These past few Qs has seen some significant pain coming to some OEMs such as Nokia and SonyEricsson. Don’t get me wrong, I have friends at both of these OEMs and I think they both produce amazing devices but I’m wondering if there is an another reason for their pain.
Yesterday, I went to the T-Mobile store to look at some device packaging. I specifically wanted to see the images on the boxes. In 2005, when I last did this exercise, you’d often see details such as megapixels, video support, screen size and 3G written on a box. This time, it wasn’t a single detail about the device but actually the logos of each web service that worked (ie Facebook, Youtube, Pandora, Google, Twitter etc). I’ve knew this trend was coming and it is something I’ve been evangelizing for the last couple years – it’s about the services the device supports and not the device specs (or at least not as much).
What’s interesting though, is if you are start to look at each of these logos, you realize they are all US Web 2.0 companies. A monopoly by normal definition is usually when a company has an over-riding control of a specific vertical such that they can dictate the terms for the rest of the ecosystem (ie owning the entire operating system space, ha!). Horizontal monopolies are less common these days but I’m wondering if the US has a geo-monopoly on Web 2.0? Is that even possible and obviously not in the traditional sense.
Given that the next generation devices from TVs to vehicles to phones and other electronics are going to be differentiated by the services they include (ie access to Twitter and Facebook, or being able to search via Google or watch video via YouTube) – this points to an interesting problem. If you are an OEM and you do not have significant marketshare in the US, how do you convince the Web 2.0 folks in the US to build to your platform first (this is under the presumption that most Web 2.0 startups / companies will build for their home territory first). Sure, they may be able to pay these Web 2.0 companies to build for them or incentivize the top 10 guys but how do you convince the long-tail which easily represents 70-80%+ of all the apps / services and usage.
What’s even more painful is that the pain has a downward spiraling effect – ie, Nokia has to convince these Web 2.0 developers to build killer services to sell more phones but if the first doesn’t happen (or to the extent necessary), the 2nd issue becomes an even larger problem. I guess you see the same effect with the brains of Silicon Valley – there is no brain drain IMO, if anything, I see more and more very talented people choosing to live here.
Taking this a step further, you could being to look at Web 2.0 as a resource. Resource control spread by geo is well understood (ie gold and oil are great examples). Can Web 2.0 be considered a necessary resource like gold or oil?
Interesting thought experiment, I would love to get your feedback.