Rob Glaser is chairman of RealNetworks and a venture partner at Accel. He will be moderating a mobile investing panel at our MobileBeat 2010 conference on July 12 — the conference theme, not coincidentally, is “The Year of the Superphone.”
Earlier this year, I gave a talk on the “Superphone” revolution. While I wasn’t the first person to use that term, I did lay out a few criteria that made Superphones qualitatively different from smartphones, a broader term that the industry had been using for the past several years:
The emergence of the SuperPhone has created one of the most exciting new business opportunities I’ve seen in more than 25 years in the industry. This is for four reasons:
- As the above chart shows, Superphones are much more powerful and extensible than any previous mobile platform. And, compared to any other equally powerful computing platform, Superphones are much more powerful because they are super portable, always on, and intrinsically connected.
- Superphones are fast becoming ubiquitous. Between the iPhone/iPod Touch and Android, the active installed base of Superphones is probably close to 100 million devices, and will likely double by the end of 2011.
- Superphones are (at least relatively) open. Thanks to the app store model pioneered by Apple, consumers now confidently download dozens of apps each per SuperPhone. Yes, some complain that Apple has a tremendous amount of market power. But competitive pressures from the Android platform will keep the Superphone app market vibrant and will keep the balance of power between app developers and platform providers stable.
- Superphones will become as global as the mobile phone industry itself.
From a product and business standpoint, the Superphone creates manifold business opportunities that simply weren’t possible before. These opportunities span both the consumer and commercial markets. Moreover, Superphones create great opportunities for both carrier-independent businesses and ones that are integrated with carriers.
The Superphone business opportunities that I personally find most compelling are the multiplatform ones. We’re already seeing this in gaming, with offerings like Scrabble and FarmVille that make popular games even more popular because they can be experienced anywhere and therefore at any time. And of course social platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have become intrinsically mobile thanks to great Superphone apps that are in many ways even better than their Web counterparts.
Indeed, I think one of the biggest opportunities for innovation over the next 24 months will be new services – not just games – that offer a great experience because they work seamlessly on both Superphones and the Web/PC platform.
Of course, there will be speed bumps along the way — data congestion, flat fee versus metered wireless data pricing, and the question of who sets the consumer agenda (carrier versus handset maker versus open consumer choice), to name three. But these will end up as merely transitional issues. The ascendancy of the Superphone is unstoppable.
See more details about MobileBeat 2010 at the event website, then register here. Hurry — tickets are limited.