Mobile is the New Wild West

I had an interesting conversation with a friend this weekend. It centered around the travel content space, specifically the mobile travel content space. His take was that there were too many big companies already in the space, and it would be very difficult for small players to break through.

I admit that I was surprised by his argument. The travel content space is crowded, but new competitors are finding their voice. For example. Frommer and Fodors have to contend with Lonely Planet. Lonely Planet has to contend with Trip Adviser. While Trip Adviser is gathering up user generated content and reviews, it has to contend with Yelp. And of course there is still Travel Channel with its global television reach in contrast to the wikitravel.org, the travel wiki that is starting to go back to the killing trees route by taking their content from the web to these collections of paper called “books”. And this is just the good old fashion Internet.

The picture on mobile is a free-for-all with everyone trying to figure out how to present their info in the best way possible.

The best example of how much the mobile arena is undeveloped is the recent results on mobile search, an area increasingly dominated by Google on the web but with space for others in mobile. For example, the little startup, Cha-Cha, which released their search service 7 months ago has over 200,000 users, making them number 4 in SMS search. Of course, Google is number 1 with over 10x the traffic at 2.7 million users. But Yahoo is only around 800,000 and Cha-Cha is getting close quickly. The idea that a little search company could match Google is practically unthinkable on the Internet but is very doable on the Mobile Web.

In a related piece about how the mobile arena is bringing unexpected competition, keep your eyes on Nokia. With their buying spree of mapping companies and their knowledge of the mobile phones (since they built most of them), they have a real advantage over the competition like Google that is trying to create their own mobile phone software.

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