The mobile industry is at an exciting stage: There are enough smartphone customers that there’s a huge field of opportunity for device makers, carriers, and app makers, but the market is still fragmented enough that no one company dominates. In this kind of frothy market, the risks are high, but the potential payoffs are huge, too.
The kind of people who thrive in this world are disruptive individuals. Troublemakers. Shakers-up of the status quo. Yes, we’re accustomed to writing about companies and their products, but true innovation always originates with human beings.
Here are the disruptive individuals who are reshaping the mobile industry:
CEO/Founder, Square; Executive Chairman/Founder, Twitter
As the founder of Square, Dorsey is revolutionizing mobile payments in a way that much bigger companies had failed to do. A simple white dongle that plugs into your smartphone’s headphone jack is all you need, and it’s so cheap to manufacture that the company gives them away by the basketful.
And then there’s Twitter, which we think of as a social network now but which started as a mobile technology company, stitching together groups of people via SMS text messages. Even now, Twitter is one of the most widely-used smartphone apps on any platform.
John G. Hering
CEO/Founder, Lookout Mobile Security
Long before most people recognized the threat of viruses and trojans on mobile phones, Hering was building a company to stop those threats. Lookout Mobile Security was one of the earliest companies to tackle smartphone security and now offers popular security software for Android phones as well as Android tablets and the iPad.
Senior Game Designer, Rovio
Everyone knows about Angry Birds, which people around the planet play for a staggering 300 million minutes per day. (As of October, 2011, so it’s probably more than that now.) But where did Angry Birds come from? From the fertile (and perhaps slightly twisted) imagination of Jaakko Iisalo, the software designer who came up with the original concept art and then played a key role in developing the early versions of the game.
While many people at Rovio helped build the game, Iisalo’s contribution deserves special mention. It’s worth noting that seldom has one idea led so many millions of people to waste so many millions of hours. If there’s a game capable of reaching a billion players, Angry Birds might be it.
Mary T. McDowell
Vice President, Nokia
Sometimes disruption comes in the form of business innovation, not bleeding-edge technology. Executive vice president Mary T. McDowell leads Nokia‘s Mobile Phones business unit, which accounts for about half of Nokia’s business. It’s not the more glamorous, smartphone side of the business, but it’s the one that affects the greatest number of people. McDowell’s devision supplies technology and services that will connect the “next billion” people to the internet.
Corporate Vice President, Microsoft
Microsoft corporate vice president Terry MyersonMyerson has been overseeing the strategy and development of Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform since 2011, and has been a key player in the business since its inception in 2008, which he became the engineering lead for Microsoft’s mobile group. Noted for his “no-nonsense” approach, Myerson helped lead the charge for Microsoft’s momentous “reset,” when the company essentially threw out everything it had been doing with Windows Mobile and reinvented its mobile operating system from the ground up.
The gamble was a big one, and it’s still too soon to tell whether it will pay off. Microsoft is coming from far behind both iOS and Android, and has far to go before it can even catch the BlackBerry in the smartphone market. But if anything has the potential to be a spoiler in this fight, it’s Windows Phone. Microsoft’s partnership with heavyweight phone maker (and fellow smartphone also-ran) Nokia gives it even more clout.
Windows Phone is early in its lifecycle, but it’s an attractive, responsive operating system that’s getting a lot of notice. You can count on it to make big waves in the mobile market this year.