What is one of the most ubiquitous user communication devices? If you said Web browser you’d be right. Consider the following global statistics. In 2011:
- Fixed and mobile connections reached 7 billion worldwide.
- Approximately 6 billion Mobile subscriptions and 1 billion fixed wireline phones.
- 1.2 billion Mobile Web Users, 0.6 billion fixed broadband subscriptions.
- 0.5 billion smart phones shipped in 2011.
- In U.S. and western Europe 90% of mobile subscribers have Internet-ready phones.
Every smart phone or tablet which is shipped has a browser. Add to that the browsers that are used by other devices (e.g. laptops, desktops, game consoles) makes the browser the new de facto user interface.
Several smart folks are currently developing standards to equip the browser with real-time interactive communications capabilities in an initiative called Web RTC (Web Real Time Communication). This is an effort to achieve a standardized infrastructure in Web browsers on which real-time interactive communication between users of the World Wide Web can be achieved. Web RTC offers web application developers the ability to write rich, real-time multimedia applications on the Web, without requiring plug-ins, downloads or installs. Its purpose is to help build a strong RTC platform that works across multiple web browsers and across multiple platforms.
You may be asking, “what’s new about this?” You might be thinking, “I can make audio and video calls today from my mobile or laptop.” Of course, either of these applications are packaged by equipment vendors or users load these apps with various dependencies and interoperability issues. Now a few more details about the IETF effort.
On the other side of the spectrum, there is the ITU-standardized network-centric IMS RCS (Rich Communication Service) application which seems to be coming back to life after years of dormancy. Some mobile equipment vendors may be packaging IMS stack in their devices and there seems to be some renewed interest in RCS.
We can all speculate what will happen. Will the industry embrace the WebRTC approach or they will continue to use proprietary native clients and plod through the interop issues? Will the network-centric IMS-RCS and the user-driven WebRTC coexist or will one will overwhelm the other? Between IMS and WebRTC, my bet is on the latter. Internet is a shining model of scaling, flexibility, richness and “wisdom of the crowd” app development. The large installed base of browsers and its expected steep growth in the future gives it great momentum and Robert MetCalfe’s Law works in its favor. This development also provides a reminder to traditional service providers of the challenge and opportunity presented by these kind of disruptive technologies, and that is to be mindful of professor Ted Levitt’s (Harvard Business School)  warning about realizing what business they are in and embracing the new development.
What do you think?
 mobiThinking “Global mobile statistics 2012: all quality mobile marketing research, mobile Web stats, subscribers, ad revenue, usage, trends…”
 Robert Metcalfe posits that the value of a network grows as the square of the number of users. Some scholars claim that the law overestimates.
 “If only the buggy whip makers had thought of themselves as being in the personal transportation business, providing a stimulant or catalyst to an energy source, Mr. Levitt wrote, they might have survived into the automotive era”. This appeared in 1960 in HBR article Marketing Myopia. Some scholars have questioned the applicability to some disruptive change scenarios