Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Microsoft gets mobile search

'Huge opportunities' in mobile search, says Microsoft exec - Computerworld a number of others sites have picked this up and run with it. But I would also like my two penny worth.

Over the past six months I have been asked by a number of senior executives for a view on Mobile Search. I have said that mobile is not the same as the internet, for a start most users are still not big users of data services thanks to the high cost of the service. So this being the case they mobile user is not going to be happy with the current Google service which is more guess than answer.

What Windows Live seams to be is a local service which gives better results, however I am still not sure about the semantics involved. My favorite example at the moment is searching for a coffee shop, how does Orange now that if I am asking about a coffee shop at the weekend in Amsterdam its not java I am after, as opposed to the same question on a wet Monday in Bristol? And with both cases I would be unhappy to be sent to Starbucks.

Just wonder how much of this is based on the recently bought MotionBridge technology and how much has been developed in house. I guess the important thing is that it demonstrates that Microsoft is happy to take the battle to Google when it comes to Mobile which is more than can be said for some of the others.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Undercover Economist looks at how phone plans are hard to understand

Why are cell-phone plans so confusing? asks Tim Harford over at Slate.

First off let me say that I read Tim Harford every week in the FT, and as with Freekanomics I think that he does a great job explaining economics to the lay man.

Is this article he has done a great job explain how the Phone companies are using price to confuse the customer in over paying. It is this fact that has enabled Carphone Warehouse to become so powerful. Just last month my niece said that because she was at the end of her contract and trying to fond the best price had given her a headache she went into an independent phone shop and the "nice man" had changed her network to another cheaper carrier and "upgraded" her handset to the new Fashion phone from Nokia. I then spent twenty minutes explaining that the tariff she was on was not the best for her but was the best for the SALESMAN becuase he was paid a healthy bonus for every one sold. After we had spoken she used the cooling off period to cancel the new contract and phoned her existing supplier who was happy to change her price plan and send her the Fashion phone.

My issue with Tim, is that he does not understand the history of the mobile industry and that most networks do not have a single simple billing engine. It is the fact that networks have a number of billing systems used for Consumer, Small Business, Corporate and Enterprise that means that price plans are so complex. He also has to remember that the price has to include interconect fees due to the owers of other networks hence on and off network rates. Thus what should be a simple task, giving me the best price possible is complex. I agree that it should be easier and I also agree that at times we are taken for a ride by the Networks. But hey here in the UK if you want the best price for Gas and Electric you don't buy them from a company that used to sell them when they were a state monopoly.

I come back to my assumption that the Mobile industry needs something akin to the Y2K bug that allows all legacy systems to be scraped and a new billing system installed. But at present with the focus on keeping the cap on OPEX that will not be something undertaken by internal decision makers.

Monday, April 10, 2006

T-Mobile is doing well with Flext - NOT

Mobile Today, a trade magazine for the Mobile Distributors reports that the new contract from T-Mobile is doing very well for the indirect channel.

Well good luck to T-Mobile I have been a customer of the network for a very long time and on the 5th of April I was due a handset upgrade. So off I shot into my nearest local town to find a T-Mobile store. The only one I found was not a direct outlet but rather an independent who was branded T-Mobile. On entering the shop, I wait 2 minutes for the assistant to end his phone call with a friend before we can start.

I explain that I am due an upgrade and he asks for my number and bank card as proof of ID. I am then asked to complete the contract paperwork. Hang on I say what can you offer me in terms of handsets I say.

All we can offer is hear on display. I look around at a rather sorry display of handsets. I ask when can I expect to see a SE P990 or Nokia N80.

I am told he has not got a clue, but new phones are expected in June.

Thus I decline the "service" as I don't want to replace my 12 month old Razr with another one or take a SE W800 if they are not prepared to offer the bribe of a free PSP to keep the kids happy.

Today I get a call from Orange whom I also have a contract with as I got feed up with waiting for 3G with T-Mobile. It is time for my upgrade handset and would I like to go into my nearest shop to see what they can do for me. So I stop off at the nearest Orange store who take my number, check on the computer and say that yes I am due a new handset look we have these handsets in a limited number for key customers which have yet to go on the website. After a cup of tea and a brief demonstration I head for the train home with a new Smartphone and I have set my alarm to wake up me up early so that I can play with it before another day at work.

I will wait for T-Mobile to refresh the handsets but I don't think that they will get me to switch from the current contract to one of the new ones especially as they are now for 18 months and they want to charge me for voicemail. You see I have one of the original staff tariffs that means that I get free calls evenings and weekends and so I am very popular with family and friends as I encourage them to use my phone as much as possible. I have also explained to my niece that the nice chap in Phones4U ripped her off on Saturday when he got her to switch networks to take advantage of the great offer from T-Mobile and naff Nokia handset. A few calls and she is still with O2 but this time with the Nokia handset she wanted.

I guess the new MD at T-Mobile will need a few more like me to say that they have no clothes before he gets the message and tells his boss to stop treating the UK as a sales office and start updating its product range rather than spend a fortune getting people to switch to a bucket full of minutes and very little else.