Archive for September, 2008

Business Observations: September 25, 2008 Edition

Thursday, September 25th, 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.)

This list is getting really long, and I can’t see enough space in my schedule over the next several days to get around to commenting on it, so I’m just going to let the list speak for itself.  Lots of great observations in here – check it out!

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Now playing: Kate York – The Right Way

Mobilize panel videos now online

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

The archived streaming videos of the two panels I was on last week are now posted at the Mobilize site.

You can watch them here:

Signals from the Near Future: The Mobile Guru Panel

The Carrier Panel: Strategies to Keep Mobile Data Growing

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Now playing: Billy Bragg – Greetings To The New Brunette (Demo)

Enabling Technology: September 23, 2008 Edition

Tuesday, September 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:

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Now playing: Jon Smith – The Time We Spent

Mobile Freedom

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

In addition to the two articles that GigaOm published last week, I also provided a third article for GigaOm’s consideration as lead up to last week’s Mobilize event.  Here it is for your reading pleasure!

Openness is an active topic in the mobile industry. But what does “open” really mean? In a discussion with leading mobile developers, we asked what “open” meant to each of them. As you can guess, each answer was different. But my favorite was “Open means not having to ask permission.”

I’m not sure that definition fits very well with the word “open,” but it does well capture what is desired from openness. I believe the phrase “freedom” better reflects what we are all seeking as we transform the mobile industry.

Mobile customers desire the freedom to access any legal network-based content or application, anywhere and anytime. They want the freedom to make their mobile devices their own – personalized with their style, their content, and their applications. They want the freedom to install new software and new content, without restrictions, on their mobile devices. Mobile customers want the freedom to choose from a wide variety of devices and change from one device to another as the situation warrants.

But mobile freedom is not just the freedom “to” it is also the freedom “from.” Customers desire freedom from surprise bills, freedom from hard to use devices and services, freedom from the challenges of finding interesting content and applications, freedom from being bombarded with irrelevant ads, freedom from their personal information being shared with people they don’t trust, freedom from never-ending lock-in to one network.

Mobile developers also want freedom. Developers desire the freedom to innovate – leveraging the power of mobility to create new value for customers. They want freedom from having to develop for an infinite variety of devices and platforms. They want the freedom to implement the business model that fits their product and market. Mobile developers want the freedom to succeed.

If this is the freedom that is desired, is it the freedom that is being delivered by the mobile industry? If you care enough about this topic to have read this far, I doubt I need to answer that question.

So, why isn’t the industry hopping right to it and delivering mobile freedom? I believe there are two answers, one somewhat philosophical and the other quite practical.

I believe all industries suffer from a similar problem. Since I’ve “grown up” in telecom, I call it “ Big Bell Dogma.” In short, Big Bell Dogma is resistance to change. In large part it is driven by the market power held by incumbents and their fear that change will reduce that power. Each of us, individually, suffers from Big Bell Dogma. We resist change because it brings uncertainty over whether we can continue to be successful. But the greater the power held, the greater the resistance to change. A monopoly mindset is what gives Big Bell Dogma its name.

On a more practical level, the reality is that the mobile industry has an existing, profitable business model that generally delivers the kind of financial results Wall Street expects.

I believe that mobile freedom will drive significant market growth – just as freedom drove tremendous growth in the PC market (with the IBM/Microsoft/Intel standard platform) and in the Internet market (when the web delivered new freedom to end users and developers). I believe that mobile operators who embrace freedom can participate in that market growth and can actually deliver better financial performance (faster growth, better margins) than the current model.

The challenge is in the transition. In a freedom-enabled mobile market, the revenues change. The sources of revenue change and the nature of revenues change. In a freedom-driven business model, the costs change as well. Unfortunately, synchronizing the revenue and cost changes is challenging.

To successfully manage through this transition takes a long series of small steps, each with manageable risk. Sprint’s introduction of the Simply Everything price plan to deliver freedom from surprise bills was a manageable risk. Our introduction of the Titan platform to deliver freedom for developers from fragmented device development was a manageable risk. The list goes on.

Over time, a series of steps can get us to mobile freedom. But wouldn’t it be nice to not have to worry about a transition?

Sprint was blessed with that opportunity in the launch of our WiMax business – Xohm, soon to be part of the new Clearwire. The Xohm business model was built from the ground up to deliver mobile freedom to customers and to third party developers.

It has been very exciting to watch the birthing of a new industry model, and it will be fascinating to watch as mobile freedom grows and matures!

Second Mobility article at GigaOm

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

Last week while I was traveling, the GigaOm team posted my second article “Mobility – What’s Different.”

The article starts by asking “Is mobility a new revolution, or is it just an extension of the previous PC and Internet revolutions? Is anything really different?”  It then uses the Kindle, Dash Express, DriveCam, and CardioNet to help answer the question.

Check it out!

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Now playing: Matthew Perryman Jones – Beneath The Silver Moon

Enabling Technology: September 17, 2008 Edition

Wednesday, September 17th, 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:

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Now playing: Michael Card – Come, Thou Fount

Converged Products: September 17, 2008 Edition

Wednesday, September 17th, 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.

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Now playing: Billy Bragg – Train Train

Managing the Danger: September 17, 2008 Edition

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

Bonus: David Goldschlag answers the question: How CIOs Can Encourage Innovative Enterprise Mobility

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:

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Now playing: Judd and Maggie – Under My Roof

Mobile Broadband article up on GigaOm

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

Helping set the stage for Mobilize, my thoughts on “Mobile Broadband – A New Revolution?” are up at GigaOm.  Check it out.

Business Observations: September 16, 2008 Edition

Tuesday, September 16th, 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.)

CTIA is behind us.  Mobilize is looming large.  I’d better get this summary of mobile business buzz out quickly before I’m swamped with more content…

Openness continued to be the mobility theme for 2008 as the industry’s fall CTIA confab blew through the Moscone Center.

InternetNews’ coverage of the opening session with three of the four leaders of major U.S. wireless carriers talking about openness summarized the situation this way: “In a panel discussion that kicked off the show, the CEOs of the three top U.S. carriers touted open networks as the key to a even greater revenue in the future. That’s a sea change from the conventional telco wisdom that they needed to control what devices could access their networks and which applications could run there.”  The article quoted Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdam as saying “All the people making applications for the PC desktop now want to move to mobile.  We couldn’t handle all that innovation, so opening up the doors and just protecting the network is only thing we have to do. Now, developers will place those bets.”   InternetNews notes “These statements are somewhat ironic, since in the early days of mobile data services, would-be developers had been stymied by a lack of access to the telcos and their networks.”  The article closes with a prediction by Sprint’s CEO Dan Hesse: “About 20 percent of users will adopt this very rapidly, and if their experience is good, it will grow.  It’s up to carriers to facilitate this.”

FierceWireless’ Sue Marek summarized the same session more concisely: “If you want to come away with one theme from the CTIA Wireless I.T. & Entertainment show, it’s that wireless networks are opening up.  But if you want to understand exactly what that means, you’re going to have to do some more probing. … During the opening keynote roundtable Wednesday with the CEOs from three of the top four wireless carriers, it appeared that some operators will focus on opening the network to devices (Verizon Wireless) while others will likely focus more on applications (Sprint and T-Mobile).  AT&T, unfortunately, did not participate in the panel.”

Just before the show started, Sue asked Sprint’s Kevin Packingham for a definition of Open.  Kevin’s response: “Open has become the trendy description for a strategy. Every year we go through a different trend and 2008 it’s open. There are two ways to approach this and these variations get confused. One variation is open access, which is the ability to take devices and recertify them on different networks. I don’t think there is a huge opportunity there. I don’t think that is something that a huge volume of subscribers are interested in doing. … Where most people are spending their time right now is application development. There is a lot of buzz around it.  … Right now it is too challenging and too big of an investment for developers to go to the mobile space. As an industry there is an opportunity for us to make it easier for them and get some more compelling services on the phone so we can really see this massive growth in data adoption.”

Meanwhile, the Phoenix Center used the week’s attention as a launching pad for their study on a potential Carterphone-like ruling on mobility – a heated topic within the industry.  “It is ironic that proponents of wireless Carterfone tout their rules as being ‘pro-consumer,’ because our analysis shows that such rules would likely drive up the cost of equipment with little, if any, reduction in wireless service prices,” said Lawrence J. Spiwak, President of the Phoenix Center and co-author of the study. “The pricing implications of wireless Carterfone are about as anti-consumer as you can get.”

On a more productive note, Alan Quayle also used the week’s attention to share his experience and knowledge on the topic of “Open Innovation and Application Developer Needs.”  He summarizes with: “Operators provide the ideal channel to market for many applications, with control over their network and devices, a billing relationship with the customer, a nationally recognized and trusted brand, high-street store presence, and a strong position in the industry’s ecosystem.  However, if an operator is not as effective as the Web 2.0 models mentioned above, developers will ignore them.  Which means service innovation is lost to over-the-top services, further pushing operators down the path to become just an ISP (Internet Service Provider). ”

Mobile advertising was another popular topic last week at CTIA.  Hmmm… Seems folks really ARE looking for a way to make money at this mobility thing…  Phil Goldstein of FierceWireless covered a couple of panels on the topic at CTIA providing divergent views on the topic: “In the emerging world of mobile marketing there are often divergent points of view between carriers and ad agencies over what values should be emphasized in targeting consumers. … In an afternoon panel focused on carrier concerns, with participants from Alltel, AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless, the idea of working in market on demand was emphasized. … The agencies’ panel’s moderator, Mark Lowenstein, the executive director of Mobile Ecosystems, echoed some of the themes from the carriers’ panel: mobile data usage is taking off, smartphone growth has led to an increased potential market. … David Katz, the vice president of mobile advertising at Yahoo!, said the key to mobile markets was obvious: to deliver audiences, and, in turn, revenue. The problem, with this, [Ansible Wireless’ Julie] Preis said, was developing a clear line between brands and consumers and delivering on the promise of mobile marketing as a persistent and personal form of advertising. … All of the panelists acknowledged the value of respecting consumers on all levels though in a demand-driven market.”

Frost & Sullivan has found their own way to make money off mobile advertising – offering up a new report on the topic… If you’re cheap, like me, listen in to what the report’s author, Jeff Teh has to say on the topic for free: “Unlike traditional media which mainly delivers content, mobile advertising has the ability to also deliver services and personalised content to consumers. … One of the key drivers of mobile advertising is the evolution of the mobile phone into something virtually inseparable from the owners; many even working on their devices beyond simple communication. … As mobile users pay for services, they are unlikely to be receptive to ads and promotions unless there is a perceived value from receiving such ads. … Moreover, consumers’ willingness to receive and participate in ad campaigns depends on whether the campaigns are permission-based, and that subscribers retain control over the extent of their involvement with the campaigns and their personal information is protected. … Operators are in a unique position to exploit subscriber data to ensure that only relevant content reaches subscribers, as well as enable easy single-access for advertisers, publishers and content providers.”

And we can’t let another week go by without talking about APIs and App Stores…  Michael Mace shared his always insightful comments on the topic this past week: “If you make a web application or mobile platform, one of the trendiest things you can do is add APIs and a software marketplace to it so developers will extend your product. … In mobile, applications have an interesting history. Lately some new mobile players have generated huge attention for their application marketplaces.” He then talks about the huge growth Palm experienced in their developer base 10 years ago. “Disturbing, isn’t it? The idea that a platform could take off like that and then crash and burn…makes you wonder if the same thing could happen to the platforms that are popular today. … If you’re a developer trying to pick the right platform to create your apps on, that choice is very dangerous — you’re betting the success of your company on something that has a better than 50-50 chance of failing. … The success of a developer program is not driven just by the beauty of the APIs or the store, but by how the overall ecosystem works to enable developers to prosper. The two parts of the ecosystem that are most important to developers are the ability to create something cool, and the ability to make money.  If the ecosystem breaks down anywhere in the chain, the developer community will eventually collapse.”  He then goes on to describe exactly what a developer should look for in an ecosystem.  He summarizes with “Based on those tests, no mobile platform offers an ideal ecosystem today. … The ideal mobile app ecosystem would have the API power of the iPhone and the discovery experience of the iPhone store, coupled with business terms that allow add-on APIs like Flash, Java and Google Gears, all working across a much larger base of devices.”

That’s enough for this week.  I’ll see you at Mobilize!

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Now playing: Sara Groves – Add to the Beauty