I'll stick to my comments and continue to believe that regulation had a stronger impact on the mobile sector than the economic crisis. The recent announcement that the French telecom regulation authority eventually (after years after back and forth discussions and lobbying) granted the 4th 3G license to Free/Iliad (one of the largest ISPs) is a good example of that. The new entrant will not launch before early 2012 but aims at captuting 10% market share by introducing cheaper tariffs (a competitive 3 hour package for less than 20€), bundling Internet access and offering interesting conditions to MVNOs. Evolution of termination rates or roaming tariffs as well as other regulations on spectrum have a much greater impact on operators' bottom line than reduced spending from consumers.
Lots happened in 2009 but it wasn’t a vintage year for digital music (in fact it was the year it well and truly lost the digital buzz to eReaders). All in all I’d give 2009 a 6 out of 10, with the launch of Spotify accounting for at least couple of those points and the following as the 5 key disappointments:
Comes With Music under-whelmed (as did Play Now plus)
ISP services didn’t get off the ground (including unlimited MP3’s nearly but not quite moment)
Apple’s new killer music format was….oh iTunes albums
imeem gave a master class in how not to make money out of social music
The big boys (MySpace, Apple) snapped up the innovative competition (Lala, iLike, imeem)
So will be 2010 be any different?Though I don’t think it will be the year digital music will really come of age (that’s at least a couple more years away) I do expect it on balance to be a stronger one than its predecessor.Leaving aside the few specific developments I’m not able to talk about here are a few of my predictions:
Apple has confirmed the acquisition of streaming music provider Lala.The move is significant (even though Apple appear to be trying to suggest otherwise) because it is one more piece in the gradually emerging puzzle that is Apple’s future music strategy, which for a few years now has remained relatively static.
Why is Apple’s music strategy in need of revision?
If the iTunes Music Store had evolved half as much as the iPod had over the last few years we’d have a cutting edge music service. Instead we have one that remains market-leading in terms of basic functionality (i.e. store to device synching) but behind the curve in terms of experience, discovery and community. Whilst the web threw up the likes of imeem, Spotify, Last.FM, MOG etc. the iTunes Music Store stuck to selling 99 cents downloads.Don’t get me wrong the iTunes store is a crucially important platform that accounts for the majority of the current paid download market, but it isn’t yet equipped to drive the digital music market to the next stage.In its current guise it is essentially a transition technology: with one foot in the distribution paradigm of selling units of stuff, and one in the consumption era of on-demand access.It has done a great job of helping consumers take baby steps into the digital age, but has pretty much reached the limits of its potential as a music service. (You’ll note my continued and fully intentional implied distinction between the music store and the App Store – more on that in a moment).
Today is the big day: when Comcast announces it has taken a controlling share of NBCU in the latest mega media merger. And though the media have been covering it rapaciously for months now, the obligatory reaction stories are now being posted, analyzing something we should really know by now, namely:
This deal isn't about clamping down on runaway digital video content to save cable's collective hide.
If you're not careful, you may run into people who assert the contrary. Rafat Ali of paidcontent.org, whose opinion I generally value, earlier today titled his remarks "Comcast-NBC Deal Isn't About Digital." By which he means it's not about purely digital content (generation or delivery). While that's true, when he then goes on to say that Comcast's digital moves (thePlatform, Fancast) don't have "the potential to change the game for the cable giant," he is 100% wrong.
Because the future of cable is entirely dependent on digital. The future of all media of any sort is dependent on digital. Ergo so is the deal.
2009 has been a breakout year for eReaders and eBooks--device sales will have more than tripled by the end of this year, and content sales are up 176% for the year--but 2010 will be anything but boring. Here are Forrester's predictions for what will happen in the next year: