As CEO of MoFuse Inc., the 5-year-old, Providence-based mobile computing technology company, Annette Tonti is a keen observer of the competition and innovation on display by the hardware manufacturers in her industry.
MoFuse works to make its clients’ websites optimized for any device, among them Hearst, Harper Collins, Affinion and Digital First Media.
Prior to her position at MoFuse, Tonti was co-founder and CEO of Bluestreak Inc. and executive producer of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Laboratory.
Tonti talked to PBN about what effect, if any, the recent purchase by Microsoft of Nokia’s mobile phone business for $7.2 billion would have on her company, among other issues.
PBN: Will the purchase by Microsoft of Nokia’s once-dominant handset business make any difference to what MoFuse does?
TONTI: MoFuse helps businesses to get a mobile presence and get found by the mobile audience. Our solutions involve anyone using a mobile browser looking for local businesses. The Microsoft acquisition of Nokia will not directly affect us, as we make it our business to display mobile sites and deliver mobile solutions on every handset worldwide.
PBN: Has the emergence of Apple and Samsung as the two major mobile phone players had an effect on the ability of companies such as MoFuse to meet customers’s expectations?
TONTI: Mobile is a complex, dynamic ecosystem. We make it our mission to be on the front line of all technological advances in mobile, and this is a full time job! As the handset companies evolve, we have to be ready to deliver our solutions so that mobile sites, coupons, surveys, etc., are not only displayed properly, but that we can collect data about that experience. Our customers want a mobile website, and they want to be found by mobile users, so the major phone companies in combination with their better browser technology and less expensive bandwidth have all contributed to the growth of our industry.
PBN: Does it actually matter who makes the mobile device in terms of what you do to help customers maximize their mobile online presence?
TONTI: Not really. What matters is the mobile browser software and how that works with the handset.
PBN: Has the ever-increasing number of tablet computers made your job easier or more difficult and why?
TONTI: These days “Mobile” is defined by an ever growing set of screens. The width, length and other physical attributes are ultimately knowable because the browsers have become well, “smarter.” The real work here is to get a handle on “usage mode.” In other words, how people use the browser on their mobile phone is often very different than how they use their tablet computers. Think about future uses where there will be Internet connected devices beyond the ones we carry in our pockets today. Wear-ables and smart displays everywhere is going to happen. The right formatted information for the right screen at the right time is the future of intelligent display.
PBN: How have customers’ expectations changed over the last five years in terms of what they want the mobile Web to do for them, and do you see the pace of change accelerating or slowing down in the next five?
TONTI: Five years ago if you spoke to a local business they would not likely know that there was such a thing as a mobile website. If you said “mobile” to them they may have thought about an “App,” which is different from mobile sites in several key ways. The market that we focus on are the small and local business. They have become very aware of needing a mobile website in the past 18 months. Many local businesses do not even have a traditional desktop website and are looking for the first time at getting a mobile site. This is because their business is local, and they realize that more people look for local businesses using their mobile devices – it just makes sense to them now. For local business the pace to get mobile is accelerating now.