Top 10 Quotes From Mobile Madness: Apple Vs. Facebook, OLPC, & More

3/19/12Follow @gthuang

Hello, I am a recovering Mobile Madness 2012 organizer. I’d like to give huge props to the 350+ people who attended and participated last week, and very special thanks to our speakers, sponsors, and host, Microsoft NERD. (The day is depicted in photos here.)

It was a memorable afternoon indeed. So memorable, in fact, that I have a notebook full of story ideas to pursue once the dust settles around here. I hope to roll those out in the near future. In the meantime, here are my top 10 quotes from the conference. Together they tell a nice little story about the state of mobile tech and business heading into the spring of 2012:

1. “Think big, but start small. Stop writing business plans and pitch decks, and start getting momentum. Make it real.” That was Jason Jacobs, CEO of FitnessKeeper, on advice to mobile entrepreneurs. In fact, Jacobs said, he didn’t know much about mobile tech before working on RunKeeper, his company’s popular fitness app.

2. “The consumer controls pretty much everything. What the consumer wants to use is what everyone gets behind.” Seth Priebatsch, the CEO (I refuse to print Chief Ninja, oh, whoops) of SCVNGR/LevelUp, was talking about what it will take to get broad adoption of mobile payments. But there was discussion on the panel about what the real catalysts will be: data analytics and profits for merchants, and loyalty programs and saving money for consumers.

3. “This is the Year of Mobile.” That was Tom Burgess, CEO of Linkable Networks, mocking the phrase he was already hearing back in 2001-2002. On the “Boston’s mobile mafia” panel, Burgess (formerly of Third Screen Media/AOL) and DataXu CEO Mike Baker (formerly of Enpocket/Nokia), were notable for having gotten out of mobile as a vertical category. Linkable is tied to mobile, but is more broadly about financial services, while DataXu is about optimizing “omni-channel” advertising (all screens) rather than just mobile, Baker said. (Of course, once you’re in the mobile mafia, you can never really get out.)

4. “You guys did three of the earliest mobile advertising networks [Enpocket, Quattro Wireless, Third Screen]. Are we still not ready for prime time?” That was Jeff Glass, the former m-Qube CEO and now a VC with Bain Capital Ventures. One of his takeaways from the mobile mafia: it’s still early days for mobile ads. Just ask Lars Albright, who’s on his third mobile-ad startup, SessionM.

5. “The problem now is the big guys are not only big, they’re also smart. Google and Apple want to own the whole stack. It’s hard for startups, but it doesn’t mean you can’t do it.” From Ted Morgan, CEO of Skyhook, who spoke about the state of competition between mobile tech companies—particularly young companies versus the established giants.

6. “Zynga.” That was Chris Lynch, the former CEO of Vertica (acquired by HP), in response to the question “Zynga or HP?” from Antonio Rodriguez of Matrix Partners. Well, now we know at least part of the reason—Lynch just left HP last Friday. For good measure, he added that “Zynga is an analytics company masquerading as a game company.” What Zynga did was figure out how to make money on big data from gaming on mobile and other devices.

7. “Spread your bets, because there’s going to be a war.” That was Craig Palli from Fiksu, giving his advice to mobile marketers. Apple and Facebook are on a collision course, he said. The battle is between being device- and operating system-centric and being social-centric. (Everyone is watching for hints of what Facebook’s broader mobile strategy will be, of course.)

8. “There are not a lot of people interested in designing tablets for people who have no money and no electricity.” That came from Ed McNierney, the chief technology officer of the One Laptop Per Child Foundation. OLPC, of course, is interested in that, and much more. The electricity bit is crucial, he added, because power really isn’t cheap, despite many people’s wasteful, entitled, first-world lifestyles.

9. “Mobile is no longer a check-off item. Now it’s, how do we use mobile technology for business value?” That was Bill Seibel, CEO of Mobiquity, on what’s changed in the enterprise mobile sector in the past year.

10. “We want to give you an experience that makes your phone feel like it has super powers.” That was Sravish Sridhar, CEO of Kinvey. And that pretty much sums up the enthusiasm of a whole new generation of mobile entrepreneurs—one that will increasingly shape the broader future of technology.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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