I spent the last week at our corporate headquarters in Italy. It is always interesting to compare and contrast the mobile market environment in markets outside of the U.S. For many years, the U.S. suffered a deserved mobile service inferiority complex. It had been stated that all the really cool stuff was happening in Europe or Japan. That has changed.
To quote one of my favorite writers, Thomas L. Friedman of the New York Times, “The world is flat!” Here are a couple of examples:
The vast majority of my colleagues have BlackBerrys. The BlackBerry device itself and the service were created in Canada but were first introduced in a serious manner in the U.S.
While flipping through the multi-national channels on the TV in my hotel room, it was hard the miss the influx of German iPhone commercials for T-Mobile (as well as some other German commercials that I will discuss later!). Many other advertisements for mobile phones are iPhone-esque. They feature large touchscreens and virtual keyboards, they play Mp3s and have Wi-Fi.
With the U.S. market providing innovative, global-leading devices, and with premium VAS skyrocketing, I hereby declare the official end of the U.S. inferiority complex. I am not raising the stars and stripes in a jingoistic manner, but rather to point out some rough parity in creating leading service models.
As Friedman proclaims in his bestseller, the global economy for goods and services is permeating all aspects of our economy, and this includes mobile value-added services. Mobile devices and value-added services can be sourced from any land with data center and Internet connectivity.
There are still obvious differentiations and cultural norms that create service differences across markets and continents. The service and device differences are now dominated by local norms and market conditions, not technology or market maturity.
One very obvious difference is the use of late-night (after midnight), continuous commercials on German stations. As best I could, either there is a severe clothing shortage for well-endowed women, or there is a market for mobile VAS in text sex chat, mobile adult videos and adult wallpapers. Have you picked out the common theme to these services? I cannot imagine a similar all-night commercial on American television.
All in all, the mobile world may be flat, but local market differences certainly make it very diverse!