Jumptap, Mobile, & the Four Horsemen of the Consumer Apocalypse

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“multiple billions of dollars” to build their own offerings and ensure that “everybody will be in some ways captive to one or two of those large ecosystems.”

Bell draws a parallel with the early days of the Web, but he says the mobile world is more extreme. “Unlike the Internet, everybody gets that the stakes are huge,” he says. “The browser wars between Netscape and Microsoft, which were proprietary environments, worried all of us. I was running a portal those days. There were two sets of standards, but we didn’t have to dork around with hardware.” In the end, Microsoft beat Netscape—but even when Firefox, Mozilla, and Chrome came along, the tech industry agreed on a set of standards for things like setting a cookie and doing tracking, he says. “That opened up, by the way, eight years of venture capital investing around those common standards for targeted algorithmic buying and so forth,” he says.

He doesn’t sound as optimistic about mobile—and what it’s doing to the broader tech industry. “What’s been underreported is the amount of volcanic activity that this ultimately has to lead to,” he says. “‘Oh well, Google made a device. Microsoft decided to make its own tablet. OK, what’s next?’ No, no, no, that’s tectonic. That’s right in the face of 25 years of [manufacturer]-developer relationships. It’s because they think they can sustain this walled garden idea as the PC dies and people drift off into mobility.”

But it’s still early days, especially for mobile advertising. Depending on which surveys you believe, something like 10 to 23 percent of all media consumption in the U.S. is on mobile devices, but only 1 percent of advertising dollars are on mobile devices, Bell says. “That disparity between ‘where are your consumers’ and ‘where is your advertising money’ has never been worse,” he says.

In other words, business has to get better for mobile tech companies like Jumptap. “I don’t think yet that the promise of ‘location’ and ‘always on’ and ‘always in my pocket’ have been exploited or thought through,” he says.

Is there anything that could blindside the whole mobile industry? “The big, big issue is TV,” Bell says.

I would elaborate, but we’re out of time for now, so stay tuned.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and Editor of Xconomy Boston. E-mail him at gthuang [at] xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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