Who will be the first full-stack mobil company?
A decade ago, just getting the OS and hardware of a smart phone right was such a huge leap forward that companies like Apple and Google could afford to focus on that one thing. Today, the way that device works on the network, especially unreliable, lightly connected wireless networks, affects user experience far more than the device itself. In Silicon Valley, the term full-stack means a company that vertically integrates to try to make the customer experience seamless. I think it’s time for that in mobil.
So the question is, will Google or Apple do it first, or will a new entrant make this happen? The ability to extend the OS down into the network instead of treating it like a black box will both help improve the network greatly and improve the way phones feel in day to day use dramatically. For example, if I’m sitting on Caltrain using email, and I’m about to go into a dead zone (of which there are many), the OS could tell my email program that’s about to happen so that it can pre-cache anything it needs and go into offline mode, storing up my emails until it comes back. That would be far better than every app I have never pre-caching what it needs and then freaking out when the network goes down.
The challenge is that network infrastructure is hugely capital intensive and complicated, much lower margin, and just overall a huge lift. On the other hand, a tech company approaching that space would probably figure out some huge efficiencies through re-architecture.
I was very encouraged that Google Fiber plans to move to wireless delivery, because you can imagine how that will allow them to offer mobil plans with massive bandwidth, augmented with third party networks when a customer moves out of range.
And let’s face it, if the networks stayed crappy but we could walk into our local Apple or Google store instead of Verizon or ATT, that would probably increase our happiness enough without any technical change.