I recently came accross this quote in the Financial Times from the former Vodafone CEO on November 19, 2007: "The simple fact that we have the customer and billing relationship is a hugely powerful thing that nobody can take away from us". Would you still agree with this operator statement written in golden letters at the forefront of any "smart pipe" operator strategy?
Since then, new entrants such as Google and Apple have shaken up the value chain. I have two examples in mind showcasing the tectonic shifts happening: 1) Apple imposing a direct billing relationship via iTunes/App store and 2) Google managing to create its own location data base (via cell ID or Skyhook's wireless technology) without relying on operators' network.
As early as in July 2007 (before the 3G iPhone version embedding a GPS chip), Google Maps on iPhone (the combo of Google's and Apple's strengths) started offering the "magic blue circle" experience. You could benefit from a compelling user experience like never before, with instant localization without any GPS chipset. Of course, the accuracy may not be good enough if you are looking for a pure turn-by-turn navigation, but honestly this is so simple and useful if as a pedestrian you're looking at the streets nearby.
Location is at the very heart of the mobile value proposition.
The success of Apple's iPhone has acted as a marketing catalyst and showcased the potential of the mobile platform.
Leading brands such as l'Oréal, Audi, Kraft, Bank of America and many others have embraced the trend and launched iPhone applications to engage with a high-profile audience, appear innovative or benefit from richer mobile media capabilities.
It is often difficult to step back from the flow of news coming out from Barcelona but here's a quick take on the main announcements.
- new handset makers such as ACER are entering the mobile space highlighting the fact that boundaries between computers and mobile phones are being blurred. Toshiba, HP are already here and Dell or Lenovo could well follow. Will they succeed? Well they need to master not only the hardware but also the software, offer scalability/economies of scale, negotiate with operators and revamp their brands. This will not happen in one night but some of them have bold long-term objectives
- As always a great autumn/winter device collection from the usual suspects: Nokia E75, SE "Idou", LG Arena or Smasung Beat DJ. Despite few announcements (2 devices with Android OS), Google and Apple cast their shadow over the congress though. Apple because most phones were still compared to the iPhone even though the device was announced 2 years ago. If many visitors were disappointed not to see more Android handsets, one should bear in mind this is still the early days and that there is a strong support from the Open Handset Alliance. No doubt this is a long-term play and that Android is here to stay.
- Appstores are the new retailing/merchandizing paradigm. Many handset/OS vendors announced their own "vertical" solutions but operators also joined the dance such as Orange with its Application shop. The parntership between T-Mobile and OVI is one of the most interesting announcements at it shows that operators can also offer an "horizontal" layer and offer a large reach/distribution to developers. Not everybody will succeed but it is likely that both types of stores will co-exist.
Next Monday the mobile/telecom industry will gather in Barcelona for the Mobile World Congress. With 60,000 delegates expected, the Fiera is the largest European Congress and a bigger event in importance than CTIA. There will obvioulsy be discussions about the impact of the crisis but no doubt that the flow of innovation will overcome skepticism. If you want a wrap up of the three previous conferences, you can have a look on my personal blog here (for 2008), here (for 2007) and even here (for 2006; when the Congress moved from Cannes to Barcelona).
Since this is my first post here, let me begin with an introduction: I’ve worked at JupiterResearch – now a division of Forrester – for four years in the Paris office - after having spent 6 years in the marketing division of a mobile operator. During that time my research has focused primarily on mobile consumer services: mobile Internet, mobile content, mobile media and marketing, mobile messaging. I joined Forrester via their acquisition of Jupiter in July 08, and I’m excited to join the Forrester Consumer Product and Strategy team.
Since this is prediction time, I'd like to highlight some of the key trends likely to happen in the mobile space in 2009:
1) Tough economic conditions will dominate the European consumer mobile landscape in 2009