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.

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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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Global Mobile Awards 2009: and the winner is...

Thomas Husson [Posted by Thomas Husson]

Gma_logo

UnfortunateIy winners' names will only be announced at the Mobile World Congress Gala Dinner Awards night on Tuesday 17th February 2009, at the National Palace in Barcelona, Spain.

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2009 Mobile Trends

Thomas Husson [Posted by Thomas Husson]

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

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Orange France loses iPhone exclusivity

The French Competition Council - the Conseil de la concurrence - ordered yesterday that Orange's iPhone exclusivity be immediately suspended, with the result that any French carrier (SFR and Orange) is now able to offer Apple's iPhone.

Orange will appeal the decision before the Court of Appeal in Paris, but in the meantime (it may take as long as 12/18 months to have a final decision) Orange's competitors will be able to sign distribution deals with Apple. SFR annnounced it had anyway already 45,000 unlocked iPhones active on its network. However, the time those agreements are in place, Bouygues and SFR cannot benefit from the Xmas sales period. After one year of its exclusive partnership, Orange announced that they will have sold over 150,000 first generation iPhones and over 450,000 3G iPhones. But beyond the idea of attracting high-end users, such an exclusive agreement was a key way for Orange to differentiate from competition, drive traffic to shops to cross-sell other Orange/France Telecom products and to nurture the brand (iPhone being all about "convergence").

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