As Sophistication Grows, the Mobile Sector Must Specialize

Carl Weinschenk

There are two points — one specific and one general — to be made about this post at GigaOm that focuses on universities’ uses of mobility.

The commentary was written by Mehdi Maghsoodnia, the CEO of Rafter, a cloud-based educational course distribution company. While it is important to keep in mind that he has skin in the game, there is no reason to doubt what he writes.

Maghsoodnia’s point is that universities are doing a poor job of harnessing mobility. The reasons are haphazard transfer of content from the wired to the mobile systems, the reluctance of professors to participate and the inherent difficulty of keeping students engaged. Maghsoodnia offers advice:

When universities consider developing a mobile platform, they need to answer four key questions: 1) What apps do students want? 2) What kind of devices need to be supported? 3) What needs to happen to get professors on the platform? and 4) What’s the plan for deployment?

The specific point to be made simply is that the educational market is a huge potential goldmine for many links in the value chain. It’s a waste of a great opportunity if companies don’t take advantage of this block of customers and solve the challenges that schools are facing.

And it is happening. For instance, US News & World Report — which keeps closely attuned to the higher education market — reported last week on five iPhone apps for college networking. They are JobChangeAlert, About.me, Evernote Hello, ScanBizCards and Bump. Each is interesting. The key, though, is that vendors clearly see the promise of this market.

Colleges, too, are getting into the act. USA Today cites Texas A&M University, the University of California-San Diego, the University of Alabama, Ohio State and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as schools that are ahead of the curve on mobile technology. The story provides a paragraph on what each is doing to support its student and professional populations.

The broader point is that the mobile technology is getting so nuanced and powerful that it will be possible — and necessary — to create products and platforms that are highly customized for each group. Retail, education, military, government, health and other verticals all use devices in different ways. Some of the differences are nuanced and some are extremely broad. The need for vendors and related providers to customize isn’t new, but it is growing.

Creating technology and marketing it to sophomores at college is a world away from what is needed for a senior using a home diabetes monitor. The bottom line is that the tools are at hand to recognize these differences and move forward accordingly.



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