Mobile Economics Will Trend Toward Web Economics
I've been saying for a while now that I think mobile economics will trend toward web economics as the mobile web goes mainstream. In other words, the business models that work best on the web will ultimately work best in mobile.The corollary to that is that the business models that don't work well on the web will not work well in mobile in the long run.
And that includes tablets. There is some discussion in the tech blogs today about why iPad magazine sales have been disappointing. I don't understand why anyone would ever think that adding a presentation layer on top of web based content would make it something people would want to purchase when they are not willing to purchase the same content directly on the web.
A central issue with the Internet, no matter what device and presentation layer you use to access it, is that there is an unlimited amount of content available. Evan Williams calls it "a web of infinite information" in this chat with Om Malik. What is valuable is filtering and curation. Restricting access to content doesn't work. Someone else's content will get filtered and curated instead of yours. Scarcity is not a viable business model on the Internet.
For a while Apple has provided something that has looked like exclusivity and scarcity. They force everyone through their app store and they provide a transaction engine in that app store. Some have chosen to execute a paid content or a paid app business model in that app store. A few have buit interesting businesses with that model. Most have not.
But the mobile web is going mainstream in a big way in the next year. And other devices and presentation layers will develop that will have different models and transaction systems. I suspect that, like the web, we will see a plethora of marketplaces and transaction systems develop across multiple platforms and devices. Developers who want to access users on those devices will have to use different approaches. This interview with the developer of Angry Birds is a good discussion of these issues in real time. Angry Birds uses Getjar on Android instead of the Android marketplace. We will see more of that kind of thing, not less.
I do not believe that Apple's model is going away. And I think Apple will remain an important and leading mobile platform for a long long time. But their period of being "the mobile platform" is ending and it is important to understand what that means.
I think it means the mobile is slowly but surely moving to a web model. And as that happens, it is important to think of it as one big web and lots of devices and software accessing it. Lots of devices means billions of devices accessing largely free content and applications with advertising and freemium and commerce and virtual goods and many other business models generating trillions of dollars for developers. Just like the web, but even bigger and more exciting.