I just wrote this piece in Japanese - but I thought I should summarize in English because it was a bit difficult for me to express some of this.
First off - The opinions and ideas below are entirely mine and not do not represent Forrester Research in any way. I expect that some Forrester analysts who watch Apple and the Telecom industry will put out a well considered piece of research on this, which will serve as Forrester's official opinion.
I was really struck by a comment in the NYTimes article today on Apple's decision to prevent people from unlocking their iPhones or adding third party applications. The comment was "This is uncharacteristically evil of Apple." And I guess lots of people are shaking their heads in regret that their phones have been rendered unusable - and by the fact that they never expected Apple of all companies to do this to them.
Disney announced yesterday that their wireless service will be shut down at the end of the year. It's too bad (though not surprising) to see them go. Many of their services and offerings to families (parents and kids included) seemed to really hit the mark.
Like many other MVNO's, they faced an uphill (and costly) battle to acquire customers in an environment in which wireless subscribers mostly care about quality of network (where MVNO's by definition can't differentiate) and perceived value (low cost minutes and data plan) are the most important factors for subscribers when selecting a provider. Too few (though an increasing number) view other services or entertainment as key criteria in selecting a provider.
I keep wondering when or if carriers will adopt the strategy of brands within their larger brand. With as many MVNO's as have been launched, it's clear that media companies want more than the carriers are offering now in terms of platforms/technology/services to support their efforts to engage with their consumers in the mobile environment. MVNO's are too costly. Incumbents are offering too little.
Ok, so 2/2.5G chips are cheaper, 3G isn't available everywhere, hard to make a phone that works in multiple countries, carriers may be cautious about the type of deals they are signing on their best networks - there are a list of reasons.
But, if revenue is derived from page views, searches, email, etc., why wouldn't you want people surfing as quickly as possible? We've seen it with computers and broadband vs. dial-up - with few exceptions, broadband users do more things and spend more hours online than dial-up (i.e., slow network) users.
Admob released some real numbers around their traffic today. They are closing in on delivering 1.5 billion ads per month. More than a third of this traffic is in the US. Some of the growth has been organic while some has been driven by adding partners to their ad network. It's impressive either way.
Some of the challenges advertisers face when evaluating new mediums include the ability to understand the impact of their advertising along with the audience they are reaching. Admob has published some interesting numbers that demonstrate that they know who their audience is (beyond the expectations of a web property given the content) as well as who is browsing. I suspect there is a lot more data where this came from. This is good news for advertisers and the industry - a better understanding of who is being reached will help drive growth in the industry overall. This kind of transparency and detail can be hard to get in nascent markets.
Disney's CFO mentioned that the MVNO was having some challenges. (See Silicon Alley article)
I don't think there is a lot of news here. Going in, I'm sure that they knew there would be a lot of challenges and scale + customer acquisition would be a challenge and they would need to commit to the venture for years to see it pay off. One of the other factors not mentioned in the short piece was network effects. There are many emotional reasons that parents give for getting cell phones for their children with cost making it an easy decision in the end - bundled minutes, bundled messaging, etc. One of the challenges is - once kids are old enough to be heavy users (and attractive to carriers), parents tend to put them on family plans. It's younger children that more typically fall into the category of being on prepaid plan.
Disney Mobile has launched a number of very innovative services that really hit the mark in terms of what parents want.
For these reasons, it would be sad to see them disappear after such a short time period. They seem to be doing a good job of acquiring customers - it just takes time.
Sprint announced (see Fierce story) the launch of GPS-enabled search today with Microsoft (Tellme acquisition). Tell me signed a deal with AT&T prior to their acquisition by Microsoft. GPS adds a new layer to the solution. It's a good step forward for Sprint - takes one step out of the process for consumers. Moreover, directory assistance is one of the most commonly used services on cell phones and voice is the preferred medium to date.
Create a new online advertising platform, called Platform A, which will integrate the media and technologies across all of AOL's current ad networks including Advertising.com, TACODA, Third Screen Media, Lightningcast, and ADTECH
Relocate its corporate headquarters to New York City
I see this announcement as further fodder for my argument that online advertising is trenching for a comeback, and moving forward will be the backbone of every marketing campaign. Particular to AOL, I think this is interesting timing for a very aggressive move. Leadership in the online advertising space was AOL's to lose 5 years ago and that is exactly what they did. The decision to create an integrated marketing platform and locate themselves where the advertisers are is a great move, but is it too little too late? Why now for AOL? Why didn't they make a decision of this scale years ago before they fell into fourth place in the race?
I haven't had a chance to try Sprint's new service, but I will. (see Wash. Post article)
We haven't seen consumers demanding this service much yet, but with more devices with full browsers, larger screens, and access to faster networks, it is only a matter of time. While the adoption is low today, about four times as many cell phone owners (that we've surveyed) say they are interested in the service as have used it so far. That's good news for the industry.
Once these shopping applications are paired with detailed inventory and promotions, it's easy to imagine that consumers will be drawn to such services - especially for sale items or those that will "expire" (e.g., concert tickets for this evening).
Google laying out a timeline, policies and FAQ for their mobile Adwords seemed to be the big news of the day. (See Fierce/SearchEngineLand article.)
I have a few reactions to this.
First, it was inevitable.
They've been running trials since late last year, and it was only a matter of time. I like that they are giving advertisers a transition time to see how it works. Google is one of the more popular destinations for mobile browsers.