We are thrilled to offer our audience the following excerpt from the first chapter of Robert Scoble and Shel Israel’s upcoming book “Age of Context”, set for release in the Fall of 2013. Here, the authors offer some thoughts on one of their "Five Forces of Context," mobile.


Mobile is taking new forms. You’ve already heard much about Google Glass, but there is a lot more going on in wearables, and despite how new and different these products may seem, adoption is happening faster than you may think.

Tech analyst Juniper Research estimates wearable computing will generate $800 million in revenue in 2013, rising to $1.5 billion in 2014. Annual unit sales of wearables will rise from 15 million this year to 70 million by 2017. Personally, we think those numbers are very low, but we shall see.

First, let’s take a brief look at the mobile device that is so often overlooked these days: the laptop. According to Wiki Answers, there were 8,745,693 laptops in use at the beginning of 2013—but they are really not part of this story.

Laptops gave people an appreciation, even a hunger for mobility. They untethered us from the desktop, but they really aren’t contextual machines. They don’t have sensors and they don’t have operating systems that can run the mobile apps essential to context. These days, laptops feel heavy and awkward compared with other mobile options. Most are left at home or in the office as we move around with more agile and contextual tools.

As we noted, costs are coming down, primarily because there’s lots of competition. Even the barriers of expensive data plans are eroding because of challenges from upstart companies like Macheen, ItsOn, and most recently T-Mobile and Sprint.

Smartphones are now the primary device for most people—the one they live on and use most of the time. This has been made possible, of course, by the great migration of data from our individual computers into the cloud and it is now being strengthened by its accommodation of contextual applications.

We believe, despite innovations in next-generation laptops as well as the incredible hands-free capabilities of wearables, that for at least the next five-to-10 years the smartphone will be the wireless device-of-choice for most of the world’s users.

We also believe that in both phones and tablets, the brand and the operating systems you choose are starting to matter less. The hardware forms from multiple suppliers are starting to resemble each other and the devices perform extremely similar functions. This may be bad for the makers, but it is good us users.

As such devices become low-cost commodities, their usage will rise. This means the streams of data being uploaded, and the amount of content being consumed by these devices will also rise exponentially.

The real mobile news is not in the devices themselves, but in how software has changed. A little over a decade ago, software was primarily loaded onto our desktop computers by inserting discs. Price-per-user was often well over $100 and occasionally exceeded $1000.

Today’s software is small, inexpensive or free. It takes about 30 seconds to start using a mobile app. The average user downloads scores of them.

There are now over 100,000 mobile app publishers worldwide and the New York Times estimated they were offering more than 1.2 million mobile apps by the end of 2011. According to Gartner, apps were downloaded over 45 billion times by the end of 2012--nearly eight apps for every man, woman and child. We have little doubt those numbers will be larger by the time you read this chapter.

Mobile is the aggregator of our other four forces. It’s where the others converge. Your device is your key to all the power of the Internet. It is where the superstorm of context is thundering into your life.

To read more, be sure to check out "Age of Context" by Shel Israel & Robert Scoble, look for it this fall!

Note: The above has been reprinted with permission.

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