Thursday, October 30, 2008

Giving Up on a Smartphone

At the start of this week Orange sent me a new handset. I decided that this time I would take the Sony Ericsson C905 rather than a Smartphone. For the last six months I have been able to access my Email via a Windows Mobile Smartphone, Sony Ericsson P1 and iPod Touch I also have a Mobile Broadband Dongle and so have been able to use my Laptop to reply to email even if I cannot find a hotspot.

Rather than carry power cables so that my main handset has a days worth of power I have a handset that has fast connectivity for the times that I need it. If this experience continues I might just decide that when my renewal is due on the other Smartphone I no longer wish to have such a device and once again select a simple device; I know that the Network would be happy to give me a cheaper device which it has to pay for. I wonder if the Handset guys have strategy people who are looking at the fact that we now seem to be carrying multiple devices becuase the Smartphone is not something that we buy into as consumers?

Over the last three days I have charged the phone once, I am using the handset to check email when travelling have been able to download Yahoo Go3, Opera, Google Maps so I have not given up on data but rather no longer have a Qwerty input device.

If I find that the form factor does not work then I will have to swap the handset for something else but at present I am happy to have a phone that makes calls and receives messages for a whole business day and I am carrying a number of other devices that allow me to respond to those messages that I see as important.

Maybe once Orange gets its mapping service to work I might discover that the battery drains faster because I am using GPS. But if the experience of my Nikon Coolpix P6000 are any indication geotagging will be limited.

I still would have loved to have been able to have something simple that would have transfered the content stored on my old handset to the new one quickly and simply. If only Cognima had been able to find a route to market for the software as well as service that is now Shozu. I now that mobyko does something similar but it just does not seem as simple.

Photo from Sony Ericsson Blog

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Has Symbian not learnt from Psion?

Last week I went to the Symbian Smartphone show with hope, it had moved out of the docklands and the Handset business is facing competition at the high end. After 30 minutes at the show I was fealing that Symbian is at the risk of missing the party.

In the Keynote Symbian's CEO spoke about the fact that this year 50M new smartphones will be sold making 250M handset shipped in the 10 years it has been formed. He said that these numbers demonstrate to developers that by sticking with with Symbian they will have the advantage of speed. However when you look at the new developer networks what you see is a shop that sits outside the networks control and has very simple terms (providing that you are not a competitor to the main spftware).

in talking about evolution accuse Symbian of being bloted. Whilst long time watchers call the death of UIQ which means that the new Foundation will be based on the S60 platform. This means that Symbian is at risk of becoming a Software arm of Nokia and who would want to get in bed with the largest handset maker?

This years Symbian event was my fifth year in attendance the quality of the speakers this year was weaker than in the past. I would have hoped that in moving to Earls Court they could have got Senior Executives from Vodafone, Orange and T-Mobile they did not. This forces me to question just what level of endorsement does Symbian have? Having considered things I fear that they have little more than warm words.

The FT is reporting that in this economic downturn will hit the handset guys rather than the Networks. The Symbian devices are amoungst the most expensive and so are at risk when budgets are cut by Networks looking to limit costs. Walk into a handset shop and what you see from RIM, Apple and Windows Mobile all impresses more than the Symbian Handsets.

Psion stopped making PDA's when they were let down by Motorola on the development of a Smartphone and internal research showed that the consumer want a number of devices rarther than one that did it all. Whilst PSION allowed some excellent engineers to develop few remember that however did not save the company. On the basis of what I saw last week Symbian is at risk of being the platform that the train passes rather than stops at.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Technology Futures Network event

Last month I managed to make it up to Oxford to listen to Craig Barrett speak at the Said Business School to a group of MBA students and members of the Technology Futures Network.  The first event of the TFN at the same venue saw Dr Irwin Jacobs of Qualcomm and so it was good to hear another from the chip industry talk.

Craig Barrett has been with Intel from the early days having joined from the teaching staff at Stanford University.  He spoke about the fact that what any country needs to succeed in the present climate is an Environment for Innovation.  The first thing that is needed is Smart People, these are well educated in mathematics and science rather than business and finance.  The next thing that is needed in Smart Ideas, these are both basic development and Blue Sky research.  Finally what is needed is Smart Environments this is somewhere that has Money, Government that taxes smart and offers innovators protection and promotion of their ideas.

Craig went on to talk about planning to eat your own children i.e. what you are doing today will not do for next year therefore if it has to change then you should be the one that does that change.  Look for the Technology Transformation in a sector and grasp the opportunity to upset the status quo and lead that industry.  He used the rise of Nokia and fall of Motorola to demonstrate the change to digital in mobile telecommunications in the mid 1990's. 

One of his grips was that the Bush Government has let the R&D Tax credit system lapse and so now US businesses are offshoring Research and Development because of the tax rates.  Intel at present invests 50% of its budget in South East Asia.  His other major grip is the quality of maths education in the under 12's if a child has a bad teacher in these early school years they are lost to maths because they cannot catch up.

His advise to the MBA students in the room was that they should have read engineering if they want to be a CEO.  The reason is that it equips you to be a better problem solver.  Once you have a management position act like a pre-school child and always ask why - five times to get to the bottom of the problem/issue.

Finally he said that once you become an Executive eat out at the chinese regularly as the best advice he has had was from the fortune cookies.  His top three are 
  1. "If you want to win you have to chose to compete"
  2. "Small deeds done better than great deeds planned" and
  3. "The world is always ready to receive talent with open arms"

After two weeks of working hard to prove assumptions on models in a changing market his opening comment that the future is knowledge therefore education is critical are wise words.

Random Thoughts

Have been busy thanks to the current financial situation and so not had time to blog.

The Mobile Networks seem to have changed the business model successfully when it comes to Subscriber Acquisition Costs which has affected both the retailers and handset manufacturers. The Networks are looking for staged payments over the course of the contract dependent on spend which combined with longer length contracts could have changed the business model of the likes of Phones4You and Carphone Warehouse.

The European Regulator seems to wish to use her role to promote political ambitions back home, however in doing so she has made it very difficult to invest in new data services if you are a mobile network. Some of her economics seem strange from my seat when it comes to the cost of transit. It is all well and good to look at the lowest cost but at this moment very few networks are effective as we have a mix of standards running on 4 generations of networks.

Looking at networks the move towards Mobile Broadband still is a solution looking for a market in my view. However I do not think that we will be looking at the technology in the same way as we do with MMS; the consumer needs to understand better what he is getting before we have something that is long term. Recent trips have shown that WiFi and Mobile Broadband in London are mainstream with the number of “old style” internet cafes that are closed. My summer holiday in Greece proved that the same is not true as you move south with very poor service available.

What does all this mean to the Consumer?

I think that the traditional spurge on Handsets at Christmas will not be seen this year. Whilst some have been attracted to the glitz of an iPhone more have turned their back on it. Over the last few weeks I have been interested to look at the number of people who are using a Blackberry. It no longer seems to be the technology of the City, I have had to wait for shop assistants to finish an email and been held up in the Gym by women emailing. It will be interested to see what happens once they have got the bugs out of the Bold and Storm when it comes to attacking the consumer market. Sony Ericsson has a challenging time ahead it needs to get the new handsets into the stores at the same time it needs to retire handsets like the K800i. A number of Senior Executives are using the Xperia handset prior to its launch and I for one love the handset. Nokia seem to have lost the love in Europe with few interested in Comes with Music and the availability of E and N series being limited by the larger Networks. The reason for this is I think the price is disconnected at the moment. Looking at Price Plans as I do more and more often the Consumer is expected to pay some of the cost of the handset or commit to a higher than average monthly fee.

Recent research has shown that Mobile Networks have at this moment got the tariffs wrong. They are giving away too much, with under 40% of those on a contract using 50% of a bundle. This means that perceptions of value are lower than they should be. We are in danger of forgetting just what the mobile premium is. When I joined Motorola the fixed telecoms network was unreliable and getting to talk to someone was hit or miss. Roll the clock forward nearly 25 years and we now call someone rather than someplace if we cannot connect we can leave a message. New technology allows presence based solutions which will allow users to see who is available to take a call just as we can with IM services such as Skype.