Enterprise mobile now moves at Uber pace

Uber is shaking up the taxi business, but it isn't the only mobile disruptor out there. We haven't begun to fathom the changes mobile will bring, say some Boston gurus. Plus, Dropbox lures workers and Facebook imitates Vegas in Searchlight.

When the transportation network company Uber was valued at $17 billion in its latest funding round in June, some finance professors argued the startup couldn't possibly be worth that. But their argument, said consultant and part-time MIT lecturer Michael Davies, was based on a false premise: the valuation of the addressable market for taxi and limousine services.

The Uber service is not just cheaper and easier than hailing a taxi, Davies said. It is a supplement to mass transit and rental cars -- and for a tiny but growing segment of consumers, it represents an alternative to owning a car. Add all that potential market share to the current taxi and limo service market, and the argument could be made that the upstart disruptor is "already way past what the total addressable market was, [and is] creating significant new value," Davies said in his keynote, "The Future of Mobile," at MassTLC's Mobile Summit in Cambridge, Massachusetts, earlier this week.

When thinking about mobile computing and mobile-born companies, "the important thing here is this is not a zero-sum game," Davies said.

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Smartphones, tablets and other consumer devices that enable mobile computing have been around for less than a decade, but they have already disrupted every nook and cranny of our lives -- and in ways that go beyond what many enterprise IT experts predicted or what many CIOs imagined. While businesses are capitalizing on the promise of this computing shift, many still are wary of adopting a mobile strategy wholesale -- perhaps understandably so. This week's mobile event in Boston made it clear there are indeed many challenges for the enterprise, including the problem of measuring consumer engagement when the existing measuring tools are still are work in progress. Caution is commendable. But when does wariness become unwise?

Said Davies: "If you can innovate rapidly … you will do much better than people who are slow." My two cents: We haven't begun to fathom the industry disruption mobile computing will bring; if companies don't make a concerted effort to incorporate mobile into their business strategies now, they are courting oblivion.

The specter of mobile disruption certainly has some of tech's biggest companies scrambling to move fast.

On Monday, Yahoo announced its purchase of Flurry, the mobile ad and analytics platform that runs on 1.4 million mobile devices, for around $300 million. On Wednesday, Facebook (no stranger to moving fast) reported an increase in mobile ad revenue of 151%, which represents 62% of its overall advertising revenue; its worldwide market share in mobile ads this year (22.3%) is now 5.4% higher than it was in 2012. And on Microsoft's Q4 FY2014 earnings call Tuesday, CEO Satya Nadella announced plans to create a truly converged OS that will work across all devices, in hopes of competing in the 90% slice of the mobile market that Android and iOS, combined, control.

For CIOs, whose companies' revenue and profit are not directly tied to mobile computing, the decision to barrel ahead with mobile computing is a bit scary, to be sure. Boston Properties' Jim Whalen, who gave the CIO perspective at a breakout panel at the Mobile Summit, admitted, "We're still figuring it out, like many of my peers." That's from a CIO of a $30 billion company who is working hard to mobilize professional staff in the corporate offices and the company's property and engineering staff out in the field. "We do not have a fully big strategy … and we're living with a degree of risk as we go through that journey," Whalen acknowledged. But he made it clear that the journey will go forward.

CIO news roundup for week of July 21

Mobile isn't the only disruptor around. There's plenty more in this week's news of interest to CIOs:

  • Dropbox is adding new features it hopes will lure more users to its business offerings, particularly outside the U.S. It claims that Dropbox for Business currently has 80,000 paying customers.
  • Could what happens on Facebook stay on Facebook? The social media giant is looking to find that out. It's testing a "buy" button that will let you purchase a product in an ad without ever leaving its site.
  • Last week it was Oracle, and this week HP is jumping into the Hadoop fray. The computing giant announced yesterday it will join a funding round announced earlier this year for Hortonworks, for $50 million.
  • Big Blue is throwing its hat into the ring with Amazon and Google. IBM added Infiniband networking, which offers a transfer speed of up to 56 Gbps, to its recently acquired SoftLayer cloud.
  • If you own an iPhone or iPad, beware where you charge it. Forensic scientist and hacker Jonathan Zdziarski (aka NerveGas) has uncovered backdoor vulnerabilities in all iOS devices that he claims Apple intentionally installed years ago.

Check out our previous Searchlight roundups: Culture shock: Apple, IBM, Microsoft disrupt themselves and Win the tech talent race, go back to high school on SearchCIO.

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