Nokia Breaks with the Past: N900 Linux Maemo Phone Announced

By Ian Fogg (bio, recent research or follow me on twitter)

The new N900 is a departure from Nokia's regular evolutionary extensions to the Nokia handset portfolio that build on previous models. It's the first big reaction to the many new entrants that have arrived in the high end Internet phone market over the last two years (Google's Android, Apple, Palm's Pre etc.).

While the Nokia N97 that launched earlier this year used a variant of the same software used in every high end Nokia Internet phone for over five years -- Symbian Series 60 -- the N900 does not. For the first time, Nokia is launching a high end Internet phone using Linux. And note, The N900 is using Maemo, and not Android.

Nokia isn't positioning the N900 as a "smartphone". This is smart. Read why here: The "Smartphone" Is Dead: Long Live Smart Phones And Smart Gadgets.

This is a significant strategic play for Nokia as I warned clients was coming last year. I've seen the N900 and held it in my hands. It's impressive. But is it enough to help Nokia re-gain mindshare? Comment below! Or, contact me via the Forrester inquiry team (clients) or press office (media).

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Verizon Offers New Customer Self-Service for FiOS Subscribers

Today Verizon announced a new customer service channel for its FiOS subscribers.  Dubbed "Verizon In-Home Agent," it's a desktop application that gives customers access to the type of back-office functions that typically require a call to a customer service agent.  Customers can use the tool to set up email accounts, configure a PC to work on a home network, upgrade TV channel packages, or modify phone or voice mail features, among other things.

When it comes to customer service, Verizon has just upped the ante on convenience.  As noted in my recent Convenience Quotient report on customer service, Web self-service is a popular method for consumers to resolve customer service issues, but FAQs/search, email and online chat have their own drawbacks.  Here, Verizon gives consumers the control and the content to resolve their own service issues without involving the company at all, if they wish. That's a huge benefit to some consumers -- not to mention Verizon -- although less tech-savvy consumers may be hesitant to use the In-Home Agent no matter how simple Verizon claims it to be.

 

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Rhapsody on iPhone

Rhapsody announced today that it is submitting an app for iPhone.
If approved, it will be the first on-demand music streaming app
on phones in the U.S.
I won’t speculate about whether Apple will approve the app or not. Even if Apple
doesn’t, others such as Android, Palm Pre, or Blackberry might. This means that on-demand streaming to the phone is essentially here.

The question remains, however, whether on-demand
streaming apps such as Rhapsody’s will lead people to really use phones for music. Currently, only 10 percent of cell phone users in the U.S. listen to
music on their phones. 
iPhone users are already more likely to use them to listen to music than users
of other phones (59% versus 8% respectively) . So Rhapsody may help move the dial only if it enrolls users
of other phones for this service.

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Why Nokia is Launching a Netbook

By Ian Fogg (bio, recent research)

Today, Nokia announces its first netbook, called the Nokia Booklet 3G (press release, Nokia blog post). Like all netbooks, the Nokia Booklet 3G is essentially a miniature laptop PC and has more capability in common with the PC than with handheld devices like mobile phones. Despite misinformed advance speculation, the Booklet will run Windows and has an impressive claimed battery life of 12 hours.

In the flesh, the Booklet 3G has a neat modern design and a modern
metallic appearance case. The screen and keyboard are both relatively
large and well-proportioned.

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Spotify's Marathon

The news that Spotify’s mobile app is now available for the Android platform, coupled with an anticipated Autumn US launch, are both part of the music service’s inexorable rise and media interest.  Spotify undoubtedly has momentum and potential in abundance.  But, even without considering the issue of cash burn, it is also important to keep a sense of scale. Spotify has done a great job of acquiring a sizeable audience after a short period of time, but needs many more users before it can be considered on a par with some more established services that get a lot less attention (these days at any rate).

 

In the chart below I have mapped the number of users of Spotify and a number of other key free music services, each from launch.  What is clear is that Spotify has made a solid start is growing at a stronger rate than Pandora was at the same stage.  If Spotify ever reaches Pandora’s scale and business model viability, it will rightly be considered a success.

 

But it is also clear that other services like Last.FM and imeem grew more quickly.  And just to put the absolute scale of Spotify into perspective, the Pandora iPhone app alone is mapping almost exactly in line with Spotify’s entire user base. (No coincidence of course that Spotify see the iPhone app as a crucially important ticket to further success).

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Netbooks - an upcoming Forrester Virtual Round Table

Netbooks and the emerging 'smartbook' category (great, another new term!) continue to be one of the hottest topics with Forrester clients. My recent outreach to those who have read my research in this space (Links below in case you've missed any of these) has created a lot of discussion and inquiries, and the market seems to be changing at a record pace. That is why this topic merits being one of the first covered in a new, timely product we're creating - client virtual round tables.

To allow a many to many conversation and discussion along with deeper insights into this research, I'd like to invite you and your peers to a one-hour informational call on Friday 4 September at 11:30am ET.

During the call, I'll present 25 minutes of material describing the ever-changing netbook landscape. The next 35 minutes will involve a facilitated Q & A discussion period, during which you'll have the opportunity to ask me and others on the call any questions about the direction of this market plus attendee experiences, issues and success stories. We will not disclose which client companies are on the call, but we will collaboratively explore the topics like:

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The Three C’s of Digital Content

For the last couple of months Forrester’s global media team has, in collaboration with a number of other Forrester analysts, been working on a series of research looking at the impact of the Media Meltdown and the implications for the future of media businesses. A number of key reports have already been published (see Nick Thomas and David Card’s reports) but there is also plenty ‘in the pipes’. One of these works in progress is a report laying out the product innovation that Forrester believes that music companies need to pursue to survive the Media Meltdown. What is becoming apparent is that many of the fundamental challenges and solutions apply far beyond the music business.

In fact it’s beginning to look like there is the makings of a product innovation blue print for all media companies in the digital age. We’re really excited with where some of these ideas are going and I want to share with you a few of these key concepts here. In return I’d really value your comments and feedback to help us continue to hone our thinking.

One of the core challenges facing any business that tries to sell content to consumers (in digital or physical form) is that content scarcity is gone. In the boom years of the distribution era content scarcity encouraged consumers to think distributors and retailers had a monopoly on the supply of content. In the digital age of ubiquitous availability and pervasive free, scarcity of content simply does not exist.  Consequently consumers' willingness to pay for content fades by the minute. 

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24x7 People and the Rise of 24x7 Social Computing

By Ian Fogg (bio, recent research)

Too many firms are building their mobile strategies as a mere extension of the PC Internet, and are missing out on what's now possible when mobile, but which remains impossible using a PC.

A PC is always going to be limited to deliver a part time Internet experience. They are too bulky, too heavy, too power hungry, and increasingly too dependent on the assumption that a super fast fixed-quality broadband connection is present to be something that people will have with them all of the time 24x7. If a PC evolved to be suitable for 24x7 use it wouldn't be a PC anymore.

Today's Internet mobiles offer people that 24x7 digital life. People are becoming connected 24x7 through their Internet phones and that must transform the strategies that firms adopt. Mobile enables a 24x7 relationship between brands and consumers. Mobile enables people to interact with websites 24x7, both to consume -- read and browse -- and to contribute. Mobile opens up new business models through the fusion of location awareness and a 24x7 Internet-connected device.

The first and clearest example of this new world is what's happening with social computing. People are now able to lurk on Facebook or Bebo at anytime, or post photos onto Flickr that are taggged with where they were taken (as well as when).

Read this new report for more on 24x7 people:-
How Mobile Handsets Will Deliver 24x7 Social Computing

I'll be developing this theme in future reports this year.

How To Survive The Media Meltdown

The lead story on UK news bulletins this morning was the latest results from commercial broadcaster ITV. Two observations, even before we get into the detail of the story: big media companies, due to their prominent role in our lives, have a deep resonance with the public in ways that, say, a ball-bearing company, would never have; and the media meltdown— where traditional media business models based on scarcity and control are fundamentally challenged by the new realities of digital media consumption — is now high on the mainstream news agenda.

 The focus of today’s news is on ITV’s losses and the sale, at a knock-down price, of its social network Friends Reunited.  The broadcaster’s business model, heavily reliant on advertising revenues, leaves it exposed to this shift, whereas rival broadcaster (and major ITV shareholder) BSkyB has succeeded as a platform business, offering telephony and broadband alongside Pay TV. ITV has made the right noises about focusing now on its online video proposition and acquiring more of its own content to exploit. Neither will be easy, however, and successful execution will be the key here. ITV’s track record, looking at its failure to develop Friends Reunited (by no means a bad purchase at the time), is not great.

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