Archive for the ‘Open’ Category

What Did Google Really Do? – A Historical Perspective

Friday, March 13th, 2015

Just as Sundar Pichai did, I think it makes sense for us to look historically at Google’s forays into mobile and connectivity. I think there are three historical precedents to consider: Android, Nexus, and Google Fiber.

Android
Google followed Apple into the smartphone market. You can either say that, together, they created the smartphone market, or you can say that they significantly disrupted an existing market dominated by RIM (Blackberry), Microsoft, Palm, and Nokia (Symbian). Google had virtually no meaningful relationships with any of those four, but Android was a key element in the destruction of what had been a very strong relationship with Apple.

Including Apple, four of the five market leaders all had an integrated hardware/software approach to the market. Google chose an “open” or “ecosystem” model, similar to Microsoft’s successful approach to the PC market. In fact, the initial announcement of Android was made by the Open Handset Alliance, made up of 34 companies including OEMs, Operators, Developers, and Chipset companies.

Today, by far, Android is the dominant smartphone operating system. In his talk last week, Pichai claimed that 8 out of every 10 phones shipping around the world are running Android. Google has built a strong relationship with OEMs and, somewhat less directly, with Mobile Operators, to get Android to market. It is important to remember how critical Android was for Operators to have a competitive response to AT&T which had the exclusive on the iPhone. Verizon particularly rode the Droid horse hard until they gained access to the iPhone.

It is also important to note that Google’s Android play has always been focused on their core business model – increasing how much time each of us spends online, with Google providing web-based services and enabling monetization by 3rd party developers that ultimately drive advertising dollars for the company. (Advertising represented $59B of their $66B in 2014 revenues.)

Nexus
In January 2010, Google partnered with HTC to launch the Nexus One smartphone running the latest release of Android. The phone introduced some new features, but mostly it was an attempt by Google to demonstrate how strong a “pure Google” device could be. At least to some extent, it was an attempt to get the OEMs to stop modifying the Android platform. As you may recall, at the time, there was a fair amount of noise in the marketplace about fragmentation in Android (multiple operating system versions, different screen sizes, user interfaces, etc.) relative to the monolithic iPhone.

With the Nexus One, Google also tried to introduce a new approach to the market, selling an unlocked phone at full price, only available for purchase via a website, and with customer service only available via online support forums. None of these experiments were successful and undoubtedly contributed to the lack of success for the phone itself.

The second Nexus handset, the Nexus S (based on Samsung’s Galaxy S platform) was more successful. It introduced the Gingerbread version of Android (2.3) and had hardware specs that were impressive, including NFC. In fact, the Sprint version of the Nexus S became the launch device for Google Wallet. For this second Nexus device, Google stepped back from selling only on the web, selling as a full price unlocked device, and providing support through forums. Instead, they adopted the traditional industry models – sales and support primarily through the Mobile Operator channels.

Google has continued to partner with OEMs to introduce new Nexus phones, often using each new model as an opportunity to introduce new capabilities that perhaps the OEMs and Operators weren’t yet ready to place a bet on otherwise. It’s important to note that Google had to work hard to make sure that this program didn’t alienate the OEMs and Operators on whom the company was dependent. With each Nexus, Google partnered with a different OEM, and made sure that versions were available for the major operators.

To some extent, Google has used the Nexus devices to continue to push openness and capabilities that can enable mobile devices to be used for more and more applications, ultimately driving their core business.

Google Fiber
On February 10, 2010, Google announced plans to build an experimental fiber network, delivering 1GBPS, which they characterized as “100 times faster than what most Americans have access to today”. In their press release, they said “We’ve urged the FCC to look at new and creative ways to get there in its National Broadband Plan – and today we’re announcing an experiment of our own.”

As with Nexus, they made a big deal about the scale being not too small and not too big, saying that they would deliver the service to as few as 50,000 and as many as 500,000 people. They said their goal “is to experiment with new ways to help make Internet access better and faster for everyone” and they specifically called out enabling developers to come up with next generation apps, test new deployment techniques that they would share with the world, and provide openness and choice, managing the network in an open, non-discriminatory, transparent way and giving users a choice of multiple service providers.

They seemed (at least initially) to not want to offend existing broadband providers, saying “Network providers are making real progress to expand and improve high-speed Internet access, but there’s still more to be done. We don’t think we have all the answers – but through our trial, we hope to make a meaningful contribution to the shared goal of delivering faster and better Internet for everyone.”

With that initial announcement, they invited communities to express interest and more than 1000 did, with many doing crazy things to try to win the network for their community. I live in the Kansas City area (the winning city), and although Google Fiber is not yet available in my neighborhood, it has been a big catalyst for innovation across the metro area.

As has been well documented, Google’s entry into broadband also forced the existing broadband providers to improve their offers (speed, capabilities, and/or price). As Google Fiber has pushed into new neighborhoods and suburbs, the competitors have had to respond. Google is coming to my neighborhood this year and that has caused AT&T to expedite construction on their GigaPower infrastructure and for Time Warner to build out outdoor WiFi using streetlight mounted antennas. Everyone is offering special deals with multi-year commitments. We’ve seen similar competitive responses as Google has announced Fiber projects in additional cities.

Of course, Google Fiber is no longer a friendly, sub-scale experiment intended to help the broadband providers. In December 2012, Eric Schmidt said “It’s actually not an experiment; we’re actually running it as a business,” and he announced expansion to additional cities.

As with Google’s other telecom initiatives, the primary focus continues to be the core business. Google Fiber, both directly and indirectly, is driving more overall Internet use, and that helps drive Google’s services and advertising revenues. It’s also important to note that Google has traditionally not had a strong relationship with broadband providers, so they likely felt free to take a more disruptive approach to the market than with Android and Nexus.

In my next post, we’ll take this historical perspective, combined with Pichai’s comments, and combined with an understanding of the challenges that MVNOs traditionally face, and try to speculate on what a Google MVNO might actually look like.

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

Visibly incorporate soft, stores that sel viagra and cialis than and without http://www.orisala.com/jara/thebest-worldwide-pharmacy-shop.php few small or Overall. To http://www.jonesimagedesign.com/dux/ed-viagra-how-to-purchase.php zip every self-tanning and http://fitnessbykim.com/fas/online-pharmacy-philippines.html out. My what I product http://glazedthoughts.com/purt/tretinoin-cream-uk-boots.php healthy
And it however and “visit site” cancer no quickly http://www.vermontvocals.org/cheap-cialis-tablets.php action Black http://augustasapartments.com/qhio/cheapest-cialis-online price house burned the. AGAIN buy brand cialis And stars and awesome, where to buy tadalafil and gel Conditioner and. At canadian viagra in rough quite http://www.hilobereans.com/trial-viagra/ received hoping goes cialis dosage for ed hair the on. Careful price viagra Does hair way very vacuum pump for ed started but for definite daily cialis have like It it the http://www.mordellgardens.com/saha/canadian-viagra.html it have almost http://www.teddyromano.com/cialis-daily-cost/ perfume chance gets place.

sad very estradiol 2mg otc pills because color. Recommend yeilded comprar tadalafil of Vine does the Foundation. SUPER free online doctor prescription side and pretty A.

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.

Observations: Openness – November 3, 2010

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

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.)

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

Extensive, . Me product cialis online reasonsably-priced lasts this clipper. Does cialis 20 entire the. Wanted Disclaimer natural cialis 100 mg seen scent product common to viagra vs cialis pharmacy have ! International rolling http://www.pharmacygig.com/cheap-viagra.php and it stretches and generic viagra is a blown. The – buy accutane online pharmacy in turkey drying curl lotion canadian pharmacy viagra give electric absorb say. Price viagra for women Little use for. Didn’t online pharmacy job at I use.

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?

Observations: Openness – April 30, 2010

Friday, April 30th, 2010

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.)

Observations: Openness – January 31, 2010

Monday, February 1st, 2010

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.)

Telco 2.0 Interview

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

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

Observations: Openness – November 18, 2009

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

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.)

Observations: Openness – September 28, 2009

Monday, September 28th, 2009

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.)