What Defines A Market Landscape?
In a wireless landscape which comes first, application, device, or network? Let’s ponder that for a minute. When thinking of the new wireless and mobile universe landscape, it usually revolves around the carrier and their network on which we depend for uninterrupted access, speed, and reliability where connectivity is possible to everything and everyone important in our lives.
Then the device, an electronic platform connecting to the network carrier providing us with all the operability we have come to expect in an electronic computer. Last we look at applications which interact with our device and the network carrier, giving us a unique experience in software, making our lives easier, faster, and more intelligent. Well think again!
A company known for its focus on excellence and innovation, Apple, (NASDAQ: AAPL) and founder Steve Jobs, created something so unique it changed the way we looked at connecting throughout the wireless and mobile universe; the iPhone and iPAD. So significant and cutting-edge, it went on the shape the mobile industry in ways we never thought possible. It, in essence, created a new paradigm, one that said; follow us, if you can. With bandwidth guzzling streaming video and applications, it forced mobile carriers to upgrade their networks or get left behind. See (The Tempest And The Teapot)
We know that Apple began this journey with an inclusive agreement with AT&T, (NTSE: T) to distribute the iPhone, since being one of the largest mobile networks while having the best chance of getting its device to millions of consumers in the fastest possible way. The agreement made in 2007, now reportedly to have been for five years, sent shock waves through other carriers, and put into motion the dynamics of competition in, either catching up to Apple’s technology, or risk losing market share all together. So admittedly, the device comes first. The functionality in itself drove innovation to the next level while creating substantial competition within the market place.
Now that the exclusive agreement has run its course, new competition in wireless devices has hit the market, including the Android, and others, all vying for a piece of the technology pie. What is interesting is that Verizon, (NYSE: VZ) with its robust network capability, now has access to the iPhone and is counting on a migration to its network since AT&T has developed a less than stellar reputation of dropped calls within its mobile hemisphere. Verizon is also counting on AT&T’s recent merger announcement with T-Mobile, (Deutsche Telekom: AG ADR: DTEGY) to distract its competitor while it gains market share. This is a classic example of a device forcing networks to improve.
Apple created another unique opportunity within the wireless universe. It ushered in a new realm, application developers to create unique opportunities for the iPhone. Hence, a sub-market was formed in innovating and developing new software to interact with the device, giving extraordinary functionality and complexity for consumer and business connectivity with tools and services and creating more companies within the mobile/wireless market. See (Apple Worldwide Developers Conference to Kick Off June 6 at Moscone West in San Francisco)
If we look at the present day landscape, AT&T purchases T-Mobile, the 4th largest mobile provider, vying to become the largest mobile carrier, and betting on network improvements, performance, and increased market share to continue competing with rival Verizon. Sprint Nextel, (NYSE: S); on the other hand, is crying foul since it will become insignificant compared too much larger competitors, which drives Sprint to look for partners to up their competitive ante. Lesser competitors are just that, becoming more insignificant in the race to stay relevant and viable.
Let’s not forget where this began, with one device, the iPhone. Thanks to Steve Jobs and Apple the wireless/mobile universe will never be the same, nor should it. This is how our economy should perform; innovative companies creating unique products which change market dynamics, and bring forth real competition, new companies, new jobs, lower prices, and connectivity like we have never seen before.
Going forward, the DOJ and FCC have a fundamental responsibility to look deeply into competitive forces and make sure that innovation and competition drives the market, not politics. Then they should leave the market to self-preservation within that deeply competitive landscape. That is how markets work and keeping somewhat of a level playing field is paramount in making sure market dynamics are functioning properly.
So, what came first were device, application and finally network. One company changed it all.