Friday, May 25, 2007

Some interesting data points

Technology Guardian has an opinion piece by Victor Keegan that highlights some interesting data about the Mobile Internet. He outlines that the reason that the mobile web is more important than the fixed one is that it comes with its own built in payment mechanism. It is this fact that means that the Crazy Frog made more money than all of iTunes in 2006.

The problem is that the cost of transit is a key element of the $31Bn revenues and just like the net did not take off until broadband and unlimited the lack of unlimited net access is holding back development. Whilst I agree that this may be true, I also contend just how many Mobile Users ask for a data package; if you get to see the internal numbers for some of the networks the fact that they have added millions of new accounts in the last year is not reflected in how many of those have taken a data account to go with it. I still contend that most people want a phone just to send texts and make calls. If it was a price issue then those in the mobile networks could fix it by opening the mobile web, know that unlikely the fixed operators they would still make money thanks to their control of the payments platform.

Today's Economist has a feature about the rise of the ebook on your mobile in Japan, the print edition shows a row of women reading the screens of their mobile phones. The market has sprung up over the last five years to the point that it is now worth $82m a year and is still growing fast. Whilst the use of Mobile Data in the Far East is important I have learnt that the fact that using your mobile to make a call on in public is not something that is seen as polite, a large number of the public commute for over three hours a day and that the housing situation means that denisity levels are close to a battery farm all mean that shaping a business on what happens in Japen or Korea is a very high risk.

Keith has what I consider to be the best comment on the populist nature of the EU war on Roaming Rip Offs. I guess as a Business User on a Contract the fact that most of my calls last over 2 minutes and that I travel alot mean that the EU think that I am using a service such as Awayphone!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Rememberance of things past

So following my lunch this week I set about trying to find the 2001 Keynote by Douglas Adams. I start off by using Google to seek out the GSMNewsReel video I remember watching on my return from Cannes six years ago - and get no joy. However I do get the opportunity to read a number of posts that talk about what the Mobile world will look like once we go 3G; also I get to see that Douglas Adams not only invented Babblefish but he could also have claimed to be a key driver in the development of User Generated Content and Wiki's thanks to H2G2.

The I use Ask and it does better than Google in that it locates a transcript of Douglas Adams address and a review from the GSMNewsReel of all those that spoke in 2001. Still no joy finding the video, have asked if a contact at the GSMA can find the footage in their archieve and send me a copy, if get lucky I will post it up so that you can all see what he is said at the time.

Looking back at the past I got a number of snipets which with hindsight can be seen with a different light. Branson spoke before Adams at Cannes and he "put forward a convincing argument in favour of MVNOs, explaining that they can enhance revenue streams, they're cheap to establish and that they offer solid risk diversification. In the never-ending search for the winning data strategy, an extra operator on your satisfactory discovery, he said. He called forth examples from the motor industry and the music industry where the virtual model has proven success. His words of advice in this area were clear. Shareholder buy-in from the host, decent distribution, a general rather than niche approach to the market and access to the meaningful content are all pivotal elements of success, he said."

I wonder if Virgin Media are following the same Strategy today as part of the Quad Play we see today, heck I wonder if they have a strategy that allows them to compete with Tesco Mobile. As an MVNO we see in Tesco an excellent example of Consumer choice, some 1.8M subscribers have opted to get their mobile with their milk. Not for them some fast moving world of Mobile Data, just basic voice and text thanks along side a value handset - all of which ties in with what Douglas Adams told those in Cannes back in 2001.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Interesting thought on Mobile

Today I had lunch with Christian Lindholm and Dan Applequist, the sun came back to town and so I decided to let the conversation flow rather than just clockwatch after having a meeting cancelled.
Christian has been working for Yahoo but before that he was the lead for the S60 at Nokia and is very much a UI guy. Dan is one of the founders of MobileMonday in London and thanks to his day job at Vodafone has a role on a numberof standards boards for Mobile Internet. I have over the past year had a number of chats in interesting places but this is the first time that we have spoken.
The two guys are a lot more technical than myself, and as such approach a situation from different levels. Both have a higher public profile thanks to the fact that they speak at a number of events and thus probably have a wider group of associates. They both see the Mobile Interne as something that is starting to take off and is important to the Mobile sector. Now that Christia is paying his own bills he has become interested in new tools that allow him to speak with his friends worldwide without being ripped off by his network.
Whilst we agreed that the Network and the Handset makers are important we also said that niether as yet own the customer. This fact offers a wide number an opportunity to succeed in the Mobile space. In putting the world to rights we thought that the key areas are PIM replication and the use of the SIM toolkit to allow improved security and payment of content.
One of the points that came out was the fact that services such as Cognima and Wildfire would today have a high take up, but the fact that they were killed by the networks sometime ago means that a relaunch would be difficult. The other issue is that any data service has to overcome the fact that SMS is such a cashcow for the networks anything that stops users send texts has a very high hurdle to clear.
The interesting point for me as I made my way home tonight is that a lot of what we are trying to do today on Mobile we have been trying for a very long time. The development is still a way off and the guys who might be the ones to achieve are goals are those who at first we did not trust rather than the network and the handset guys.
I still think that the mobile is a phone first and that voice needs to be at the centre of what we all do. Perhaps next time we need to light the bar-b-que and spend the time talking in detail now that we have started these thoughts, I guess I will find out if Christian and Dan follow up on today!
I am off to see if I can find Douglas Adams keynote at GSM World before Christian.

Monday, May 21, 2007

74th Carnival of the Mobilists

Martin was the editor and hoast of this weeks Carnival and he has included my post on Widgets. Go and have a look at what some of the best bloggers are saying about mobile this week, I am still reading what others thought were interesting. Am planning to post a responce on a few other blogs once I have slept on first impressions.
Image from Madeira Web of Carnival Weekend thanks to Google Image search :-)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Is it Widgets that are going to save Mobile Data?

Last night's Mobile Monday was focused on Widgets as part of a larger programme in London. Sitting and listening to the presentations, it was like a Digital People event in 2001 at times the difference being that the hype came from established companies.

Now the fact that Widgets are something that allows users to open windows to the web on non -web pages amongst other things is a tool that might just drive Mobile Data. However I have a problem in that whenever I look at an analysis of YouTube it shows that most of the visitors are passive rather than content generators, therefore Widgets need to be extremely simple to use and personalise if they are to go mass market.

If Widgets are to be something that is used more than the FM radio on a Phone they they need to replace the idle screen rather than be drilled down for on the handset. If they stay somewhere in the menu too many people will find it very difficult to frequently use. So in placing the Widget on the idle screen you have an issue with power management. I do not want something that will see my battery fade faster than if I was stuck on the tube for a morning!

The next problem I have with Widgets is that at times they fail because the Network is broken. Last night I decided to try Widgets on the two phones that I carry. The first is a Sony Ericsson P990i on Orange all the way home I could not get a data connection that was usable, this is not uncommon with the 3G network I usually find myself having to downshift to GPRS to check my email. How why would Orange want to upgrade its data network just so I can use them as a transit service? So far they have not shown any will to do so; in fact they are making it harder for customers to personalise handsets and services, the last two handsets they have sent me have been locked to an Orange profile which means a number of functions have been removed to force the user to use Orange alternatives.

My other handset is a Windows Mobile device with HSDPA on the T-Mobile network. Here the issue is far simpler the midlet manager just does not seem to be able to run the widgets that i downloaded. Maybe it will be better when I have upgraded to Windows Mobile 6.0 but I am not too sure.

Too many of the presentations last night used the same quotes on the future of Widgets. At present I fear that Widgets could end in the same group as Video Calling, MMS, Mobile TV and Mobile Gaming the great white hope for alternative services! Widgets need to be something that are easy to find and install, preferably they should be on the handset when you get it. That means they need to be supported by the Networks. Thus I fear that Widgets might be still born.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

A Lost Opportunity...

..was able to catch up with a few friends this week and all of them spoke about Orange. The common theme being that five years ago they felt that the Network was capable of driving forward when it came to 3G and how they have dropped the ball.
On a simple level, the question for the French is would they rather have an excellent network or a pile of cash?
However it is not as simple as that. With more Intelligent Design they could have given users a mobile network that would have delivered the vision presented at the time of the 3G auctions. We looked at just what was possible, and soon became disappointed about just how Orange seem to have lost any focus. On a very simple level, when you visit the Orange website, just how hard is it to buy a phone?
Talking about the market outside of the UK and what you see is that Music is something that works in Europe and further, in Spain and Italy over 20% of digital Music is downloaded onto a mobile.
How that we have a system that means that Data services are able what was the reason for closing Wildfire? This was a service that was used by high spending Contract customers that allowed them to have an extended PIM service. Mobile Web 2.0 is about mash-ups and widgets, perhaps when I attend MoMo London next week I might see something that replaces Wildfire, will it be able to run on my Orange Sony Ericsson handset, I do not think so!
Someone from Orange told me that they were doing well in Prepaid with 18% of new customers being SIM only. My reply, what is there to be proud of the fact that most of your new customers feel that taking a contract over 18 months is not worth a free handset!
With a change of the guard at Orange would we be able to sit down in a few years and say that with a man who is focused on Customer Service they have once again got there MOJO back? The only way that we will know if things are changing is that the number of Advisors declines and products are killed off to allow them to focus on the basics.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Another missed opportunity for m-payment

Today's Guardian has a feature on new contactless payment cards for micropayments. The service is due to start in London this Autumn and the roll out nationally. The service is aimed at those looking to make payments of less than £10 and will need a pin number to validate on a random basis.

So once again we have the mobile networks missing out, if SIMPAY was still in operation then we might have seen this service miss out the Contactless Cards and move straight to mobile. This is something that I would have used for my Daughters when they start secondary school in September. We are about to open two bank accounts for them that will have SOLO cards that allow them to make micropayments. If Orange had woken up to the opportunities for M-Payment then they would have got a larger share of my Daughters pocket money.

I guess that the fact that the former head of M-Payment at Orange has left to joining Microsoft demonstrates the lack of commitment to the product!