Monday, February 20, 2006

Re-thinking the mobile device

Mark Lowenstein, Managing Director of Mobile Ecosystem, has written for the latest edition of Vodafone's journal an article on next generation useability.

Mark has placed voice at the centre of 3G wireless which continues a theme from discussions I had last week in Barcelona. Senior members of McKinsey's mobile group have said that enhanced voice is the key to unlock mobile revenues, this is a something that a number of executives from the networks are also speaking about.

With the third generation of mobile upon us can we hope that networks can be designed and maintained in an intelligent manner that would allow speach engines to be more than IVR? Can I expect my MNO to install a system that places voice at the centre to run unified messaging and PIM, or will it just be blue sky thinking from the visionary planners?

I hope that the networks do understand that the business is fundementally about communication, with this being so voice is at the centre of it with text and instant messaging adjucts. Other data services such as email, blogging and surfing are not things on which to build a business but are likely to be central services for advanced users. Mobile TV and M-Commerce are not likely to be more than hype in terms of genuine products that western users will pay to use.

VoIP is not the elephant in the room that some make it out to be. For most of us VoIP is additional calls rather than substition in the same way that email means that we communicate with more people more frequently than we ever did when letters were written and stamps needed to send them.

With these concepts it will be interesting to see if the handset manufacturers can adopt a "build to order" concept as outlined by Mark. This would see a genuine personalisation far bigger than even iXi Mobile saw when they developed the PMG concept. However I do thing it is something that has potential just as I have a number of systems to play music on, if I have to pay full price for handsets then I want to specifiy what features and what software my handset will carry. This is something that we could do today using Widgets from someone like Opera, in the future the system could become drag and drop.

The only downside of such a vision is that it turns the Networks into little more than bit pipes and alas that is the last thing that the Marketing guys want to be even if they started out working for FMCG firms.

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