Over the past six weeks or so I have been to four major travel industry conferences - OpenTravel in Las Vegas, ATM in Dubai and the EyeforTravel events in London and Singapore.
As ever, much of the talk was on the topics of the moment, one of which being the influence and developments of mobile on the sector.
Inevitably, app versus versus mobile browser seems to be a continual debate. In sessions I both moderated and participated in at a number of these events the arguments were equally strong for either side.
Adoption of the appropriate solution is expensive for everyone to solve every problem with their version of an un-common platform that works both browsers and all the various mobile operating system and app environments.
So there is no ubiquity, no easy of use, and no path for adoption. The arrogant developers and controllers of the user experience are arguably forcing a thoroughly unpalatable solution onto the user community. And this is where we find ourselves - a problem for industry at large.
The current model is unsustainable. While there are those touting the fabulous results of their particular app, many of those that remain of the outskirts are losing money hand over fist.
The legion of (in many cases) poor quality developers and charlatans selling mobile app platforms and services is incredible. Also, there is a famine of smart people to manage such developments at all levels of the industry, and in their respective technology providers.
Rather like a love triangle, for some it appears we cannot find a way out of the problem gracefully. So what can we do?
Perhaps, however, there is a third way.
The major need is to reduce the cost of development and deployment - we need to do a better job of providing the small mobile aperture a solution ready for the customers.
There is also a need to eliminate, or at least reduce, the amount of individual one-time apps that are used and then never used again, yet clutter up the limited screen real estate. There is also a distinct need for a common platform that would improve adoption and usage.
If there was one major, or even very few, individual platforms that could create a common walled garden for the travel category this would be a major step forward.
In this so-called common walled garden, the environment is accepted as being different, yet the screen experience can be adjusted to that particular environment and this will enable some common categorization and user navigation elements.
There is a sense that familiarity boosts adoption and usage, so also having common standards will help move this whole thing along.
The walled garden would use the common standards for ensuring that it, at least, stays relevant for users - but this must be open with no commercial-led restraining body having undue influence on it.
No one has tried this yet. The conflicting needs of the technology players and the providers all contribute to the current sad state of affairs:
- The network
- The hand set OS
- The hand set manufacturer
- The payment platform
- The app developer
- The category
- The search
So my proposal is simple: travel as a category, under the auspices of an open body, should develop a common model for travel apps. I tentatively call this T-COMBINE. For Travel Common Mobile Body for Industry-wide Enterprise.
Let's see if we can actually do something about this problem, before its too late.
By 2020 HP estimates that there will be 25 million apps out there. The thought of managing that number is just mind blowing and simply impossible. We know some bodies have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and Euros - in some cases with zero adoption and/or usage.
Let's think of the customer for a change and stop those whose greed is driving the continuation of this plague of too many options.