Archive for the ‘Book’ Category

New Book

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

I recently contributed a chapter to the book “Enterprise City: How Companies Are Changing the Global Urban Landscape)” which is available from Amazon for Kindle.

Not surprisingly, my chapter (chapter 5) is titled “Mobility is Revolutionizing Cities for the Better.” Other chapters include

  • “Cities Will Redefine the World’s Future as Much as They Influenced our History” (by Richard Kadzis),
  • “Smart Work Will Transform our Cities” (by Peter Miscovich),
  • “Big Business and Cities: Opportunities for Leadership” (by Todd Megrath of MGM Grand Resorts),
  • “Creating Sustainable Communities with our Next Natural Resource: Big Data” (by John Clark of IBM),
  • “The A-daptive City” (by Rives Taylor),
  • “Chicago New Heights – The Case for Integrated Sustainable Development” (by Paul McDermott),
  • “The Ubiquitous Web and the ‘All-ternet(tm)’ (by Lubna Dajani),
  • “The Forces Shaping the Future of Urban Economic Development” (by Bill Sproull of the International Economic Development Council),
  • “Using the Power of Collaboration to Invent our Future Cities” (by Carol Warkoczewski of the City of San Antonio),
  • “Can Public Policy Be Nimble Enough to Affect the Competitiveness of a Fast Growing City-Region?” (by Glenn Miller of the Canadian Urban Institute and Iain Dobson of Real Estate Search Corporation),
  • “Form, Function and the Shape of Things to Come” (by Brock Dickinson),
  • “Conscious Collective Evolution as the Primary Focus for Developing our Communities” (by Stijn De Winter), and
  • “Finnish Cities as Forerunners of Sustainable Lifecycles and Smart Technology” (by Galina Kaariainen of PWC Cyprus and the World Futures Studies Federation).

If you’re interested in the urban future, it’s worth checking out!

Is the Mobility Revolution Deadly for Big Bells?

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

Please see my follow-up note on this post here.

Craig Moffett of Bernstein Research recently published a very informative report titled

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“The Long View: U.S. Telecom – The End of the Line(s).” In it, he shares his learnings from very detailed analysis of the cost and revenue models of wireline businesses.

Mr. Moffett is a very smart guy. I can’t possibly fairly represent the depth of analysis he has provided in this 40+ page report. I recommend you consider becoming a Bernstein client so that you can read this full report and to follow what he has to say about the industry. He won’t always be right, but his analysis is always worth considering.

And after considering this report, I think it’s clear that the Mobility Revolution, and the resulting displacement of wireline services by wireless services, may prove deadly for the Big Bells.

To give you a sense for the challenges they face, here are some quotes from the report:

  • “The Wireline business – encompassing both the TelCo and Enterprise segments – still accounts for more than half of Verizon’s revenues (after adjusting for Vodafone’s 45% ownership of Verizon Wireless), and a similar amount of AT&T’s. Similarly, Wireline accounts for a majority of assets – at Verizon, about 69%. And Wireline accounts for an even larger portion of costs – the best measure of activity, or what these companies actually do – at about 65%. Indeed, if one were to also include the in-region wired portion of the wireless network as part of the broader wired picture then these companies’ still-overwhelming dependence on their wired franchises becomes even more striking, with what is almost certainly three quarters or more of the revenues and assets depending on the wired infrastructure.”
  • “The TelCo (or regional Wireline segment) represents a larger share of profitability than it does of revenue within the Wireline business. Although not disclosed in Verizon’s and AT&T’s published financial reports, both companies are quick to concede that the TelCo segment is significantly more profitable than Enterprise, even if the TelCos’ trends are deteriorating. At both AT&T and Verizon, we estimate that TelCo accounts for approximately 40% of total EBITDA.”
  • “The combination of competitition, technology, and regulation is a potent brew, and fifteen years after “Being Digital,” the world of the TelCos is a far different place. Consider that, at the time of the ’96 Act, local residential phone service was essentially ubiquitous, with 97% of households connected to the wired ‘grid.’ Nearly 30% of those homes had a second line, either for their AOL dial-up connection, their fax machine, or perhaps for their chatty teenage daughter. That’s an ‘effective’ penetration rate of ~125%. Fifteen years later, more than a quarter of all homes have ‘cut the cord,’ and a quarter of those remaining have left for cable voice. Second lines have dropped to 11%. That’s an effective penetration rate of ~60%; effective residential penetration has been cut in half. And if we look forward just five years from now, we are on a trajectory for more than 40% of homes to have gone wireless-only, for cable to have 40% of what’s left, and for second lines to be a thing of the past. Do the math. Five years from now, in the residential market the TelCos will preside over 60% share of just 60% of homes… an effective penetration rate of just 36%. That’s close to another halving, but this time in five years. That decline rivals that of the film business at Kodak.”
  • “The rate of margin compression appears to be accelerating. Two things have happened in the two years since the end of our ARMIS data set (ARMIS reporting was discontinued afer 2007). First, the rate of access line losses has dramatically accelerated; the country is no longer averaging -4.8% total access line losses as it was from 2000 to 2007. This year, the average has been north (or south?) of a -10% annual decline. Second, broadband growth has slowed dramatically. Indeed, DSL growth tipped slightly negative for the first time ever in Q3. As a result, operators can no longer count on offsetting gains in ARPU to lessen the impact of a declining access line base.”
  • “There is a troubling tendency to dismiss this progression as ‘yesterday’s news,’ to view the big TelCos as wireless operators, or to assume that the wired phone business will decline gracefully. It won’t. The Wireline phone business is a quintessentially fixed cost business. When fixed cost businesses decline – and especially when they decline rapidly – they leave huge and intractable costs in their wake.”
  • “…Intuition suggest, however, that Wireline costs are primarily fixed, and this intuition can be empirically confirmed by the steep slope of correlations between access line losses and cost per access line – drawn from our extensive analysis of state-level FCC ARMIS data through 2007. The correlation suggest an overwhelmingly fixed cost structure for the Wireline business (in a ratio of roughly 50 to 75% fixed and 25 to 50% variable).”
  • “Importantly, it is the nature of fixed cost businesses like telecommunications that ‘threshold effects’ become increasingly pronounced over time. As volumes decline, variable costs are shed. The remaining cost structure is therefore, by definition, more fixed and less variable than it was before. In any high-fixed-cost business, it is always the case that initial unit cost escalation yields even greater sensitivity to further unit cost escalation; as the margin ‘cushion’ gets smaller and smaller, it requires a smaller and smaller subsequent change to volumes to trigger a larger and larger subsequent change in profitability. If this ‘negative operating leverage’ dynamic is at work – as it appear to be – then it is plausible to expect that Wireline margin compression will not lessen; it will accelerate.”
  • “The combination of falling revenues and falling margins is a noxious combination; the dollar amount of EBITDA generated by the U.S. Wireline industry has dropped from an annualized run rate of $52B seven years ago to an annualized run rate of just $38B in the just reported Q3.”
  • “The implications of our analysis of the Wireline segment are troubling for the industry going forward. That access lines will continue to decline from here is a foregone conclusion. That Wireline margins will decline with access lines is more controversial, at least to judge by consensus estimates.”
  • “Our AT&T model projects a decline from 31.8% in 2009 to 26.3% in 2013 in overall Wireline margins. … As a context, each 100 basis
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    point decline amounts to about $650M in reduced Wireline EBITDA or operating income. Our 550 basis point variance from today’s margins amounts to a $3.6B gap by 2013, equal to 17% of ‘consensus’ EBITDA and 54% of ‘consensus’ operating income.”

  • “Our Verizon model projects an even steeper decline, as Verizon’s costs appear somewhat more fixed and less variable than AT&T’s. We project a decline in Wireline margins from 24.2% 2009 to 17.0% in 2013. … Every 100 basis points of margin contraction at Verizon translates to about $460M in EBITDA or operating income. Our 720 basis point variance from implied consensus amounts to a $3.1B gap by 2013, equal to 30% of ‘consensus’ EBITDA and 153% of ‘consensus’ operating income, putting income firmly in negative territory.”

Mr. Moffett is a very smart guy. I can’t possibly fairly represent with this tiny sample from his report the depth of analysis he has provided. I recommend you find a way to read this full report and to follow what he has to say about the industry. He won’t always be right, but his analysis is always worth considering.

Although Verizon and AT&T are clearly being very successful in benefitting from the growth in mobility, they are undoubtedly also carefully weighing how to slow the impact of mobility on their core wireline economic engine.

Some of us, however, would rather mash the accelerator to the floor and say – bring on that Mobility Revolution – full steam ahead!

Smartphone Adoption

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

It’s been a couple of weeks since I posted the initial piece on the four drivers of change in the industry. I didn’t intend to take this long to post the second piece, but I guess I’ve been pretty busy…

As I indicated in my first post, one of the key drivers of change has been smartphone adoption. Obviously, smartphones have been around for a long time. The Handspring and then Palm Treo’s were great early smartphone products for Sprint starting almost a decade ago. Nokia, Microsoft, and RIM also have had smartphone platforms for many years.

But, it wasn’t until Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007 that the smartphone became a mass market phenomenon.

I believe the iPhone also introduced a fundamental shift in approach to the smartphone. I’m most familiar with Palm, Microsoft, and RIM, so my apologies for not representing Nokia well. Both Palm and Microsoft focused on creating miniature computer environments. The experience had much more to do with running applications on the computer and also using the computer to make phone calls. Yes, there was an e-mail client and a browser, but these were application-centric models in the traditional PC mold. RIM always has been very messaging centric. Yes, there was a browser and yes you could run applications, but the model was very much about messaging.

The iPhone was the first smartphone that truly was Internet-centric. You may recall that for the first year, Apple didn’t even support native apps on the iPhone – they expected developers to create services/apps that were browser based. Of course, the iPhone had the first beautiful browser that ignored any concept of carrier walled gardens and gave users access to the full Internet. A year in, the App Store similarly ignored the concept of a carrier deck and created a win-win-win opportunity for developers to develop/market/sell/deliver applications and for customers to enjoy a rapidly growing array of available apps.

Of course, this invited competition and Google introduced Android at the end of 2007, with the first handset available late in 2008. And today, patents and intellectual property are the weapons of choice in this competitive battleground.

IDC estimates that US smartphone sales have increased from about 5 million in 2005 to over 100 million in 2011. Not bad growth…

Stay tuned…

The iPhone: the power and the danger

Monday, November 21st, 2011

My latest article for Christian Computing magazine is on the power and the danger of the iPhone. It can

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Four Drivers of the Mobility Revolution

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

Just over a week ago, I presented “Seismic Shifts in the Mobile Ecosystem” at Sprint’s Open Solutions Conference. The session was well attended and seemed to be well received, so I’d like to share some of the content here. I’ll set up the topic in this post, and then dive deeper in additional posts over the coming weeks.

The basic premise of the session was that there are four key drivers of change that have resulted in ten seismic shifts in the mobile ecosystem. These changes reflect the Mobility Revolution and create opportunity for businesses that can understand and capitalize on these shifts.

So, what are the four drivers?

The first one is

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mass market adoption of smartphones.

The second is mobile bandwidth being built into all kinds of products.

The third is ubiquitous broadband (wired and wireless).

The final driver is the emergence of real world interfaces between mobile devices and the real world, including NFC, compass, gyroscope, cameras, and other sensors.

Steve Jobs: The Innovation Paradox

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

I’m already very late in writing an homage to Steve Jobs, so let me take a different angle…

Steve Jobs may represent the most successful example of a man and his company being able to maximize the profit from innovation. He and Apple have done this by taking an approach to innovation that appears to be a paradox: Steve Jobs was extremely innovative and extremely anti-innovation.

That Jobs was innovative hardly needs to be explained. He truly invented and reinvented industries over and over again. Years

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ago, I observed that Apple was great at introducing products that had great design, were first of their kind to truly appeal to the mass market, and that broke down traditional barriers. Over the years, I think the company has proven those points time and again. However, what I missed then was the nature of the boundary breaking… Jobs created and reinvented industries by breaking down the barriers between the digital and analog worlds.

Look at the industries that have been completely redefined by Jobs and his companies: personal computers (Apple II, the first mass market personal computer and the foundation of everything that followed), publishing (the shift to desktop publishing ushered in by the Mac), music (mass market adoption of digital music thanks to iPod/iTunes), movies (broad adoption of CGI-animation, led by Pixar), photography (Apple was a bit later to the party on this one, but the iPhone helped cement the role of the cameraphone), and telephony (or whatever you want to call this industry that connects the devices that are now central to our lives).

Bottom line, Jobs was a master at leveraging incredible design instincts to turn nascent ideas into mass market hits, and in the process completely redefining industries. That’s why I believe he was extremely innovative.

However, Steve and Apple have also been extremely anti-innovation. Not long ago I observed that Apple suffers from Big Bell Dogma. I summarized it this way:

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They want to put constraints on how innovation can happen so that they dominate the ecosystem and extract the most value.”

We have seen it time and again. They limit how their innovation can be leveraged. No one but Apple can make a device running iOS. Only a select few carriers can sell it, and then under far more stringent parameters than any other phone OEM imposes. Apple regularly tweaks the rules under which developers can operate – each time shutting down one or more areas of innovation that are threatening to the company. Apple sues competitors seemingly to keep their products out of the market. All of these actions put constraints on innovation. Without these constraints, there would be much more innovation in the ecosystem, but not necessarily to Apple’s benefit.

Which brings me back to my original point. Apple, perhaps uniquely, does an excellent job of monetizing innovation precisely because of this innovation paradox. The company focuses (i.e. actually deselects distractions) on innovating to create insanely great products (usually building on the innovations of those that went before them), and then protects their financial benefit from that innovation using every possible means (great marketing, carefully constructed legal agreements with complimentary partners, full legal enforcement of intellectual property, etc.).

Who knows if Apple, the company, has so fully integrated the nuances of this model to continue to enjoy its fruits for years to come, and who knows if the strategy will actually pay off with the current spate of patent

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disputes and developer decisions, but part of Steve Job’s legacy will undoubtedly be his mastery of this innovation paradox.

Accelerating the Mobility Revolution

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

It’s been a long time since I last posted. I’m also very behind in responding to comments, I apologize for that and hope to get caught up in the next few days. Between a lengthy overseas vacation and a full

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plate of work, it’s been hard to carve out time for this blog.

But, there are a few news items that are worth commenting on.

The first few items point to Sprint’s commitment to continuing to accelerate the Mobility Revolution. This shows up in a number of ways – Sprint has been scoring well in RootMetric’s network comparison tests demonstrating our commitment to the network investments that are necessary to support the Mobility Revolution.

According to Chitika, we’ve also been increasing our share of the Android market (see graph below). Note that Android sales from our prepaid brands (Virgin and Boost both have Android handsets that are selling well) are not included in Sprint’s numbers and probably are a meaningful part of the growth in “other”. This demonstrates our commitment to the open development environment which is key to customers integrating mobility into all aspects of their lives.

This commitment to the network and platforms necessary for the Mobility Revolution is reflected in how our customers use their devices. According to a Consumer Reports study, Sprint’s smartphone customers use about twice as much data as our competitors’ customers – proving the point that Sprint’s customers are way out ahead in the Mobility Revolution – making mobility integral to everything they do.

The final news item I can’t pass without commenting on is Google’s proposed acquisition of Motorola. This deal is a clear demonstration of the Mobility Revolution in action. Google, perhaps the most powerful company on the planet, has put their money where their mouth is. For a couple of years Google has been saying that mobility is their top priority and now they are proving it. As with any big deal, this one’s not a simple black and white, good or bad news story. I think I can best address it in terms of what’s good, what’s bad, and what’s ugly about the potential tie up.

The Good:

  • Google gains Motorola’s patents, which help in the patent wars in which Big Bell Dogmatists have been trying to slow down the Mobility Revolution by impeding Android-based innovation.
  • Google gains a better appreciation of the complexities OEMs face in building Android handsets, likely leading to improvements in the operating system.
  • Google likely gains traction with Google TV through Motorola’s Set Top Box business, potentially bringing additional value to the Android ecosystem and encouraging some pretty interesting cross-platform innovation (imagine a Netflix or Hulu app with your smartphone as remote control and the STB as video player).
  • Motorola’s strength in low-cost feature phones may provide Google with insights into how to expand the Android ecosystem into emerging markets.

The Bad:

  • Motorola is obviously a strong competitor to Google’s other Android OEM partners. Samsung, LG, HTC, and others are likely to pause and consider their level of commitment to Android going forward.
  • Google gains leverage in the Android and overall mobile ecosystem, making all other players work harder to earn their fair share of industry profits.
  • The deal will require regulatory approval, which will take months, potentially slowing down innovation at Motorola, Google, and other ecosystem players.

The Ugly:

  • Google has to convince everyone that they won’t unfairly favor Motorola over other handset OEMs.
  • RIM, Microsoft, and Nokia are all in unstable positions in the mobile industry. Microsoft potentially has the opportunity to win the hearts of Motorola’s competitors, but if they fail to do so, they may find themselves with an unsustainable market position. Microsoft may also succumb to the urge to keep pace with Google by acquiring Nokia or RIM. And RIM’s only hope (other than being bought) is if enough of the ecosystem shifts from Android to Windows to keep RIM within sight of the pack.

What do you think – did I miss anything?

Whither Isis? Is Big Bell Dogma a dead dog strategy?

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Today’s news is hardly surprising. I think Fierce’s Mobile’s Sue Marek describes the news better than I could:

Less than six months after AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile USA announced their mobile commerce initiative, called Isis, it appears that these major players are already starting to rethink their ambitious plans.

Today the Wall Street Journal is reporting that the operators are scaling back Isis, which they had originally hoped would compete with Visa and MasterCard and instead have decided to set up a mobile wallet.

Interestingly, this new mobile wallet plan sounds very similar to what Sprint Nextel has been doing. If you recall, Sprint was noticeably absent from the Isis joint venture. The operator said at the time that it was not interested in competing with the credit card companies and didn’t want to be part of a proprietary system. Instead, the company unveiled a mobile wallet solution in November that enables customers to use buy physical and digital products directly from their phones, entering a universal PIN code and billing purchases to their existing Visa, MasterCard and Amazon Payments accounts. Sprint’s Mobile Wallet is not a carrier billing mechanism, instead the company calls it a “container” for on-the-go customers to leverage traditional payment methods.

It appears that AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless are taking a cue from Sprint. The WSJ article says that Isis is in talks with Visa and MasterCard and others to see if they will participate in this mobile wallet initiative.

Here’s what I had to say about Isis back in December:

Isis is a perfect example of Big Bell Dogma. Carriers think they can do a better job than Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and others in the payments ecosystem, so they invest billions to try to replicate capabilities and compete with existing players rather than focusing on what carriers actually do well and enabling the existing players and nimble startups to leverage the carrier’s infrastructure to bring real value to consumers. Carriers have been trying to do that for over a hundred years in different industries. Sometimes they get lucky and succeed, but most of the time it’s a miserable failure.

Does this Isis abandonment point to the death of the Bell’s “Big Bell Dogma” strategies?

I hope not. As I concluded in that December post:

Maybe I shouldn’t be trying so hard to put an end to Big Bell Dogma. Instead, in the short term, Sprint can enjoy the benefits of being the best partner for everyone else in the ecosystem, and in the long term, we all can enjoy the fruits of Big Bell Dogma’s glorious failures.

So, as the Big Bells continue to compete with their customers/partners in home security and social coupons, all I have to say to everyone in the ecosystem is: if you want to move at carrier speed, go talk to the big bells and wait for them to enter your market and compete with you. If you want to move at silicon valley speed with a true partner focused on mutual success, come talk to Sprint.

My favorite lunch

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

Yesterday I attended Sprint’s annual Patent Luncheon. This is my favorite lunch event of the year!

In 2010, Sprint was awarded 357 patents. At this luncheon, all the individuals across the company who either received a patent in 2010 or submitted an application for one during the year, are recognized and honored.

What I love about this event isn’t the food (although it’s always good). What I love is that it’s a rare opportunity in the spotlight for the folks behind the Sprint innovation that has made this company great for more than 100 years. The folks walking up on stage and getting their photo taken with the company’s top executives (4 members of Dan Hesse’s senior team were at the event) spend most of their days being brilliant in hidden labs and obscure cubicles across the Sprint campus.

Throughout the year, as I have meeting after meeting in Sprint’s boardrooms, or in high level partnership meetings, these aren’t the folks I see. But when Sprint wins awards for innovation in systems, devices (and here), networks, or even customer service, it’s often the

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Go Sprint! Power up!

AT&T + T-Mobile USA?

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

A couple of days have passed now since AT&T’s industry-changing announcement.

Sprint’s official position is clear:

The combination of AT&T and T-Mobile USA, if approved by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC), would alter dramatically the structure of the communications industry.

AT&T and Verizon are already by far the largest wireless providers. A combined AT&T and T-Mobile would be almost three times the size of Sprint, the third largest wireless competitor. If approved, the merger would result in a wireless industry dominated overwhelmingly by two vertically-integrated companies that control almost 80 percent of the U.S. wireless post-paid market, as well as the availability and price of key inputs such as backhaul and access needed by other wireless companies to compete.

The DOJ and the FCC must decide if this transaction is in the best interest of consumers and the

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U.S. economy overall, and determine if innovation and robust competition would be impacted adversely and by this dramatic change in the structure of the industry.

I won’t comment further, but I’m curious what others think. Feel free to leave your comments.