I recently released a new study called “Soft Power: Zero to 60 Billion in Four Years,” which examines the effect the booming mobile app economy is having in the U.S. A highlight:
Smart mobile devices are the most personal of computers. The colossal numbers of these devices, and their connectivity to each other and to all the Internet’s vast resources, creates a market so large and so diverse that the economic forces of innovation and specialization are supercharged. This platform of distributed computation and bandwidth offers unlimited possibilities to create tools and content serving every interest. We call this phenomenon Soft Power.
Beyond the app boom’s substantial boost to the economy (as I note in the study, economist Michael Mandel has pegged the number of jobs it currently supports at 519,000 and counting), there are numerous benefits in the consumer space. Not just in entertainment, but for health care and education— from doctors managing patient dosages via an app on their iPad, to the growing number of teenagers who now use smartphones alongside textbooks to complete homework assignments.
Those are just some of the benefits we’re currently witnessing — who knows what innovation in the app space will bring us next? But one thing is certain: In order to keep the good times rolling, two things are absolutely critical. Investment in the mobile ecosystem must continue, and spectrum — the airwaves that make mobile broadband, and thus the mobile app economy, possible — needs be made available.
The latter is currently being tackled by the Federal Communications Commission, albeit slowly, via its upcoming spectrum incentive auctions. The former will require a continued partnership between the public and private sectors to encourage the investment necessary to keep up with this new, and accelerating, economy. As I write in the study:
In the same way that Microsoft expanded its software to exploit the ever increasing number of transistors provided by Intel under Moore’s Law, apps will grow to consume the available computer and communications power of the mobile ecosystem. We will push our devices and networks to the limits — and then beyond. The cycle is nowhere near an end.
Bret Swanson is President of Entropy Economics LLC and a Visiting Fellow of Digital Society. He’s also an IIA Broadband Ambassador.