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We have got this mobile thing all wrong

March 30, 2010

Jay Highley is founder president of Pangea Partners

Jay Highley is founder president of Pangea Partners

By Jay Highley

It should not be a big surprise to anyone that as humans, we have a tendency to repeat our mistakes from the past. So I guess it should not be a shock to anyone that we are doing it again when it comes to the newest and most powerful medium on the planet – mobile.

It all started with stone tablets and hieroglyphics on cave walls − clearly the most powerful mediums of that time. But both, for obvious reasons, had some serious limitations.

Mass media exploded with the advent of higher speed presses that could mass produce newspapers and magazines. Radio gave us our first spoken media of mass scale and delivered a new dimension to communications that could not be replicated through written word on a piece of paper.

But as mass media continued to evolve and transform over time, we humans kept making the same mistake as in years past.

Net gains
In the early years of television, we simply forced what we knew from the prior forms of communication into this new media.

Early television was nothing more than a camera shooting a video image of a radio announcer reading the news to us. It took television nearly a decade to evolve into its own unique media − and when it finally did it took the world by storm.

Along comes the next major media evolution, the Internet.

I can still remember the first time I connected to the Internet via my 1200 baud dial-up modem through a brand new company called America Online, only to wonder what the heck the big deal was once I got there.

In those early years, the online world was constrained and limited by our thinking around television.

Only when we realized the full potential of this new media to deliver real time “interactive” content from anywhere around the globe did it become its own unique media − and a viable threat to its predecessor: television.

Now mobile, as it passes through its second decade, is clearly on a pathway to become the most widely adopted and powerful media on the planet.

Yet we are repeating the sins of our past by trying to force a “personal computer connected to the Internet” paradigm on our newest found media.

Just as the “talking heads” of the early days of television significantly under-utilized the power and potential of that media, we are doing the same thing by trying to make mobile media act and feel like laptop computers. Once again – we have got it all wrong.

Not lapdog
The application companies, content providers, advertisers and retailers who understand that mobile is not just the Internet packaged in a smaller device will be the big winners over the next decade.

The mobile device is a whole new medium that Google and Apple are now aggressively embracing in a big way because they understand that it will change everyone’s world.

So how do we not repeat the sins of the past with this incredibly powerful medium that is always on, travels with us everywhere and for which we are more emotionally attached than any other possession we own?

And who is responsible for taking mobile to the next level to make it its own unique medium, rather than just a small laptop connected to the Internet?

The answer is – all of us in this amazing mobile industry.

We should not settle for “how it used to be done online” type of thinking.

We need to push and challenge ourselves to look at mobile as a brand-new medium in a way that transforms it to the top of the media food chain, which is where it is destined to be.

Jay Highley is founder president of Pangea Partners, Indianapolis, IN. Reach him at

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