Archive for July, 2008

Business Observations: July 31, 2008 Edition

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

Standard disclaimer: don’t take from my selections, ordering, headlines, etc. any indications of the interests or plans of my employer (if you do, you’ll undoubtedly be disappointed when they don’t play out.)

It’s been a couple of busy weeks in the mobile blogosphere, so I have a lot of material to pass along.

The nature of the emerging mobile web has been a topic with lots of interesting recent comments.

Carlo Longino titled one of his posts “When will the mobile web be mass market?”  He answers his own question both qualitatively and quantitatively: “Subjectively, I think it will be when I can make reference to the mobile web with normobs and they know what the hell I’m talking about :) With that in mind, I think we’re getting there. Even if people aren’t using the mobile web, they’re certainly becoming more aware of it. … To put a time frame on it, 2012 sounds good, as that’s when Intel says there will be 1.2 billion portable internet devices, and IDC says there will be 1.5 billion mobile internet users then.”

Daniel Applequist phrased roughly the same question, but with a different twist when he titled one of his posts “What will be the Model T of the mobile web?” Unlike Carlos, Dan doesn’t directly answer his own question, but he does provide some guidance to all of us wondering the same thing: “Though I love it, I have to say the iPhone ain’t it. It fails on both the low cost and the extensibility criteria. The OLPC device fails on mass-market grounds. … What we need is for someone to come along and deliver a mass-market, low-cost device that is extensible and open but which has enough ease and simplicity of use that it is embraced by the great public and enough oomph to be a mobile Web workhorse. There is a gigantic vacuum in the mobile industry right now with this exact shape. Candidates include Google’s Android, Limo devices, next-generation Nokia devices based on the new Symbian Foundation and possibly even Microsoft Smartphones, developed under their new “end-to-end” strategy. Any others?”

Paul Golding provided a very helpful overview of trends in achieving many of the goals Dan referenced when he posted a deck on “Rich Mobile Applications and real-time web UX…

One of the technologies/trends Paul covers is Mobile Widgets.  Carlo commented on Qualcomm’s new Plaza, calling it YAMWP (yet another mobile widget platform).   However, he also said it’s a platform worth watching: “I think the parts of BREW that Qualcomm hopes will most show through in Plaza are the relative ease of the developer experience and its appeal to operators. By embracing operators and making them part of the value chain, Qualcomm can steal a lead over other mobile widget platforms.”

Dean Bubley, on the other hand, wonders “Mobile widgets – who wants them?”  He says “Maybe I’m missing the point, but I’m starting to think that the fascination that the mobile apps industry has with “widgets” (small Internet-connected applications) is misplaced. … But frankly, based on recent experiences, I can’t see where the customer demand lies. I can see why the industry would like widgets to be adopted. But I fail to see why end users are going to be bothered.”

Of course, the iPhone has many proponents who say that it will be the device that drives the mobile web to the mass market.  James Kendrick weighs in with his well thought out argument for how the iPhone is “changing the face of the Internet.” His main argument is how easy the iPhone is for quick web sessions, anywhere, anytime: “I can easily do most anything I want to do on the web using the iPhone and it’s just plain easier to use than any other mobile browser platform.  Sure text entry is not the best with the on-screen keyboard but let’s face it, how often do I really need to enter a lot of text?  Not as often as I might have thought at first.  So I am finding the iPhone is changing the way I consume the web, and from what I saw online this weekend I’m not alone.  You just can’t argue against something that does what you want so well. … There are very few web sites that don’t work on the iPhone and that surprises me.  I guess I’m prejudiced by my past experiences with other browsers but I find almost all sites work very well on the iPhone.  The only sites that don’t work well are those optimized for mobile browsers, an ironic situation.”

Tomi Ahonen, provided a lengthy and passionate argument against both the iPhone and the entire concept of the mobile web in his post “On Seventh Mass Media vs. Sixth, and role of iPhone.”   I often agree with Tomi and this is a case in point.  I’ve argued that the “mobile web” discussion is missing the point, but Tomi does it so much more passionately and credibly: “The internet as we know it, based on PCs and dedicated access methods and a free model of the internet protocol with all the implied sharing and lack of control; is the sixth of the mass media (regular readers know we classify them as print first, recordings second, cinema third, radio fourth, TV fifth, internet sixth, and mobile as seventh of the mass media). … The internet as a mass media channel, is crippled by severe problems. It is great, do not misunderstand me, and the internet will grow much for at least a decade to come. But it is fatally flawed when contrasted with its younger sibling, mobile as the 7th of the mass media. … The seventh mass media channel is the younger brother of the internet. It is not the same. And mobile is proving to be far superior as a media channel than the internet. … So – lets be clear again. I am arguing not for the overall benefit of the internet – there are countless benefits beyond the internet being a media channel. … So – lets be clear again. I am arguing not for the overall benefit of the internet – there are countless benefits beyond the internet being a media channel. … ”

Within this context, Tomi compares the iPhone to the Mallard, a steam locomotive that set a world speed record after the world had already started to shift from steam to deisel and deisel-electric locomotives. : “The iPhone is not the ultimate phone today (hear me out…). It is the ultimate pocket Macintosh today. It is small enough to fit your pocket, and easy enough that any Mac user can easily use all of its features. It is also supremely connected, now with the iPhone 3G having not only 2G and WiFi but also 3G speed connectivity worldwide. An amazing device – for a sixth mass media world. … It is the Mallard. The topmost model for the older generation. … It utterly fails as a 7th mass media device. If you consider 7th Mass Media opportunities – SMS, ringtones, MMS, user-generated content in picture and video sharing, etc the iPhone is stunningly BAD at it. You can’t type SMS text messages blind on the phone (half of the youth do that today, eventually this will be half of the worlds’ population..) but you can type SMS messages blind on essentially every rival smartphone from Nokia N-Series to SonyEricssons to Samsungs to the Blackberries. The iPhone does not SUPPORT the multimedia messaging standard – MMS – that essentially every 2.5G phone – 80% of the world’s mobile phone population today – supports. If you take a picture on your phone and send it to someone else, even the person with a five year old Motorola will be able to look at it but not the couple of million people with Apple’s so-called superphone. And how about that video recording? CNN advertises its i-Report on TV every day, and shows videos shot by users around the globe. But the iPhone does have a camera, it does not capture video !!  This is old mindset thinking, trying to build a faster steam engine. It is beautiful and slick and fast – like the Mallard was.”

Thanks Tomi – you’ve given me a smooth transition from discussions of the mobile web into discussions of devices and platforms.

Carlo quoted from a New York Times piece: “Though almost every discussion at the MobileBeat conference in Sunnyvale, Calif., on Thursday centered around the iPhone, venture capitalists told mobile entrepreneurs to broaden their focus and build applications for all phones.”   Carlo goes on to share his thoughts on the topic, closing with “But, there are still good takeaways here for platform providers, device vendors and operators: make development easier, and make app discovery and download simple and rewarding.”  Sounds like good advice.

Speaking of other platforms, Engadget poked fun at the J. Gold Associates analyst who boldly claims that Symbian and Android will merge in the near future: “Craziest thing, it turns out that Google, Nokia, and Symbian are all dismissing the platform merger talk as utter nonsense. And for once, we believe those trusty souls; who knows, maybe it’s the complete lack of technical synergy between them?”

Kevin Tofel recognized Palm’s success in selling 2 million Centros by observing “price matters.”  “Congrats to Palm, however. They take a fair amount of ribbing on their product line these days, but you have to give them credit: they not only saw the potential for a low-cost smartphone, they got such a product to market. Two million of them to be precise.”

Microsoft isn’t finding it so easy to sell smartphones in an immediate post-iPhone world.  Russell Buckley summarized it with his post titled “Windows Mobile in the dunk tank.”  He starts his piece by emphasizing why mobile has to be important to Microsoft: “the mobile will become the most important digital device on a number of different levels; more people have web connected mobiles than connected PCs – and that’s already happened; outside N America and Europe, the PC itself is going to be either leapfrogged or annihilated, which will profoundly affect the way that digital data is consumed everywhere; and in the words of my ongoing mantra, the mobile will do to the PC, what the PC did to the mainframe*. … This means that mobile needs to be central to Microsoft’s strategy if they are to have a future and a lack of success in this area means that their current problems are going to seem trivial in comparison.”  He closes with advice to the software giant: “I’d suggest that Windows Mobile probably isn’t going to be the answer and they need to think of a radical and brave new direction to assure their future in a world where the mobile is rampant.”

Meanwhile, new entrants into the mobile arena aren’t exactly finding smooth sailing.  Even Apple has had challenges, with Dan Jones commenting on “Apple’s iPhone privacy headache.”   Garmin is also finding it more challenging getting into the mobile phone business then they expected, as Sindre Lia observes in “Garmin Nuvifone gets spanked by carriers.”

On a note a little closer to home, many commented on a California judge’s ruling against Sprint as “a blow to the industry.”  However, Mike Masnick provided a more carefully considered analysis of the case and the ruling, demonstrating an understanding of the challenges that mobile operators must manage through: “However, there is a reason why such ETFs exist: it’s basically to recoup the subsidy that mobile operators pay to give you your super cheap mobile phones. And, those ETFs were in the contracts offered to customers, so it’s difficult to see why such things are really a problem.”

There’s a lot more happening, so here’s a list of other headlines:

Now playing: Michael Card – Tears of the World

Capturing the Power: July 25, 2008 Edition

Friday, July 25th, 2008

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:

Now playing: Alathea – The Rains

Converged Products: July 25, 2008 Edition

Friday, July 25th, 2008

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.

Now playing: Boston – Feelin’ Satisfied

Indicators: July 25, 2008 Edition

Friday, July 25th, 2008

More and more, the world around us reflects the growing assumption of the law of mobility. Here are a few indicators of Mobility’s growing importance in our businesses, our lives, and our society:

Now playing: Randy Stonehill – Turning Thirty

Enabling Technology: July 23, 2008 Edition

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

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:

Now playing: dc Talk – That Kinda Girl

Business Observations: July 16, 2008 Edition

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

I was chatting with Om Malik last week and he commented about this blog: “You don’t use many words.”  He phrased it as a positive observation, but it made me realize how little I’ve actually been writing lately and how much I’ve just been providing lists of links.

So… Here’s an attempt to provide a little more commentary/perspective around the list of links.  It’s still not as time consuming as starting from scratch, but let me know if my added comments are really adding any value.

Standard disclaimer: don’t take from my selections, ordering, headlines, etc. any indications of the interests or plans of my employer (if you do, you’ll undoubtedly be disappointed when they don’t play out.)

Of course the big news of the past week or so was the release of the 3G iPhone.  This sparked tremendous commentary, most of it not particularly insightful for folks like us looking to make money in mobility, but there were some ponies in there.

Michael Mace always has interesting things to say.  Here’s the heart of his recommendations to those trying to market their products in a post-iPhone world: “If anyone from RIM is reading this, please listen to me closely. I beg of you, don’t be chumps. You’re Canadian, for God’s sake. You don’t do sexy. You do humble and inoffensive. … If you try to imitate him [Steve Jobs], you’re going to look like mom and dad pogo-dancing when Rock Lobster comes on at a wedding reception. Not pretty. Not pretty at all.”  He then goes on to extend the advice to Microsoft.  Good stuff. 

Om himself naturally weighed in on the impact Apple’s new device is having on how mobility factors into life.  I think his observations are good news for the industry and provide pointers to all of us planning to participate in mobile broadband growth: “The 3G speed is quite addictive and it doesn’t take long to slowly start switching your daily compute tasks to this device instead of reaching for your computer.  A lot of that is because the iPhone has a generous screen and is very easy to use, but more importantly it has a more than adequate browser, making it an ideal candidate for being a ‘cloud client.’ All that was missing was a fast-enough connection that helped ‘off-source’ some (or, in the case of others, many) tasks from their computers.”

Paul Golding focused on the App Store within iTunes and the impact that the iPhone SDK was having on mobile applications.  He made two key observations that I believe are meaningful to market opportunities within the mobile ecosystem.  “1. Many of the iPhone apps are photo and location enabled, even for services that didn’t previously have an overt location or photo attribute. Why? Just because it’s there and it’s easy to do. This is fantastic and is exactly how the mobile ecosystem should work. … 2. Many of the Web 2.0 browser-only services out there have opted to develop a native iPhone app.”  His first observation really points to the things that make Mobility unique and what new things are enabled by mobility that previously were really hard or impossible.  I plan to write more on this soon.  His second point certainly adds fuel to the “native app” vs. “web-based app” debate.  Any application developers would do well to ponder the implications of Paul’s observations on emerging market opportunities…

Of course, not everyone was buying all the Apple hype. 

Carlo Longino commented on Apple’s hype around selling 1 million iPhones over a weekend: “Just to let reality back in for a second… Nokia Q1 sales: 115.5 million (from Nokia PR), or roughly 1.28 million per day.”

David Cushman used Apple’s challenges with the new phone launch to teach all of us in the industry a lesson: “The myth of Apple = everything working beautifully, was soundly debunked on 3G Iphone Friday. … I’m picking on Apple for a reason. They are among the very best at delivering delightful user experiences.  … And yet Apple still gives us iphone Friday.  There is headroom for better. Much better.  And it’s worth going after. There is a large and cash-rich segment of the world’s population who are not geeks, not prepared to fiddle, not prepared to kill two-three hours of their lives upgrading with new software, not prepared to learn their way around…”  We have to make mobility simple, instant, and compelling for techno-geeks and non-techno-geeks alike!

Barbara Ballard similarly used the iPhone user interface to encourage all of us to strive for even greater simplicity and usability.  “I strongly support simplicity in mobile design, but done intelligently. … When is simplicity not good? When it blocks significant numbers of users from achieving regular goals.”  Barbara gives specific examples of the good and bad.  Her insights here and elsewhere are well worth reading for anyone designing products for mobile devices.

But not all comments this past week were tied directly to the iPhone. 

Dean Bubley commented on the hype surrounding mobile broadband (probably a byproduct of iPhone hype).  Dean holds firmly to a handful of beliefs about the industry, and this is one of them, so he couldn’t leave the topic alone.  Agree or not with him, but read him and consider how his comments may impact your business model.  “In other words, there is what Boris Johnson might refer to as an ‘inverted pyramid of piffle‘ when it comes to discussion about mobile broadband. A few % of the users generate a huge % of the traffic, while a large chunk of supposed users (ie people with suitable phones & networks) generate none at all. This will change only slowly, as PC-based mobile broadband is still early in its growth cycle, while 3G is being pushed into handsets of people who still don’t care about anything more than voice & SMS.”

I’m sure Dean also has opinions on the EU-funded SPICE initiative.  Someday maybe he’ll share them with me.  In the meantime, we have this report on the “universal architecture for advanced communications services” that researchers are developing.  Of course, similar goals have been pursued in the past – the efforts certainly help us envision different futures, even if we never fully realize them…

On a more positive note, two U.S. Senators have proposed the Mobile Wireless Tax Fairness Act of 2008.  This bill recognizes the Big Bell Dogma efforts to slow mobile adoption through burdensome taxation.  Internet tax moratoriums have been successful in enabling continued Internet growth, I’m hopeful that we can similarly see continued mobility growth and see an end to unfair taxation and regulatory burdens on the industry.

Psst – Have you Heard about Everything Plus?

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

Update: See my answers to frequently asked questions in the post linked here before asking questions about this plan.

By now, I’m sure everyone has heard about Sprint’s groundbreaking Simply Everything plans, but here’s an even better twist!

Everything Plus is Sprint’s new employee referal plan which takes the Simply Everything plans and makes them even better!

For example, the lowest priced Simply Everything plan is $69.99 for 450 Anytime minutes (and of course, unlimited text, web, TV, music, navigation, Direct Connect, etc.).

The equivalent Everything Plus plan is $59.99 for 500 Anytime minutes (and all that unlimited stuff).

There’s also a discounted 1000 minute plan at $79.99 and the unlimited plan at $99.99.

Interested?  Check it out here.  My e-mail address (you’ll need it) is and the 3 digits you’ll need are 383.

Business Observations: July 11, 2008 Edition

Friday, July 11th, 2008

As the Mobility Era matures, obviously a key question will be “how to make money?”. There are plenty of opinions on the best answer to this question. The below is very inclusive and I provide no editorial functions, so don’t take from my selections, ordering, headlines, etc. any indications of the interests or plans of my employer (if you do, you’ll undoubtedly be disappointed when they don’t play out):

Now playing: Ben Shive – The Old Man

Capturing the Power: July 11, 2008 Edition

Friday, July 11th, 2008

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:

Now playing: Alathea – My Fufillment

Indicators: July 10, 2008 Edition

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

More and more, the world around us reflects the growing assumption of the law of mobility. Here are a few indicators of Mobility’s growing importance in our businesses, our lives, and our society:

Now playing: Alathea – Orphan Girl