The Challenge of the Mobile Cloud

[qi:gigaom_icon_cloud-computing] Cloud computing is one of the hottest topics in mobile — even if many in the space are confused about just what defines the cloud. And as the use of mobile cloud services ramps up, network operators and others in the wireless space will have to eschew traditional product- and technology-driven business models in favor of more global, service-driven paradigms.

Sophisticated devices such as the iPhone have boosted uptake of mobile data services in a major way in more mature markets, spurring an evolution in the economic engine for mobile telecoms beyond coverage and penetration toward usage. Indeed,  56 percent of U.S. users have accessed the Internet wirelessly, with 32 percent of the population having done so with a handheld device such as a phone, PDA, iPod, Kindle or other connected consumer gadget, Pew Internet and American Life recently reported. That evolution is sure to continue as emerging markets reach maturity and data usage moves beyond novelty apps (which typically are used just a few times) into enterprise-minded offerings and practical tools that enhance the lives of mobile users.

But as mobile communication continues its slog down the all-IP road, the industry increasingly becomes governed by Internet business models that view voice as just another type of data — one that should be included in a basic access charge rather than billed as a stand-alone service. That phenomenon will force the IT and mobile industries to embrace their counterparts and develop new business models, as John du Pre Gauntt observes in a new report from GigaOM Pro (subscription required).

There’s no question that usage of the mobile web will continue to ramp up as new gadgets come to market and networks come online. The real question is, which players will adjust their strategies to best take advantage of the mobile cloud computing revolution?