There’s been some news about a lot of companies “unbundling” their mobile products. It’s happened enough times, fast enough, that it’s become a thing. For example,
- Facebook separated out Messenger
- Google Drive split out Sheets, Slides, and Docs
- Foursquare split checkins vs recommendations in to separate apps
Unbundling and bundling is usually a theme discussed on the business side of Tech. The startup ecosystem is essentially founded on entrepreneurs betting that if they unbundle a poorly executed feature from a larger, successful product, and they do it the best they possibly can, they’ll win. But that’s just where it starts. It is a cycle, after all.
The most famous example is Google, which bet that they’d win if they unbundled search from portal and media content (Yahoo!, Magellan, Lycos). Now, what don’t they do?. Linkedin started as a simple CV network, but is now trying to become a ubiquitous part of doing business. Evernote started as a simple, synced notes product. Now they sell moleskines, socks and scanners, offer CRM services and even want to kill powerpoint.
So who might be the new Google? Here are some recent startups who are ‘unbundling’ and going after big markets
- DuckDuckGo has unbundled search again, in this case approaching privacy as their differentiating factor.
- Slack is unbundling business communications from Email and making big news about it. Personally, I love it.
- The Yo! App got a lot of flack for being useless, but might actually represent unbundling of mobile notifications from the App itself.
Now back to the top — these are not cases of business-unbundling (well, maybe Foursquare). We are talking about big companies AND startups unbundle their mobile experiences. Why? They’re doing their best to serve the evolving Mobile User.
Smartphones are now core productivity tools, as well as communications tools, entertainment devices, and more. The current smartphone user considers their phone a required part of pretty much everything they do. This reliability leads to frustration and user discontent with complicated menus and processes Users are now more focused on ease of use and speed to information — let’s call this ‘discoverability’ — than ever before.
When the goal is discoverability, the focus becomes providing the most Direct Access to content possible. Splitting out the most popular feature of an App’s home screen shortens that journey significantly, and potentially reduces confusion. A few years ago the challenge was “winning a spot on the home screen”; now the challenge is to focus on discoverability, convenience and accessibility. Taking FB as an example, before the launch of Messenger, it was 4-6 touches to reach your messages on your mobile phone. Now it’s 2.
Are you enjoying your ‘unbundled’ smartphone experience? Interested in more about the business of bundling and unbundling?
Check out Jim Barksdale and Andreessen discussing bundling on a recent Harvard Business Review podcast (registration required). A16Z Analyst Ben Evans (no relation) wrote a great overview (which introduces the above concept of Discoverability) as well, focused on how Asia is still in a massive bundling moment (despite being mobile-first)