Archive for the ‘The Law’ Category

Big Bells Use Usage Based Pricing to Slow the Mobility Revolution

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

Yesterday, Verizon confirmed their elimination of unlimited data plans for smartphones and revealed the details on their new tiered usage-based pricing plans. In doing so, Verizon followed AT&T’s lead in adopting usage-based pricing as a weapon in their fight against the mobility revolution.

Since T-Mobile also started punishing heavy data users earlier this year, that leaves Sprint as the only national carrier still encouraging customers to embrace mobility for more than just talk.

Usage-based data plans can be a very effective baricade to hold back the mobility revolutionary masses trying to storm the status quo fortress (Bastille Day is a week from tomorrow…). If the Big Bells can get people to stop and question “Should I view/download that now on my mobile device, or should I wait until I get home and use my fixed broadband?” then they’ve turned the tide in the battle for the freedom that mobility promises.

Why are the Bells so set on slowing the revolution? I think there are two answers: money and power. Some financial analysts have observed that the U.S. wireline industry has already lost about $15B in EBITDA (a measure of profits) and that Verizon and AT&T are on track to lose another few $billion each over the next few years due to cord cutting. It’s also a natural response for a historical monopolist to oppose any threat to the status quo, to do everything possible to retain or grow market dominance so that they can dictate the pace and nature of innovation.

Of course, the Bells want to have their cake and eat it too. They don’t really want to kill the growth in mobility – that sector is their best hope for revenue growth. But they’d love to squeeze as much profit as possible by dominating the ecosystem and dictating how business models unfold.

How are other ecosystem players likely to respond to usage based pricing? If I run a business that depends on delivering high bandwidth content (e.g. YouTube), these Big Bell moves threaten my business model. If people are scared to watch my content, they’ll watch less and my value will be destroyed. What can I do? Well – I could go to the Big Bells and negotiate. I need my customers to know that they can continue to watch my content without worrying about data overage fees. In exchange, the Big Bells will exact their pound of flesh.

Of course, it’s handy that the Big Bells can point to the reality of rapidly growing data use to explain the need for usage-based pricing. Unquestionably, there’s a need for mobile operators to find ways to cover the rapidly growing costs of supporting

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smartphone users. But, it is my hope that we at Sprint will continue to find ways to do so that are fair, equitable, and continue to power the mobility revolution to the benefit of all!

Vive La Revolution!

Alarmed?

Monday, April 25th, 2011

Last week I had the chance to chat with Steve Trundle, founder and CEO of Alarm.com.

Here’s the description of Alarm.com from their website:

Alarm.com was founded in 2000, and since then, has been dedicated to the pursuit of convenience and control for home and business security systems using wireless, web and mobile technology. We set out to build a platform based on wireless technology that provides solid security. In 2003 we were the first company to launch a secure, all-digital wireless alarm system with novel features like always-on activity reporting and a web-based control panel.

Alarm.com’s proven technology platform enables consumers to monitor everything that happens in their homes or businesses, not just alarms; they can keep track of activity on entry doors, windows, liquor and medicine cabinets, safes, drawers, and more. Unlike traditional security systems, Alarm.com does not require a phone line or broadband connection; Alarm.com services work wirelessly through a secure GSM network to maintain a dedicated connection that will continue to work for 24+ hours after a power failure. Alarm.com also offers Video Monitoring, emPower™ home automation, Crash & Smash Protection and mobile apps that let consumers enjoy anytime, anywhere access to their property. With Alarm.com, home and business owners can be in 2 places @ once. Simple, flexible and powerful, Alarm.com is designed to fit your lifestyle.

I became an Alarm.com customer 4 years ago when we moved into a new home. Since we’d cut the cord on AT&T, I was thrilled when our local alarm company proposed a sophisticated wireless solution. Not only would it be safe from getting the line cut, but we also wouldn’t have to wait for the alarm system to finish dialing before calling the monitoring center to explain we’d accidentally tripped the alarm (as we had too often had to do with our previous systems) – and it demonstrated the power of mobility!

Steve shared that

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a similar experience led to him starting the company. When they had a system installed in his home, he asked the contractor why a burglar wouldn’t just cut the telephone line. The answer he heard wasn’t convincing. Steve was CTO for MicroStrategy at the time and he also immediately began considering all the possibilities for the data that could flow over an always-available wireless connection to the home.

I asked Steve if wireless

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had redefined the alarm industry and he said it definitely has. Especially these days, folks just assume that wireless connectivity will be built in. As consumers adopt smartphones, they simply expect there to be an app to control every aspect of their lives.

A year ago, we were awakened in the middle of the night by an alarm telling us of flooding in the basement. Being able to respond quickly enabled us to save many precious possessions and minimize our loss. Now, imagine getting that same type of alert even when you’re out and about, during the workday or when running errands around town.

Thanks for listening. After talking to Steve, it was clear to me that Alarm.com’s experience is yet another great example of how mobility is changing how each of us interact with our world and changing the rules of competition across industries, and I wanted to share it with you.

Five years!

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

Today is the five year anniversary of my first post on this blog!

Wow!

A lot has changed in five years.

The industry has gone through a major transformation! (e.g. Five years ago Apple and Google weren’t active in mobile.)

My job has changed significantly. (In 2006 I was director of strategy in one of Sprint’s divisions, today I’m vice president of strategy for the corporation. Five years ago, Sprint and Nextel had just merged and the merger still looked brilliant. :) )

Life has also gotten busier outside of work.

When I started blogging, my goal was to use the blog to share my opinions on the industry.

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Early in my blogging career, I set the goal of posting a new piece every weekday. These days, I’m doing well if I post one opinion piece in a month and some weeks I struggle to post anything at all. More than anything, this blog has become a way to interact with customers to help improve their experience with Sprint.

To be honest, I feel stressed out by the pressure to keep this blog current. I think it’s time for a change – time to destress.

I will continue to look for opportunities to help customers and I will continue to look for opportunities to share my opinions on the industry. But I’m calling time-out on my posts of lists covering industry news. I think y’all have better sources for that information anyway.

Over the next few weeks (months?) I hope to revisit some of the major themes that I’ve covered over the past five years.

Stay tuned!

McGuire’s Law featured in Tomi Ahonen’s latest book

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

I downloaded Tomi Ahonen’s 11th book back in December, but just today got far enough into it to find his references to McGuire’s Law of Mobility. I recommend downloading the book (for free for now) for many reasons more than just the references to McGuire’s Law!

Important Update to the SERO Premium FAQ

Friday, September 17th, 2010

I like to bring good news, but in openly sharing, sometimes I have to be the bearer of news that won’t be seen as good by many.

An additional clarifying point

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has been added to the FAQ on the new SERO Premium plan. Read to the end of the paragraph below. I apologize if the next to last sentence effects you and dampens your excitement about the October 1 options.

What are the plan details of the new SERO Premium rate plans?

As of 10/1/10, there will be two SERO Premium plans available, SERO Premium 500 at $40/month and SERO Premium 1250 at $59.99/month. SERO Premium plans will match current SERO rate plans with two added features, Any Mobile Anytime and Unlimited GPS Navigation. SERO Premium rate plans will be compatible with all devices offered by Sprint. Only customers on a current SERO rate plan as of 10/1/10 will be able to swap to a SERO Premium rate plan. SERO Premium rate plans will not be discountable – customers on current SERO plans receiving discounts above and beyond the already discounted SERO rate will lose those discounts when moving to a SERO premium plan. 4G handsets such as HTC EVO 4G and Samsung Epic 4G will also require the $10 Premium Data add-on.

The Ultimate Swiss Army Knife

Friday, June 11th, 2010

For years, we’ve talked about the cellphone as the swiss army knife.

And I’ve found the analogy

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to be really on-target. I’ve told the story many times about how I used to (pre-9/11) always carry a small knife in my pocket that had a small pair of scissors and a tiny screw driver. There were times when I found myself trying to demo the latest telecom applications at a customer site or a trade show and I’d use those scissors to strip a wire and the screw driver to lock down a connection. (Scary, I know…)

But, in reality, those scissors and that tiny screw driver were a poor excuse for real tools. They were incredibly valuable because I had them with me, but given my druthers, I’d rather use a real stripping tool or real screw driver.

Cellphones have been the same way. You can use your cellphone as a camera. You can use your cellphone to watch TV or movies. You can use them as an eReader. You can use your cellphone as a navigation device. And your cellphone is incredibly valuable for those purposes (relative to its quality at each) because it is always with you. (That’s a big part of McGuire’s Law of Mobility, by the way…)

But in reality, given the choice, most people would rather use a “real” camera, a “real” TV, a “real” book or eReader, or a “real” navigation device.

The EVO 4G is the first phone that really changes that reality. Its true broadband connectivity, high powered processor, 8MP camera, huge screen, and HDMI output make it truly competitive as a “real” product in each of those categories. Add in stereo Bluetooth, 720p video recording, an additional front facing camera for video chatting, hot spot capability, a digital compass, and all the applications in the Android marketplace, and suddenly the EVO becomes the ultimate “swiss army knife” capable of credibly replacing a broad range of products.

Wow.

Mobile Trends 2020

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

Rudy De Waele invited me to participate in a broad view of the coming decade. An impressive set of visionaries from across the mobile ecosystem provided their perspectives on the next 10 years. Set aside some time to be able to absorb the presentation below (you’ll want to view it in full screen).

Here are the 5 trends I contributed:

  1. Just as microprocessors have been built into virtually every product that has a power source, over the next ten years, it will become expected that wireless connectivity will be built into virtually every product that has a microprocessor.
  2. Businesses will redefine virtually every internal process and virtually every service they offer customers to leverage wireless access to information and contextual data to create new value
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    for customers, to grow their addressable markets, and to reduce their operating costs.

  3. Fixed line broadband will overshoot the performance needs of the market, resulting in increasing data cord cutting as individuals, families, and businesses appreciate the value of mobility more than the value of excess bandwidth.
  4. By the end of the decade, mobile devices will be thought of first for the applications they run rather than for their ability to make voice calls.
  5. In the U.S., the Obama administration will stimulate significant expansion of the mobile market through regulatory policies (e.g. reduced backhaul costs) and direct and indirect stimulus investments (e.g. wireless broadband, smart grid).

Cyberguy on 4G

Monday, December 28th, 2009

A Revolutionary Tale

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

In many of my recent talks, I’ve been telling a story about the impact of the microprocessor revolution on a specific business transaction. I believe this story paints a picture of the benefits in how we personally interact with the world and how businesses operate that can come from a technology revolution. I believe the mobility revolution is having the same kinds of impact – and will even more as it continues to unfold.

Let me share the story here:

If you’re old enough, think back to 1979 and imagine buying gas and paying for it with a credit card.

The first “a-ha” difference you’ll remember is that you might not have pumped your own gas, but that’s not the focus of my story. It really starts when it comes time to pay and you need to walk into the dark little office with your credit card. The attendant takes your card, grabs this brick like device, slaps your card down in it, puts in a paper form (in triplicate, with two carbon sheets in between) and (ka-chunka, ka-chunka) manually makes an imprint of your card. He fills in the amount of the sale and has you sign. He gives you one copy (and maybe the carbons, if you’re worried about someone stealing your credit card number), and you’re on your way.

Having taken that mental time travel, it’s now easy for you to understand the huge improvement in the customer experience that came from microprocessors being built into the gas pumps. Today, we “pay at the pump” and are immediately on our way as soon as our tank is full. I’m sure you can remember, like I can, after first experiencing “pay at the pump”, driving into a gas station, realizing that they didn’t have pay at the pump, and driving off to find a station that did. The customer experience improvement was so great that it changed consumer behavior and forced virtually all gas stations to follow suit. In short, the microprocessor revolution changed the rules of competition in this industry.

But, I’ve only told you a third of the story so far.

The second part of the story begins when the customer walks out of the office. The gas station attendant takes the two remaining copies of the credit card transaction and files them away. Sometime within the next week, the gas station owner/manager will bundle up all the bank copies of those transactions and send them off to their merchant bank for processing and payment. About a week later, those payments would be credited to the station’s account.

Today, the electronic transaction dramatically accelerates the payment cycle, radically changing the cash flow cycle for the small business owner and enabling her to think differently about her business.

The third part of the story begins when those credit card transactions arrived at the processing center. The merchant bank would have rooms full of clerks, trying to decipher the greasy fingered handwriting of thousands of 16 year old gas station attendants from across the country, and entering the data into mainframe-based systems.

The microprocessor revolution radically changed the core processes, systems, and organizational structures around which this credit card processing business operated. The automated systems radically changed the risk profile of the business (does anyone remember the books full of printed lists of canceled credit cards?) and, of course, the cash flow and transaction volumes accelerated dramatically. With the automation enabled by the microprocessor came significant increases in credit card use, not only at gas stations, but everywhere people spent money.

So, one simple transaction, impacted by a technology revolution, dramatically improves our personal interaction with the world, improves the cash flow for a small business owner, and redefines an entire industry.

Look around your industry for the opportunities to drive the same level (or greater) impact of the mobility revolution. What do you see?

Christian Computing Magazine article on Smartphones

Friday, August 14th, 2009

I’ve started writing a monthly column for Christian Computing Magazine called The Mobility Revolution. My goal for the column is to help folks at churches and other ministries to shift from deeply understanding how to leverage PC and Internet technologies to advance their missions to beginning to understand how to leverage Mobile technologies to the same end. My assumption is that most of the readers are not yet deep in understanding the mobile industry.

Since my employer doesn’t publicly support any religion, I have permission to write these columns as an “industry executive”, so – as with all the content published here on my personal blog – the views reflected here don’t necessarily reflect those of my employer.

The article I wrote for this month’s column I thought might be worth sharing here. The August issue hasn’t yet hit the streets, so I’ve copied and pasted the text here (with the permission of the publisher).

THE MOBILITY REVOLUTION: Who Cares About Smartphones?

If there is one mobility topic that has captured the imagination of wireless buyers over the past couple of years, that topic would be the smartphone. From the Apple iPhone to the RIM Blackberry to the Palm Pre to Google’s Android phones, these expensive and powerful devices have been the object of appropriate desires for productivity and inappropriate covetousness.

So what is a smartphone, anyway?

Believe it or not, there is no standard definition for smartphone. My definition is that a smartphone is a mobile telephone that runs a general purpose computing operating system that can run applications. But the reality is that smartphones fit within a spectrum of devices with lots of shades of grey. The various classes of devices include:

  • Basic mobile telephones – cellphones that can only be used to talk – there are hardly any of these being produced and sold today.
  • Featurephones – cellphones that can access data services (including text messaging, e-mail, picturemail, and perhaps the Internet) and that have a proprietary operating system that may support applications written in Java or Brew.
  • Smartphones – cellphones with data networking capabilities and that have a general purpose operating system supporting a broad array of applications developed by a robust ecosystem of third party developers.
  • Smartbooks – an extension of smartphones with a larger display and an operating environment similar to a laptop or netbook.
  • Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs) – small wirelessly connected Internet-centric devices providing entertainment and information – a MID typically cannot place telephone calls.
  • Netbooks – smaller versions of laptop computers, often with smaller disk drives and no optical drives – heavily
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    reliant on wireless connectivity to create value through network-based content and applications.

  • Laptops – highly mobile general purpose computers.

With so many choices, why is it the smartphone category that has claimed all the attention? The answer, in two words, is “mobility” and “applications”.

Smartphones are small enough to carry in your pocket. Smartbooks and beyond don’t share that characteristic. As someone described it to me today, the cellphone is maybe the only thing you’ll unconditionally return home for if you forget it. Most people can make it through the day without their wallet, but we are increasingly dependent on the full-time connectivity that our cellphones provide. To realize the benefits of mobility, a device has to be small enough to carry in your pocket, have battery life to make it at least through the day, and be usable for basic communications tasks – most notably making and receiving telephone calls.

Featurephones share all of the mobility characteristics with smartphones, and featurephones are programmable, what sets the smartphone category apart is the attractive business model for developers. Featurephones generally support some level of programmability, often using a version of Java called Java 2, Micro Edition (or J2ME for short). Unfortunately, J2ME is not tightly defined – from a programmer’s perspective, the programming requirements change from phone to phone, requiring a developer to create literally hundreds or thousands of versions of a program to run on different phones from different manufacturers on different carriers. With this level of fragmentation, no single phone represents a large enough target market of users to enable focused investment. This makes it very difficult for application developers to make money with mobile applications for featurephones (although a few have managed).

Smartphones were born out of the marriage of personal digital assistants (PDAs) and cellphones. The first commercial smartphone was probably the Nokia 9000, released in 1996 as the outcome of joint development between Hewlett Packard and Nokia. However, the first smartphone commercially successful in the U.S. was the Handspring Treo 300, released by Sprint in 2003. (Handspring was founded by the original founders of Palm and was later bought back into Palm.) The Treo ran the Palm operating system, which already supported thousands of developers. Applications developed for any Palm OS device would run on any other Palm OS device, creating a viable business model for developers.

But if smartphones have been around for 5-10 years, why the sudden excitement? Another two words – “the Internet” and “AppStores.”

The original Treo 300 device used Sprint’s 1xRTT network for data connectivity and ran a browser developed for the limited computing capabilities of the device. 1xRTT can technically

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support peak data speeds of 144kbps, but you can generally think back to your experiences accessing the Internet using a 56k modem to appreciate how poor the Internet experience was on these early devices. Smartphone web browsers certainly didn’t improve the situation – poorly rendering web pages and not supporting basic capabilities such as Javascript and CSS.

By late 2006, Sprint was upgrading to EV-DO Rev A technology, and Verizon would follow suit in early 2007. This new technology steps up performance to DSL-like speeds – typically in the 1Mbps downlink range and 300-400kbps on the uplink. AT&T would later follow with HSPA technology providing similar performance.

But the real breakthrough was the introduction of the Apple iPhone. Although the original iPhone only ran on AT&T’s EDGE network (similar to 1xRTT), it enjoyed the “insanely great” product design of Apple, and most importantly, a real web browser – virtually the same Webkit-based tool as Safari running on a Macintosh. Finally, the full power of the Internet was available on the go. Google’s Android and Palm’s new WebOS-based Pre have since also come to market with great design, highly usable interfaces, and full Webkit-based browsers.

The second major breakthrough, again introduced by the iPhone, was the iPhone AppStore. Launched in July 2008 to coincide with the release of the iPhone 3G, the AppStore made it easy for iPhone owners to find (and application developers to market) compelling new software for their devices. A year (and 1.5 billion application downloads) later, the AppStore is an unqualified hit that has made hundreds of entrepreneurial businesses quickly successful. Of course, AppStores are also now available for the Palm Pre, Android, RIM Blackberries, and Windows Mobile devices.

So, what impact does any of this have on your ministry?

I think there are two critical lenses through which you should think about smartphones. First, is there a role for smartphones in my church or ministry – can it help us be more productive and successful in serving God? Second, are the people we’re ministering to using these popular new devices, and if so, can we serve them better by leveraging the technology they have in their pockets?

Continue to ponder those questions – it looks like I know what next month’s topic should address.