Our Blog

The official Motribe blog, written by the founders

July 31

by Nic Haralambous, Motribe CEO

Slowly but surely, as more branded devices are added to their respective stables, Google and Apple are tying their customers into owning their entire ranges. What’s next? Apple Mobile and Google Mobile, I believe.

For me, the discussion point moves around how both Apple and Google are tying you into their services, and how they embed you so much that you have to give up at some point and just go with one or the other.

I personally have an iPad, a MacBook Pro, a MacBook Air, an Apple TV and an iPhone. I use iTunes to purchase my media. So, unless I change everything, including which computer I use, I’ll have to stick with Apple.

Google has Google Docs, Gmail, Chrome browser, Google Play app market, the Google Phone, and it’s recently released its own computer. Google owns YouTube. Its email service, Gmail, has 800 million people who actively use it every day. They have Google search, Google Ads, Google Analytics and Google tablets. They’ve also just released ChromeBook, where the entire operating system is in the cloud. This means no software to install – users simply need to visit websites to get what they need.

The point is, I picked Apple, and now all my devices and apps are from Apple. Those who choose Google will find the range of their devices increasingly including Google products and services.

What’s next?
The next iteration is, I believe, that these companies need to start brokering deals with telcos around the world and offering discounted services for people who own their devices. One of the biggest misconceptions people have about mobile is that smartphones are going to be pervasive in the market next year. This is simply not true…and even if it were, smartphone owners wouldn’t use them for accessing data services because data is just too expensive.

The average African, South American and Asian can’t spend upwards of R100 or R200 a month on their cellphone bills. So these users will either use their smartphones for phone calls and SMSes only, or they won’t get smartphones at all, regardless of whether the devices themselves are affordable. The bottom line is data is still too expensive to warrant a pervasiveness of smartphones into emerging markets such as ours. And this isn’t likely to change within the next five to ten years.

So what are Google and Apple likely to do about it? By the time data costs come down, I believe that these companies will be in a position to negotiate with the operators. They’ll be likely to offer to subsidise a percentage – say, 20% - of the data cost in return for the operators’ promotion of their devices. Then they can start building up their own operators, giving discounted data rates and forcing data rates down. The result? More people get to do more on the internet via their cellphones.

A question of when, not if…
Both Google and Apple know that, in a few decades from now – maybe sooner – the cellphone call will be no longer, and we’ll all be using apps like Skype for voice communication via our cellphones. And this is precisely why they’re getting into the telco space now. They see what our mobile devices will be capable of in the future. Imagine a world in which your mobile device can project holograms – why would you ever need any other device apart from your phone?

An example of this is Firefox, who has hinted at releasing its own operating system and mobile phone. The phone is said to have an optical camera-like device that will allow you to project a keyboard onto a table top, and a screen onto a wall. When that happens, why would you need a computer? Apple and Google see that, which is why they’re trying to tie you into their respective products now, so that you’ll be truly embedded when this probable future becomes a reality.

The truth is, even if the operators don’t buy into their ideas, Apple and Google are still forging ahead with creating mobile environments for their users to become embedded in and committed to. So, as an Apple user, they’ve got me as a customer on all levels – except when it comes to my data revenue. That’s the final piece of the puzzle for them – the piece they don’t yet have access to.

None of this will happen for at least the next five years. It may take them 20 years to do it, and then they may launch it only in China initially. But however they decide to go about it, one thing’s certain: it’s coming.