Context is the killer app for the digital consumer

As recently as a five years ago, it was relatively easy to segment the mobile market into business users and consumers. Business users had specific needs, as did consumers, and rarely did those needs intersect. Today, the idea of segmenting users into the classes of business vs. consumer is becoming archaic and to attempt that level of breakdown will lead to erroneous views of the market.

Today, it's far less important to discuss the business user vs. the consumers and instead recognize that for the most part, they are one and the same. It's not about business or consumer. It's about PEOPLE. There is increasingly an overlap in how people interact with their devices and data and the result is that much of the information on users devices overlaps both business and personal information. For example, the typical users "buddy list" on their IM client will likely contain a combination of business contacts as well as friends and family. Look at a typical laptop and you will likely find many traces of personal data and entertainment co-existing with business information. Increasingly, business is reaching to the home and the reverse is happening as well and nowhere is this more of an issue than in the mobile arena.

For example, many IT departments allow users to select the mobile device of their choice or allow them to come from an approved list of supported platforms. Users are often not reimbursed for device fees but rather for some or all of the services associated. As a result, these devices are perceived as more personal than ever and are likely to have a different contextual use.

In the past, mobile was a dead space. You couldn't call someone when you were away from home (unless there was a payphone about). One certainly couldn't text or email in real-time to stay in contact. Content was limited to whatever small amount you could carry on your person, be it work, entertainment or the like. Today, we have moved beyond this point and mobility is a critical space, defined by that fact that it is the place that is neither work nor home (or school for students). Users increasingly find themselves in different contextual situations as a result and are looking for devices that can provide contextually relevant information to them as needed. At the airport, while waiting for a plane, that might mean checking flight schedules. It means being able to respond to business calls and emails. It might mean letting family members know of the delay and then listening to favorite music or watching a movie to distract from delay. Devices and services such as the SlingBox have totally evolved the concept of time shifting, to place shifting. That's just the tip of the iceberg as consumers continue to connect their TVs, PCs and phones to both the Internet and each other.

Each of these circumstances involves seamlessly moving into the contextually relevant moment, finding, communicating or using the proper information or data and then shifting to the next moment. In short, there is no killer app for the digital consumer. It's context that is the killer app. New devices today are finally allowing that contextual flow of circumstance and information to become a reality, and for consumers to begin to embrace them. It's not just anytime but anywhere as consumers move their content from device to device, place to place and location to location. But there's more. Next week, I'll talk about what happens when you link all that together with social networks.