Saturday, March 18

Lessons from "now" for the future of Global Digital Competition

Over a billion people. Connected globally. Hundreds of millions of web-pages. With all this easy connectivity going on you would think that those of us that spend our lives in the wired world would be used to competition that transcends borders. Maybe not. And I think our offline colleagues could teach us a thing or two about globalisation.

Crowning its tenth year, the net has really only just got going in some parts of the world. A defining feature of Web 1.0 was that few companies succesfully broke into other countries. Sure, generic services like email and search engines spread, plus Double Click's ad-serving network, eBay.

Now we're early into Web 2.0 and good services are spreading much faster around the world. But few companies from East, West, North or South have truly established massive shares in many overseas markets. (Certainly not to the extent that we see in non-digital industry). It's still largely a fragmented business. At this stage there are many reasons for this:

- Too busy setting-up operations in core markets
- Language barriers
- Government restrictions on content, publishing licences...
- Underdeveloped internet in overseas markets (no ecommerce)
- Lack of internet/tech penetration

Now contrast this to; food produce, steel, computers. They're all well established industries with ubiguitious needs/wants in each market. And there is ferocious global competition for every $ spent in each market. China is steaming into the USA's textile market, Mexico and India equally want a piece of the action. At the consumer end the US brings us Gap, Hagen Daz, Walmart and Pampers. The Japanese brings us Muji, Toyota and Sony. The English bring HSBC, Vodaphone and Virgin.

All command truly global competition which sometimes goes so far as to spark trade wars, government tariffs, etc. This all points to an explosive competitive future in digital media.

In the next three years many of the barriers to "Global Digital Competition" will subside. Most developed or developing nations will have penetration levels worthy of supporting a thriving internet industry. And the costs of developing web apps will continue to fall with improved technology and greater competition from 'offshore' development.

So fast-track to 2010 and nations that we don't currently associate with internet innovation may just suprise us all. In the offline world it has taken thirty years for global trade and competition to reach this point. Online, it may take just three.

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