I recently chatted with John Bruggeman, CMO of Cadence, the electronic design automation firm. Just back from Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, I was talking about the battles in the mobile revolution.
John says there are three significant battles still underway in that sector that have do-or-die stakes for the businesses in the actual battle: the mobile operating system (Nokia, Google, and Microsoft -- the latter making another run at it with a rethought Windows Mobile), the mobile device platform (the usual handset suspects, Apple, and possibly some daring consumer electronics players), and the prevailing semiconductor architecture -- which he sees as boiled down to a question of whether high-performance Intel processors make inroads against the widely used low-power ARM architecture.
Who'll win that third battle, I asked. The ARM platform has a massive lead in the mobile space, its core IP going into the processor for virtually every handset sold in the world. "Intel is smart, has loads of cash, and knows this is a long-term game," said John. "Over the next 5 years, they will co-exist. Beyond that, these two worlds -- low-power handsets and high-performance portable computing -- bleed together. The devices following that time period won't be about fast web page refreshes; they'll be about transactions, making fast hits on cloud-based data. When that happens, our mobile devices will want both low power and performance." Given the time parameters involved, he doesn't count out Intel's push to take its desktop/laptop dominance into the smaller more diffused computing domain.
From that topic we wandered over to one that's a new favorite of mine: that 2010 is the year that mobility as a business issue rises to the boardroom. My logic goes like this:
- The commercialization of the Internet first hit businesses as an external, largely superficial change, in which they essentially stapled websites to their existing operations.
- But the subsequent maturation of Internet computing compelled those same businesses to pull the net throughout their activities, affecting supply chains, marketing and sales, manufacturing, and virtually every other function in the company.
- The mobile revolution has begun similarly. Most major enterprises at this stage have now begun to create mobile experiences for their customers (although, as Carl Howe's reports on mobile web experiences establish, at widely varying levels of quality).
- The diffusion of the impact of mobility will be no different than that of the Internet. Thus, corporate board members should begin considering how strategically their enterprises' leadership is thinking about mobility. How else will governance insure that the business is pushing the leverage of connectivity into every nook and cranny of its operations?
John bought it -- and he took the thinking a couple of steps further: "The first automation of business in the 20th century happened with the advent of mainframe computing. The central information systems function arose then. The re-automation of business, driven by desktop computing, pushed IT further out into the business and, organizationally, led to the rise of the CIO. What you're talking about -- the rise of mobility as a strategic issue for businesses -- will mean that we'll see the rise of a Chief Mobility Officer."
Fascinating idea, and one Yankee Group will pursue in a research report over the next few months with Josh Holbrook taking the lead. But beware: John followed his prediction of the emergence a new type of corporate CMO with this one: "Sadly, many businesses who take this step will put a networking guy in the job. What they'll need will be an imaginative business person, someone who's able to look at all the activities of the business and re-think them completely."