The cloud and mobile – an unhappy marriage despite early promise of love and mutual harmony
The so-called cloud and mobile should be a shining example of a marriage made in heaven, blessed by the gods and beloved by all.
For years we have been hearing that THIS is the year for mobile in travel. We are probably beyond that stage. So is the marriage working and are we all having a good time?
If you have a simple application such as HotelTonight, then this marriage works. It is straightforward simple and valuable. But can a large online travel agency’s depth and breadth of product match that?
One could argue that the perception that you have the WHOLE web in the palm of your hand is false.
Apple and others are telling us to abandon our laptops and rely on the cloud. The mobile telcos have been telling us how wonderful 4G is (mostly LTE which in reality is 3.5G). Sadly this doesn’t all fit together as well as we are led to believe, and things are not going to get a lot faster for quite a while.
Those of you who are using 4G today in different markets are finding a few things. It’s perhaps not as fast as you like. Service is spotty and erratic. Roaming charges are a bear, wifi still beats it, so adoption of cellular enabled tablets has been less than stellar.
While early reports of up to 50% of iPads would be configured as 3G and 4G enabled, the actual number is fewer. It is estimated that less than 20% of all iPads are cellular equipped and most of those are accessing wifi rather than cellular networks.
While that will rise, it will be constrained by the low number of cellular enabled devices and the continued poor experience. On the other hand consumers are being pushed hard for mobile data usage and a meshed environment of cloud based and thin client (mobile device) access and the use of cellular connectivity.
Implications for travel
For travel this means that not only will cloud-based apps and mobile websites be constrained, but heavy users will stick to web top [ie. full browser like sessions] rather than pure mobile sessions (app or mobile web).
Indeed the users will be quite happy with mobile hotspots, mifi devices and USB sticks rather than app based inteeaction. Tablets make the standard browser experience a lot easier, and we see mobile usage on tablets for travel applications to be more conventional browser-based experience rather than an app-based experience.
Data roaming charges and the complexity of finding and logging onto wifi networks also means constraint in mobile usage. The poor quality of data networks in mobile will also restrict users who will feel unsure of trusting their commerce applications to give them a totally secure, cheap (meaning free) and reliable service while in trip.
So before the howls or protest come in, there are a few more factors to be considered. Many users in different parts of the world are on pre-paid or pay as you go plans where data is very expensive and metered, which will constrain mcommerce applications.
Downloads of travel applications are very low in the overall scheme of things (go to Appannie and look at the travel applications categories versus the other categories). Strip out local transportation, weather and mapping and you get some pretty poor results and some of the numbers are bordering on insignificant.
As a result, search and social will continue to shine but not ecommerce on mobile aka mcommerce. I challenge anyone to show me they are doing verifiable business on mobile, despite high interest. Typical results what I believe that will be seen are:
- Different session profiles – shorter and large numbers of abandoned sessions
- Many zombie downloads – ie downloaded but never used
- Declining numbers of annual downloads as the marketplace gets saturated
- Low transaction numbers
- Many applications are poorly designed
- Lack of attention to data protection.
The moral of the story is be careful what you wish for. Mobile is cool, but adoption and usage is very different from the typical browser based web top environment. For Travel where complexity reigns, migrating to mobile app from web top will be challenging
This is a marriage that we know will be long term wont necessarily be happy for the couple (Mr Mobile and Ms Cloud).
And, for sure, users will get tired of the squabbling between the various parties: telcos, app vendors, device providers not to mention product purveyors.
NB: Unhappy marriage image via Shutterstock.
Timothy O'Neil-Dunne is a contributing Node to Tnooz and managing partner at travel consultancy firm, T2Impact. He serves as the lead for the airline, aviation and airport practice. He is also a Co-founder of VaultPAD an accelerator devoted exclusively to travel and travel-related startup businesses.
Timothy was a founding management team member of the Expedia team where he headed the ground transportation and international portfolios, before founding T2Impact in 1998.
He has worked in aviation and travel distribution for more than 30 years, including time with Worldspan as head of technology where he managed international technology services from product to infrastructure.
He is also CTO and deputy CEO of Lute Technologies, a permanent advisor to the World Economic Forum and writes on the T2Impact Blog.