The Coming Verticalization of Mobile

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The app store is a massive, massive landscape. Discovery is virtually impossible, even with their newer popular nearby feature. And Apple is locking other people out from solving this problem with discovery apps.

What’s going to happen?

The same thing that happened when broad search/discovery hit scale on the web. Google dominated search in the early 2000′s. Once you could find virtually anything, there was too much noise to sort though. Each vertical is different, and people realized specialized search would serve the consumer better. As a result, vertical specific search plays (such as Zillow where I worked) started popping up in the mid 2000′s.

The same thing will happen with mobile, and we’re close to the breaking point. Hence, the coming verticalization of mobile.

There are already major players who have massive mobile distribution. Zillow in real estate. TripAdvisor Lonely Planet, and Expedia in travel. Facebook and Twitter in social.

Yes, it’s true that simple apps have a better chance of succeeding than complex ones. But there is a limit to how many apps I will ever remember to use. There are only so many use cases that need an app frequently enough to have (& remember to use) a standalone, and most of those have already been accounted for (flights, taxi, nearby food, communication, social network, etc). Instead of, or in addition to, fighting it out in the app store with standalone apps, smaller companies will start partnering with established vertical players. Those with massive distribution in a given vertical will start doing business development deals with smaller players with complimentary products, essentially becoming vertical specific app platforms. Users will “unlock” functionality inside of their existing apps rather than having separate apps for every complimentary product.

I believe it’s not a matter of if. It’s a matter of when.

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