What happens when a market is saturated? Is there room for innovation? Lets look at the mobile industry. Last week, the Mobile World Congress took place in Barcelona where more than 85000 attendees from over 200 countries gathered to network, showcase, learn, and sell anything and everything related to the mobile.
40 conference sessions were scheduled touching on subjects like “The Rise of the Machine” “Redefining Reality with Screens” and “The Future of Voice” with an exciting lineup of speakers including Jan Koum, Co-founder & CEO, WhatsApp, Robert Bakish, President & CEO, Viacom International Media Networks as well as the Mark Zuckerberg, Founder & CEO, Facebook.
What might have seemed like a jewelbox of exciting possibilities, putting brilliant global minds together against the backdrop of everything that is mobile, was actually a rather blasé sales meeting.
Chatting to various attendees from mobile switch inventors, to those that create apps, to those that sell apps, the general consensus was that the conference really lacked a sense of innovation.
The truth is that the market has become so saturated that essentially products only differ by a hairline detail like color or size. Eric Xu, an executive at Huawei, commented: “If we look at the perception of consumers, they are feeling innovation on devices has been slowing down in the last couple of years. They don’t feel strongly that there has been compelling innovation in devices.”
As the mobile industry becomes more developed, spirited innovation is being replaced by people who are simply just selling. With topics like “Building the 50thbillionth connected device” scheduled at the conference, it’s no wonder that developers have simply run out of ideas about what to create next.
So what happens when a market becomes saturated? Is there room for innovation?
Innovation lies in the hands of the consumers.
Instead of the design of the smartphone changing by a mm or shade of grey, it’s more interesting to explore what consumers do with that smartphone. The creative dynamic has shifted from the builder of a product to the driver of it.
In Kenya for example, users are driving innovation in all sorts of directions. There, mobile phones are now being used to collect data and report on disease-specific issues from more than 175 health centers serving over 1 million people. This technology has reduced the cost of the country’s health information system by 25%.
So although Google, Facebook, Twitter, smartphones, tablets and e-readers are technologies that originated in the consumer space as simple marketable products, the innovation around these product experiences now lies in the users. Instead of expecting a new sized ipad, we can expect innovative ways people use this technology.
Even though the World Mobile Congress might have left a blasé taste in the mouths of those drooling for more creativity, the individual’s power to spur innovation will shape the mobile industry’s creative circuit in 2014.