As screens get bigger and keypads recede into the background, it’s clear that mobile devices are data-centric, not voice-centric, and a big part of their appeal comes from enabling a quality video streaming experience. Today’s younger workers are both mobile-savvy and video-savvy, and this is having a major impact on how they communicate, both at work and at play.
With this preamble in place, I’m going take things in another direction and shift to text and messaging, but at the end, you’ll see why this relates to video.
In my last post, I mentioned Viber, a company that went from obscure startup with nominal revenues to a $900 million exit in less than four years. Its niche is a messaging platform that works across all major smartphones. Viber’s platform is primarily for text messaging, but also supports sending images, as well as audio and video messages. These small-scale modes are free, and drive most of the traffic, but the platform was enhanced recently by Viber Out, which allows the company to generate revenue by enabling calls to mobile and fixed line phone numbers. This doesn’t sound like much for $900 million, but the value lies in Viber’s massive footprint of 300 million users across 193 countries.
The story gets more interesting when you consider who bought the company. Japan-based Rakuten may be the biggest company you’re never heard of, but for them, Viber is one small piece in a complex jigsaw puzzle that is defining the emerging world of mobile e-commerce. Skype (News - Alert) is the forerunner for businesses like Rakuten, where the name of the game is to first build up a substantial user base by offering free services, and in time, figure out the business model. The latter has yet to really happen for Skype, but it demonstrated the power of the web to scale at practically no cost and create a borderless, global community in very little time.
Many similar platforms have since come along, and with the advent of social media, what Rakuten saw in Viber is exactly what Facebook (News - Alert) sees in WhatsApp. Mobile broadband and smartphones have created an unprecedented opportunity for players like Rakuten to assemble an ecosystem with the likes of Viber to ultimately monetize their hundreds of millions of users.
Text messaging is the starting point, and its appeal is understandable since you previously had to pay to do messaging beyond your native mobile network. Mobility defines how people do things today, and companies like Viber create a lot of stickiness when you consider how much this generation uses text and chat. Now that you have them doing that, adding images, video and voice is relatively easy. This is exactly the path that Facebook is on with WhatsApp, but where the stakes get much higher is when you factor in e-commerce and video.
If you only think about the consumer-oriented possibilities, these developments put Rakuten on course to compete against Amazon and even Netflix if you consider how popular streaming video has become on mobile devices. In the business space, however, Viber’s acquisition is another validation of video’s potential. Video is not a big focus now, but it’s part of the platform.
So, let’s come back to the title of this article – what are you afraid of? Certainly, employees will make use of personal video for social purposes during work time, but that will prove secondary once they discover the business value. As noted in Part 1, if personal video delivers a great experience, they will quickly adopt it as part of their everyday toolbox.
As companies like Rakuten make it possible to do voice and video across all mobile networks, employees will have more options for using personal video with each other and even to engage with customers. Sticking with Rakuten, think about how adding an e-commerce engine can make it easier for customers to do business with you. Some mobile purchases can easily be facilitated with basic voice or messaging, but personal video certainly has a role to play for more complex, show-and-tell situations.
Jon Arnold is principal of J Arnold & Associates, an independent telecom analyst and marketing consultancy with a focus on IP communications, and writes the Analyst 2.0 blog. Previously, he was the VoIP program leader at Frost & Sullivan.
Edited by Maurice Nagle