Guest columnist Jos White identifies one of European technology’s sweet spots
This is a guest column in the Telegraph’s Tech Start-Up 100 debate series. The Start-Up 100 is supported by Orrick, Silicon Valley Bank and Microsoft BizSpark.
One of the biggest shifts in the last year or so – and something we’ll undoubtedly see more of in 2011 and beyond – is the rise of mobile internet. If CES is anything to go by, smartphones and tablet devices are going to continue sweeping across the market at a terrific pace: starting with consumers, but soon reaching into business, education and government. This huge growth in the market will be further accelerated in 2011 by smartphone prices coming down significantly, by ever-improving mobile networks and by increasingly ubiquitous and free WiFi networks. Research suggest smartphones sales will exceed half a billion during that year, overtaking PC sales for the first time.
European companies have some big advantages over their American counterparts because of the natural head start they have had. Mobile adoption came much faster and much more rapidly in Europe, spurred on in part by the innovations enabled by GSM networks that weren’t available in the US. As a result, our mobile market has matured faster than America’s has. There’s a whole generation of consumers coming through who expect their first point of contact to be through a mobile device.
Europe is producing some very strong online services – think Groupspaces, Huddle, Spotify, Skype, Tradeshift and LOVEFILM – that have a large and growing user base. The next step for them is to truly unlock the power of their service across mobile platforms. The question these companies need to be asking themselves now is not ‘when can we do this?’, but ‘how quickly can we do this and how can we make it an even better experience than it is on a PC?’ That will be of the key challenges that defines 2011 for almost every web-based business.
The businesses that get ahead will be those that take full advantage of mobile, delivering a quality service that exploits the unique characteristics of the platform, in a way that consumers really love – rather than providing something people can put up with until they get back to a PC.