I am Calling Bullshit on Your ‘Mobile Strategy’

Mikaal Abdulla
12:48 pm on Jan 17, 2013

After 15 years of working for someone else, Mikaal Abdulla finally got smart and started his own company. He is the co-founder and CEO of 8 Securities. This is part of an occasional series on marketing tips and strategies for startups.


The amount of chatter around “mobile strategy” is giving me a piercing headache that I can not shake. The only remedy is to write. So here I go.

Google glasses - got a 'mobile strategy' for this yet?

Are you ready for this screen? (Image: Thomas Hawk on Flickr)

Mobile is not a strategy. It’s simply another screen on which your business must function. Is there a titanic shift from time spent on the PC to mobile screen? Yes. Are there business models well suited to mobility? Yes. Is developing for the mobile screen a fundamentally critical channel for any business that wants a future? Yes.

Are you a mobile company? I hope your answer is no. Just because you have led with mobile you can’t stop there. If you want to build a formidable business for the long term then you need a ubiquity strategy, not a mobile strategy. What happens when Apple TV starts competing with your iPad app in the living room? What happens when Google Glasses become common place on the street? What happens when the automobile dashboard becomes truly connected? Do you then need a “TV strategy”, a “glasses strategy” or an “automobile strategy”?

Sounds stupid right? What you need is ubiquity. You need to seamlessly be everywhere your customers are. I of course may be wrong (I usually am) but I believe the future is in responsive web design, HTML5, the open web, and seeing the world through your customers’ eyes, whatever screen those eyes may be looking at.

Believe me, the future is much bigger than your mobile app. If you are not thinking ahead, you will lose. Is mobile a good starting point? Of course it is. Mobile distribution has tremendous advantages such as cost, speed to market and distribution. But please don’t fall into the trap of talking about your “mobile strategy”. Strategy by definition is about the future of your business. Instead think of mobile as just another screen on which you engage your customers. Your strategy deserves to be bigger than a 4-inch screen.


Replies
  • Sambung

    “Mobile is not a strategy. It’s simply another screen on which your business must function” –> Lol, so fucking true.

  • http://www.8securities.com Mikaal Abdulla

    Thanks Sambung. Happy to see you have the same view. Sometimes I think I am alone. My favorite are Venture Capital firms that raise entire funds around their “mobile thesis”. Nonsense….The world will look very different in a few years with new channels we probably have not even thought about.

  • http://artur.co Artur Sapek

    Yo, you’re right about this. Mobile is a stupid hype, like social. All good businesses will have their hands in mobile, social, desktop, antisocial (productivity), so forth. There’s a polar opposite for everything worth exploring.

    Keep on keeping on my brotha

  • Sandeep

    Mikaal,

    I completely agree, but the way I usually like to bring this point across is slightly different. I like to call this another case of “practice” being mistaken for “philosophy”. “Mobility”, is a philisophy, which essentially is being able to do what you do while on-the-move. Using specific mobile devlces and screens are a specific “practice” of staying mobile. The practice keeps chaning – like you said – tomorrow, using our cars and spectacles to stay mobile could become the established practice. Businesses should tune their strategy to the philosophy of mobility, and would thus be able to benefit from all practices around mobility. If they chain themselves to a specific practices like handheld mobile device screens, they would have to keep changing strategy, like you pointed out. Actually, you say this more generically (and better) when you say “ubiquity strategy”.

  • http://exiconglobal.com Stefan

    It’s about mobility man.

    How do you mobilize your content and services. That’s all that matters.

    What is your core business and how you deliver relevant experience and content to the appropriate user, either staff, customer, partner, when in the car, on the mobile phone, on the TV screen when sitting on the sofa with family, to their glasses.

    This is a huge shift to just building for a browser on a computer when sitting at a desk with a single purpose.

    You are right that it is about ubiquity and mobility is key to achieving that goal.

    Everyone is calling this “mobile strategy” that’s not right. It’s about mobilizing your product. API’s, Services, Targeting, Mashup, Context, Device are all now integral when mobilizing your product and business.

    You need to decide, but regardless mobility is going to change your architecture IT-wise and organizationally.

    Get Ready for it…this is the biggest wildest ride the global economy is experiencing.

  • http://www.twitter.com/MattHofstadt Matt Hofstadt

    100% agreed. Many people seem to be fixated on the mobile space, as if it were going to “kill off” other forms of media consumption. Mobile is an extremely convenient platform. It exists wherever the user is. It also has the unique ability to know where the user is and allows them to engage via that location. However, mobile is an awful platform for consuming information. Convenient, yes. Efficient, no. The rise of mobile as a form of information/media consumption is the product of convenience and lack of a adequate alternative when on the move. People will always choose a larger form factor that offers more screen real estate. Personally, I’m interested to see the impact products like Google glasses will have. Perhaps there will be “glasses” that utilize flexible OLED screens and give the affect of having a huge monitor right in front of you. This can connect wirelessly to your phone or tablet and people will then enjoy massive screen real estate on the go as well. Preference always goes to larger screens where the user experience is superior.

  • Simon

    More discussion over at HN: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5071492

  • http://students.seattleu.edu/powersr2/web/ Ray Powers

    Well said and to the point.

  • http://blog.bigcircle.nl Maarten Swemmer

    No one denies that the mobile channel is growing in importance. Even a ubiquity strategy will need to consist of different strategies of which a mobile strategy should be at least one, at the moment. However each of your channels will not just need different designs, but also different content to support your overall business strategy. Just applying responsive web design without seriously looking at the content you present on each channel (mobile, tablet, desktop, tv, but also magazine, podcast, radio, etc.) would be an ineffective way to utilize the channels and their different properties (including user preferences). Mobile is not simply another screen!

    The actual problem with a ubiquity strategy is that it is not a strategy. We’re not God: we cannot be everywhere. Perhaps it is wise to keep an open mind and not limit yourself to a mobile strategy, but sometimes (or most of the time) focus or pragmatism it is a wiser approach than holistic completeness or blind strive for perfection.

  • http://www.8securities.com Mikaal Abdulla

    Thanks to all for reading the post and commenting here. Picking up on a point Matt made. I totally agree that mobile is so often discussed in the context of “killing off” the PC, etc. I think Matt is right. At the end of the day it will simply come down to efficiency, convenience and usability. Connectivity & consumption will be made available in ways we can not even imagine today.

  • Rahul

    Not sure I quite agree. While I acknowledge the fundamental premise that your business must have a ubiquitous strategy and the client experience should be the same on all platforms, how do you account for the fact that you might want to focus on the growth of one channel over the other in a given year? You want to be the # 1 voted mobile trading platform by a certain publication? You want to migrate a certain percentage of your business from one mobile platform to another because you wish to retire supporting an OS altogether, ex. Blackberry? Wouldn’t these ideas all be covered under a ‘mobile strategy’?

  • Vinay

    Mobile is opening new business channels which apply to most of the industries, it gives flexibility with handheld device applications, which were earlier not possible by desktop computing, This is perfect solution for low cost, highly efficient and highly mobile requirements, I strongly doubt if this can be achieved by wearing glasses or driving car, as you rightly said the later two cannot be called as strategies, but big enterprises will need some thinking to expand their business and target market, as who would be interested in taking solution for which I need to sit at one single place, this will be loss of opportunity

    In short mobile strategy is the need for business to look at the opportunity which was not possible earlier

  • http://www.villa-bali.com Daniel

    Having a mobile strategy doesn’t prevent you from having a web strategy. LIke having a marketing strategy doesn’t mean you won’t have a development strategy. They all fall under the global business goals. Strategy books on strategy mapping explain that a business has multiple goals, that are realized via multiple strategies and actioned in as many tactics.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tuyendaothanh Tuyen Dao

    Thank you Mikaal Abdulla, your message is like a reminder for business community. The point is the world never stop changging, and the one who win will have to look further than just mobile or any specific technology industry.

  • http://www.8securities.com Mikaal Abdulla

    Tuyen, very well said!

  • http://www.8securities.com Mikaal Abdulla

    Rahul, thanks for your thoughtful counter argument. I think focus is necessary for any business. A focus on mobile has very rational advantages. I think it makes sense to find product / market fit with focus and that achieving ubiquity is a long road.

    My point is that I think startups that define themselves a mobile business are going to face very rapid competition from alternative channels. I think defining ones strategy and business model (commercialization and monitization) behind a single channel is a huge mistake.

  • http://about.me/laars Lars

    Mikaal.. I’d call Bullshit on your Link Bait Title.. but no doubt it worked..

    A few of the others, specifically Stefan, Maarten and Daniel, addressed this with balanced respond – which you seemed to ignore when commenting inline – until just now with the latest ‘my point’ above.

    If, as also stated there, you ..”think it makes sense to find product / market fit with focus and that achieving ubiquity is a Long Road.” Then would seem pretty clear that a Mobile Strategy will be important for those who are looking to “commercialize & monetise” from a solid opp. starting point.

    Sure.. they can, indeed should as cost/benefit applies, plug into other platforms.. however I’d kindly suggest there are many players out there who are well-served with a laser focus on mobile…

    Just my 1.5yen.. 😎

  • http://www.8securities.com Mikaal Abdulla

    Hi Lars,

    Thanks for the message. I think I have been 100% clear that starting with mobile makes a lot of sense for a lot of reasons. That said, those startups that put themselves in the box of being a “mobile company” are going to smacked when alternative channels present themselves. Mobile is not the end game. For years we were buried in endless tech press that promoted the false concept of “social” as the holy grail. Now we see venture capital firms raising entire funds around their “mobile thesis”. What a load of bullshit. I wonder how their “social thesis” has worked out for them? Why, because just as social is a feature and not a category, I believe we will come to see mobile as nothing more than another screen.

    Strategy and vision go hand in hand. An example. If I am a “mobile commerce app” I should be dead scared when Apple launches its TV. The tablets and phones will get left on the charger as the TV delivers a more compelling and interactive experience. Am I going to fiddle around on my mobile device or make purchases directly from my TV? On my TV now I can click on the knives I saw someone using on Top Chef, get the specs in 42 inch glory, immediately get feedback from my friend who I know is watching and purchase in a click. Google Glasses has even more exciting use cases. Is the TV a PC? Are Google Glasses a mobile device? No…they are just another screen. Those businesses that build a seamless customer experience and ubiquity will win. Those companies that live or die by mobile alone will probably die. How many social networks do you know that are making money? Just because 100,000 were built around the hype does not make it smart. Mobile as a strategy is another hype cycle in my opinion (aka bullshit).

  • http://about.me/laars Lars

    Hi Mikaal..

    Thanks, sadly I don’t have time for back & forth on this, we both agree mobile is a critical channel.

    Perhaps you’re aware of GREE and Mobage.. two social mobile gaming platforms here that now generate several $Billion in revenues annually.. that’s hardly BS hype for them – or their investors. Statistical exceptions, sure, but consider all of the 3rd party providers also riding on that new wave.. expecting there will be some real diamonds under the radar, just like Tanaka-san was at Rakuten!

    As next-gen. access becomes established, also connected to web/apps, currently building offers will have more opportunities to target. Will there be other screens, with scale, at some point.. of course. Meanwhile.. folks cutting their teeth via mobile path are geared-up to create product with cash-flow now.. and will (ideally) be in a stronger position to explore such potential futures as they both evolve.

    Going forward, the mobile device will continue to serve as the ‘ubiquitous’ remote control; personal, always connected and a key central component for any content or service strategy.. imho.. 😎

    Cheers,

    Lars

Read More