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Some reflections by Marko Ahtisaari
What made this growth possible? Where did this massive scale come from? What was the structure of the mobile industry that made reaching this two billion mark possible? Three features stand out:
1. An object with a social function tied to a service. The primary human benefit driving the growth of the mobile industry was that of social interaction, people connecting with each other. Initially this meant calling people – a familiar activity at the time – but with a new twist: the cord had been cut. Over time this began to also mean sending short text messages.
2. Service providers – mobile operators – subsidizing price. To compete for customers those providing voice and messaging services subsidized – in markets where this was legally possibly – the price of the mobile devices in exchange for a longer term customer relationship. As a result end customers rarely saw the full price of the device and the infrastructure combining both devices and networks was rolled out at unprecedented speed.
3. The shift from a familiar collective object to a personal object.The last, and often overlooked, feature of the mobile industry is that it was based on a shift from a familiar collective object – the family phone – to a personal object, the mobile phone. The idea of a personal phone simply did not exist in the popular consciousness 20 years ago.
With this growth, this bigness, came a new communications mass market, some of the most valued brands in the world, and massive economies of scale. And with it came perhaps the strongest example of a hybrid consumer product. The mobile platform – because of it’s scale and it’s focus on the big human fundamental of social interaction – is a center of gravity for other familiar benefits and functionalities. Think of the clock. Imagine how many people wake up to a phone each morning, how many have stopped using a wristwatch. Or, to take a more recent example, the camera is now moving onto the mobile platform…

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