Wireless Can Beat The Recession – If It’s Playful


The recession may slow the market for mobile devices, but innovations in mobile services could speed up, according to experts

Wireless technologies can help get the world out of recession, but they will have to innovate and be prepared to be playful, according to experts.

“Now is the perfect time to innovate,” said Richard Traherne, director of the wireless division at Cambridge Consultants. “It is critical to have the confidence to be innovative, by which we mean making business out of creativity.” Traherne and others were speaking at the Cambridge Wireless International Conference, which gathered wireless experts from round the world, in Cambridge UK.

Smartphone sales will decline this year, and users are expected to make more use of their existing phone, rather than upgrading. This means less money to handset makers and operators, but users will invest some of what they save in content, and even use their time to develop content which might make money, said Ray Anderson, chief executive of mobile content company Bango.

“App Stores open up the creative potential of hundreds of millions of people, and give you the benefits of long-tail economics,” said David Cleevely, of the event’s organiser, Cambridge Wireless, adding that they have become more powerful since most affluent users are now on flat-rate data plans.

But companies will have to be more open and developers more playful to succeed, said Anderson: “The monolithic luxury model, of Apple’s iTunes, is evaporating,” he said. Indeed all business models are changing faster than ever, said Cleevely.

The kind of creativity required will verge on silliness, said Anderson: “Silliness drives things,” he said, pointing out that new kinds of applications break the rules of older ones. For instance, a popular app turns an iPhone into a virtual ocarina which the user plays by blowing across the microphone and using the touchscreen to cover finger-holes. “These were not the intended uses of those features.”

On a global scale, though, companies might do better to concentrate on older technologies. Western markets for 3G aren’t expected to grow as much as less-advanced markets for 2G phone services in the developing nations. “The huge numbers are in 2G, text and voice,” said Was Rahman of government department, UK Trade and Investment, explaining that the weakness of the pound could allow UK companies to get footholds in fast growing areas abroad where experience might count.

Done right, wireless technology can help other areas of life, and actually make a net contribution to a return to growth, the speakers agreed.

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