Introducing the Law of Mobility

Since the beginning of creation, a huge proportion of man’s inventions have been focused on mobility.

Consider everything from the wheel to papyrus paper to the chariot to the airplane to the cellphone; humankind has always sought to be free to move. Nowhere is this more true than in America. As European settlers moved westward establishing what has become our modern civilization, they progressed from foot to horseback to covered wagon to steam train to today’s jet aircraft and automobiles.

One look inside a modern mini-van will convince you that what we truly desire is all of the comforts of home wherever we go.

Despite this early focus, I believe we are only just now entering the Age of Mobility.

As with all of history, the age of mobility is built upon the advances that have come before. The age of mobility is most clearly built on the eras of the Internet and the PC.

The PC Age is defined by Moore’s Law, which can be roughly stated one of two ways, depending on your priorities. We most often think of it in terms of computing power of a chip doubling every couple of years. However, the PC Age was really brought about by the flip-side of that truth, namely that the cost of computing power gets cut in half every couple of years. This financial reality resulted in a historical point in time when it made economic sense for businesses to move computing power out of the data center and onto the desktop, and for an average family to justify buying a computer for their home.

Similarly, the Internet Age is defined by Metcalfe’s Law, which observes that the value of any network increases exponentially with the number of users. Although the Internet had been plugging along, largely invisibly to corporate America, since 1969, there came a moment in history when the value of being part of that network outweighed all the costs of doing so. That moment caused a chain reaction where the increased value attracted more users which further increased the value attracting even more users at an accelerating pace until some level of saturation was achieved. This dramatic event occurred in 1995. At the beginning of that year, most people in business had not heard of the Internet. By the end of the year, nearly every business felt compelled to be part of the Internet. It was also during this period that the U.S. government estimated Internet traffic was doubling every 100 days, giving birth to a gazillion ill-founded business plans.

Moore’s Law hasn’t stopped – meaning that incredible computing power can be built into smaller and less-expensive devices to perform a broad range of tasks. Similarly, Metcalfe’s Law hasn’t been invalidated by the bursting of the Internet bubble – the value of being connected to the global information networks continues to increase. And it is these continuing truths that enable the age of mobility.

But what is a modern technology age without a law observing the fundamental truths that shape financial realities that will redefine our lives and our work over the coming years? Since such a law doesn’t appear to exist for the coming age, let me propose the Law of Mobility: That the value of any product increases with it’s mobility. (Where mobility is the percent of time the customer can fully use the product.)

The age of mobility is being brought on because we’ve reached that moment in time when the cost of adding mobility to any prduct (at least any information-rich or digitizable product) has fallen (thanks to Moore’s Law) to the point well below the value of adding mobility, meaning that mobility is now being built into every product.

(Originally posted at Things That Make You Go Wireless)

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