Jumptap, Mobile, & the Four Horsemen of the Consumer Apocalypse

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making phones. Hewlett-Packard and Dell could make all their own software. Samsung could try to “leapfrog the whole tablet generation and say, ‘I have my own ecosystem,’ and everything is video,” Bell says. “The incentive, financially, for these big companies to behave in that way is very high. There’s no incentive happening right now for them to be flattened and to treat each other equally.” He adds, “If mobile develops into these cornered but quite large ecosystems, it’s going to be very hard to be truly democratic about how you place advertising, focus on consumers, and measure results.”

Bell is saying these closed networks can be bad for consumers and advertisers, as well as publishers. But, of course, they’re also bad for a mobile-ad business like Jumptap, which wants to sell its ad-targeting software for all platforms. Complicating matters is that the company competes directly with Apple and Google, among other big firms with mobile-ad offerings (like Millennial Media).

So, reading between the lines, is Jumptap’s best bet in fact to be acquired by someone like Amazon, even if it means becoming part of a proprietary machine?

Bell wouldn’t take the bait, but his answer makes me think the rumored deal isn’t happening—at least, not yet. (Of course, that might be what he wants me to think.) “Neutrality, if you can maintain it, is a very powerful position against that landscape,” he says. “You have to have capital and patience. At the end of the day, advertisers want that neutrality. Consumers want that neutrality. The very preachy way that Google and Apple talk about being companies that are making your life better, it may come back to hurt them if they become too proprietary.”

But now, with information technology being driven by adoption of personal devices and mobile apps—rather than workplace equipment—won’t consumers decide who wins? “You hope that’s right,” Bell says. “The whole thing moving toward consumers, you’d think, would put more power there.” On the other hand, he emphasizes “the power of the channels, and the ability of these companies to ‘bribe’ into the channels” and spend … Next Page »

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