Thursday, September 24, 2009

I am not something that may be owned!

Today Vodafone announced that a new service aimed at bringing together the fixed a mobile web called Vodafone 360 this is to replace Vodafone Live. The aim of the service is to gather all of a customer’s friends, communities, entertainment and personal favourites in one place.

The core of the service is a new personal address book that aims to bring together all of contacts from the mobile phone, social networks and other internet accounts. It will work across a range of handsets and synch automatically with the PC. My fear is that despite collecting contacts numerous studies show that most of us have fewer than five friends. It is this small group that we communicate the most with; so why collate a number of different lists?

Whilst I agree that the aim of Vodafone to bring the most frequently connected people closer to the front I doubt the need for a “proximity algorithm”.

The fight seems to be Vodafone against Facebook, Google and Apple for the trust of the customer. My issue is that for many they idea that they are little more than chattle is something that is unacceptable. Most consumers are anarchists in the oldest sense of the word and operate in informal social groups. Thus any attempt to control this group has as much chance of success as herding cats!

I am full of support for the adoption of LiMo based handsets and the development of a proprietary UI. But am unsure about the difference from the inq Facebook handset that won awards at this years GSMA World show in Barcelona this February.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Confussion over the Handset market

I know that we are in a quite period as the holiday season starts to end with one last public holiday before the children return to school but if you take both the Observer and The Sunday Times you might be a little confused as to the progress of Android.

The Observer reports that the iPhone faces a threat, whilst the Times tells us that Google is failing in the smartphone market.

This week I have been talking to a number of clients about the OS battle that is taking place in the mobile phones space. In preparation for a workshop on Smartphones OS I decided that I would put aside my opinion formed by being a user for the last twenty plus years and get one of everything and use them for a few weeks. So I have started carrying a small gadget bag with something others than Nikons in. As well as the Nokia E71 I have a G1, Apple 3G, Blackberry Storm and I still carry my Sony Ericsson C905i.

I do not think that the mobile industry is in a battle for one single OS but rather the current EIGHT competing OS will be consolidated down to just three.

Talking with others who use Smartphones has been interesting. One current iPhone users told me that he was going to pass on an upgrade of his iPhone to the 3GS but rather he was moving to an Android handset and upgrading to Paid Google Apps so that he could work on the Cloud. Another told me that he keeps being surprised by RIM and has noticed how many women are using one to surf and network with rather than an iPhone. The Nokia users cannot see why they should jump ship and are hopeful that the divergence into Linux and Windows devices are little more than a distraction.

I have noticed that my iPhone seems to prefer WiFi to the poor O2 network when ever I want to use facebook, twitter, Yahoo, Shozu. The experience is no different from my iPod Touch and thus if I have an iPod why do I need the Phone element because I'm not using the phone network and payment is taken via my iTunes account. I am now using pictures in Twitter but is that worth the expense?

I seem to be having problems with the Android App Store and Installing software like Opera. The mail client seems good but the browser needs work. For me the mixture of touch and QWERTY keyboard is a pain. Might be a better experience on Vodafone than it is on T-Mobile but I am underwhelmed at present.

The Storm is an interesting experience. The device has attracted a lot of attention from my teenage twins who would both love to find in their bag for the new school year. The messaging is excellent especially BB to BB user and Facebook and Twitter are as good as on the iPhone.

I am starting to get the hang of the E71 and Ovi alongside Google Apps does make it a productive device. The battery life is far better than that of the other smartphones however I still find that I need to switch to Opera to work as quickly as I can with either my PC or MacBook. In switching to Opera a number of sites ask we to "use the browser installed by the phone manufacturer" what is this 1999 all over again?

When I am off out for a walk with my camera what do I put in my pocket? It is still the C905i it has a better camera and the battery does not die on me. Should I need it I have GPS and Opera takes care of the browsing.

From conversations and observation I feel that RIM and Linux will be two of the three that are left standing the other one is any ones guess. Mr Jobs has been at the phone thing for two years now and he still has not hit the target he set himself for sales outside of the US. If he were to launch the tablet / iPod Touch MAX and it was a success would he kill the iPhone? Most people I observe when I travel seem to have two mobile phones and they carry these in a bag rather than in a pocket and so a larger form factor will not be an issue providing that it is A5 in size rather than A4.

What ever handset OS wins the distribution model will have to change. Two year contracts will see handsets looking like they have been cared for by Vandals if my Twins handsets are anything to go by. One friend has changed his iPhone five times in the last year as it was starting to look used and the Apple Store guys let him. What is need is more Handset Vendor stores so that some may buy a handset and then buy connectivity separately. After all we know that the guy in Carphone Warehouse is not going to give us the best deal.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Network Coverage Issues....

A few weeks ago Ofcom published maps for all five UK Operators coverage of the UK with a 3G Signal. At the time I thought that the maps were interesting but suspected that they were overstating the situation.

With the change of handset and the fact that this Summer England are playing an interesting cricket competition I have been more concerned that usual about coverage.

I have chosen to trial the Sky Sports service on my Orange Handset. In order to be able to watch mobile TV I have to be able to get a 3G signal. If all I relied on was Orange I'd have thought that England played well in Leeds last week as all that I saw was the first three overs on Friday and 15 minutes of Broad and Swan hitting the ball to all corners. The other attempts to watch whilst I was out and about were all failures because I didn't have coverage. The issue was that I was not at home where I know Orange has coverage issues but rather I was in Central London, Oxford and around the M1. The other issue is that Ofcom says that Orange has the widest coverage.

With my T-Mobile handset I find that the traffic management is an issue in the daytime the push email on my handset does not function and email is downloaded in blocks however between 20:00 and 07:00 it does work. So just what is happening to the T-Mobile Network if it is drifting in and out?

I have "free" mobile broadband from BT which uses the Vodafone network and I have to say that on my commute into London they seem to be the only people capable of providing coverage along the Metline all the way out to Hertfordshire. The dongle also seems to function well in places where I cannot find wifi. In terms of mobile broadband Vodafone is not only faster than 3 but also has a greater footprint.

Why is this an issue?

Well in an effort to get UK working better we want to use Mobile to provide coverage to those that chose to live in a rural setting that is not covered by ADSL or Fiber-optic networks in order to give speeds of 2 Meg/Second. If those inside Government are to believe the regulator or networks that they offer British Telecom a get out clause we are in for a shock.

I don't blame the Networks completely for the failure of their coverage. Some of the blame has to be accepted by NIMBY local Governments who refuse planning for new base stations. My Lib Dem controlled council as a matter of course refuse all applications and so appeals are need to grant them. The fact that we have an over supply which has seen prices collapse makes it difficult to justify the return on investment needed to cover all of the UK. However the auctions required commitment to cover the UK with a suitable service. Today that service can be seen as a hybrid network that offers a basic connection and at times a high speed one. The regulator needs to raise the speed of the basic connection.

Without a suitable network how can a provider expect me to pay for a service. Given what I have experienced over the first week of testing mobile TV I don not expect to keep it after the free period is over. In order to attempt to use my handset as a mini-computer I have to use the wifi radio. In doing so I consume power too fast for my phone to operate all day. If I am using wifi I am not mobile but rather wireless and so might as well use my iPod Touch if all I need is small screen access or my Laptop if I want a bigger view.

Monday, August 10, 2009

72Hours in what have I learnt about my Nokia?

OK having spent the weekend learning about my E71 and setting it up what do I think now?

The Ovi service is still a LONG way off from being ready to roll. The first app I downloaded was hard to set up and does not seem to work and so I removed it. The second app that I want to download can't be!

I want to install ShoZu when I try and discover the app from my handset its not found. When I find it on the desktop I can't send it to the handset. Does it have anything to do with the lack of a suitable payment service to collect the £6 price? Before I add anything more I want to get ShoZu running.

Other issue is just how open is Ovi? Wanted to use Opera to navigate and once I logged in access was denied.

Opera install was a bit of a learning curve. Started off with thinking that I could run Opera Mini on my S60 handset. Downloaded and installed but didn't seem to working as well as it does on my SE so removed it and installed Opera Mini which is recommended for the E71.

Email seems to function well have six accounts set up and have them pushed to the handset. Works well when T-Mobile has coverage.

One other little gripe is compatibility with my MacBook. Stuck the CD in the drive and nothing happens! Quick look online and I see I can download software that allows Nokia and iCal to sync. Once done I have be able to get appointments and to do lists on the phone not interested in trying to copy Address Book as have copy on the iPod Touch.

At this moment I am happy with the progress of discovering S60 it's going better than when I used a N93i which was just to different to my day to day handset. If things still prove to be frustrating might have to see if some of my mates at Nokia are back from Summer Holidays and ask for a favour?

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Testing Nokia

Yesterday I got myself a Nokia E71 to use with my T-Mobile SIM.

Opening the box I saw a Handset form factor that I liked and despite not being a Nokia user an OS that works well. A number of things seemed easy in terms of installing the bits needed to use the phone also managed to edit contacts from my address book in the process.

Then I went over to Ovi to see what might be of interest and saw nothing. Went on the web and looked at what widgets might make Twitter, Facebook and Flickr easier to use rather than via the T-Zones portal and was again disappointed.

After 24 hours use with the handset I have email up and running for the 5 accounts that I use. Have PIM working as I would wish it to on my handset. Am looking at using Opera mini as my browser so that I can make everything work on the device as I would wish. As well as Opera I have also installed Yahoo Go 3.0 so that I can deal with Flickr and manage the SPAM flow in my personal email.

So in terms of hardware design I have a form factor that I like and a need to tweek some of the software so that the experience is a little more like that of my iPod touch rather than my Sony Ericsson C905. Do I think the E71 is a smartphone? Well at them moment it does not seem that smart. I do think that it should be a second device that means the Laptop can stay on the desk as when out and about it can offer me the functionality needed.

The camera seems to me to be something I will not be using my SE has something better and it is not often used when I have a Nikon available! The Maps function looks more interesting than the service I have tested from Orange.

The biggest issue with the E71 however is not the software or hardware it's the service provider. With T-Mobile seeking to manage costs in line with its revenues the coverage is woeful. Despite having had Planning Permission for over a year to build a new 3G mast close to my home the Local School reports no sign of construction starting. Thus I revert to using WiFi in the home, I am glad that I am on a SIM only contract which includes web n walk because if I was paying consumer contract rates I might have to start stalking the new MD.

I know that all Networks have an issue with coverage in my location and so accept blackspots but in the last year T-Mobile seem to have discovered deadzones! I would hope that investment can be made into femtocells so that the coverage issue can be resolved. WiFi is not the solution because of battery consumption. If we are to replace voice spend with data services first off we need coverage.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

All that is wrong with the US view of mobile

Have read Scoble's post on the problem with Europe's mobile scene and raised my blood pressure to a level that has caused me to post.

Here in Europe we have a number of advantages over the Americans. First we have Networks that they can only dream of in terms of coverage and speed so should the user wish to they can adopt mobile data services. We have thus decided that using a laptop with mobile broadband is a better way to surf than a smartphone.

In terms of innovation we have leadership in LTE, Handsets and Network Ownership. We are looking at how voice can be improved.

Whilst the US feels that it invented the Mobile and now once again owns the space it is not about just one device. Last year more people bought a single Nokia handset than all the smartphones sold in the world. Mobile payments in the form of micropayments for content and services in Europe is far more than Apple has made from the Ap Store.

Looking at the history of mobile data services it is far from certain that the Ap Store is going to become a cornerstone of all things mobile. One thing that Europe is better than the US at is regulation and the exclusive nature of the iPhone is something that the EU will regulate against; just ask Microsoft and Intel if you are unsure. Without regulation what is to say that the Ap Store is another AvantGo? At the hight of the bubble everyone thought that the web clipping service was the future and now it is little used.

Before we had smartphones we had PDA and everyone was using either an iPaq or Palm a few geeks preferred PSION devices, all these used bluetooth to connect to a mobile and use it as a modem. Now these devices are museum pieces.

In four years time will Apple still be in the mobile phone market or would it have moved on? At this moment in time we have seen three devices in 2 years ALL of which have the same form factor. As a historian of mobile it looks all too much like Motorola with the StarTAC and Razr rather than RIM who have transitioned from a single device to multiple form factors or Nokia with ranges that have global appeal.

We have to remember that the primary function of mobile is a phone rather than internet device. A number of networks are looking at new generation Voice services which will stop downward pricing of the product unlike the fixed world. For the last four years mobile has carried more voice than fixed and for the last eight it has generated more revenues. Having lost out on the fixed revenue stream the Networks are not going to do the same again if they are to continue investment in 4G.

Lets just remember that mobile is just that and all to often we find users of smartphones static. How many times have you bumped into someone walking off a plane as they adopt the Blackberry Prayer to read their phone and though is it that important?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Thoughts on BT

So Yesterday we had the presentation of the BT results for the last year and the headline analysis can be read on the FT, BBC, Independent and Times amongst other sources.

What gets me is that Ian Livingstone has used accounting tricks to hide what the future looks like. Lookig at BT Retail the core revenue streams are ALL declining and yet the Division managed to increase its profit. Going forward if my own experience is common they will lose even more money, the retention costs for me staying on the BT network are more than the money I am paying them the poor user experience means that I have stopped using BT Vision on demand services.

The Cost Cutting plan is a recruitment freeze rather than intelligent restructuring of the Workforce. This is because of the fact that we are looking at the heavy unionisation of the Openreach division which could become a car crash similar to Global Services (Talk Talk and Tiscali merging will lower the number of truck roles for LLU). If the cost base in GS is wrong why has so little been written down on the Balance Sheet and why are we not seeing large scale redundancies in India of BT staff?

However the big issue I have with Livingstone is the lack of a Vision when it comes to the future. In the middle of the Digital Britain review would his predecessor have stayed quite or used the annual results as an opportunity to talk up high speed broadband? With BT needing to become a software company if the investment in 21CN is to be profitable what progress is being made and how will BT be at the centre of new services?

Could the emphasis on fixing the pension fund be because Livingstone and his Board what a nest to rival that of the former RBS Executives under Fred Godwin?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

1 Billion Apps, can someone help Apple with it's counting....

OK so in 9 months customers of Apple have downloaded 1 Billion Applications for the iPhone AND iPod Touch.

I look upon this not as a demonstration of the market for mobile data services but rather the demand for personalisation. As before with people buying ringtones and wallpaper owners of mass market consumer electronics wish to make them unique.

I am not an iPhone user but I am someone with a Touch. I have 20 applications that I use on my iPod and have removed 6 that didn't work. The average for each of my applications is 4 updates since I have installed them. Does Apple count these as 26 Apps or 90 something?

I understand that Game Theory is deployed by the Vendor of an App to keep it in the charts thus I expect that we are looking at Double Counting.

As a Touch user I can only connect via WiFi but as someone who works in an environment that such services is ubiquitous connectivity other than when in Transit is good. How many iPhone users are also doing so over WiFi rather than 2G/3G mobile? Thus the next time that someone tells me that Mobile Data is mainstream can they at first demonstrate that what they are doing is possible on a handset that is not Smart?

The next few months will be interesting in that the economic downturn means that the old subsidy model is over and so will smartphone numbers grow if the consumer has to pay up front for the handset? Without a Smartphone what of the market for Apps?

When I can get Opera on my Touch I will consider that Apple is Open and Mobile Data is more than niche.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

So Just what are you developing for the App Store?

Terence Eden's presentation at MoMo London was interesting for the fact that he highlighted that the biggest selling handset in Europe last year was a Nokia 6300 and Globally it was also a Nokia 1100. Neither of the handsets are Smartphones however they are purchased by Networks to give to subscribers these handsets when compared to a Smartphone are positively basic.

Given that fact what should you be developing? Perhaps we need to look at using the assets of the Mobile Network to overcome the lack of power in the handset? Alternatively we could look at services rather than applications and look at partnering with Transit Systems and Banks to introduce ticketing and payment solutions?

What is going to stop you is the fact that success requires those within the Mobile industry to understand that it is an ecosystem. When we have an ecosystem then we can operate as a federation with a Thought Leader shaping requirements then Networks and Service Providers publishing Application Profile Interfaces that will open platforms to as many as possible. Whilst for those of us in the Mobile Industry this might seem a utopian dream and to Regulators sound lie a classic cartel, it has been done in the US with Mobile Banking.

A review of Mobile Banking in America will show that the Banks have invested millions in advertising the service in mainstream media, three of the four Networks have opened up there platforms. The result is that one in five phone owners have done some form of mobile banking in the last year. Over 200 companies have developed solutions for Banks. Wells Fargo has 28 different Mobile Banking solutions that range from simple text to complex java for Blackberry and iPhone. The usage of Mobile Banking is feed back to help understand the progression from simple transactions to peer-to-peer payments.

Having seen the Sandboxes set up by European Mobile Networks and Handset Vendors I fear that what is on offer is a range of islands rather than walled gardens. The problem is that the water between each island could be cold and have strong currents and the maps to navigate between them look like some from the dark ages rather than GPS satellite renderings.

Should I want to be a developer I would seek access to the HLR, I would want detailed APIs and microsegmention of the customer base with trends recorded over the last four to six quarters. I would want to be able to offer firmware updates to customers so that the handset is capable of operating at its optimum.

This is where the problem of any App Store makes them likely to fail. The Mobile Networks thanks to fragmentation in the legacy systems do not have the information I need and so any application launched is little more than a live experiment. If you own a Mobile Network and you want to use the intellect of others to service your Customers needs can you please invest in a Service Delivery Platform that covers the whole of your base and publish all of your Interfaces?

Monday, March 09, 2009

Economist view on MWC09

This weeks Economist has a review of the transformation of the mobile industry following Mobile World Congress. It points out the unlike other industries at present Mobile is in good health in terms of sales.

In telling us that we are at in inflection point with the transition of handsets into smartphones. Whilst this sector has grown over the last few years to be a key element I do not see that many consumers are looking for a single device. Talking to my daughters about what "upgrade" they want it is not about an iPhone or Blackberry for these teenagers but rather an exceptional camera that will also playback MP3s. Many have two handsets and whilst the Smartphone is the device that they are happy to show in public the "other" handset is the one that does most of the phone calls.

As the economy starts to slow further we will see Network Operators look more at the dead money spent on Subscriber Acquisition/Retention Costs. Why would a Network give out a £250+ handset if it is used as a second device and so the usage is lower than expected?

As money starts to be counted by the Consumer will we see Contracts downsized the current bundles are perceived as over priced rather than good value. This being the case we are seeing more PAYG sims becoming dormant whilst contract numbers stay strong thanks to the introduction of SIM only. The risk is that the Networks will become more intelligent and will take the opportunity to "lose" subscribers that are not profitable.

A presentation last year from NSN showed that on a number of European Networks over 60% of the subscribers were loss making. Will this downturn mean that the Operators with the best processes take the opportunity to decide that they do not seek to be mass market but rather premium supplier? If they decide that this is the best source of action then they could look at the PC market and say that the approach of Apple & Sony is far better than Dell & HP.

Photo is the Nokia E75 taken by me at MWC09.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Rise of the App Store

Over the last three months more and more of those that I have met who are new to Mobile say that they have joined because the industry has gone "Open".  They tell me that the App Store shows that the walled garden of the operators has finally been broken.

As someone who has been in the industry for over twenty years I have to inform then that the assumptions that they are working on are wrong.  We have seen all this before.  Not very long ago O2 had its Source developer community, they gave access to the O2 labs and test equipment for developers to use.  Companies big and small whent to Ealing or Marlow to show that they had just the application that was going to monitise the mobile web.  I did not see one single company that made money from the relationship.  O2 started charging developers for access to the lab and then SourceO2 stopped.

Vodafone, T-Mobile and Orange all had Partner programs that were aimed at launching applications to the consumer all of these have been scaled back.

This week we have news from America that the App Store might be a bubble in that those who download do not use many Apps.  This matters if your business model is ad supported.  The Apple App Store needs to learn from the Palm developers, I will believe that it is open when I can download Opera for my iTouch o replace the iCal with something more suitable.

I do not see the use of App stores as something that will improve the user experience.  I have persisted in try to make the Yahoo!Go service work on a number of handsets.  On my latest Sony Ericsson it no longer connects to the server and so cannot update, it did for a while then it stopped.  On my HTC Touch Plus the application works once in every five attempts! These two handsets are on different networks, I think the issue is that the network api has changes on my Orange handset, it might be an issue with memory on the handset with T-Mobile the issue is with the Radio Network I think.  Poor quality of service means that regardless of excellent design an App will become unloved and unused.   

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

What about the other handset vendors?

Samsung OMNIA HD
LG Watch Phone

Sony Ericsson Idou

Having considered my opinion overnight and today taken a second walk around the stands I wish to say that in a time when the consumer is expected to part fund the handset upfront the rivals to Nokia do not seem to have taken up the challenge.

The Sony Ericsson stand this year did not have the excitement of last, the "new" handset on show was a Symbian S60 concept device.  When when demonstrated came with more caveats than the new Facebook TOS. What we saw was excellent however after the failure of the Xeperia what hope for this device?  The key display was the accessories that you can now get for your Cybershot or Walkman handset rather than new handsets.  Perhaps SE should have made its redundancies in a more effective manner and kept most of the product developers on?  Its showing in Barcelona says that after three good years the company may now face a downward move that might be difficult to arrest.  

Samsung were showing off their latest smartphone with OLED screen and Samsung's own OS.  The industrial design and display on the device is a delight the fact that it is running Samsung's software rather than Symbian or Windows Mobile is I think a mistake.  A survey  amongst those I know that have had a Samsung reveals that most hate the menus and software to a level that means they would not recommend the Brand to anyone or get a replacement Samsung.  The Company has relationships with both Nokia and Microsoft so why not accept the extra cost and buy the software from them?

LG had a stand that was interesting in that it held both the Prada branded devices and their own handsets.  The cabinet that had the largest crowd was the one with the watch phones.  Talking to gadget fans all were once again returned to childhood and wanted a device so that to could be a special agent. The shrinking of   handset into a simple device that does just voice and text has to be the ultimate second device for all those with an iPhone to complain of its poor performance as a phone.

The Motorola offering when it comes to handsets is best left unsaid lets say that it was only on my third trip the their stand that I saw the handsets.

ZTE was interesting in that they have a range of handsets that in terms of form factor look like those that we see here in Europe.  However they are running Linux and operate on the CDMA network.  They did seem to be busy talking with potential customers from the emerging markets as well as those in the west looking for low cost mobile broadband dongles.

Android had a busy stand next to Microsoft's in Hall 1 but whilst Google had booked a meeting room they like Apple seem to have taken the decision that business is best done away from the public eye.

The strangest demonstration over the last two days of a handset was of the Palm Pre.  The Palm employee kept to his script better than a soap opera star showing the Pebble like industrial design and the off screen gesture technology The ability to source contact email and calendar data from multiple sources was interesting the demonstration however was let down by the lack of information as to the build for GSM networks or the exact chipsets to be used in the production models. 

Monday, February 16, 2009

For Nokia its all about E...

Today Nokia presented to the world two new E-Series handsets the E55 which aims to offer a low cost version of the E71 (which has shipped 10M units in the six months that it has been available) and the E75 (top).  Both of these devices are about giving email to as many people as possible at the lowest cost.  In the remarks from the head of handsets and the CEO of Nokia the primary attack was on Blackberry who they accused of charging an email tax.  As a side line that went for Apple saying that "without a diverse handset range you walked on a knife edge if you had just one product".

The E75 is said to have the best battery life of ANY handset in the Nokia range with 100 Hours claimed on stand by.  The E55 is thinner than the current E71 because it has a micro QWERTY keypad which will help alot of those without a PC use e-mail to make this easy they have launched OVIMAIL for those who at present do not have a Gmail account.

For Nokia the E is not just about a Series of handsets but also about EFFICIENCY making work not a place you go but something that you do regardless of place.  It is also about getting Networks to ship its product in the region of 1M units a day something it is falling short on at this moment.

Where are the crowds?

So the first day of Mobile World Congress is over and the two photos show that this year the show is slower than in the past.  Taken from the first floor of the Nokia stand at 11:00 where last year we would have seen a cloud to match that of a Milan derby this year it looks like Bolton v Portsmouth.

The second photo shows the main meeting zone at noon.  

Talking to some who are working for vendors at the show and they talk about having to work on the stand as headcount has been cut to less than half of what we saw in 2008.

Whilst I like the extra room I have to ask if it is good business for the organisers.  Effectively the show is paid for by the Vendors who hope to meet customers from the networks.  If the Networks are not sending the staff then the Vendors will have to ask if the investment is worth it.

Talking to one small company I discovered that they were spending €200K on attending MWC.  They will need to see €2M worth of sales to say that the trip was worthwhile.  This just goes to show that in these financial times some parties have to come to an end and hard cash needs to work.

Waiting for the show to start

Left with plenty of time to get through the hords of people for the start of MWC09 only to discover no que.
Walking to my first meeting and I see that the number of of adverts inside the show ground are less and smaller than last year.
This is going to be an interesting few days and first impressions are that we are on for a scaled down event. The vib does not seem to be the same as with any of the others that I have attended in Barcelona.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Guess that Six Sigma does not work

BusinessWeek wrote a feature on how Motorola blew it after their results.

Motorola when I worked for it was at the centre of the Mobile Industry with business units that sold airtime, built infrastructure and made handsets.  At the birth of the mobile industry they had a position that none could rival.  

Before the phenomenal success of the Razr they had similar control of the handset market with the StarTAC (which was the last Motorola handset that I owned). The problem with ALL handsets from Motorola was that whilst they looked good and had great reception compared to other handsets it all went wrong when you turned them on.  Despite comments from Customers and Consumers Motorola decided that it new best when it came to user interface and so at a time when others were making handsets that did not require an Instruction Manual they persisted with a solution that required a Personal Tutor!  

Motorola were excellent at helping emerging markets build mobile infrastructure and were one of the first to take minority stakes in Operators.  This fact meant that they were prepared to transfer engineering skills in a way that others did not.  However the role played on the War on Terror has limited the growth of Motorola in these markets.  It is difficult to mount an effective marketing campaign when the TV News has US Military with the Motorola Logo on their helmets, all the product placement that you have on US TV is pointless.

The growth of Mobile Networks means that the airtime business is no longer viable and Motorola exited the industry after the internet bubble.  

The collapse of the integrated model means that the management of Motorola stopped having the data necessary to make decisions from their internal systems.  This failure was compounded as Motorola retrenched to the US and so was developing solutions for just one customer base rater than being a true Multinational.  When I was leaving Motorola they were promoting Six Sigma as the  management tool on which to run the company.  I guess even if you have reduce the error rate down to just 1 in a Million if that mistake happens to be at the very top of the decision tree then it is fatale.  

Motorola is in a deathspin, regardless of the quality of the executive management and the breadth of contacts it has stopped looking to Europe as a customer base.  The only debate is how long will it take to die?  Its interaction with Apple proves that the Engineering focus  is still core to Motorola and so it is unlikely to find salvation in Android.  Cut off half the headcount is not about growth but rather the preservation of cash and so with Mobile World Congress approaching I expect to see long faces from those still carrying Motorola business cards and from the alumni shaking heads about the fall of a giant.

Photo comes from Science Museum in the UK

Thursday, February 12, 2009

And end of the gravy train?

Once again I am entitled to a handset upgrade from T-Mobile having had my smartphone for the last 12 months. 

Last year when I did upgrade to the HTC Touch I also had my tariff reduced to reflect that fact that this contract is for my second handset.  For the last year I have not utilised the voice or text bundle included in my tariff but have used the web'n'walk data plan to keep up to date on email.

This year T-Mobile have reduce the handset subsidy dependent spend and length of contract, even with an 18 month wait for my next gadget the handset would require me to pay something towards the handset.  Over the 16 years that I have been a customer of 0ne-2-one/T-Mobile I have never paid anything towards the handset.  So having been asked to make a contribution to the costs for the first time are T-Mobile saying that I lose money for them and so they want me to leave?  They must understand that I am unlikely to recommend then to family and friends and so as a plan this is not the same as a local restaurant switch to BYOB rather than renewing their alcohol license!

As someone who works in pricing mobile services I fully understand that handset subsidies only work when the subscriber uses the network.  The pay it forward method is broken if the consumer does not utilise the service because the handset is the second device and so the consumer in wanting up to date technology should make a contribution the the hardware.

The question for me as a consumer is should I wait until the unit cost of the handset drops to a level that means T-Mobile will give it to me or pay for the gratification of using the latest technology?  I know that as a customer of T-Mobile UK the technology is not that up to date and so the joy of a new gadget is limited.

I think that I will see if I can blag a new handset from one of my contacts at next weeks Mobile World Congress and witch to SIM only as the limited coverage of T-Mobile where I live and work means that it will always be my second line.  The current upgrade strategy must place churn high of the customer actions.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Expectations for MWC09

So next week we have the global event that is Mobile World Congress in Barcelona my daughters asked what happens.  Over the next hour I tried to explain that far from a holiday the week in Barcelona will be hard work with a number of meetings.

Starting from Sunday afternoon through to Wednesday night I will meet with 37 different Organisations who want to talk about Mobile Banking, Next Generation Networks and Voice services.  I will not be sitting in one place entertaining visitors but rather I will be walking from one meeting to the next.  The good news is that I will be well exercised.

Talking with others in the Mobile industry some are giving Barcelona a pass this year stating budget and time issues so hopefully it will be less crowded. The flow of press releases so far talk about  Mobile Broadband, WiMAX deployment in Emerging Markets and Handset manufacturers offering Application Stores. Party invites are thin on the ground compared with previous years and journalists are talking about the lack of sponsorship so it might be that a touch of realism has set in.

With 4 Billion users of Mobile the industry is indeed larger than any predicted 10 years ago.  However the development of Smartphones and Mobile Broadband seem to have lead many down a blind alley. If Networks are to invest in greater speed and bandwidth why should that network be Open? If Networks want to turn infrastructure into low cost access points why would Equipment manufacturers innovate? I am always interested in how others use Mobile when I travel and hope that a trip to Spain might act as a wake up call for those in Northern Europe who see Smart as the future. With Networks having to fight to keep customers the investment has to be made not in new gadgets but rather processes.

I will be posting next week but I hope that MWC09 will not be a disappointment I am hoping that we might see the start of an ecosystem that sees everyone trying to evolve mobile.    

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Digital Britain Report

When it was finally published my review of the Digital Britain report was I hope that they did not pay Lord Carter for this.

After two days when my fellow teleworks have overloaded my Internet connection I have to say that Carter has wasted an opportunity.  Because of the lack of investment in the Thatcher years we in Britain find ourselves in a void.  If we had invested rather than Privatised our utilities then we might not be looking at an infrastructure that is failing.

With the Mobile Networks it is not a question of funding capital projects on the whole but rather the need for planning permission.  Given rights to build a base station anywhere that they can rent or buy a site then the Networks will build the coverage that the customers will pay for.  The release of sites could speed the consolidation of Networks in the UK; it has to be obvious that we cannot support FIVE networks.  

At the time of the Internet Bubble I looked at the way that Railroads and Airlines had developed over the previous 100 years.  All those that built the Railroads ended up in failure and those that started Air Travel also ended in financial ruin PanAm was the last to fail.  However we still used trains and planes.

Looking at the demands of UK plc what we see is a need for better infrastructure.  The launch of Cable television shows that we cannot offer regional monopolies rather we need a single wholesale provider. However the lack of a government CTO who understands the engineering requirements of Broadband Britain we do not have a Blind Watchmaker capable of architecting an effective solution.

At this moment we have an opportunity not presented since the end of the World War in 1950's Britain.  If we are to limit the market correction then we need to invest in infrastructure that allows the UK economy be remain the the G8.  The roll out of fiber to finally provide high speed broadband connectivity will give the UK employment in the Civil Engineering sector at a time when the only thing we seem to be building is Sports facilities for the 2012 Games.  We will also provide employment opportunities to raise the level of Engineering Skills in the work force.  Before Thatcher we had pride in Engineers but the transfer to a service economy means that it is no longer so.  With better Engineering in the communications field we could raise the standard in the UK that makes people employment opportunities not currently provided following the downsizing of BT and the fall of Marconi. 

Looking at the people in the street I have to ask that does the man in the street want Broadband?  Whist some could afford a high speed computer that could benefit from 100 Megabits per second connectivity those who limit their experience to light social networking, messaging and catch up TV could function with a connection that is a little better than the current situation.

It is not the consumer that needs better Broadband rather it is business and government that does as without it the UK will demonstrate that we continue to fall back.  With better connectivity we can lift educational standards not just those that are currently in school but also within the workforce.

The last two days has seen an increase in Mobile traffic as well internet traffic but the benefits in terms of revenue has only highlighted the need for investment.  Looking at the response to the report I am surprised that not many are disappointed that Carter has been conservative in his recommendations.

(c) Picture from my Bedroom window yesterday morning.   

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Innovation in Mobile .....

...if the things outlined in the Independent today are the best that the mobile industry can come up with can you stop the Bus I want to get off!

Whilst I agree that the Mobile is becoming more and more a Remote for life I would hope that the Executives within the Networks at this time are focusing on the Quality of the Service rather than the Technology and User Interface. In talking to the Normal User one of the biggest demands they have with the new handsets is that the battery lasts just like it did the that Black & White Nokia that we only charged on a Sunday. Once they realise that using data services resulted in no phone after lunch they stop using data!

Talking to those who are excellent in segmentation and targeted marketing speak about just how bad the Networks are at Communicating. For Example, If I have been a contract customers with your network for 8 years and every time I have upgraded my handset I have selected a Nokia what makes you thing that you can sell me a Samsung? Tesco's know that if I am a Pepsi drinker I will not switch to Coke so they incentivise me to buy expensive cans rather than cheap bottles. When then don't the Networks use some of the data locked in the billing system about me to try and increase my user behaviour rather than get me to try something new?

Most people feel that the Customer Service Experience when it comes to a Mobile Network is something a kin to an Estate Agent or Dentist rather than Rolls Royce. Orange last year told those in the UK that it understood their pain and would move call centres back to the UK. As an Orange consumer I see no improvement to my care, since they have become French I no longer get calls to ask what can be done to improve my experience or reduce my bill.

As a consumer I have FIVE UK sims for my personal use and we have three others in the house that Orange know about as they are topped up from my Contract. Orange know about on half of the Sims I own, they have not attempted to cross sell Broadband (Fixed or Mobile). Thus I have to question what value they place on me as a customer?

The reason that I do not use a Single Network is because the Coverage I have at present is erratic at best. It is not a question of budget to build in the case of the Provider but rather planning permission to build new cell sites. Having been involved in Fixed Mobile Convergence I know that using GSM & WiFi = Reduced Battery Life so I want a system that is GSM. I also know that the audio quality of the GSM network could be enhanced and for someone who is a heavy voice user that is an innovation that would increase useage.

If you are interested in a Universal Remote Control rather than download apps from the iStore onto you iPhone switch to a RIM and sign up for Unify4life.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Carnival of the Mobilists No 158

Radvision has edited the best posts on Mobile this week for the Carnival of the Mobilists.

Go over and take a look at Mobile Content, User Interfaces, Mobile Futures and Nokia v Apple. 

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Just who needs Broadband?

The Sunday Times today reports that the Mobile Operators are to be offered the 3G spectrum in perpetuity in exchange for the provision of a universal service which could cost an additional £1-2B to build. In the Observer we are told that BT is looking at a return to mobile becasue of the loss of revenue having spun out Cellnet to help pay off a £30B debt at the time of the 3G auctions.

As someone who was involved in the 3G bids I have to question some of the logic in these reports. On a very simple level if I were the CEO of a Network in the UK the thing I want is planning permission for all the base stations they have planned. The Investment needed for 3G has been slowed because of local resistance to new base stations not cash concerns. In the Local Elections last year the Liberal Democrats had as a manafesto pledge the refusal to allow any new masts to be built. The outcome of this is that Networks need to Appeal Planning Applications to get one built, this is at present taking some 4 years to achieve! For me it means that I have very poor coverage from Orange which will only improve once they get permission to improve coverage not a Governement incentive.

3G spectrum might not be something that has a long time frame in that the current thoughs on 4G is that the old 2G spectrum is refarmed in an effort to improve inbuilding coverage.

Lord Carter (one of Mandleson's Business Ministers) is at present putting the finishing touches to his Digital Britain Report aimed at looking at the needs for UK PLC. It seems that at this moment the Mandleson Machine is stress testing some of the recommendations prior to publication. As well as the 3G "leak" we have the Observer
reporting that the central plank of the plan, Fibre to the Home is under threat. BT is looking at the best way to manage its cash knowing that they have a hole in the pension funds and declining incomes thanks to bundles that offer free calls and problems in the Services business.

Whilst I have been looking forward to a better connection than I have at present I am unsure of the benefits of just building FTTH. When you look at the expansion of the M25 you see that the adding of more lanes just means that more are stuck in traffic jams! Thus with a faster internet will we get a better one? The TV content that I want is not yet available on iPlayer and the regulator has said that Picnic or Kangeroo are not fair to sonsumers and so cannot launch. So it best solution for me to wait until the serries finishes and the buy the DVD at HMV if I wish to remain legal or risk viruses and file share. The Government seems to think that because so many are breaking the rules they need to
Tax all users of the web. If you get a better connection the incetive will be to break the rules more so who wins?

Friday, January 23, 2009

A New Dawn or the beginning of The End for Nokia?

This week we have seen the presentation of results for Nokia and Apple which in headline terms present a change in the fortunes of the leader and a significant challenge at the high end of the market.

In his presentation  Ollli-Pekka Kallasvuo Chief Executive of Nokia said  In recent weeks the macroeconomic environment has deteriorated rapidly, with even weaker consumer confidence, unprecedented currency volatility and credit tightness continuing to impact the mobile communications industry. ” 

Apples results show that it sold 13.7m devices in 2008 which is about 1-1.5% of the total worldwide market by volume.  The last quarter saw only 4.4m sold rather than the 5m the market estimated. The key comment made in the Earning Call was that the iPhone performs poorly in non-subsidised markets, indicates that at some point when demand evens out carriers will have more power over the price they pay Apple for the handset. 

With 40% of the handset market and the Integrated model rather than contract manufacturing Nokia has better Economies of scale than its rivals.  Apple is a design house that gets its handset made by Hon Hi as a contract manufacturer.  When you are making Phones in small volumes doing so in someone-else's factory makes sense however is it something that works when you have more than one design and 10% of the market?

Whilst some see the entry of Apple and Google into the handset market as the opening of the ecosystem thanks to the application platforms that they present I have to ask if the economics work?  The Network Operators have made investments in infrastructure, distribution and support over the last 20 years.  Why would they not expect some return on that investment and security over the future customer revenues?

Looking at the history of Mobile I recall that Nokia assumed that with the arrival of Data services in the late 1990's it presented a chance to take control of the consumer with the launch of Club Nokia as the primary Wap bookmark.  The result was a boycott by the networks until they localised devices for each Operator.

Talking to those who work in FMCG I am told that advertising is not about getting someone to switch from Coke to Pepsi but rather to get them to increase the volumes they consume.  The same is true with Handsets most people say that they are a Nokia user, Sony Ericsson person, Blackberry Addict rather than Orange customer, Vodafone Fan, O2 Punter.  This Brand loyalty makes it difficult for new entrants to capture market share the rise of Blackberry and HTC has taken 10 years to achieve.

The presentations at Barcelona next month will be interesting in that we in Europe will get to see the new Palm Pre and perhaps the first Android based handsets from Motorola as well as new handsets from all those in the mainstream.  I hope that we will get to see the first devices that use the Snap Dragon chip which could offer features better than the current smartphones with hopefully better battery life. 

Nokia will innovate devices in the economic downturn.  The conditions hopefully will mean that they cut a number of handsets from the product range in an effort to improve the user experience and quality of the offering.  In light of the downturn will Motorola, Samsung and Sony Ericsson be able to do the same? If they fail to then they will be the ones who lose out to the New Entrants.  Before I see Apple as anything other than an opportunist they will need to offer a range of handsets similar to their iPod or Laptops.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Consumer Choice?

With the fall of both Zavvi and Woolworths over the last months the UK consumer of music suffers even more than at any time since I have been buying it.  

I have no wish to have my listening dictated by the whim of a PR agent for the record companies.  The fact that the Christmas Number 1 has become the anointment of the X-Factor winner rather than a competition is only the tip of an iceberg.  The New Comers List for 2009 whist showcasing talent does not tell the whole story it is the will of the record labels who wish to launch the next Duffy, Kylie et al whilst promoting artists like Coldplay, Lily Allen etc..

I listen to Jazz mainly the artist that are available on iTunes are limited in terms of range and quality.  My local Zavvi whilst not a large stockiest of Jazz benefited from the fact that at times you could meet Courtney Pine as it was his local music shop.  I have managed to get the last three CDs he has released signed because of that fact.

This week I wanted to get a couple of CDs that were not yet available for download.  With only HMV as a specialist I was unlucky, WHSmith have yet to grasp the opportunity presented by the fall of rivals and Tesco stock just the top 50.  One CD was available as an import from Amazon at £16 the other you buy from the Artist's Website where an EP costs £12. So much for consumer choice.

Perhaps those that set up DarkerThanBlue can find some funding and relaunch the site as a music hub? I know that the important element of Woolworths failure was the removal of Entertainment UK who undertook the distribution of Music Games and Books and it is this decline that has hit consumers most.

How are others managing to get music outside of the Cities?  I hope that as small bookshops have been able to survive after the Net Book Agreement was removed we might see new music stores open.

Since Christmas I have taken advantage of the chain of Oxfam shops close to clients to replace a number of old music that I have on Tape with cheap CDs.  However not many of those that give music to Oxfam listen to Jazz. Before the rise of eBay we had local CD Warehouse that served the needs of those looking to buy and sell second hand CDs.  The company went bust but now it could return if others see the opportunity.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Anyone doing Mobile Banking in the UK?

Mobilink have released its latest analysis of its customer base.  It says that the service is used by young families and new home owners.  So I guess that at the moment this is a service for the person concerned about budgets rather than someone looking to replace cheques to make P-2-P payments.

I talk to quite a few people about mobile usage and whilst I have been told about M-Banking by those from Pakistan, South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda and America no one in the UK other than people working in the Banking Payments community have used Mobilink.  Thus I have to question the validity of the report.

Since 2005 I have been evangelising Mobile Banking, it is a service that I am confident will happen on all phones.  The technology is simple in that text based, browser based and Java solutions are available dependent on the type of handset and transaction you are attempting.  On a simple level once people replace bank details with a mobile number it will be easy to transfer funds by text rather than write a cheque, with a small fee more and more will also pay by phone rather than use small value notes and coins.

With the Banks looking at the cost base as well as their capitaisation I feel that they will seek to become more local and less international.  Using the mobile phone rather than Internet Banking will be a technology that the consumer adopts, too many of us share a computer but very few share a phone and so it is more secure and we almost always carry a phone whilst most of us have a static computer (even if it is a laptop).

Carnival of the Mobilists

MJelly has hosted the Carnival this week and has a number of excellent pots from those in the Mobile Ecosystem talking about what matters most to them.

Looks like my evening will be spent condensing a number of the other posts that made it into this weeks post.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Mobile Zeitgeist

Sitting and thinking over the Christmas Holidays I took the opportunity to consider the state of the Mobile Industry.  Following my post asking for a Leader to step forward and create an Ecosystem that benefits all a few asked the question was Mobile a single entity or was it a number of Industries?

Whilst I agree that at present what we see might be more a kin to a medieval Britain in that what is seen are a number of waring fiefdoms I have to say that after some twenty years we might be reaching a degree of maturity that sees those that run Networks, Handset Vendors, Chip Makers, Equipment Manufactures and Regulators starting to take a rounded view that looks at the relationships between all that makes up the Mobile Industry.  As we enter difficult economic times to maintain the present position let alone move forward Leaders and Managers understand that it will require cooperation as well as innovation if mobile is to maintain its historic share of the wallet.

On a simple level I look at the talent in the industry and ask is the average IQ of those working in Mobile rising, falling or about the same as it was at the start of 2006?  Are those that are joining Mobile brighter than those that we coming into mobile in 2000 or below the standard of those joining in 2002?  At present I have to say that those I see starting a career in Mobile are not as smart as they were ten years ago when it was an exciting place.  A lot of those that joined Mobile at the time of the 3G auctions have moved onto the next hot trend, which might be philanthropic commerce in Africa and South East Asia judging by the updates of friends on LinkedIn! One of the issues that I have with those that have joined the sector is that they do not seem to have the drive that the previous entrants had to understand the history of Mobile so that can avoid the errors of the pioneers.  It might be a function of becoming Middle Aged but the current Youth do not seem to want to undertake any form of education but rather seek training so that they can perform the day to day duties of their role.

A review of the Networks sees that in Mature markets size is a good thing as consolidation sees those operating national networks seeking to become more International to share infrastructure in what looks like an old fashioned arms race.  The race seems to be one of speed as capacity fills they are looking at merging towers.  With an eye on costs all CEOs are looking at what can be undertaken to maintain profits are revenues fall.  Rationalisation in the sales channel means that no longer are the Networks prepared to speed money on acquisition but rather wish to reward loyalty. The Brave CEO  whilst cutting cost will also invest in CRM tools that improve knowledge. In the Emerging Market the CEO is faced with far greater challenges in that most of his customers have a limited budget that sees them using his network for less that 6 days a month.  The interesting thing is that the Emerging Market CEO is far more attuned to his customers needs and incentivised to insure that they have network coverage and customer service.

There is no dought that at present it is the Handset guys who are feeling the downturn the most.  The interesting element seems to be that the activity is speeding the end of life for a number of 2G handsets rather than the stalling of development.  In a recent presentation I talked about the move towards a number of standard Operating Systems in an effort to limit the cost and time of introducing handsets onto a network (just look at the pain RIM are feeling with the launch of Bold).  I see that we will have one form of Symbian (Nokia S60), LiMo and one from Windows Mobile, RIM, Apple.  Symbian’s new business model has seen the death of UIQ and the new license agreement means that Nokia have no reason to cut down is premium software stack to save money.  Whilst Android looks like a better opportunity than developing for Apple it is still a closed system that has the Networks concerned that Google is more an Enemy than a Friend.  I am sure that by the end of 2009  we will see more  devices available  on the Android platform than  iPhones but cost might be an issue should the networks decide not to  subsidise the cost of those handset.

In the Chip business it is the lag with the handset makers that will effect most and the question is who is prepared to maintain Engineers in the current market?  Those that offer simple solutions such as CSR will be the most effected and survival will mean that they need to find a bigger firm to buy them.  Those that produce chips for industries other than mobile will find themselves squeezed as costs do not match revenues.  All these facts mean good news for Qualcomm and I think that more will license the ARM Instruction set and develop chips capable of matching the speed and capacity available in today’s mobile network.

Equipment Makers face an interesting year with 3G spectrum auctioned in  India and China offering the opportunity and threat.  The staged roll out of Mobile Broadband offers opportunity to sell volume but with a limited margins.  The risk for Equipment Makers is that the Networks scale back the roll out of HSUPA and HSDP+ as revenues fail to kick in.  Looking at the future, this year we will see LTE finalise.  Losers are likely to be Nortel, Motorola and Alcatel Lucent who bet too much on WiMAX.  Ericsson and NSN will suffer as the Chinese buy market share.  Huawei will continue to impress the Networks with the quality and speed of its Engineers.

At this moment I do not think that the Industry is in terminal decline, but it is getting smaller.  I would like to believe that those in charge of the various stakeholders have the knowledge to insure that the decline is limited in terms of time and effect. Looking at the progress in America over the last year the launch of mobile banking shows that a federated approach benefits everyone.