Mobile email for the masses

18 Dec 2008

The BlackBerry has been the driving force behind taking email from the PC to the mobile environment. However, its success, along with most of its competitors, has been focused at the higher end of the device market.

This segment, where data plans are often common, continues to be the main mobile email target market and will continue to provide strong growth. But what about the 85% (or more especially in emerging markets) that do not have smartphones‾ We are now seeing more operators and vendors attempt to exploit the mobile email opportunity among these users, which have slightly less capable devices.

Only a small proportion of the existing ~1.5 billion email addresses are mobilized, and we believe there is huge potential to do this for multiple customer types.

First of all, there is the addressable market, which has an existing email address, consistent access to a PC but not a smartphone. This segment has a large proportion of subscribers in developed markets but a smaller portion of users in emerging markets.

A much larger number of users in emerging markets may have an email address but much less consistent access to a PC. Internet access is via an internet café library or often other public location. Just as mobile voice and SMS have done effectively, mobile email has the potential to eliminate these trips. The opportunity here is huge.

Enabling mobile email may be part of a strategy that seeks to make the phone the primary center of internet activity. There are other applications that need to be enabled to achieve this vision, but email is one of the important ones. The recently introduced Nokia life tools focusing on agriculture and education may address others, but this should be viewed as a realistic end game.

Additionally, there are mobile users without internet access or an email address who would like access. Such users could create an email account for the first time on a handset. Many of these new mobile email users may have a very limited usage profile, needing only to send or receive a few emails.

Users across these segments are unlikely to have smartphones, but this should not be a barrier to exploiting the mobile email opportunity. Despite not offering as rich a user experience as a high-end device, mobile email will still offer more functionally than SMS.

What about SMS traffic‾

What about cannibalization of vitally important SMS‾ At early stages of adoption and with low penetration, we see little negative impact. Most revenue will be incremental on existing usage as mobile email will generally be mobile-to-PC messaging with usage replacing access from a fixed PC.

Additionally, in both developing and emerging markets alike, SMS and email have different usage profiles. SMS is usually associated with shorter messages, while email is for longer messages and attachments. We believe mobile instant messaging poses a greater threat to SMS than email.

Replacing SMS

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