Friday, May 27, 2005

M-Payment in Japan

My attention has been tuned into the world of mobile payments over the last week and Google alerts delivered this story from Business Week. The interesting comment for me is "This is a completely new sector for DoCoMo and is part of our aim to move into areas where we are not so dependent on communication usage," Masao Nakamura, DoCoMo's chief executive, told reporters on announcing the Sumitomo deal. "Our entry into the credit-card business will be a turning point for us."

Now DoCoMo is in a very different possition to any other Mobile Network in that they are in the business of shifting tin more than selling airtime and they do so very well. But this is a company that can afford to pay $935m to buy a stake in the second biggest retail bank in Japan. I can remember reading reports that said Banks would buy phone companies as a technology channel to customers.

The sidebar shows that In Japan customers already using 2D barcodes to order goods from a catalogue as well as tickets for the movies and small godes from vending machines. Next year they will replace credit cards and train tickets. Just wonder how long it is going to take for the technology to travel West to Europe?

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Its a question of lifecycles

I have just got back from Athens having presented on the potential for mobile commerce to European bankers for HP. The event as a whole was interesting in that it provided me with a view on a sector todate that I have had little to do with other than as customer. The main theme was Transforming Payments, which although mundane was interesting when split between Wholesale and Retail. The interesting thing is that a business started 600 years ago by Italians is very much resistance to change even when forced by regulation and law. The similarity with the mobile telecoms world is that some of those that have been behind the times are making leaps of faith to jump ahead in banking.

Today in talking over my experience someone pointed out that the management teams in Mobile are focused on the day-to-day business and to them ten months is a cycle whilst ten years is a cycle in Banking and as such any change is slow and resisted even when forced. In debating this point he highlighted that trying to get his group to look at the medium term (next three years) he was told that in such a period they could all have lost their jobs twice and so lets focus on the hear and now! More than one of the Industry Speakers had over thirty years experience with their current employer (would I like the pension they have from such service.)

As for my views on M-Commerce well the launch of SIMPAY this summer in Europe will hope seed the education of subscibers following the failure of m-pay by the networks. The focus will be on payments below €10 and it will be for content based services rather than face to face transactions in order to limit the need for dispute resolution. Outside the developed economies we could see services such as G-Cash in Phillipines that remove cash from the system with text messages used for token exchange of funds without the need for expensive card transaction services.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Is that a Guru in your pocket?

Wired has an article about a new service called Cellphedia, which it calls a wireless Wikipedia they call themselves the 1st Ubiquitous Social Encyclopedia!

Looking at the service it seems to have a few difference to the British based AQA that I have written about before. The service was part of a post grad course. Unlike the British service a users question is answered by other users who claim to have specialist knowledge in a specific site. As well as sending the reply to the person requesting info the response in posted on a website and the first person to respond is rewarded for doing so.

The most interesting vox pop is this:-

"Jimmy Wales, president of the Wikimedia Foundation and founder of Wikipedia, said he's seen Cellphedia but hasn't used the site. He said he thinks Cellphedia sounds like a great idea, and that Wikipedia is actually in talks with Nokia about creating a Wikipedia client on Nokia cell phones."

Now if one of the handset guys starts putting Peer-2-Peer based services such as this on a device then we could see something very interesting develop. I guess it depends on the price structure and who gets paid for what as to if the service is a success. But tghe plus side is that this is one of the interesting services to come out of America now that they are understanding SMS.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Nokia Sensor technology uses Bluetooth to find a friend!

Digging around on the Nokia site I found info on Nokia Sensors. Using Bluetooth you can connect Peer-2-Peer for Social Networking and File Sharing.

Nokia has created a great microsite that has a demo, free download of the software and FAQ's to outline how to use the saoftware.

Some of this stuff is great in that it can enable users to link and communicate without the use of a Mobile Network so perhaps the next time I am on the tube with friends we can keep "chatting" whilst travelling or when in a conference that has no network coverage.

My only concern is the Free File sharing side of the service could be something that limits Nokia's development of DRM technology and the uptake on new content.

Another new horizon - Software Defined Radio (SDR)

Over at TheFeature there is a great piece on Software Defined Radio. For a long time this has been flagged as the ultimate radio as it selects the best network to use dependent on the type of service you require and what spectrum is available.

This could see the most effective system giving broadcast qualitity services which would make BT's Bluephone project look as sleek as a barge!

The problem is that the technology was outlines many years ago and working parties in BOTH the US & Europe set the standards for SDR over two years ago and still we are no closer to a commercial device. Could it be because the manufacturers are busy building 3G, Bluetooth, WiFi, GSM chip based products which they need to make revenue from for the R&D spend?

I don't expect to see any inteligent radio device before my five year old finishes secondary school, but she might get one when she finishes University!

Thursday, May 05, 2005

DRM Fight mars mobile music development

Cnet has an article on how the mobile networks are fighting over the format used to stop copying of mobile music. Now I know that a few legal guys are looking at the mobile carriers as ideal cases to suit for P2P.

I have been watching the development of mobile music for quite some time, ever since a scientist in the FT Labs showed me what MPEG7 was all about. The solution will only come once we have developed a usable standard that is just that something used by everyone regardless of device/platform.

I for one don't think that Mobile Music will be something that works for me because I am just not interested in the current pop music and the Networks don't think that someone like me would be interested enough to pay £3 for a Paul Weller ringtone.

It's about the experience

This last week has been an interesting one for me.

I have been talking to a number of people who work in the industry about Mobile and just whats the problem.

The first issue is with the Mobile Network Operators.

Yes you were ripped off by Governments to stay in the game with 3G but get over it and move on. Build the networks out just like you did when we went digital and stick to what you should be good at, namely network optimisation and billing. Do not think that you understand data or can run a portal live that to guy who specialise. Invest in customer care and promote the fact to your customers.

The next issue is with Users

Just because you can talk and move does not mean that you have to all the time. Remember that the calling whilst driving laws are for a specific reason to keep other road users safe as well as your self. Remember that not everyone wants to hear you conversation and so try not to use your phone in quite public places like a cinema or restaurant. Therefore before you take/make that next call just think is it important or can I do this later in a better way?

Then we have the Content Guys

Try and remember that I have a mobile phone because I multitask, believe me if it was not for the fact that I need to make calls outside of the Home/Office then I would not pay over £100 per week to use such a poor service. This being the case then can you not try and segment me and try and understand that during the day I act as a Partner, Parent, Employee, Employer, Supplier, Client and Consumer sometime I am more than one of these things at anyone one time! This being the case I find it perfectly normal to seek train details, gifts, music and news in the space of 5 minutes. Just because I looked at a music site does not mean that I want to be spammed by you with offers for a new ringtone/wallpaper etc. I am a middleaged man with some disposable income at present and so yes I can pay for what I want but my Music education was in the late 70's - mid -80's and so I have little need for Dance music however it would have been good to kknow about Jill Scott sooner and my liking of Jazz does not include Jamie Callum or Katie Melua for me any way.

One for the Finance Guys

I would like to be able to store on my SIM card some of the details from my Payment cards. The SIM and the Smartcard look the same, my handset has a keypad with numbers, so when are you going to get with the program and not make me waste time putting in my full card numnber etc. Can you get your guys and Mobey Forum to talk with the Networks guys at SIMPAY and fix this before then end of the summer.

Sitting and talking with a number of executives it has become obvious that all involved have too many Accountants and NOT enough Economists, they need to employee more Sociologists than Economists and more Anthropologists than Sociologists. If they started employing people who tried to understand the customer rather than control costs maybe the customer would use the service more. It is not about the unit cost I pay for the service it is about the experience and utility the service provides. In the early days Orange was great because they tried to focus on the experience not the phone, now they focus on the technology and are not as cool.`

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

T-Mobile backs away from 3G

Trade mag, Mobile Today has a well written feature on the slooooow launch of 3G by T-Mobile.

A year ago I was offered a combined 3G & WiFi datacard from T-mobile which I was interested in until I saw the pricing. This was a product that is aimed firmly at the business user and to get value for money I would have to drink a lot of coffee in Starbucks whilst using a T-Mobile Hotspot. I spoke with some contacts and they said that the voice service was just about to be launched. The T-Mobile lost its Chief Marketing Officer (he is now the President of Google for EMEA) and we have yet to see 3G as a voice service.

I gave up on T-Mobile at Christmas and left after nine years paying my contract every month to join Orange because they were offering 3G voice. My handset can link with BOTH my PDA and Laptop to allow me to use it as a modem when needed and my price plan is such that the data used falls into my monthly allowance.

Now I am disappointed that T-Mobile does not want to launch anytime soon and that here in Britain is is happy to become the carrier for MVNOs. As well as the delayed launch of 3G I am also hearing that it is pulling out of the portal business and closing T-Zones. As a former employee of One-2-One it is disappointing to see a company that was at one stage a leader in Mobile products fall apart as the result of cost reduction programmes.