You know that old saying; “I feel like a kid again.” We say it when things from our past remind us of how things once were. Maybe it’s the smell of a wood burning fire, or a song from a time past. Today, I’m feeling like a kid again when I look at what’s happening with Mobility. It’s the latest and greatest craze and everyone is jumping on board the mobility train. But for me, and I’m sure a lot of other people, it’s feeling very reminiscent of a time not so long ago. A kinder, gentler time when computers sat under desks and an SGI machine was something to get excited about. I’m talking about the dawn of the web and the changes it brought, not just to our everyday lives, but to our core existence. As we move into this new frontier of a mobile life, we can take a look at many lessons to be learned from the boom of the 1990’s when Mosaic changed the way we looked at our computers. In the early 90’s, computers were mainly used for functions such as email and finance in the corporate space, and for word processing and games in the home. With the onset of AOL and CompuServe, we began to see a quantum shift in the way people used computers, however. They were no longer just a functional tool; they were becoming part of the consumer landscape. This wasn’t lost on advertisers who flocked to spam and other functions during the AOL days. But what really changed this medium forever was the invention of a little application called Mosaic that brought the Internet to the masses in the form of the World Wide Web. People went from using their computers for basic work functions to turning it into an entertainment hub where they could find the latest news, movie info and restaurants. I was there in the early 90s and actively participated in the birth of an industry. Virtual everything sprouted up, some good, some not so good and we all rode a wave of excitement and prosperity. That is, until the bust.
We learned a lot from that time about how not to run a business (sometimes you need a plan, oh and a few grownups) and how not to create a product (free shipping on 50 lb. bags of dog food didn’t turn a profit for some reason), but the one thing that we really learned was that business is business. People need products that work at a good price and businesses need to be able to exchange information in a timely manner. The same holds true as we move into the next generation with mobility. In a recent survey on mobility, Accenture “found that two-thirds (67 percent) of CIOs and other IT professionals believe mobility will impact their businesses as much as or more than the Internet did in the 1990s.”
We stared with phones that, well, made phone calls, then we ditched our pagers for SMS, but, in truth, we really looked at the mobile device as a simple business instrument, much like the computers of the late 80’s and early 90’s. Then came the iPhone. Sure, it wasn’t the first to allow for apps, but it captured the hearts and minds of the world. With that came Angry Birds (once again not the first game) and people were hooked. Much like the web, our new mobile toys quickly became a distraction, but this time they have quickly moved from distraction to a powerful new tool that is changing the way business is being done. According to the same survey by Accenture, “A majority of CIOs now recognize mobility’s potential to transform their business, and we see that reflected in the increasing share of spend for mobility in their IT budgets.” As we develop more and more apps for business and we expand what a mobile device is by adding tablets, we realize a quantum shift has occurred once again. The mobile device is in a constant state of evolution and the ability to conceive and create new ideas is changing on an almost daily basis and business executives are quickly realizing they have the ability to provide business critical data to their entire workforce without the need for VPN connections. This new mindset is revolutionizing the way business is done.
As we sit on the precipice of this new frontier, it’s hard not to have that nostalgia for the beginning of the web boom. We had a lot of fun back in those days and there were some companies that offered wonderful services, even if we all knew they wouldn’t last. I think we’ve learned some lessons as we’ve gotten a bit older and wiser and I just hope that this time we can change the world that much faster, for that much better.