There’s an elephant in the room. There’s a massive one, stinking up the living room of the mobile industry. And no one seems to be talking about it.

Well, VentureBeat is. The elephant is the focus of the Mobile Summit, which is is back for a third year. It’s shaping up to be our most significant Summit yet.

So what’s this elephant of which I speak?

elephant in roomIt’s easy to miss. Superficially, everything looks fine. The adoption of mobile smartphones and tablets is explosive right now, and folks like Apple, Samsung and Google are making billions.

However, a lot of other players are getting killed. Publishers, developers, advertisers and a lot of other folks, are suffering because they can’t deliver their messages, or make money, as effectively as they used to. Traditional advertising isn’t working on mobile. Brands refuse to advertise, because ads are too small to grab a reader’s attention.

Witness Facebook: Last year, when the company couldn’t clearly communicate how it would recover from its mobile advertising problem, it lost billions of dollars in market capitalization.

To add insult to injury, the device gatekeepers, like Apple, are doing things like squeezing 30 percent of the revenue from everything publishers make on the mobile platform.

The Summit is all about hosting conversations in the key areas where collaboration might improve mobile profits and revenue for everyone. Even for the guys making money, they’ll do even better if the rest of the economy thrives too. That’s why this year, we’re exploring seven key themes surrounding the mobile industry. Our conversations will include some of the brightest minds in the industry, including executives, investors, and policymakers.

The Mobile Summit will be held at the beautiful Cavallo Point Resort (just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco) on April 1-2. To be sure, the Mobile Summit is an invitation-only event. We’re inviting the top 180 mobile executives, as ranked on our internal list. We know we may be missing some thought-leaders, so we’ve got a few spaces reserved for additional mobile leaders not already on our list. You can request an invite here.

While the Mobile Summit itself is invite-only, we’ll be taking the conclusions reached during the Summit’s workshops to the wider public. We’ll be writing up stories about them, and also continuing the discussion at our wider, larger MobileBeat event in July.

We’ve learned a lot after hosting the Mobile Summit over the last two years — mostly, putting significant industry players in the same room, focused on a single problem, can lead to some intriguing results. We’ll divide the 180 into working groups of 20 people, who will roll up their sleeves and come up with wishlists that they’ll take back to the wider group and share. It’s an intimate event where big ideas and lively discussion are always at the forefront.

Here are the seven themes:

1. The Mobile Experience: Platforms and Design

The big OS players — Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and more — have caused significant fragmentation in mobile, using different user interface and other technologies that make standardization difficult. This poses challenges for developers and web designers. That comes at a time when design and user interface are as important as ever. Mobile devices have changed the way humans interact with data. App makers and platform builders are expanding the boundaries of how those interactions take place. All the more important, therefore, that developers and other ecosystem players agree on standards and basic experience, in order to thrive and make money.

2. Can mobile monetize?

Developers are still searching for ways to profit from their work. This is possibly the most pressing question facing the industry today — and will remain so for some time. The number of apps continues to grow and the field is intensively competitive. At the same time, the market is rapidly shifting from paid downloads and advertising models to in-app purchases, offers, and virtual currencies. Advertisers, brands, and publishers need to find the best ways forward.

3. Mobile Commerce – the rise of context and personalization

Mobile devices are becoming our close companion for all kinds of commercial activities, including mobile payments and shopping. It’s driven by technology that gives phones context about its location and environment. And here too, the market is fragmented, and issues such as personalization, targeting and privacy are still being worked out.

4. How will we get to 5G?

By the time the industry had reached 100 million shipments of 3G phones, we knew what 4G looked like. Last year we passed the same milestone for 4G, but today the industry has no clear vision of what 5G is — or if 5G will even exist. Compounding the problem, we still see many questions lingering around 4G: service roll-outs, data speeds, chipset availability, and more. Users have come to expect a steady increase in data rates.

5. Future of mobile infrastructure

The rise of smartphones has brought new pressures to bear on the hardware and networks we rely on. Software and systems are shifting the building blocks of the mobile industry. Carriers are looking to equipment makers to build more flexible software into their systems, while changing network architectures are driving the adoption of application acceleration and CDNs.

6. Mobile as remote control for life

Smartphones and tablets are entering new aspects of our lives, at home and at work. Phones could become the center of the digital living room, and tablets a companion to media. Increasingly, our phones can be used to anticipate our desires, opening new channels for marketing, and targeted advertising.

7. What’s next for enterprise?

The first wave of the consumerized enterprise is behind us. As enterprises move beyond security concerns, they are looking for new ways to harness the productivity of their mobilized workforce. Meanwhile, iPhones and iPads have opened the floodgate, as executives on down adopt these devices en masse.

We’d like to thank Flurry for partnering with us on the Mobile Summit. Keep an eye out as we reveal the speakers participating in this year’s event.

[Elephant image credit: David Blackwell, Flickr]