would be the sole dominate players and squeeze all the others out.


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