Quantifying mobile trends in Western Europe

At the end of this year, Forrester expects mobile Internet penetration to reach 17% in Western Europe — the same adoption rate for the PC Internet a decade ago. At that time, mobile phone penetration was still below the 40% threshold and mobile shops were opening at every high-street corner. Companies were only starting to launch their web presence and to anticipate the impact of the Web. Operator-branded mobile Internet solutions would only launch 3 years after and 3G in 2003/2004.

10 years after, the mobile Internet is reaching critical mass and a virtuous mobile Internet cycle is kicking off. Consumers who have a flat-rate data bundle spend more and more time on the Internet from their mobile phones, brands begin to launch their mobile Web presence to monetize these growing audiences and engage with their customers via more relevant mobile content and services, which in turn attracts more and more consumers to unlimited mobile Internet tariffs.

The current economic climate will lengthen handset renewal cycles, foster the development of low-cost offerings, and boost the uptake of SIM-only contracts. Operators are likely to postpone major investments in new networks such as 4G / Long-Term Evolution, despite early trials and commercialization in the Nordics. However, it will only slightly reduce the pace of growth for those elements that stimulate mobile Internet usage: 3.5G and Internet-centric mobile phones as well as all-you-can-eat data plans will be widely available in the next five years. That's the reason why Forrester expects mobile Internet to grow to 39% by the end of 2014. That's a lower end point than for the PC Internet in 2004, but the growth curve per se looks quite the same.

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What role will mobile play in the future of social networks?

I published my first report on mobile social networks 2 years ago (see here) at a time when Facebook audience was "only" around 50 million unique monthly visitors. At that time MySpace was a paid-for and exclusive experience on Vodafone-Live and Bebo was about to launching a mobile version. Needless to say lots has happened in the last 2 years.

Numerous acquisitions and parternships took place between the likes of Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Twitter, Hyves and with handset manufacturers / mobile operators. Several mobile-only communities (AirG, peperonity, itsmy.com, buzzcity...) have gained traction and there is plenty of innovation in that space. INQ generated lots of media coverage and interest by lauching its so-called "Facebook phone" and plans to launch new devices. I am not sure what the latest Facebook mobile stats are but not that long ago rougly 10% of the worldwide installed base of FB users had registered to the mobile version. Even more significantly, the GSMA announced a few months ago that UK mobile consumers who access Facebook via their mobile phone spend, on average, 24 minutes on the site daily, just shy of the 27.5 minutes that PC-based Internet users spend daily on Facebook; mobile users of Facebook average 3.3 visits per day versus 2.3 visits per day from PC users.

Facebook mobile

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Mobile contactless payments in Europe: reality beyond the NFC hype

Hardly a week goes by without a press article or conference reporting how ubiquitous mobile payment services and their adoption are in Japan. Forrester decided to put some figures on the so-called Japanese mass-market reality and to understand why Japan is the declared leader in mobile contactless payment services. What lessons can others learn from the Japanese market and to what extent do they apply to Europe?

There are several reasons why Japan is ahead of the curve among which the role of Felica Networks in the value chain and the scale merchants could benefit from (Sony and DoCoMo invested several dozens of million euros to make sure that retailers and points of sale had the technology to read the chipsets embedded in mobile devices), the loosening of Japan's financial regulations (making it possible for non-banks to become financial services players), operators' role in paving the way for mass market adoption of mobile Internet and higher usage of mobile services (fostering the natural expansion of mobile payments).

Despite this, reality is that the mobile contactless market in Japan is only reaching critical mass, not mass-market adoption. In Europe, conditions differ quite a lot and even if Near-Field Technology is likely to play a key role in the future, the technology is only entering the pre-commercial era.

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The "magic blue circle"

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.

PicGoogleMaps

Location is at the very heart of the mobile value proposition.

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The Mobile Internet Creates New Opportunities For Direct-To-Consumer Strategies

Thomas Husson [Posted by Thomas Husson]

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.

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Innovation by Orange

Many recent innovations in the mobile space are led by new entrants such as Apple or Google. However, let's be fair with telcos. They invest significant amounts of money in R&D and have very creative staff. There has been some skepticism in the industry on selected Orange services such as Pikeo, Djinngo (ex Bubbletop) or Soundtribes where Orange was trying to "reinvent the wheel" without partnering with the right Internet players. However, these services have never been really marketed and does not prevent strategic partnerships to be signed. Orange in particular has many Orange Labs worldwide and is driving innovation.

I saw recently some interesting demos of products and services to be launched by Orange:

 

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Mobile 2.0

I recently had the opportunity to speak at the mobile 2.0 conference in Paris. There are lots of events of that kind but this one was all the more interesting as there was a European start-up contest, showcasing how innovative mobile is.

What stroke me is that all the themes and roundtables were focusing on online trends expanding in the mobile space. From social networking to widgets via m-commerce, this is all about web ideas being reinvented in the mobile space.

Definitions of web 2.0 vary quite a lot. For mobile 2.0, this is all the more difficult as I think it is the result of a constantly evolving process: the convergence between web and mobile.
The result is yet unknown as mobile is a new and complementary channel / media with its own specific rules.
There are no doubts though that this market is evolving quickly despite the economic crisis.
Forrester recently fielded a Technographics survey in Europe: Mobile Internet penetration now stands at 24% among Europe online users on a monthly basis. Forrester will soon publish a report with detailed analysis on how the European mobile Internet space is evolving. 
You can continue to ignore mobile 2.0 but at your own risks. Not having a mobile presence nowadays is a bit like not having a web presence circa 1999 / 2000.

Mobile World Congress 09: a wrap-up

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.

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OVI Store: the fight for the home screen

Thomas Husson [Posted by Thomas Husson]

One of the first announcements made at Mobile World Congress this morning in Barcelona is Nokia's answer to the Apple AppStore.

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Mobile World Congress, Barcelona, D-7

Thomas Husson [Posted by Thomas Husson]

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).

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