Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Will 2011 be the year that we see that the iPhone had no clothes?

I have spent most of this year questioning just how smart a phone is an iPhone. In my opinion it is neither smart or a phone. Its success can be put down to the fact that Apple have managed to create a massive buzz around it. A mixture of celebrity endorsement alongside massive advertising campaigns has made the device wanted by the public but does that make it a good phone?

To my mind the problem with the iPhone is that the App Store has failed to maintain innovation and the refresh of a new OS which saw Steve Jobs push facetime ™ as the new way to communicate show that Apple has grown tired. The Company seems to be pushing development in the area of the App Store with the focus on the iPad and Apple TV rather than making significant progress with phones. If I were a shareholder of Apple stock I would be asking when can we expect to see a similar diversity in form factor for phones as we see in iPods? What is the company doing to improve the quality of phone calls?

I accept that in some markets the iPhone has been very successful. However the same was true of Motorola with a number of handsets and look at them now. I am sure that for some the fact that you see so many with an iPhone has taken the luster off the product. A number of those I know who are currently using an iPhone 4 acknowledge that they have two-three old iPhones at home having upgraded as each new machine is released. Yes I know that the same can be said for Blackberry Users or Nokia fans but the buzz around them is not as loud.

Ask Motorola about how fast the consumer can turn and you will be told that the abandonment can be faster than the celebrity status of a contestant in Big Brother. I think that Apple will play a significant part in the mobile device market for quite some time. I do not think that the product will be a phone however. As consumers we tend not to converge on a single device but rather diverge. As consumers become more knowledgeable about costs and experiences they also demand more. The novelty of the App has long past for most of us and so we are looking at the utility of our devices.

The combination of living in the Cloud and the iPad means that I can now work without my MacBook Pro for most client engagements. Thus I carry a device that allows a better user experience than an iPhone when it comes to watching video, reading books/papers or casual web surfing. As I become someone who carries multiple mobile devices rather than have a mobile subscription for each I have bought a mifi dongle for those times when wifi is not available free of charge (my ISP gives me free access to hotspots as part of my service.)

So will Apple surprise us with an iPhone Nano; will we see HD Voice available on the iPhone 5 or will the iPhone become a museum exhibit? I think that Apple are focused on the revenue streams from the iTunes store and thus we may never see an iPhone7 as the exit the phone business.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

So where in the centre of the mobile universe?

Spent an enjoyable couple of hours today putting the world to rights with some guys I respect in the mobile ecosystem. After joking about now nothing can work unless it's invented by Steve Jobs and comes via an App we turned to trends developing now. Both said that they are considering relocating to San Francisco as at this moment it seems to be the centre of influence as to where Mobile is going. They say that at this moment it is where the money and brains are.

But wait is that true?

I fear that they may be drinking the wrong type of Kool-aid. Whilst at this moment in time everyone feels that the mobile industry rotates around planets Apple and Google these are bubbles similar to the property and internet hype. The risk is that the centring of focus in the Valley will limit the view of demand.

When it comes to adoption has the rise of the App been as successful as SMS, Voice Mail or Ring Back? Will history judge the iPhone and Android as nothing more than a ringtone?

If I were to start a new venture then my investment would be in machine-to-machine and/or mobile healthcare. Given that I would want to develop relationships that enable me to build and exit a business is the Valley the best hub? Should I chose to relocate could I cope with Americans claiming that they rule the mobile industry when they have no understanding of the global standards, have yet to come to terms with the pre paid market because of the idiosyncratic payment system in the US of receiver pays and coverage of mobile networks is patchwork?

But where would I set up?

Europe is fragmented with many small sites offering expertise when it comes to hardware/software/services but does not have the access to finance needed to develop start-ups.

India has lots of Engineers but does not seem to have the ethnographers needed to offer a usable interface. It would be like returning to a Motorola Razr, wonderful to look at but a disappointment to use on a daily basis.

Japan offers money, wonderful networks and engineers looking to develop things people will use. However very few make call on a phone and so what we see is pocket computers as we head towards the cloud.

Where would you set up to have the best chance of success?

Monday, October 11, 2010

What would I rather pick up my phone or my keys as I leave my house?

Today Nokia launch their first NFC enabled handset.

With one of these phones can I replace my Oyster card? How about my NFC car fob? What about the Garage Door? An my Bank Card has NFC so can I replace that?

The answer to all these questions is at this moment in time is NO. Therein lies the problem with standalone development and the current fixation that the App Store is the answer.

Nokia has over the last four years been working with a number of stakeholders in the NFC ecosystems. Trials that I know of include a trial of season tickets at Manchester City Football Club, replacement of Oyster Cards in London, cash replacement trials in France. They have worked hard on the development of a technology standard that will replace card readers over time, they have studied hard the ethnology around the change in behaviour.

Why then is the launch of the new handset inhibited? Because the other stakeholders in the NFC space fear that they will become locked into a walled garden controlled by Nokia perhaps? How about the fact that the innovation required for such a service now faces a lag because too much resource is directed to the needs of Apple and Android development?

If the mobile is no more than hardware and as a User I have an expectation that just like an MP3 player I should be able to fill it with the content that I want. The launch of new technology such as NFC into the mass market needs to be Federated more. That is when Nokia launch such a phone it needs to be reported by my Bank, Carmaker and Transportation provider who all tell me that I can now use it to access their services. Lets face it no Call Centre Assistant you talk to so far would be able of facilitating the firmware upgrades needed to install new services.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sorry I have been quite

It has been some time since I have posted anything.

The reason is that I have become more and more frustrated with the fixation that the answer is the iPhone for all things that are wrong with the mobile phone market. Just as Motorola got it wrong with placing all its eggs in one basket trusting everything to Apple is flawed.

Those that ask, what about Android? Have to understand that Google is just another walled garden and it to is flawed for other reasons.

The fact that both of these handset developers see the future as about the power of the App store highlights the failure to understand the ecosystem that is the Mobile Phone Industry. Observe the clamour of Vodafone Shareholders looking for the fire sale of minority equity assets to see the bonfire of the vanities.

Google does not seem to understand the timeframes the Industry operates under.

Apple sees life in a binary format of winners and loser which risks seeing the foundations crumble under them. As a futurologist I read the tea leaves for Apple as potentially pulling out of the phone market. Recent developments with the iPad, iPod and Apple TV could all point to no iPhone6. If the App store was the answer look for the BBC News app on the OVI and ANDROID stores it will not be the same one developed by Fjord for the iPad.

Nokia have replaced the CEO as he was unable to develop a handset that would kill the iPhone. As Apple is a very small rival and the real fight is with Blackberry his focus was on the right place. Yes fire him because he did not stop the rise of RIM but not for the lack of a high end handset that fails to complement the ecosystem.

If you fail to understand the need to support the ecosystem what you face is failure of the infrastructure. If Vodafone cannot see a return on the investment for new base stations why are they going to build them?

Once Mobile Networks employed anthropologists and sociologists to understand customer needs and develop products. Now they live on Internet Time which works on open development with Darwinian evolution. Evolution is difficult when the search methodology is a top ten list rather than accurate indexation with a standard taxonomy.

This post is me letting off steam. I might come back and develop some of the observations above or I might lie in a dark room and listen to whale music.