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February 08, 2006

Will Cell Phones make Computers Obsolete?

I’m currently reading a terrific book by Tomi Ahonen and Alan Moore, called “Communities Dominate Brands”. Both Ahonen and Moore have done a great deal of research within the cell phone industry and are emerging experts on how digital technology is rapidly changing the way people are doing business. (Here is a link to their blog where you too can buy the book http://www.communities-dominate.blogs.com)

While reading their book, it got me thinking about how cell phones will affect your relationship with your alumni.

Many people in the alumni/development web industry are trying to figure out what their website should look like and do, Tomi and Alan indirectly are suggesting that we also need to be spending some time, talent and treasure on how we intend to connect with our alumni via cell phone technology.

To get you started thinking in this area; take a guess on how many cell phones there are worldwide.

Before we look at the total number of cell phones, consider this. According to the authors, in the next 12 calendar months, 600 million NEW cell phones will be sold worldwide.  That’s an astounding number.  I can remember way back to 1982 when I had a mobile phone in my car that had limited reception, calls were $3 per minute and the system and handset were so big they almost filled a carry on suitcase. There might have been 10,000 mobile phones in the entire world at that time.

While there are estimated to be 1.6 billion cell phone users world wide at the end of 2005, there are expected to be 2 billion cell phone users sometime in 2006.  Imagine that! Compare that to a little over 15 million MP3 owners and 2 million Blackberry (PDA) owners. In Shanghai there are more cell phones than people.  From what I understand, they have introduced technology that allows cell phone users to have multiple cell phones and the ability to switch from the phone one uses for work, to the phone you take out socially etc. The place you are going to develop your relationship and communicate with your alumni is rapidly looking like their cell phone!

Cell phones technology in the US is just catching up to the rest of the world. Partly due to the size of our country and politics, we’ve lagged behind in technology, but are starting to catch up. Our providers are upgrading their infrastructure to provide 3G services. 

With the introduction of this technology users will be able to do some or all of the following:


Within a relatively short time, cell phones will begin to take over a space that iPod invented.  I turned in my two year old cell phone recently at the end of my contract period and moved up to a combination, TV, computer and iPod. Not only can I download songs and or record songs on a disc smaller than a finger nail of a 10 year old, but I can even listen to XM or Sirius radio. Additionally I can download music ring tones, which the music industry loves since in 2005 they receive 14 percent of the 25 billion dollars in worldwide music sales from ring tones!

News Information

The first thing I said when the sales person at Sprint told me I could watch news and TV, I said, “Why would I want to do that?”   Maybe I’m not the typical customer in this area but in Japan, 84 percent of those with cell phones subscribe to mobile news.  I guess if the content is compelling enough, then the public follow.

Video on Demand & Games

Now I can watch my favorite TV shows on my cell phone.  Not sure if I want to but for under $2 I can.  Additionally the gaming industry is moving rapidly to provide games that generate revenue for them and continue to expand their customer base. 


In the past couple months the film industry has been the source of significant announcements. Kodak announced in January, 2006 that they will no longer produce film cameras.  In the same month, Konica reacting to declining film sales announced they were completely pulling out of the film business in late 2007.  Why?  Guess who is the largest camera manufacturer in the world?  The Nokia Phone Company. At the end of 2005 it is estimated that 300 million camera phones were produced vs. fewer than 80 million stand alone digital cameras.

So how does this affect you?  Here are 10 ways cell phones will be used in the next few years:

  1. Deliver short courses to students or alumni
  2. Let “on the go alumni” hear a recording of a famous person lecturing on campus
  3. Give alumni the ability to download “campus fight song” ring tones
  4. Deliver your alumni website and news online
  5. Deliver breaking news on capital campaign and annual giving
  6. Encourage alumni to share photos taken with their cell phones
  7. Make “compulsive” contributions
  8. Vote on campus issues or activities
  9. Deliver live coverage of sporting events on campus for parents
  10. Play online games against alumni at campus rivals

Use your creative mind and add to the list.  Share with others ideas on how they can build their relationships and communicate with alumni via cell phone technology!

Posted by Don Philabaum on February 8, 2006 at 10:38 AM | Permalink


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Hi Don and readers of the Wired Communities blogsite

Thank you for kind words about our book and yes, our related blogsite has plenty more of that kind of case examples, statistics etc.

Just to update your readers. That book (my fourth) was written at the end of 2004, and it came out last year. So some of the numbers need to be updated. The 2 billion cellphone number is correct, but the timing is not. That point happened in humankind last September. Today the number is near 2.2 billion.

Twice as many cellphone users than internet users worldwide. Three times as many cellphones as PCs, Laptop and desktop combined. More cellphones than cars, more cellphones than TV sets. More people own a cellphone than have a credit card.

The iPod? A wonderful technology, but only 42 million of them worldwide at the end of 2005. Adding all other stand-alone MP3 players to the number of iPods, the number is about 62 million. But already today, worldwide, there are over 200 million cellphones that have built-in MP3 players.

The issue is identical to the digital camera versus cameraphone "battle" of 2001-2003. I don't mean that iPods will disappear anytime soon, only that this year 2006 musicplaying cellphones will far exceed the total population of iPods - and already today more MP3 full-track songs are sold to cellphone owners than sold on iTunes.

Yes, your membership should seriously consider migrating membership activities to the cellphone. Every cellphone can handle messaging (most commonly by SMS text messaging). In fact almost twice as many people use text messaging worldwide as use e-mail. And more relevantly, SMS text messaging is an addictive superceding messaging medium. In all leading countries like Korea, Japan, Finland, Sweden, Italy, Israel, Singapore, Hong Kong etc., the preference of young people is to use SMS text messaging rather than e-mail. In Korea they say that the only time you use e-mail is if you have to communicate with "older people".

And we have things like mobile Instant Messaging (IM on cellphones), MMS picture messaging, etc etc etc. You can do very much with the cellphone. Most importantly, nobody is near their PC or laptop 24 hours a day. But already 60% of the planet takes their cellphone physically to bed with them. In a very literal sense we have our cellphone within our arm's reach all day and all night, every single day. No other gadget has achieved that level of intimacy with us.

yes, much more about these things. I should point out that while my first three books were all on the cellphone, actually the book Communities Dominate Brands is not a cellphone book per se, rather it is a book about digital communities (bloggers, videogamers, chat rooms, cellphones etc) and their impact to the media, advertising, branding and business. It is the first comprehensive book about the impact of digital communities to our lives. But yes, the cellphone is exceptionally relevant, as all of the other forms of digital interaction are migrating to cellphones.

As an interesting concluding note. Your readers obviously read blogsites (to read this blog). They will appreciate the power of blogging. Now imagine if all that power was as convenient on the cellphone? A future vision? Not so. In Korea today, 30% of the population is active in a cellphone-enabled blogging service called CyWorld. But its another story, and you might visit our blogsite to read more about it.

I am very happy you enjoyed the book, we'll post a link from our blogsite here to invite our readers to visit here as well.

Tomi Ahonen :-)
Bestselling author and consultant
blogsite www.communities-dominate.blogs.com
website www.tomiahonen.com

Posted by: Tomi Ahonen | Feb 18, 2006 8:36:34 PM

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