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Crossing Mobile Borders: A Look At Mobility in Mexico

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In the U.S., mobile is rapidly overtaking the web. In fact, mobile made up 55 percent of internet usage in the U.S. in January of this year, with 47 percent of all traffic coming from mobile apps. PCs accounted for just 45 percent of internet usage that month.

And we’re not alone. In Mexico, there are 82 mobile devices for every 100 citizens. Mexicans are also making the leap to higher-tech smartphones at a rapid clip, driving the near-ubiquity of the internet. In fact, Mexico leads the Latin American market on smartphone penetration.

A recent trip highlighted for me the extent to which mobility has become an international business trend, affecting enterprises across industries and borders. I was invited to speak at an intimate conference about the results of a survey on enterprise mobility. In late 2013, our partner Proximate, along with InformationWeek’s Mexican franchise, NetMedia, polled 130 companies to produce the largest study of mobility in Mexico to date. While there, I also had the opportunity to speak with Bloomberg about these trends. The conversation centered on how mobile is affecting the enterprise and what companies should do about it.

Mobile: Ready or Not, Here it Comes

The common thread of the interview and survey results – and a very common topic at the meeting – was that, although the majority of enterprises recognize the importance of mobility, most aren’t making the investment to prove it. Forty-seven percent (47%) of the companies surveyed consider mobile to be among the major strategic priorities for their business. Moreover, 75 percent (75%) saw improving relationships with their customers and employees as the most important reason to prioritize mobile. And a solid 72 percent (72%) said that disruptive technologies are likely to change the way their businesses operate, with 49 percent (49%) fearing that, in the coming year, new tech will put their industries or businesses at risk.

In spite of all that, only 22 percent (22%) believe they’re ahead of the competition on mobile. This lag is producing serious anxiety for enterprises as they start to realize that mobile can’t just be an add-on feature. Almost 35 percent (34.7%) of the companies surveyed worried that their existing infrastructure wasn’t sufficient for the demands of mobile.

Mobile Does Not Equal Web

As I told conference attendees, the first step on any mobile journey is recognizing that mobile and the Web are very different beasts. The mobile shift means huge amounts of data flowing from many places to many other places at a pretty much constant rate. And as new mobile devices come onto the market and the amount of data grows exponentially, this data flow is only going to get more complex, unwieldy and difficult to deal with. Of course, this has a huge impact on the systems needed to build and run apps. Forrester Research recently pointed out that, “Mobile is pushing web architectures to the brink.”

This is why it’s time for enterprises to figure out how to deal with data in a mobile world.

Making the Mobile Investment

It’s not a huge surprise that 40 percent (40%) of survey respondents ranked mobile-optimized APIs as a top investment priority. But, no matter what executives say, we still aren’t seeing enough resources – time, talent, technology – dedicated to mobile.

What I found most interesting was how similar these findings were to what we see in the U.S. When Appcelerator surveyed its users back in Q3 of 2013, we found that a full third of enterprises admitted that their apps don’t meet end users’ needs. There’s a major disconnect between what businesses see as priorities vs. where they devote investment.

And the problem — in the U.S., Mexico and all over the globe — is only getting harder to solve as employees and customers use more and more mobile apps. Plus, as Forrester has pointed out, only 10 percent (10%) of installed apps get used on a regular basis. That’s not a good sign. The enterprise frankly can’t go mobile with lousy apps.

I also noticed that, for all the similarities, there’s one big difference between how U.S. and Mexican enterprises are approaching mobile right now. In Mexico, the desire and readiness for mobility among enterprises is very high. There isn’t the same attitude of “It can wait…” that we often see here. Mexico is a mobile-focused market, with companies understandably hungry to find better ways to communicate through this powerful medium.

Mobile is clearly an important priority, but that doesn’t mean companies are investing in it at scale. It’s time for us to put our mobile money where our mouths are. This is true across the board, and across the borders.

The full report is available here (in Spanish.)

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