Mark Zuckerberg’s Keynote Presentation for Mobile World Congress, 2014, amounted to an onstage discussion with David Kirkpatrick, the host of the annual Techonomy Conference. Their chat started with some words on facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp, and quickly moved along to why emerging markets, and ultra low cost (or even free) Internet access for emerging markets is a very important component of any plan to double the size of the Internet audience.
facebook is one of the founding partners of Internet.org, along with three handset manufacturers (Nokia, Ericsson, and Samsung), two wireless chip manufacturers (Qualcomm and Mediatek), and Opera Software. Zuckerberg made many references to Internet.org during his conversation with Kirkpatrick. The common theme behind most of these references was his claim about the real extent of Internet penetration of the total world market. From Zuckerberg’s perspective, ” . . . most people in the world don’t have access to the Internet, at all.” (quoted from a video recording of the Keynote Presentation by Mark Zuckerberg at Mobile World Congress, 2014. I’ve provided a link to the entire recording at the start of this post).
Zuckerberg thinks an approximate 1/3 of the total possible audience for Internet services is actually connected, today. So the upside potential for a business like facebook, should an effort like Internet.org succeed, is very big.
Contrast these comments with Apple’s last webcast of quarterly results and you have two diametrically opposite approaches as to how best capture the financial reward represented by the market for online services. Apple is clearly focused on the job of cementing its position as the #1 brand for the very high end of smart phones and tablets. Zuckerberg, and, presumably, facebook, is investing in an effort to lower the cost of Internet access for truly emerging markets, so as to substantially increase the size of the online audience.
The objective certainly makes sense, especially if facebook continues to report earnings beating analyst estimates, while the not-for-profit Internet.org effort is ongoing.
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