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The Mobile Disruption

When you were a child were you ever called “disruptive”? You were talking while the teacher was lecturing, you were pretending the kitchen pot was a drum while your mother attempted to talk on the phone, or perhaps you just refused to leave the store without that chocolate bar. As the dictionary would word it, you caused a “forcible separation or division into parts.” Just like an energy-filled youngster, mobile is creating some separations and divisions of its own.

Mobile is today’s disruptive technology.

According to Clay Christensen, who coined the term, disruptive technology “describes a process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves up market, eventually displacing established competitors.” It “helps create a new market and value network, and eventually goes on to disrupt an existing market and value network.”

The Mobile Market

What does the timeline of mobile look like? The very first smartphones hit the market around the turn of the century. In 1999, the first Blackberry was born. In 2001, Palm combined its PDA with mobile phone technology. Apple’s original iPhone was released in 2007, and the Android platform (launched in 2003) produced its first phone in 2008, with many more to follow. And most recently, Windows jumped into the market with a release in 2010. Mobile has experienced a lot of growth in a small amount of time.

The growth of mobile devices is still on the rise. By 2016, there will be “10 billion mobile Internet devices used globally [and] smartphone traffic will grow [to be] 50 times the size it is today.” Arguably, people now value their mobile devices more than their PCs. In fact, 2013 is the very first year that mobile phones are expected to overtake PCs as the most common web access device worldwide. But, it is not just the devices that have consumers wrapped around their fingers – more mobile devices means more mobile applications, and the consumption of mobile apps has reached impressive numbers. For Apple alone, more than 25 billion apps  have been downloaded, and users are now downloading Android apps at a rate of more than 1 billion a month. In fact, the average smartphone has 41 applications!

So what type of relationship do people have with their phone? Just how deep have these little pieces of technology integrated into our lives? The average person checks their smartphone 150 times a day - that’s every 6.5 minutes, which is easy to do when 91% of people have their smartphone within 3 feet at all times.

The Mobile Disruption

Clearly, mobile has become part of many consumers’ every day (or every minute) routine. It’s not enough for a disruptive technology to simply make a new market and a new set of values – like having information anytime anywhere that was never possible in the past. As a disruptive technology continues to develop, it shakes up other industries and engulfs existing markets by simplifying and streamlining. 

I’ll use my mobile experience as an example.

Because of my mobile phone, I have thrown out alarm clocks (I can have as many alarms as I want on my phone), I have not touched a map (when I get lost the MapQuest app tells me where to go so I can keep my eyes on the road), I have never been put on hold to refill a prescription (my Walgreens app knows who I am and notifies me when my prescriptions are ready), I have eliminated nearly every trip to the bank (I can transfer money, deposit a check, or check my balance all with my smartphone), and I have stayed connected with people I never thought I would through endless social media options all accessible from any mobile device.

It seems that no industry is safe from the mobile disruption; many are feeling the once stable floor trembling beneath their feet.

Take the transportation industry; it’s seemingly unrelated to mobile, right? Before, when you wanted to travel into the city from your apartment, which is 15 minutes outside the city, you might have walked to a busy street and hailed a cab. But, you lose valuable time walking and waiting, and if it’s a brisk winter day you better be sure you are bundled up! Uber, a mobile application, allows you to select when and from where you would like to be picked up, as well as pay for the cab ride, all from one application. Your driver will even text you when they arrive!

How about medical devices? Historically, medical devices have been clunky tools that require their own cases, chargers and associated materials. But because of mobile, these devices are starting to miniaturize. iHealth’s Wireless Blood Pressure Monitors mates with your iPhone or iPad to let you test, record, track and share measurements. AliveCor’s smartphone case turns an iPhone into a 2-lead electrocardiography device. And iBGStar is an iPhone-enabled glucometer. Mobile is changing the medical device game.

What about learning? In the corporate world, the number and blending of delivery methods has changed the way companies go about supporting and training their employees. Companies are buying iPads for their sales forces, setting up BYOD programs, investing in applications of their own, and ensuring their CRM and LMS programs are mobile friendly. If a company isn’t already making moves in the mobile space, then they are probably forming their strategies.

It’s important to remember that the goal of disruptive technology isn’t necessarily to make good products better. Instead, this technology aims to transform historically expensive, complicated, or cumbersome products into tools that are easily accessible, portable and simple to understand. Like a disruptive child, mobile is certainly not done creating separations and divisions. This is only the beginning.

Sydney Hill

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