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Book Review: The Power of Mobility
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Book Review: The Power of Mobility by Russell McGuire

The Power of Mobility: How Your Business Can Compete and Win in the Next Technology Revolution

Written by: Russell McGuire. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2007. 232+xxiii pages.
Reviewed by: Joel West

The Power of Mobility

This book attempts to answer one question: How can a business be transformed by the increasing the portability and ubiquity of information access?

It is built upon the author's claim of a fundamental “Law of Mobility,” (p. 42) that the value of any product or service increases with its mobility. Such a claim is hard to measure or verify—it is more like a Maxim of Mobility, much as “Metcalfe's Law” predicts that the value of a network goes up with its size network value. Neither is precise as Moore's Law, which accurately predicted improvements in semiconductor capabilities for the past 40+ years.

The squishiness of the maxim does not detract from the importance of the issue Russell McGuire confronts: Businesses need to consider how the mobility of products and services fundamentally changes how they are delivered and the value that they provide. Since no one can predict the future, the first quarter of the book reviews historical analogies of disruptive changes—both in telecommunications and in society more broadly—to make a convincing case that similar changes are in front of us regarding mobility.

The book does a very good job of spanning a range of reader backgrounds, both in the introductory material and in the subsequent explanation. Chapter 3 in particular provides a concise and accurate summary of the development of mobile communications over the past 75 years, from two-way car radios to the precellular mobile phones of the 1946–1981 era and the initial limitations of cellular phones. Chapter 4 provides a good summary (with new insights) of the convergence of computing and communications devices.

The main thrust of the book is presenting and applying McGuire's seven-step program to bring any business into the mobile era: digitize, connect, evaluate, limit, position, protect, and learn. As with almost any business book, elements of the recommendations include repackaged previous advice (e.g., the “limit” step is effectively the same as “focus”) and an occasional overreach of universality. Still, the ideas appear to be applicable to a broad range of businesses and, by addressing potential pitfalls or objections, appear to have been refined through actual practice.

A significant advantage and disadvantage for the book is that it was written by a manager at Sprint Nextel who shares the copyright with his employer. Against the firsthand knowledge of an industry veteran must be weighed the ongoing plugs for Sprint's services: As long as the reader understands that nearly all the Sprint services mentioned in the book are available from other U.S. (or foreign) carriers, the value of the book is not significantly diminished.

As someone who's been writing about the cellular phone industry since 1996 and blogging about it since 2007, I still picked up interesting tidbits (e.g., specific businesses and websites) about the application of mobility to business and personal use. But the biggest benefit of the book to knowledgeable readers would be in providing ammunition for convincing skeptical managers, customers, or suppliers to make the changes necessary to exploit the opportunities created by mobility.

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