Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

Bandwidth, Bills, and Bags

Friday, July 16th, 2010

This week I participated in the MobileBeat conference in San Francisco. For the panel I was on, I wanted to find a way to sum up the role of the mobile operator in the application ecosystem.

As I’ve often said, there’s lots of ways that carriers (in their Big Bell Dogma ways) try to force themselves into (or onto) the ecosystem that just plain don’t make sense. As I said at this conference a year ago, application developers want to move at Silicon Valley speed, not carrier speed.

That doesn’t mean that mobile operators are relegated to just being dumb pipes.

Instead, we need to understand where we do, uniquely, create value for the ecosystem. To me, it boils down to Bandwidth, Bills, and Bags.

For starters, we really are network companies. We operate billions of dollars worth of network assets that enable stuff (voice signals, web pages, mobile ads for “free” games) to get from the right point A to the right point B. Clearly, it’s more than just Bandwidth, but for the benefit of alliteration (so at least I can remember it), I’ll use that word to represent this vast array of assets. Carriers can

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contribute significant value-creation potential into the ecosystem by exposing those assets to developers to enable tremendous innovation (location, QoS, call control, performance data, etc.).

But, we aren’t just network companies. Mobile operators have long term relationships with our customers. I’ve chosen the image of the cellphone Bill to represent a complex set of interactions that provide the carrier with perhaps the most complete view of the customer that anyone has. On one hand, those bills can be a valuable way for developers to monetize their efforts, but even more, the information that the mobile operator holds about each customer is a veritable treasure chest. We have a responsibility to be good stewards of this treasure entrusted to us (consciously or not) by our customers. On one hand, we must defend the privacy of customer data “to the death.” On the other hand, as good stewards, we must enable the maximum value creation on behalf of our customers. We must enable developers to create capabilities that our customers can choose to approve the use of their data to make applications work better (e.g. location-based search) or even enable applications that simply aren’t possible otherwise (e.g. social location services).

Finally, we not only operate networks and maintain relationships with customers, but we also are some of the largest retailers in each of our territories. We operate thousands of stores where customers can walk in and interact with us. Historically, these stores were primarily sales locations. Increasingly, especially with increasingly complex products, these stores have become service locations. And in the past couple of years Sprint has introduced “ReadyNow” services to help customers fully use those increasingly complex products. While not yet on the order of Apple’s Genius Bar, ReadyNow is a valuable way that Sprint helps customers use their smartphones to do more than just talk.

I think my message was well received by the audience. What do you think? Does Bandwidth, Bills, and Bags communicate how mobile operators (like Sprint) are more than just dumb pipes, but rather value-contributing partners in the mobile ecosystem?

Telco 2.0 Interview

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

My interview at the Telco 2.0 event in December (from TelecomTV):

The first smart mob?

Friday, December 25th, 2009

Wikipedia defines a smart mob as “a form of self-structuring social organization through technology-mediated, intelligent emergent behavior…. A smart mob is a group that, contrary to the usual connotations of a mob, behaves intelligently or efficiently because of its exponentially increasing network links. This network enables people to connect to information and others, allowing a form of social coordination.” and “The concept was introduced by Howard Rheingold in his book Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution.”

Roughly two millennia ago we hear of this story involving angelic communications technology:

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. (Luke 2:8-20 ESV)

and

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way. (Matthew 2:1-12 ESV)

Merry Christmas!

Voice 2.0

Monday, December 14th, 2009

Last week I participated in a couple of panels at the Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm event in Orlando. The first panel was on “Voice and Messaging 2.0.” Excellent stimulus presentations were provided by Thomas Howe and Irv Shapiro. Thomas introduced the concept of Communications Enabled Business Processes (CEBP) and Irv gave examples of how ifbyphone’s customers are implementing them.

I joined the two of them in a panel discussion. I structured my comments around three concepts:

  1. Voice 2.0 has to evolve from Voice 1.0
  2. However, that evolution requires a “leap of faith” to escape the gravitational forces of Big Bell Dogma
  3. Voice 2.0 has got to be about solutions, not technologies

Starting from the Basics
In moving to Voice 2.0, we can’t leave behind the foundational ingredient of Voice 1.0: reliable networks. It may no longer be about circuit-switched voice networks, but delivering great services still requires reliable and adaptable MPLS, scalable and flexible SIP trunking, increasingly wirelessly-connected endpoints with reliable 3G, or (in more and more places) 4G networks.

Breaking Free of Big Bell Dogma
Although, as a carrier, building great networks is what we’re about, to get to Voice 2.0, we have to move beyond the Big Bell Dogma of holding back innovation by claiming 5-9’s reliability is being threatened (when really it’s cash-cow monopoly profits that are at risk). We have to ease the interconnection of voice networks (while avoiding monopoly fees), enable convergence, and stimulate innovation in the broader ecosystem.

Delivering Solutions
But, at the end of the day, Voice 2.0 isn’t about completing phone calls or operating great networks, it’s about creating value by delivering revenue-boosting or cost-reducing solutions. As a carrier, Sprint will never be the best at developing complex solutions, which is why we partner closely with leaders like Cisco, IBM, and Microsoft (instead of trying to compete with them as some do).

However, sometimes delivering a valuable solution is as simple as helping a customer apply an existing solution to a well understood problem. I gave the example of a Sprint customer in the health insurance industry. Their goal is to improve health outcomes while reducing costs. They looked at the childbirth process as an area for improvement in both. A pregnancy resulting in normal delivery costs in the neighborhood of $1,000. A pregnancy resulting in a Caesarian section birth costs in the neighborhood of $10,000. However, a pregnancy resulting in a premature birth typically has costs exceeding $1 million – a thousand times more than a normal delivery. If there were a way to help the baby stay in the safety of the womb for 37 weeks, it would save a tremendous amount of money, but more importantly be a better health outcome for the mother and a tremendously better health outcome for the baby. Sprint worked with this company to apply Nextel Direct Connect push-to-talk technology to address this need. At risk mothers are now given a push-to-talk phone with “the button” programmed to connect directly to a health professional. Whenever she has questions, she can get immediate sound answers and advice. The result has been a meaningful reduction in premature births –

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and an easier road to a healthy, happy life for many babies.

Needless to say, I’m excited about the potential impact Voice 2.0 is already having!

Does 99 cents work for location-based apps?

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

Last week I was a judge in the Location category at Under the Radar. I was really impressed with the event as a whole, the quality of participating companies, and specifically all four of the companies in the Location category. I was most encouraged by a company called SimpleGeo. They’ve developed a cloud-based service providing location infrastructure for mobile apps. What I like about this is that it accelerates innovation, which accelerates the mobility revolution, which is great for all of us in the mobile ecosystem (except maybe those that have fixed assets at the heart of their economic engine, or those lacking a clear path to support the kinds of bandwidth the mobility revolution will drive…).

But, as much as I liked the company and the service, their pricing model really raised some issues for me. They have three tiers of service. They have a free service, a $399/month service, and a $2,499/month service. The breakpoints are driven by the volume of queries, and Matt explained that the free service could support an application with up to 5,000 or maybe even 10,000 users. I asked if that pricing would support someone with a 99 cent app, and Matt explained that the pricing was based on a tremendous cost savings compared to a company operating their own location infrastructure rather than using SimpleGeo’s cloud-based services.

So, let’s do some math. Taking the middle of the range number, let’s say that when we get to having 7500 users, we’ll need to step up to the $399/month SimpleGeo service. That works out to $4,788 per year in SimpleGeo services. If I charged 99 cents for the app (and I got to keep 70% of that price), then my total revenue from app sales is $5,197.50, leaving $409.50 to cover all of my other costs (assuming that my users stick with the app for no longer than a year).

Bottom line, I’m not sure that sophisticated location-based apps work at 99 cents, and I don’t think the problem is SimpleGeo’s pricing model – the alternatives are likely more expensive.

What do you think?

Carrier Speed vs. Valley Speed

Friday, November 13th, 2009

Last week, I participated in the Open Mobile Summit in San Francisco. It was a very impressive event. My favorite session was probably the keynote panel on day 2 with Walt Mossberg (The Wall Street Journal) moderating (sort of), John Donovan (AT&T), Kevin Lynch (Adobe), Michael Abbott (Palm), and Vint Cerf (Google). It was a great demonstration of “Big Bell Dogma” vs. Internet innovation.

My panel was the “Fireside chat: Future of the carrier deck.” Again, I think the contrasts in perspective and approach were pretty apparent.

For my intro, I explained that I think there are three fundamental truths that shape how we’re thinking about the deck and app stores:

  1. Customers just want to do what they want to do, when they want and where they want. We need to let that happen.
  2. App developers just want to get their great ideas to market as fast as
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    possible. Carriers can’t figure out what will succeed and what won’t, we need to let the market decide.

  3. However, mobile operators still hold a unique place in the ecosystem. We can take steps that create value for customers and developers.

With those truths in mind, we’re focused on what one of my teammates (Brian Huey) phrased as “Do you want innovation to happen at carrier speed or valley speed?” We want it to happen at valley speed, which means that the carriers need to stop being a chokepoint and instead focus on how to add value without slowing down the process of bringing innovation to market. We don’t add value by trying to determine which apps are worthy of appearing in our “stores.” We do add some value by allowing customers to choose to pay for apps and content through their wireless bill. We do add some value by helping with marketing so that customers don’t have to wade through an endless supply of similar apps. We really add value when we open up our assets (network, location, etc.) so that developers can expand their creative limits.

Carriers are great at operating network assets, and we manage an existing relationship with the end customer. We aren’t great at writing consumer software or developing consumer-facing interfaces. In those areas, we need to get out of the way and let the highly capable players (startups and established players) who specialize in those areas to do what they’re great at. (Needless to say, not all carriers share this perspective.)

In the spirit of getting out of the way, the week before OMS, at our developers conference Sprint announced three pretty significant changes in how we view the carrier deck and app stores:

  1. We don’t believe that carriers are the best at operating app stores. Since Palm’s App Catalog and the Android Market are both well designed app stores, we’ve never included our carrier deck on the Palm Pre (and soon Pixi) nor on any of the Android devices we’ve launched – and we never will. However, as Microsoft’s Windows Marketplace and RIM’s Blackberry App World are establishing similar credibility, we will be removing our deck from Windows Mobile and Blackberry devices. There’s no need to confuse customers with multiple ways to get apps and there’s no need to force developers to submit to multiple stores.
  2. Similarly, feature phone users (those that don’t have a smartphone like Android, Palm, or Blackberry) still need an easy way to find, buy, and download apps and content. This is where the carrier deck still makes sense. But we don’t believe that the carrier is the best to run this app store, nor
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    to figure out where it can go in the future. So, we are issuing an RFP to outsource the operation of our deck to someone who specializes in app stores, can do it faster and better for developers and customers, and can take it all to the next level.

  3. We also know that there are already lots of applications out there that haven’t bothered fighting through the gauntlet of carrier approvals. Instead, they’re distributing their apps through independent mobile app stores. Probably the best of these (at least the most successful) is GetJar. At our developer conference we also announced that we’re opening up our deck so that when our customers search in our deck, they’ll also be able to find and download everything that’s in GetJar.

I’d love to hear what you think? Is Sprint heading in the right direction, or should carriers continue to insert themselves more in the process? Please leave your comments below.

Growth, Innovation, Leadership

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

Yesterday I gave the keynote address at Frost & Sullivan’s Growth, Innovation, and Leadership conference in Scottsdale, Arizona. I thought I’d share the high level outline for my talk with my blog readers and point you to additional resources behind the topics I covered (try clicking on the links

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throughout this piece).

The title of my speech was “The Power of Mobility: Redefining Competition Across Industries” and the basic premise was that the Mobility Revolution is as big of a deal as the PC (or Microprocessor) Revolution and the Internet Revolution. Just as those two technology revolutions fundamentally changed how we, as individuals interact with the world, and how we, as businesses operate and compete, so too the Mobility Revolution is restructuring the fabric of how we work and play. The innovative leaders who understand and grasp the opportunities created by this revolution are the ones who will redefine the rules of competition in their industries and who will disproportionately capture growth in their markets.

In explaining the drivers behind these three revolutions, I touched upon Moore’s Law, Metcalfe’s Law, and, of course, McGuire’s Law of Mobility. I wholeheartedly believe that these three forces are causing mobility to be built into every product, every service, and every process. Throughout the talk I gave examples of companies that are changing the rules of competition within their industries by building mobility into products (Amazon Kindle, Musco Lighting, TeleNav), services (PODS, Montclair State University), and processes (Avis). Taking revolutionary steps to change the rules of competition sounds like an overwhelming task, so I also briefly talked the audience through the “seven steps to the power of mobility” covered in my book The Power of Mobility.

But, businesses don’t need to initially swing for the fence, capturing the power of mobility can start with more simple steps, including:

  • Integrating traditional desk phones with wireless devices – one number, one voicemail
  • Securely creating remote locations – kiosks, point of sale, temporary offices – using mobile broadband and cellphones
  • Tracking mobile assets with off-the-shelf solutions
  • Improving time and fuel efficiency with GPS-enabled dispatch/delivery solutions
  • Reducing costs by implementing field workforce management solutions

I closed my speech with the real world example of how Sprint is saving more than $6M per year through our deployment of Unified Communications to support our increasingly mobile workforce. And of course, everyday, we are working with customers on many of the solutions described throughout the speech to save money, increase competitiveness, and rewrite the rules of competition across industries.

How can we be helping you?

A few external links worth a listen

Friday, September 11th, 2009

Yesterday, Dan Hesse was interviewed by Charlie Rose. He does a great job of describing the mobility revolution. You can watch it here.

I’ve also recently discovered a site called “IT Conversations.” They’re hosting as a podcast my presentation from EComm about Big Bell Dogma. You can listen to it here.

Also, awhile back Stitcher published the audio from the MobileBeat conference. You can hear the panel I participated in here. (My most widely quoted statement from this panel was “You don’t want to move at carrier speed. You want to move at Valley speed.”)

CIO Bootcamp

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

This past Monday I had the pleasure of speaking at the CIO Bootcamp at Interop. It’s a great event and this was my second time to participate. I promised the participants that I’d follow-up with a posting summarizing my talk and providing links to some of the case studies I mentioned. And here it is! :)

The outline for my talk

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was taken from a post I wrote at Seamless Enterprise early this year including my predictions for 2009:

  • VoIP is dead. Long live AoIP!
  • B’bye desk phone
  • IP surges ahead
  • Economic challenges drive mobile productivity
  • Mobile Broadband becomes standard configuration
  • Outsourcing explodes
  • Unified Communications make real inroads

I talked about the challenges that come from our current economic conditions. Borrowing a phrase that Bruce Barnes had introduced earlier in the morning, I challenged the group to consider how mobility can help them transition from “order takers” to “value creators.” There are two ways to create value – increase revenue (I again borrowed from Bruce in referencing Blue Ocean strategies), and increase productivity/reduce costs.

For revenue growth and really for changing the rules of competition, I referenced a number of examples including:

From a cost savings

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perspective, I talked about how IDC estimates that 2/3 of workers are already mobile some of the time. At Sprint, we’ve translated this into $20M/year in real estate savings. Further, I provided a more detailed case study of our implementation of Unified Communications which is providing an incremental $6-8M per year in telecom cost savings by eliminating hundreds of PBXs and the associated ILEC circuits.

Once again, the Bootcamp was a wonderful event and I was pleased to be a part of it.

Cutting the Cord on Big Bell Dogma

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

Two months ago I participated in eComm. What a great event! (Thanks Lee!)

My talk was on “Cutting the Cord on Big Bell Dogma.” I think it’s a pretty compelling

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story. You can check out the video here and the slides further down in this post.

Russ

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Mc Guire’s Presentation at eComm 2009

View more presentations from eCommConf.