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.