The New World of Wireless: How to Compete in the 4G RevolutionThe New World of Wireless: How to Compete in the 4G RevolutionForeword
We are rapidly approaching the fifth wave of the Information Technology revolution that has changed how people work, play, and communicate. The Mainframe wave of the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s created the first widely available electronic version of information that had historically been kept in ledgers, filing cabinets, and binders. The Mini Computer wave of the 1970s and ’80s extended this analog-to-digital trend beyond the finance and research functions at the head office to include the shop floor and regional offices. Personal Computers in the 1980s and ’90s made more of this information available to the individual while thankfully replacing typewriters, calculators, and “foils” for all of us. Finally, the Networking wave of the 1990s and 2000s connected these islands of data and processing power through local and wide area networks and, ultimately, the Internet.
The Mobility wave now in play may have the most profound impact of all. While the previous waves were built on computers that communicate, Mobility represents a completely new model: communication devices that compute. Power is shifting from centrally controlled information toward a future where individuals are empowered to compute, communicate, and collaborate in a way that best meets their needs. The Mainframe, Mini Computer, PC, and Networking waves focused on making the corporation more efficient, with very little thought of making the individual more powerful. That is about to change.
In the Mobility era, the traditional hierarchy is being flipped on its head. Enterprise-out no longer works. Expectations are being rewritten. For example, the under-40 segment of the world’s population has grown up believing that phone numbers are for people, not places. They do not accept that the price tag on an item is the market price. They make decisions in real time with input from both known (their social networks) and unknown (Google) sources. They keep in touch with a far larger group of people than their parents did. They blur the lines between work, play, and communications constantly, with no need to be “unplugged” at any point in their day.
Beyond the generation gap, entire regions of the developing world have simply skipped ahead to a more productive, empowered, and entertaining way of working and living. Wired phone lines and fixed broadband Internet access will never achieve the penetration rates seen in the developed world, because people have gone directly to mobile and are not coming back.
Collectively, this is the Digital Swarm at work. We got the first glimpse of Mobility’s potential in the task workers of developed economies during the early 2000s. Seventy percent of workers in these countries require Mobility because they do not sit at a desk. Companies such as Symbol Technologies produced rugged mobile devices for all those nurses, truck drivers, and first responders to bring information to the point of business activity. In many ways, we were in the clipboard replacement business. The mobile device became the eyes and ears of the enterprise, providing real-time information about the prescription a patient was receiving; the loading dock a pallet was delivered to; and the battle plan for police, fire, and security personnel during natural disasters.
However, this stage of mobility was still very much enterprise-out. The mobile devices were corporate assets and spent the night in their charging cradles at work. Mobility is now transforming beyond these humble beginnings, driven by more advanced devices such as the iPhone, widely available broadband cellular, and WiFi, and dramatic changes in how individuals are using mobile voice, data, pictures, and video personally and professionally.
Scott Snyder brings a visionary and thoughtful perspective to what the impact of this Digital Swarm will be and how your organization must realign its strategy to prosper in the age of Mobility. He introduces insightful scenarios for how mobility will evolve and how discontinuous this fifth wave of IT will be. Set-and-forget strategies simply will not work. Winning in the Digital Swarm will require you to constantly assess changes in your customers’ expectations, competitive set, and business model. It will place a premium on set-and-reset approaches to business strategy and execution.
The good news is that the inflection points between waves of information technology have always provided opportunities for aggressive, innovative companies to emerge as the new leaders. At the same time, the old guard will either fall by the wayside, like Digital Equipment Corporation, or reinvent themselves, like IBM. In your industry, which will you be?
—Todd Hewlin, Managing Partner of TCG Advisors
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