Archive for June, 2007

Converged Products: Week of 6/24/07

Monday, June 25th, 2007

The most convenient way that mobility is getting built into products is through the convergence into the cellphone of capabilities that previously existed as standalone products. That way, those products are now with you and available for your use whenever you need them wherever you go.

Complete list here.

Are we a week away from a revolution?

Saturday, June 23rd, 2007

Next friday, at 6pm, local time, the iPhone goes on sale. I’m guessing you already knew that.

But will it revolutionize the mobile industry, as Steve Jobs has claimed?

Here’s my list of ways in which the iPhone may change the mobile industry.

1. The iPhone may make the smartphone a mass market success. The iPod was not the first MP3 player on the market. In fact, when it was released, some were unimpressed. But, the product clearly had a huge impact on the category and the consumer electronics industry as a whole.

Before the iPod, MP3 players were for geeks. They were complicated – requiring running cables to a computer, installing software, ripping music off CDs you own, downloading songs. And doing those things was far from intuitive for your average businesswoman or soccer dad. In fact, I would argue that pre-iPod, walking down the street with an MP3 player was a badge of geek-credibility.

Apple changed all that. Using the iPod still required connecting a cable to a computer, installing software, ripping music off CDs, downloading songs to the device, but Apple made it simple. And Apple made it cool to be seen with an iPod.

The market for MP3 players almost immediately expanded from billions millions thousands of technology wizards who had previously bought a portable digital music player to virtually everyone on the planet who could scrape up the cash.

Sure – Apple captured a huge chunk of that growth. But everyone else benefited too. And new segments emerged almost overnight providing additional cool accessories for MP3 players.

Today, there are smartphones on the market. Some of us have been using them for years and wouldn’t dream of reverting back to a simple feature phone. But the vast majority of the world looks cross-eyed at a Treo or Windows Mobile device. “Why do you need that pen thing to work your phone?” “I just want to make a call, how do I do that?” “Which part do I put to my ear?” “Why do you keep plugging your phone into the wall, I thought you were all about wireless?”

My hope is that Apple will change all of that. My hope is that Apple will raise the bar so that all smartphone designers start working on a phone that my wife might actually want to use. My hope is that Apple will break through the fear and confusion and help people hunger for the value and power that’s available in and through a smartphone. Maybe Apple can even make it cool to have a smartphone!

2. The iPhone may make listening to music and watching TV/video on your phone mainstream. Similarly, it is obviously already possible to listen to music and watch the TV on your cellphone. It’s not even that hard. But, relatively speaking, hardly anyone is doing it.

It used to be a novelty to see someone walking down the street talking on their phone. Not anymore. Today, it’s a novelty to see someone walking down the hall watching video on their phone. Will Apple make this a mainstream activity?

We’ll see!

3. The iPhone may bring full web-browsing to cellphones. Web browsers on cellphones are very common. But the capabilities of these browsers range dramatically from text-only browsers on simple feature phones to full graphical versions of common browsers on smartphones.

But even these “full” browsers are lacking. Their screensize limitations make it very hard to use most websites. And they don’t support common capabilities (Javascript, AJAX, full CSS, multimedia plugins, etc.) that make modern websites so usable.

The iPhone changes all that. Unfortunately, the iPhone is burdened with a slow Internet connection, which I fear will make that full-browsing experience more painful than productive.

My hope is that the iPhone will force other smartphone makers to step up to the full web experience, but with a real 3G (or 4G!) connection.

4. The iPhone may disrupt the industry’s handset-subsidy model. Today, when you buy a cellphone in the US, you buy it from a wireless carrier who pays some or all of the cost of the phone, and in exchange you agree to use their monthly service for two years. The good thing is this makes cellphones more affordable. However, some think that locking you into a carrier for two years is a bad thing.

The iPhone is not subsidized by Cingular AT&T. Consumers pay full price for the phone. But, not only do they need to sign up for a two-year plan with AT&T, but they also need to sign up for an iTunes account with Apple. Not exactly the freedom that subsidy-fans are hoping for.

I’m guessing that it will take a different revolutionary force to change the industry’s subsidy model.

Bottom line, will these changes revolutionize the industry? Probably not. These are evolutions that will, honestly, benefit the industry as a whole. Sure, some companies will suffer, and those that fail to adapt to changing consumer demands may not survive. But I’m excited to see how Friday’s release will push our industry to the next level, with new consumer excitement, new consumer enthusiasm (and willingness to spend), and hopefully a strong response from the industry to new consumer expectations.

Power up!

Enabling Technology: Week of 6/17/07

Friday, June 22nd, 2007

Super Bonus: Motorola’s CTO provides a Wireless 101 overview of technologies

The Law of Mobility talks about value increasing with mobility. The impact of this law is being felt because the barriers to building mobility in are being obliterated week after week. Here are examples of technology advances enabling this to happen:

Full list here.

Indicators: Week of 6/17/07

Thursday, June 21st, 2007

More and more, the world around us reflects the growing assumption of the law of mobility. Each week we will track indicators of Mobility’s growing importance in our businesses, our lives, and our society:

Full list here.

Capturing the Power: Week of 6/17/07

Wednesday, June 20th, 2007

Mobility is a wonderful thing. As mobility gets built into all products and services, businesses need to learn how to both capture the power of mobility and manage the dangers introduced through mobility. Here are some examples of how the power of mobility is being applied to create competitive advantage:

Complete list here

Managing the Danger: Week of 6/17/07

Tuesday, June 19th, 2007

In order to be winners in the new mobile era, businesses will not only need to capture the power of mobility, but also manage the danger. Highlighted below are recent examples of the danger of mobility and how some firms are beginning to manage it:

Complete list is here.

Converged Products: Week of 6/17/07

Monday, June 18th, 2007

The most convenient way that mobility is getting built into products is through the convergence into the cellphone of capabilities that previously existed as standalone products. That way, those products are now with you and available for your use whenever you need them wherever you go.

Complete list here.

Enabling Technology: Week of 6/10/07

Friday, June 15th, 2007

The Law of Mobility talks about value increasing with mobility. The impact of this law is being felt because the barriers to building mobility in are being obliterated week after week. Here are examples of technology advances enabling this to happen:

Full list here.

Unintended Consequences

Thursday, June 14th, 2007

Today’s telecom and business news sources are trumpeting headlines like “Sprint: Rethinking WiMAX?”  All this sparked by comments made by Gary Forsee, Sprint’s chairman and CEO, at an investor conference earlier this week.

I cannot claim to have any insight into the actual options that Gary was referencing (and if I did, I couldn’t write this post), but I do know Sprint’s intentions and they have been very publicly shared.

Sprint’s WiMax initiative is integral to the company’s overall focus on the mobility revolution.  There are strong synergies between the voice-handset-centric wireless activities (inclusive of our EV-DO data capabilities) that represent Sprint’s core business, and the data-centric activities of Sprint’s WiMax efforts.  WiMax is the natural extension of Sprint’s current efforts to the next generation of technology, capability, and business model.  The WiMax initiative gains tremendous advantage through close association with Sprint, leveraging the existing brand, existing sales channels, and existing customer base.

Bottom line – I do not believe the intent of the options Gary referenced have anything to do with creating a separate entity that operates independently of Sprint’s core business.

Again, I don’t know the details of any of the options referenced, but I do have historical perspective from a different period in telecom history.

In 1996, I was working for Williams Communications, and was asked to develop the strategy for a potential new nationwide fiber network.  At the same time, we knew that several other companies were considering building new nationwide fiber networks.  Building a nationwide network (whether fiber or WiMax) ain’t cheap and creating significant capacity in advance of demand can create a supply/demand imbalance that can kill any business case, so, at that time, the industry acted wisely.

Williams agreed to partner with IXC to jointly build a nationwide network – Williams would build part of the country and IXC would build part of the country, and the companies would swap dark fibers so that each would end up with a nationwide network, while minimizing capital and reducing the risk of over-capacity.

Similarly, Qwest and Frontier partnered to share the cost of building a new nationwide fiber network, again reducing each company’s dedicated capital, while achieving nationwide coverage, and minimizing the likelihood of a capacity glut.

These deals were wise moves.  Unfortunately, in June 1997, Qwest had a very successful IPO.  Suddenly, investment bankers were all over the remaining fiber players, and VCs were all over potential startups.  Wall Street seemed to be valuing Qwest based on the number of fiber miles the company owned outright – so the financial counselors were encouraging companies to throw caution to the wind and build rather than lease/partner.  Before long, there were lots of companies with big empty fiber networks, anxious to fill them up with paying customers.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Again, not knowing the details, my guess is that Gary’s intent earlier this week was to indicate discretion and wisdom, considering ways to reduce the capital expenditures, especially by drawing in a partner that may otherwise duplicate some or all of your footprint, all the while maintaining the opportunity to integrate a full nationwide footprint into your long term business needs.

A few words, spoken with the right intent, however, sometimes have unintended consequences…

Indicators: Week of 6/10/07

Thursday, June 14th, 2007

More and more, the world around us reflects the growing assumption of the law of mobility. Each week we will track indicators of Mobility’s growing importance in our businesses, our lives, and our society:

Full list here.