CEOs are busy. It's easy to be distracted with competing priorities coming from all directions. But there's one darkhorse mega-trend that I believe will catch many CEOs by surprise, and even cause some of them be fired by their boards for missing it: The Mobile Crush.
Two years ago, I did an in-depth screencast describing why I believed mobile would be way bigger than most people realize. And now the crush is starting in earnest.
There's a great quote by Mark Pincus, the CEO of Zynga in an article today by the New York Times:
"Do I wish that we would have gone all-in on mobile and made a bigger commitment to it earlier?" Mark Pincus, Zynga's founder and chief executive, said in an interview after the earnings release. "Yes."
I let out a hearty bellylaugh when I read this. Especially because the reporter wrote "Zynga has been on a monumental losing streak. Hits have been rare, profits nonexistent and crucial employees are fleeing. In the next few months, Zynga faces a critical test that will determine if even that sum is excessive: can it successfully put its most popular Web games, starting with Farmville, on mobile devices?"
Indeed. My belief is that we're seeing the beginning of a huge tsunami wave that will engulf CEOs who aren't ready. The mega trendlines are there -- mobile is getting huge. The problem is that it's been on the horizon for a decade, so many CEOs have gotten very used to seeing it on the horizon.
If you haven't seen Monty Python's hilarious "endless running" clip, you need to watch it, because it's exactly what's going to happen to unprepared CEOs:
Facebook's IPO was also marred because Zuck hadn't figured out a workable mobile strategy
The price collapsed due to fears that the company was not prepared for the dramatic shift to mobile devices, an area in which the company has struggled to make money. But after Zuckerberg offered a robust defence of Facebook's mobile strategy, shares rose 4% in after hours trading.
"The performance of the stock has obviously been disappointing," said Zuckerberg. He said the big question in people's minds was how well the social networking company would do in mobile.
Zuckerberg said that IPO rules had prevented the company from updating people on Facebook's mobile developments and that "a lot of things have changed".
Mobile is a no-duh priority for many of the Bay area's tech companies. Many startups are mobile-first, meaning they're focusing all their efforts on mobile. And VCs have been focused on funding mobile-first startups (another blog on it here, although like too much of any good thing, some are re-thinking it a bit). But as Fred Wilson concludes:
I think you can't abandon mobile. It is the future like it or not. And second, I think it is critical to design for mobile first and then build a web companion. If you design for the web and then port to mobile, you will find that it is really hard to fit your UI onto the small screen. Better to design for mobile first and then build a web companion. Mobile first, web second.
Tech companies are the canaries in the coal mine for this trend. If you're the CEO of a Fortune 1000 company and you haven't yet figured out how to make mobile an integral channel in your business, you should be very afraid. Not just for your company, but for your job.
I'll be happy to talk more in the comments about ways that a CEO can effectively tackle mobile -- especially if mobile isn't currently a relevant part of its business. Just ask me for details in the comments below.
Great post Daniel! The numbers don't lie! According to a Gartner study, In the year 2015, more people will be accessing the web through their mobile devices than traditional desktop computers. This stat represents everyone, not just the tech heads in Silicon Valley! So if you have not boarded the mobile train, I suggest you do quick. All organizations have an exciting opportunity to develop experiences with their customers on a platform they are already engaged heavily with.
Google's Larry Page is far from being in jeopardy of being kicked out as CEO for missing mobile. If anything, Google has been among the leaders in mobile with its Android platform. Which makes it even more interesting that Google is having such a challenge in the space.
This NY Times article chronicles how Google's ad engine is slipping due to the rise of mobile. CEO Page states:
"For years, everyone talked about the multiscreen world. Now, it's arrived, and on a scale few imagined," said Larry Page, Google's chief executive. Most consumers have more than one device, he said, and devices for people's homes and bodies, like glasses and watches, will proliferate.
On a massive scale, indeed. That's why it's a mobile crush. And if the CEO of a company that's leading in mobile is having a hard time, it'll be interesting to see how rest of the Fortune 1000 CEOs handle it.
+1 on this perspective from Cringely: Mobile becomes the new desktop. Yet another reason for Fortune 1000 CEOs to be paying attention. He writes,
"Jump forward in time to a year from today. Here’s what I expect we’ll see. Go to your desk at work and, using Bluetooth and AirPlay, the iPhone 5S or 6 in your pocket will automatically link to your keyboard, mouse, and display. Processing and storage will be in your pocket and, to some extent, in the cloud. Your desktop will require only a generic display, keyboard, mouse, and some sort of AirPlay device, possibly an Apple TV that looks a lot like a Google ChromeCast."
iOS 7 has bluetooth support for both a keyboard and a mouse. "This is a chance for Apple to reinvent the desktop exactly as they reinvented the music player, the mobile phone, and the tablet. For those who say Apple can’t do it again, Apple is already doing it again."
I also agree that this trend will become apparent -- even mainstream -- within the next 12 to 18 months. MSFT is going to be in a tough spot on this one.
WOW. When I wrote this blog 8 months ago, I assumed that boards of smaller companies would be the first to fire their CEOs for missing the significance of mobile. But with the Zynga and Barnes & Noble examples below, I'm realizing the bigger ones may be the first to fall.
And just last week Microsoft announced that Ballmer was getting the ax. The reason? He missed the shift to mobile! In fact he once famously said that the iPhone wouldn't get any market share. Here's a quote from Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures:
"Microsoft had to do this. The future is in mobile devices, not PCs, and they need to increase their focus and investment on Mobile."
And who's likely to take Ballmer's spot? Stephen Elop, currently the CEO of Nokia, which is being acquired by MSFT. Now that's a shift to mobile.
Wow, chalk a huge one up to this thread. Who'll be the next CEO to get the ax?
Here's more ammo re: Ballmer getting canned for missing mobile, from this DaringFireball article.
This just amazes me. Now that Ballmer has been canned for missing mobile, he's ready to admit it. Here's the quote from this WSJ article:
"Microsoft Corp largely missed the mobile market in the last decade, its recently departed chief executive officer said Tuesday.
Speaking at the Saïd Business School in Oxford, U.K., Steve Ballmer, who stepped down from Microsoft one month ago, admitted that he would re-do the last ten years if he could.
“We would have a stronger position in the phone market today if I could re-do the last 10 years,” he said. The answer, he said, is to pick up and try to catch the next wave."
Indeed. The last decade!
Wow, here's another casualty from the smartphone wars. It's not just non-mobile CEOs that are at risk for being fired. Here's the latest from this NY Times post about Blackberry:
"Four years ago, BlackBerry had 51 percent of the North American smartphone market, according to the research firm Gartner. And Mike Lazaridis, BlackBerry's co-founder who was then its co-chief executive and co-chairman, was promising an even brighter future.
But then the company responded slowly to new iPhone and Android devices and the company's sales evaporated. Now, the company has 3.4 percent of the market and Mr. Lazaridis is gone from BlackBerry."
You are on the forefront of this ,google glass ,Tesla. Saw Musk on Charlie Rose and also another interview and saw the acceleration of the car which is fast. What do you think about prediction of laptops becoming obsolete in favor of Ipad-like devices?
Yes the Model S is fast. I did a blog about it at http://danielodio.com/i-rented-a-tesla-model-s-for-25-hr-from-getaround-here-was-my-experience .
The laptop vs. tablet conversation is a bit complicated because it's apples & oranges in some ways but not in others.
For example, phones & tablets are now connecting to the internet faster than landlines. (Two blogs I wrote about that at http://danielodio.com/mobile-is-not-the-2nd-screen-its-the-brains and http://danielodio.com/this-is-why-mobile-wins-ipad-mini-is-151x-faster-than-hotel-wifi ). Most laptops are still tethered to a wifi or landline connection. But I expect that will change; future generations of laptops will likely have 4G/LTE (or the faster future versions) connectivity built in. That will blur the line between what "mobile" means.
Same for things like Google Glass -- that's a mobile device, but not in the way we typically think of it. That also blurs the line of what mobile means.
So what I expect will happen is that we will have an explosion of "Internet of Things" where previously non-connected devices become connected (think your shoes, your house, your car, your refrigerator, etc.) and the devices we have closest to us (today, our phones, but tomorrow Glass, etc) will be the devices we use to control this new, more digitally-connected world.
Does that mean laptops go away? No, at least not in the short term. But it does mean that they become just one tool in an expanding digital tool chest, instead of our primary connection to the digital world. Laptops become a place for us to create long-form content. A place for us to work with complex spreadsheets, etc, even as they become more "mobile".
And mobile devices continue to form the way that we interface with our digital identities and the digital world, becoming connected to peripherals (both wearables and not) around us.
Or at least, thats my 2 cents :)
WOW and so the CEO routing begins. The CEO of Barnes & Noble was just fired... because he wasn't able to make the Nook mobile reader successful:
I believe this is the first in a string of firings we'll see over this, as I predicted in the blog post above earlier this year.
Apps - With the increased rate of acceleration maybe 2015 is here. Food for thought - Back in the day Bill Hewlett wore a wrist computer that he didn't produce widely because he thought it was not a moneymaker at the time. Name dropping- Yes I knew him socially. He was light years ahead of most people but was happy to engage younger people in topics of interest to him.- Tell me do you see a wrist cell phone in our future? Maybe voice activated? Solar powered?
Another hearty belly laugh from Bill Gates' quote in this CNET article:
Gates was especially critical of Microsoft's position in the smartphone sector, where the company currently holds just 2.4 percent of the market, according to recent IDC data.
"There's a lot of things like cell phones where we didn't get out in the lead very early. ... We didn't miss cell phones, but the way we went about it didn't allow us to get the leadership. So it's clearly a mistake."
A great example of a company with a forward-thinking CEO is Aaron Levie of Box, an enterprise document storage & collaboration company. If you read through the second half of this article, you'll see quotes like this:
"He thinks mobile devices with their small screens, portability and omnipresence in our lives might present the biggest challenge for achieving this goal. Users probably need a native way of interacting with documents that doesn’t involve opening a Word document and trying to read and edit it on a tiny keyboard. The right test, according to Schillace, might be if a co-worker has a question, “could I answer it while I was standing in line at the store in 30 seconds?”
There's nothing about Box's business that's inherently mobile. And yet, all of it is mobile, because that's how its users are going to be interacting with Box in the next few years. And that's what I really mean by the "mobile crush." If all your users want to interact with your business from mobile devices, you have to be ready for them or you'll cease to be relevant -- no matter what your business is about.
The Wall Street Journal has run a series of articles about the app economy this week, identifying the app ecosystem as a $25 billion business. They write:
If you're interested in mobile, and apps in particular, I highly recommend searching this series of articles out.
When my co-founders and I started PointAbout, a mobile app dev shop in 2008, we had a really hard time convincing businesses that apps were more than just a fad. Then in the 4th quarter of 2009 something significant happened: I started to see budgets for app creation move from the "experimental" bucket to a dedicated budget. That's when the most forward-thinking businesses started to build mobile apps and we were able to build a strong business making apps for Disney, The Washington Post, Cars.com and many others.
But still, many businesses don't get it. I recently wrote a warning to Fortune 1000 CEOs because I'm convinced many of them will be fired for underestimating the impact of mobile on their businesses.
Ethical hackers or white hats like Palestinian programmer Khalil Shreateh get paid $500 to expose potential flaws in Facebook's programming. Khalil says he sent two requests to get the $500 bucks he sought, but Facebook ignored him. A Facebook software engineer Matthew Jones said that Khalil's initial report was poorly worded, although he acknowledged that the company should have pressed for more information. "We get hundreds of reports every day... Many of our best reports come from people whose English isn’t great — though this can be challenging, it’s something we work with just fine and we have paid out over $1 million to hundreds of reporters. However, many of the reports we get are nonsense or misguided, and even those … provide some modicum of reproduction instructions.”
So I guess it prompted Khalil, the unemployed Palestinian to post the following on the Founders Wall using the flaw he was trying to the money for:
Dear Mark Zuckerberg,
First sorry for breaking your privacy and post to your wall, i has no other choice to make after all the reports I sent to Facebook team.
My name is KHALIL, from Palestine...