Thursday, September 24, 2009
Sunday, August 30, 2009
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
Monday, August 10, 2009
Saturday, August 08, 2009
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Friday, May 15, 2009
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Monday, March 09, 2009
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.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
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
Monday, February 16, 2009
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".
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.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
BusinessWeek wrote a feature on how Motorola blew it after their results.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
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
Sunday, January 25, 2009
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
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Monday, January 19, 2009
Monday, January 12, 2009
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.