Just back from an amazing trip to MoDevAsia, taking in the experience that is Hong Kong and touring mainland China as well. That represented the ends of a kind of mobility adoption spectrum for the continent, with HK representing that wide-open market, ripe with opportunity. It really exemplifies the way mobile technology is embraced throughout most of Asia.

China itself? A different story — a mystery, in fact. The technology is everywhere (device distribution is in the millions) but that country’s government doesn’t make it easy for innovators to flourish. Doing business in China means starting a Chinese company, and running software in Chinese data centers. The relationship between apps, devices, and carriers is also very different. You can’t get to Google Play on an Android device built in China, for example. You have to go through a specialized app store that’s actually tied to the carrier.  And if you want your app in that carrier-controlled marketplace, again, you have to partner with a Chinese company. Certainly not insurmountable challenges, but not nearly as inviting as the environments of other Asian nations.

What has stuck with me most (aside from my experience eating jellyfish for the first time) is an overall cultural comparison between East and West with respect to consumer and enterprise mobility. We all know that consumer mobility in Asia is always ahead of the curve. People there embrace mobile innovation with an enthusiasm that makes our waiting in line for the next iPhone at an Apple Store in Manhattan look tame. They’re mad about mobile. Everyone is head-down with their devices.

You’d expect the same kind of excitement when it comes to enterprise mobility — but I was genuinely surprised to see that they’re actually well behind U.S. adoption. Enterprise mobility in Asia has really just started to wind up during the past six months. Granted, it’s going to be huge, but those markets can actually learn from us. It made our expertise feel very valuable.

One of the coolest aspects of the trip was the realization that I was essentially surrounded by apps all the time, and — get this — they’re evolving beyond mobile devices. I saw two incredible demos of these “smart coolers” that will soon be in convenience stores in HK. The clear glass doors of the familiar stand-up refrigerators themselves have LED displays. Seriously. The doors are becoming smart surfaces. You’ll be able to interact with them directly, as well as through your phone. Here in the U.S. mobility and computing are becoming aligned. In Asia? It’s going beyond even the device and becoming about the apps, which look like they’re about to live almost anywhere. I didn’t expect gamification of a future six-pack purchase, but I’m really looking forward to it!

Everywhere I looked, that level of app-augmented reality was there. And it was reaching out to interact with me, with my smartphone, creating a new reality of user engagement that just has to be around the corner here in the U.S. Asia goes all-in with mobility when it comes to the consumer. They’re catching up with respect to enterprise. We have plenty to learn from each other, and I’m excited to see it all happen.

Thanks, MoDevAsia!