Posts filed under 'Voice-over-IP'

Mobile Device Parade looms this week

This week, we watch in excitement as a mobile device parade looms from leading device makers. Motorola, Nokia and Amazon are all expected to announce new devices ahead of Apple’s iPhone5 announcement next week.

Motorola is bringing out a Droid Razr smartphone, which amounts to revival of the Razr brand, which Motorola sold successfully for many years before smartphones stormed the markets. Motorola, now owned by Google, has been a struggler in the last few years, and none of its smartphones have caught the fancy of the consumers yet, so far.

Nokia is announcing new Windows 8 phones – Windows 8 phone OS is the prelude to the Windows 8 desktop OS to be announced by Microsoft later this year. Windows 8 is supposed to work seamlessly across PCs, phones and tablets. Nokia’s Windows OS, so far, as been lackluster. Windows Phone OS has only 3% market share in the smartphone market compared to 64% Android share and 18% Apple iOS share.

Jeff Bezos of Amazon is set to announce the next version of Kindle Fire at an event on Thursday. Kindle Fire’s last version has reportedly sold out, as per Amazon, one is sure these device makers produce such products in limited quantity to create the marketing effect of a device in short supply. But certainly, after the iPad, Amazon Kindle Fire is the most successful tablet so far.

Then comes the big brother Apple on Sept 12th, with its reported iPhone5 launch.

While we feel that Apple is the mover and shaker of the mobile smartphone business with bulk of app and device profits as well, sometimes one wonders if the Android market share of 64% vs iPhone OS market share of 18% bodes well for Apple or not. No wonder, Apple is spending millions in it’s lawsuits against the Android device makers like Samsung.

Samsung had recently released the Galaxy Note 10 inch version – Galaxy Note has been a runaway success for Samsung as was the case for Galaxy smartphones.

Device wars are heating up and it can only get better for consumers the world over.

September 4th, 2012

Open Leadership – Empowering Employees and Customers : Expert Advice from Charlene Li (Altimeter Group)

Attended a webinar by Charlene Li of Altimeter Group. Charlene is one of world’s foremost experts on Social Media and Opening up Corporate environments to discussion, feedback and engagement.

Charlene Li is Founder of Altimeter Group and a former Researcher from Forrester Research. She has authored two of the leading books in Social space – Groundswell and Open Leadership.

Here are Charlene’s thoughts on Open Leadership, Social Media and Employee Empowerment :

The Dell case study is the subject of lot of Social Media books. A Dell laptop caught fire in a Japanese fire many years back and a video of it circulates till date on YouTube and other media portals. Dell, at the time, was not equipped to respond to the PR nightmare that followed. After that Dell engaged in extensive introspection and created a powerful Social empowerment strategy for it’s employees.

Charlene talks about three key aspects to developing an Open Leadership enviroment : Strategy, Leadership and Preparedness.

Strategy :

Today’s leaders need to “Learn” about what is happening in employee circles and customer spheres. This requires “Dialog”. Best Buy has created twelpforce – a twitter support group about 2500 strong to provide support to customers.

The Social Strategy involves an Engagement Pyramid :

The Engagement Pyramid indicates various levels of Open Leadership possible in a firm.

DellOutlet drives sales with Dialog on twitter – this channel is used to announce promotions. Web announcements and brochures are other ways to promote new products but they do not engender any user feedback whereas the same promotions on twitter drive user feedback and sharing. Similarly, Kohl’s retail chain encourages its customers to share their purchase experiences on its user portal.

This is all about enabling Dialog.

The next idea is “Integrate” support in your business. One firm has 85% of its employees engaged in customer support forums. This leads to good customer satisfaction. Starbucks invites ideas on www.mystarbucksidea.com. Almost 100 customer ideas from this portal have been implemented.

Leadership :

This means that top leadership needs to have the confidence and humility to give up Control and empower it’s people. This also requires authenticity and transparency. Sunguard CEO said that it would be arrogant for a CEO to think that he or she can make better decisions than the thousands of people below him/her. Sunguard CEO implemented Yammer in his firm – the intranet equivalent of twitter.

Premier Farnell (a manufacturing firm) runs the “OurTube” portal for its employees and engineers – this portal allows the engineers to share ideas and best practices. Salesforce.com – the premier online CRM firm, uses its own Chatter platform for internal communication and sharing.

Preparedness :

The question is how to get started on the path of Open Leadership. Charlene lays out a five step process :

#1 Align Social with key strategy goals for current and next year

Take some risks with Social technology if you have to

#2 Create a culture of sharing

Exercise sharing muscles. Often times, CEO and other leaders must lead by example by sharing themselves. Eg Edelman CEO blogs every single week since 2004.

How to encourage sharing :

  • Give sharing a purpose eg. goal, project or event
  • Build trust : Limit people you share with, at least initially
  • Use video : eg one can use cellphone to record yourself and put it out there

Send it out by email for sharing – email works also – in addition to social networks.

#3 Discipline is needed to succeed

Formalize the Open Leadership process – without definition, people do not know the boundaries and may not be comfortable with this media. rules of atticate, rules of behavior, rules of culture.

#4 Ask the right questions about value

Some orgs use brand metrics or net promoter score – but these are tough and laborious to measure. Whereas social technology is infinitely measurable – metrics is not the key, but relationships are.

#5 Prepare for failure

No relationships are perfect. Google’s mantra is – “Fail fast, Fail Smart“.

It’s about RELATIONSHIPs at the end of day – relationships with customers, relationships with employees and relationships with partners.

Baby boomers – some are active on Social Media even though common perception is that they don’t get it. Millennials – they are new in orgs and hence least secure to brand as Empowered employees.

For a firm, the best people to put out there acting as ambassadors are – folks who are passionate about this stuff – these are often baby boomers.

Q & A :

How do management set personal and professional boundaries for Social empowerment ? depends on what relationships a firm wants – that will determine the boundaries.

Another question is to check “Readiness” of firms for Open Leadership. How ready is it to engage ? many departments like legal, investor relations, marketing and others need to provide the clearance for this.

Why does Apple succeed in spite of being so closed ? Charlene mentioned that although Apple is a very closed organization and is keep its operations and new products very secret, but they still succeed due to their fantastic product quality. But another way to look at it is that Apple has so many passionate fans that act as their ambassadors and advocates. That said, Apple has it’s share of problems etc the Antenna issue in the iPhone 4 caused so much PR problems for Apple.

Open Strategy must focus on RELATIONSHIPs and not on tech platform eg Facebook or twitter or email etc

Companies try to start with content creation – blogs, youtube (90% push, 10% feedback) before they go onto other steps in Openness.

Sometimes firms find that people are not participating in an Open environment – this is a training and prority issue. Charlene says that leaders have to look for passionate staff who thrive on feedback.

Why Openness can fail : often times when it is not structured. Business requires context and structure to be successful

Which departments use Social Tech ? 40% of it is in Marketing dept. Increasingly, Corporate Communication and HR depts are using it. As well, HR, Investor Relations, Corporate Social Responsibility depts are beginning to use it.

Cultural nuances ? Charlene found that cultural nuances effect Social and Open in different countries. Eg in Korea and Brazil – producing content is twice as popular than in USA – people want to create content as there is little of it so far.

China – people are transparent about their salaries, not so in USA. Different cultures share different things but the point is that they do share.

Eventually, Social Technology will be like air – anywhere and everywhere.

Over time : When one locks into grocery store, they will know who I am and what I typically want

If consumers are adopting Social technology, companies need to be there too.

You HAVE TO GO where your customers are, firms cannot just focus on their websites etc.

What about privacy issues ? Charlene said that there is clear distinction between PRIVACY and PERMISSION. But, society’s norms change quickly about privacy. Eg Caller id was resisted by people before as it was considered invasive of privacy. But now it is mandatory before people answer calls.

One has to constantly test where the public boundary is for privacy.

- What about failures when trying out Openness ? Charlene’s book has one complete chapter on Failure of Openness.

Most CEOs feel their stomach churning when they enter this arena. It takes some time and experimentation for management to develop a comfort zone with Open Leadership.

If one is in job market today, potential candidates are demanding open firms. On the flip side, some people want more structure around Openness. It is the Younger generation that has a preference to continue to be social.

How about loss of employee productivity using social networks ? Charlene says this is a management problem and not a productivity problem. If a firm blocks people from using social media, people do it anyway on their phones and take long breaks.

Learning about Open Leadership is the MOST IMPORTANT OBJECTIVE as all firms today want to become people-oriented.

Focus Groups and Surveys are hard to do and get responses. It is much easier to search Social Networks and one knows the participants’ profiles and biases.

June 16th, 2011

Notes from Wireless Technology Forum General Session on “M2M Wireless Devices Everywhere”

(from our Atlanta desk)

The Machine-to-Machine (M2M) market is growing rapidly and impacting all businesses that need to compete in the growing mobile market. This general session focused on the applications that will drive business models and the key elements needed to support this new network paradigm.

The panelists included :

  • Chuck Horne, VP, KORE Telematics
  • Steve Hudson, VP,Omnilink
  • Stewart Swanson, VP, Numerex
  • Joseph Biron, Senior Director, Axeda
  • Keynote and Moderation : Mark Roberts, CMO, Discrete Wireless

It was a very intuitive discussion on M2M or Machine-to-Machine technology which is beginning to take off in the wireless industry. M2M area is also referred to as Connected Devices or Emerging Devices industry. This is one of the hottest Mobile verticals and the next big thing for many telcos around the world. M2M involves embedding wireless chips in a variety of household and industrial devices. These devices could include kitchen appliances, washing machines, security systems, thermostats etc in a home. They could also include mobile use cases like parolee anklets who are criminals released on probation, asset trackers like those used in container or cattle transfers, inventory tracking etc. Wireless chips are also enabling Smart Grids and Smart Meters, defense equipment, automotive uses, health monitoring and hospital use and many other industries. The use of M2M technology is only limited by imagination as almost everything can benefit from wireless connectivity. Wireless carriers are more than happy to evangelize this capability as it offers a potentially new lucrative revenue stream for them and their partners.

Here are the notes from the panel discussion on M2M :

Mark Roberts of Discrete Wireless started with a small Keynote speech. He spoke of Unified communication and the fact that 33% firms use VoIP today. As per Mark, VoIP will see 79% penetration by 2013.

Compare this with the world of Connected Devices. Mmany estimates suggest that, by 2020, there will be 50 billion connected devices. Everything that can be connected will be connected. Chaos will reign!! (great :)

Business Models for existing networking will not work in new world of M2M (how do we charge for 50 billion connected devices – it cannot be transaction based as there will be millions of transactions). (my take on this : It will be flat rate charging per month by carrier for a set of wirelessly-enabled devices with total bandwidth caps. Other model might be where the cost of unlimited wireless connectivity is bundled with the device cost upfront eg Amazon’s Kindle bundles unlimited wireless book downloads with no separate wireless charges (Amazon charges for eBook downloads however).

Chuck : M2M involves three components – network, device and application
Chuck’s firm Kore Telematics provides global network svcs on GSM or CDMA networks.
Chuck mentioned the need to build Value-Added Services to make the M2M model viable.
Eg network mgmt tools, billing svcs, integrate with business svcs

Steve Hudson of Omnilink mentioned that his firm has the electronic monitoring product for tracking parolees and those on probation from jail. Their product allows tracking of criminals – Omnilink has a software platform to support this network. Now Omnilink is getting into asset tracking, amber watch (missing child service) etc. Most certainly, security is a huge application for M2M.

Stewart Swanson of Numerex mentioned that his firm has 1.3 million M2M customers
Numerex is a one stop shop for M2M solns. They integrate device to SIMs and activate or deactivate these devies.  Numerex also has hosting solns in the cloud, packaged solns, telematics as well as professional services business.

Joseph Biron of Axeda mentioned that his firm was in the business of tracking assets. Their customers started asking for wireless tracking few years back. At that point, Axeda developed a platform which allows partners to build M2M apps in the enterprise, carrier or SI environment.

Mark mentioned that Discrete Wireless has a fleet management solution for automotive fleets. Their solution has an engine to aggregate the data.

Steve H : M2M involves a lot of hardware, but hardware needs creativity. It is difficult. Folks interested in M2M should not underestimate the complexity of hardware integration and hence should partner with good vendors who have the hardware expertise.

Stewart : mobile penetration may remain flat (a family of 4 needs 4 phones generally). But m2m will grow by 10 times as all devices will become connected (a family of 4 could have almost 20 devices in their home which are connected) (Good point!).

Chuck : with 50 billion connected devices, pay per subscription per month model will not work. Need to innovate billing models.
Currently, cost to install embedded devices in home equipment is prohibitive. This will eventually come down as such solutions go mass market.

Stewart : standards for M2M applications are still missing. TIA (Telecommunications Industry Association) is trying to set some standards for the M2M industry.

Which verticals are big for M2M ?

Steve H – security and tracking is big (Steve’s firm Omnilink caters to security industry).

Stewart – Carriers are depending on Value-Added Resellers (VARs) to connect consumers with M2M applications and solutions, as well as to find viable business models.

May 27th, 2011

How to Monetize Mobile Apps ?

Mobile Apps – those tiny applications which sit on your mobile phone and provides all sorts of functionality, simplying your life and business, your connectivity, your social experience and entertaining you on the go. Mobile Apps – hundreds of thousands of them literally on various App Stores – have created a Mobile Web revolution – it is the advent of Web 3.0.

Ok – Mobile Apps are great – businesses are enamored by their potential, consumers want them, developers and brands want to make money of them. The last part is the most tricky one so far. How do you monetize Mobile Apps, most of which are either Free or sell for less than a Dollar? This remains a tough challenge for most developers or brands the world over. Here are some key insights on how one can market Mobile Apps we well as monetize them:

  • Selling Mobile Apps is (generally) not a Business in itself

What? And people think they can retire writing Mobile Apps in their basement.. The sad fact is that just creating Mobile Apps, even with all their promise,  is not a standalone Business Model. The Barrier to Entry is way too low. Any half decent developer can produce a Grocery Tracking app overnight.

Discoverability and Marketing of apps from smaller firms and developers is a difficult task. It is like saying SEO alone will make your business money, to take an analogy from the online world.

  • Relying on Advertising revenue may not be a viable strategy

Many developers and brands assume that Apps can monetize themselves using those Banner Ads or in-App Ads. Issue is mass marketing apps is challenging, especially those apps which are from smaller brands and developers; unless the App is widely popular over a long period of time (eg Facebook, NDTV or Angry Birds apps), Banner Advertising will not provide substantial revenue to make the business tick.

  • Apps are extension of your other business

The fact is that Developers and Brands need to think of Mobile Apps as an extension of their other Businesses, as an additional value they provide to their audience beyond their core business. That means, Mobile Apps are an Extension to other businesses and not a Business by themselves. Hopefully your core business is successful and Apps will serve as an additional value add or accelerator for the core business.

  • Apps and Social Media Marketing

The world of Mobile and Social Media / Digital Media has truly converged. These areas are inseparable from two angles : First – Social goes on Mobile and Mobile enables the Social Networks. Secondly, App Marketing needs to integrate with Social Media Marketing.

Social Media is probably the best way for App Developers and Brands to generate buzz about their Apps and drive downloads (or mobile website access). It is a low cost way to engage audience and create social ambassadors for spreading the word about one’s Mobile Content and Apps.

  • Apps in a Niche Market

Say you are in the business of selling Legal Content and Consulting. Your business could benefit from providing Mobile Access to your Legal Content. Another example is of that an Educational business – which puts its Educational offerings on a Mobile Channel.

The bottomline is that Apps developed for a niche market marketed by Experts in that Vertical have a higher chance of success and monetization.

  • Large Brands can use Apps as an additional Channel

Finally, Blue-chip Brands and Large Enterprises have it most easy when it comes to monetizing or leveraging Apps. These firms have strong brand name and visibility already and can easily mix Marketing of their Mobile Content into their overall marketing messaging and portals. Eg large brands can prominently display their App Download links on their highly-trafficked website and newsletters. Plus, consumers actually search for apps from these providers in various App Stores.

In summary, Large Brands can and should use Apps and Mobile Web to engage their audience further and provide additional value.

Hope this helps those who are thinking about App Monetization and App Marketing. To learn more on this, we encourage you to attend the Mobile Apps Conclave – the largest Mobile Apps Conference and Expo in India on 29th April in Bangalore, where many leading experts from India’s Mobile Industry will tackle this topic, among many others.

February 27th, 2011

“2011 Analyst Outlook for Wireless” – Notes from Wireless Technology Forum, Atlanta

(from our Atlanta desk)

I attended the Wireless Technology Forum, Atlanta meeting on 18 Nov. The topic was “2011 Analyst Outlook” – an excellent one as we all are very curious to know what comes in 2011 in Wireless. Here are the notes from the meeting :

Speakers :-

There was an excellent lineup of speakers –

Keynote : “Prospects for LTE in 2011″ by Steven Leonard, Regional Director, Data Sales, Verizon Wireless

Panelists :

- Phil Hendrix, Principal Analyst, Institute for Mobile Markets Research (or IMMR)
– Jorge Fuenzalida,
Vice President, Strategy and Technology Group, inCode Telecom Group (now part of Ericsson)
- Jeremy Schneider,
Principal, Telecommunications, McKinsey & Company, Inc.
- Robert Prudhomme, Vice President, Client Services, Telecom Practice, The Nielsen Company

Moderator : Gerry Purdy, Principal Analyst, MobileTrax

Steven Leonard (Verizon Wireless) on LTE in 2011 :-

LTE offers 10 times faster speed compared to 3G networks. Verizon will have LTE in 38 markets by 2011. Verizon has the valuable 700 MHz spectrum which allows high speed and data accuracy in network transmission. LTE utilizes the MIMO technology. MIMO (Multiple Input, Multiple Output) is a technology that  increases in data throughput and link range without additional bandwidth or transmit power.

Another key aspect of 2011 is the growth of Tablets and accompanying data demands. 181% growth expected in Tablet usage in 2011 over this year. Verizon is the only carrier with contiguous 4G spectrum in USA (AT&T may disagree : )

Lte is 3.5 times faster than CDMA in how far signal will travel without diluting. It offers Latency near 30 ms where earlier it was 150 ms.

Verizon 4G leadership (per Steven) :-

    – Joint innovation lab
    – Open devl
    – Verizon developer community
    – LTE innovation center
    – M2M management center in partnership with Qualcomm

Note : M2M or Machine-to-Machine is the new wireless industry developing around putting wireless chips in home appliances, hospital equipment and other such non telecom functions).

Verizon Launch mkt this year – Athens and Atlanta are included

Wireless broadband features in LTE include :-

    1 Advanced applications :- like Entertainment and Music

    2 Innovative devices

    3 Location agnostic : Whereever you are availability

As per Steven, Verizon 4g network rollout will be completed in 2013 in the USA.

Phil Hendrix (IMMR) :-

Phil gave a presentation on Mobile Commerce, an area which is rapidly evolving. The most happening event in USA on Mobile Commerce has to do with NFC phone proliferation expected in 2011 with Google Nexus S and Apple iPhone – both NFC enabled phones coming out potentially as per reports.

As per Phil, Mobile Commerce has three perspectives :-
    – Consumers : mobile shopping
    – Brands : mobile advertising
    – Retailers : m-commerce

8 dimensions which together constitute mobile commerce:-
    – Mobile Shopping
    – Mobile Funds Transfer
    – Mobile Advertising
    – Mobile Rewards
    – Mobile Coupons
    – Mobile Booking
    – Mobile Offers
    – Mobile Payments

Today we are only in the initial stages of Mobile Commerce.

Certain trends are accelerating Mobile Commerce. These Accelerators include :-

    – Location-Based
    – Hyper Local sensitivity – what is around us
    – Social Media
    – Yield Management
    – Supply Chain integration
    – Big Data

Jorge Fuenzalida (inCode) :-

inCode Telecom Group, the telecom strategy consulting firm, has been acquired by Ericsson recently. inCode is famous for its “top 10 predictions” in wireless every year. Jorge said that these are not finalized for 2011 but offered a Sneak preview of the top 10 :-

Predictions :-
    1) Over the Top goes over the top (in other words, over the top video/OTT or IPTV accelerates and everything in video goes online)
             2009-Netflix becoming very popular – CPE based OTT
             2011-all content goes online eg Google TV or other such offerings
    2) Tablet rush – in 2011 it will overtake netbooks
    3) The new Gold Rush in 2011- wireless rural broadband – due to government stimulus

Well said, Jorge.

Jeremy Schneider (McKinsey) :-

Core wireless has matured. Revenue growth has slowed in voice and messaging

What is next then? Three predictions (since it is the day of 3 predictions from all analysts : ) :-

1) Data will grow much more than what most analysts are calling for. McKinsey thinks 17 times growth from 2009 to 2012 in mobile data
     McKinsey thinks that even this number is relatively conservative. They think it could be 25 times growth by 2012.
     Tablets, mobile video and broader consumer adoption of mobile browsing will drive mobile data growth.
2) Enterprise will outstrip Consumer in wireless (this is surprising as per me as consumer has been the bigger driver of smartphone data via apps so far)
     Enterprise mobility will enable employee mobility etc
     – 6 times higher willingness to pay in enterprise consider to consumer
     – big market. M2M sensors estimates keep rising on a daily basis
     – many verticals are ripe for innovation

     Healthcare is particularly exciting in the M2M arena.
     Healthcare will expand in 5 trillion dollars overall in 5 yrs. At current rates healthcare will be 30% of us GDP
           * Remote Monitoring
           * Remote Consultation
           * Medication Management
           * Health and Wellness

3) New directions in Application Architecture
     – Data growth needs efficient network
            * 30% time waiting on mobile browsing
     – Platform independent tech like HTML5, JIL (Java Intermediate Language), WAC (Wholesale Application Community – the operator consortium), SNs (?)
     – Delivered in the cloud (aha – Cloud Computing – we know it)
          * Consumer – Large portions of iPhone apps already on the Amazon Cloud or EC2
          * Enterprise – 40% savings by moving to cloud

Robert Prudhomme (Nielsen) :-

Growth has slowed in postpaid the USA. Prepaid is going well.

Only verizon and AT&T were able to get net adds in Pospaid this year. However, all of these came at the expense of T-Mobile or Sprint (no wonder, with 80%+ market penetration for wireless in USA, you can only get new customers by poaching from your competitors)

AT&T is doing well with its Connected Devices business, however a concern is that Standards and Business models around these new devices are not clear and their financial worth is not known.

The erstwhile prepaid kings, the carriers Cricket and Metro are suffering as the Big-4 wireless operators are getting most of the prepaid now.

Sprint is competing on pricing while it tries to retain its customers who are churning fast. The No 1 reason to win a customer now is promotion and pricing. This means price wars as are seen in $50 all you can eat plans from some carriers. Now, Sprint is even undercutting T-Mobile in pricing. (my conjecture is that the profit margin in $50 all you can eat plan is really next to nothing).

Of course wireless has lot of bright areas too on the premium side – mainly Record smartphone sales. On premium side, smartphone (driven by top smartphones like iPhone and Android phone) sales are driving fast growth.

Wireless Tablets remains an unpredictable play for the operators. This is depicted by the fact that only 1/10th of iPad tablets sold are activated on the AT&T network. Rest are using WiFi or exported out of the country. (But AT&T still scores as it has a respectable nationwide WiFi network – of course free public WiFi for broadband customers is a customer retention strategy by carriers like AT&T and not really a revenue generator).

Smartphones are driving increases in App adoption (finally a direct reference to Apps)
    – 59% smartphone owners download apps
    – 9% feature phone owners download apps

AT&T – 74% postpaid net adds in last quarter are iPhone customers (did I get it right – 74% ?).

Interesting stat from Nielsen : -950,000 netadds lost from AT&T if they lost iPhone exclusivity per Nielsen estimates. In other words, with the impending Verizon iPhone and potentially on other carriers too, AT&T might loose almost 1 million net adds per quarter. A significant number but one AT&T is already planning for most likely.

In France and other European countries, when iPhone exclusivity ended with one carrier, Apple doubled their share or more in some cases. So one can conclude that the Apple stock price may be trading at a discount if its market share is about to rise (now let me run and buy some Apple stock.. : )

Overall an excellent discussion on the 2011 Outlook for US wireless by some Industry heavyweights in the Analyst world. Congratulations to the team at Wireless Technology Forum (Atlanta) and especially to Gerry Purdy of MobileTrax for putting together this awesome event.

November 22nd, 2010

Notes from Wireless Technology Forum SIG on Mobile Video, Feb 11 2010

(from our Atlanta desk)

I attended the Wireless Video SIG organized by Wireless Technology Forum, Atlanta on Feb 11, 2010 at Goizueta Business School, Emory University. The title was :

“Mobile Video : New Horizons, New Possibilities”

Here are the notes from the SIG :

Panelists :

David Barnette, Regional Vice President, Clearwire

Craig Kirkland, CNN Mobile

Dr. Nikhil Jayant, Executive Director, GCATT

Mark Nagel, Mobility Video Services, AT&T Mobility

Susan Schedel, Director, Business Development, FLO TV (Qualcomm)

Clay Garrett, Director of Visual Design, N4D

Moderated By : Dr Benn Konsynski, George S. Kraft of Business Administration, Goizueta Business School, Emory University

Overall – an excellent session on Mobile Video arranged by Mobile Video SIG Chair Caroline Dunn and Ashok Kumar.

Dr Konsynski started off with saying that there is a tidal wave of mobility and also of video. There exists a confluence of each. Moreoever, UGC (user-generated content) and other actors are confounding these influences. There is also a strong pursuit of standardization in this space.

David Barnette – Clearwire :
Clearwire leading 4G space in United States. Clear (Clearwire markets its 4G wireless service under the brand name “Clear”) is present in 27 cities covering 30 million people. Clear finds that usage for its service is increasing rapidly. Users are moving double the bandwidth compared to first generation network that they had. As they say : “If you build it, they will come”.  David says that Mobile experience with Clearwire is not about dropped calls (dig at traditional wireless operators :) but rather can you take a video while driving and not dropping the signal. Clear is judged by video apps and not really voice. “does it pass the hulu test?”.

Davind mentioned that typical phone customers are on 3G but have no expectation for video for 3G. This is not the case when these consumers adopt 4G and WiMAX. Clear thinks that video will become standard expectation with consumers in due course and then the 3G networks just won’t suffice. Price structure is crucial for marketing mobile video. In future you buy bandwidth on Wireless and voice is just one of the many apps offered on the wireless channel.

Consumers – most devices and networks are designed for 3G svcs. But Clear is evangelizing with consumers and manufacturers that new age services and products need to be designed for 4G.

iPhone has opened lot of eyes. Clear is excited about the potential of Mobile web. Clear considers itself as an ISP and not as a wireless carrier (interesting !).

Dr Konsynski asked Clearwire about extraordinary innovations once the WiMAX network is in place. Clear executive said that it is normal everyday things which will have better capacity and pricing on 4G network. On business side, Clear gets requests (from enterprise customers) for high speed business apps in places where it is normally difficult to reach using the older networks.

Craig Kirkland – CNN Mobile :

Craig said that CNN (United States’ leading news network and TV channel) is bullish on mobile and in fact quite excited about it. Short and longer videos both will succeed, eventually, CNN feels. They say mobile video is in experiment stage right now. Their iPhone app is the most successful so far. It has video clips and streaming videos of major events (eg Haiti disaster reporting). CNN sees lot of challenges as well. Craig used to work at Alltel before (and so has a carrier perspective as well). CNN Mobile is  excited about the device evolution. But CNN is concerned about mobile network quality. They are hoping the WiMAX LTE solves the network issue (indeed- a customer does not care whether it is LTE or WiMAX, Customer only cares about what experience they get). CNN Mobile also worries about discoverability challenge on app stores. CNN Mobile team focuses on discoverability a lot.
Craig said that CNN Mobile believes in net neutrality, even though a small set of users hog a a majority of the bandwidth.

Dr Konsynski says that Prodigy example (remember that now defunct high-flying ISP of the 90s) shows that if you throttle network for a small set of users, you can damage experience of your larger user base. So have to tread carefully in network throttling practices when managing high volume data users.

CNN has lot of internal resources dedicated to Mobile effort.

Dr Nikhil Jayant – GCATT :

Dr Jayant has an extraordinary background in academia and corporate. He said that he wanted to recognize the underlying core technology of Signal Compression. He said that signal compression was a great enabler to transfer CD-quality music and other things. Video is even more compressed signal. Video signals are compressed today by factor of 100 to 1.

Mobile TV factor compression today is sometimes 200 to 1 and 300 to 1. Dr Jayant expects 1000 to 1 video compression in his lifetime. He says network is fine but services on that is key. Video has the potential to become even more exciting in the next 5 to 10 years.

Mark Nagel – Mobility Video Services, AT&T Mobility :
Mark said that AT&T is focused on consumer and consumer experience. First mobile video app from AT&T stable was MobiTV in 2006. 3-4 frames per secs. You had to buy a $20 Data plan to get MobiTV. MobiTV was popular. Now they have a more advanced product from Qualcomm (called FLO TV) and it costs 9.99 per month. Nickelodeon is their most popular show on the mobile TV channel. He said that consumers still need to find the right app – consumer awareness about Mobile TV is the biggest issue right now.

Susan Schedel, FLO TV, Qualcomm :

The carrier partnership is most crucial for Qualcomm to popularize its innovative FLO TV service. They are trying to understand TV on the Go. MediaFLO (the network operated by Qualcomm for its FLO TV network) has high usage per day per user. FLO TV was started 5 yrs ago. They started with carrier partners like AT&T and Verizon. They have wholesale relationship with the consumer so far. Now, Qualcomm is also introducing direct-to-consumer channel called “Personal TV” sold via Best Buy or Amazon (in my personal opinion, they face stiff competition from Apple iPad TV channels in near future). They have a dedicated device for Personal TV.  Eg parent does not want to provide a phone to a kid but can give a Personal TV device. They are also working on backseat vehicle TV (personally, I think Qualcomm and Apple are on a competing path in 5 years – probably the reason why Apple did not choose SnapDragon processor from Qualcomm for their iPad device). They are also developing TV for the Android platform also.

FLO TV has DVR type capabilities as well as interactivity on roadmap for a user to stop, record and do catch up television.

Clay Garrett, N4D :

N4D is about 3D imaging. Focused on content. Volumetric rendering like catscans, weather etc.
Trying to solve headaches in watching 3D etc (think Avatar). As a content firm, they want to know about network viability and compression to allow them to deliver the content to consumers reliably.

Dr Konsynski – stretching the capabilities is important. Clay said that brain and eyes can cause issues eg in the recent blockbuster Avatar, 3D people said that content felt as if coming out of the screen can cause headaches and nausea. So, N4D is working on cutting-edge technology trying to make it easier to consume this 3D content.

CNN – iReport (user submitted video content on CNN) is popular with all audience ages even though CNN originally assumed that only youngsters would be interested.

Clear – Maximum adoption for Clear service in Atlanta area is in the midtown (think young, urban audience in townhouses and condominiums rather than suburban family crowd). It seems that the lifestyle pattern is more important to predict user adoption rather than age profile for such services.

Dr Jayant – Quality of Experience is key as Craig pointed out. eg Healthcare over broadband may be a big factor for success of broadband.

David (Clearwire) said that in few years Internet traffic and video traffic will become one and the same thing.

Audience question – Why will WiMAX succeed (when most major carriers are touting a LTE future) ?

David (Clearwire) – speed to market is important. WiMAX is available today with users. He said that Clearwire is aware of LTE but he says that they have spectrum positions. They say LTE and WiMAX are very close and feel that there may be dual mode devices and networks in the future. Eg combined LTE and WiMAX base stations and devices are alredy being built.

Audience – all said and done, what about mobile battery life?

Mark Nagel – FLO TV is broadcast-only technology and so battery experience is not really that bad.

CNN Mobile – battery issues bother them but the CNN exec agreed that consumers still want cool thin phones, regardless of battery issues.

International issues :-

CNN – have a large International operation. In general, they merged international and domestic products together. There are different subsets for both and there are pros and cons abroad compared to the US environment.

Dr Jayant :-
What consumers expect abroad in different parts of the world could be different from USA. Willingness to pay and Broadband policy may influence growth in other nations. Eg Finland declared recently that broadband is a birthright (::) (wow – won’t fly in the USA).

Mark Nagel (AT&T) – Rich experience in iPhone compared to before. Opening up new models and apps.

Dr Konsynski – why did qualcomm go direct to consumer ?
Mark Nagel (AT&T) downplayed that question. He said that AT&T is not competing with Qualcomm for Mobile TV. Bigger issue is consumer awareness.

Clay (N4D) – 3D has bad rep. But Avatar kind of experience may help popularize it and make it more consumer-friendly. Consumer education about 3D needs to be increased.

Net Neutrality :- (tough one)
Clear – flexibility is key and it is imp that people can push and pull content freely.

Mark Nagel – AT&T is open (ok!). Network is precious and have to manage the network using innovative techniques.

Dr Konsynski provided a killer line : If Content is King, then Context is Emporer.

Dicoverability, search, context :-

CNN – discoverability is about people making aware of their mobile app and moving across CNN properties.

Mark – trialing of apps is useful for discoverability but too many apps make it difficult to innovate in this area. Too many apps is a good problem to have ultimately. Somehow discoverability issues need to be solved via some innovation.

A fabulous panel discussion on Mobile Video set up by Wireless Technology Forum, Atlanta. Thanks to Caroline Dunn and Ashok Kumar of WTF.

February 25th, 2010

Wireless Predictions 2010 – A Panel Discussion : Wireless Technology Forum, Atlanta

(from our Atlanta desk)

I attended the Wireless Technology Forum, Atlanta’s General Session meeting on Nov 19 at the Ashford Club. This session had a blue-chip panel from leading Market Research firms and Mobile Strategists world :

J Gerry Purdy, VP and Chief Analyst – Mobile and Wireless, Frost and Sullivan

Jorge Fuenzalida, VP/GM Strategy and Consulting, Incode

Jeff Kagan, Telecom Analyst and Publisher, The Jeff Kagan Report

Moderated by Hamish Caldwell of AT&T

This star lineup of Mobile Analysts presented their views of the Wireless Industry in 2010. Here are the notes from these experts’ presentations :

Mobile is turning out to be unique compared to Internet. In Mobile, both the extremes of Open (eg Google Android) and Closed (eg Apple iPhone, RIM etc) are doing well. Apple iPhone and AppStore story is well known. Google Android is the new star and giving sufficient headache to old entrenched stars like Nokia and RIM BlackBerry in the Mobile Media space.

Jorge Fuenzalida from Incode :

Jorge showed the Top 10 Predictions Incode is making for next year (these are for US primarily but some themes apply to Asia) :

i) Operators push netbooks. They see mixed success.
ii) Net Neutrality in USA remains stuck in debate.
iii) Data Capacity issues get resolved somewhat.
iv) All devices in the West move to be smartphones. Smartphones compete on features
v) Wireless Rate Plan pricing looks like airplane pricing (read – complex and unfriendly)
vi) M2M (Machine-to-Machine) Wireless leads to acquisitions (think a GSM chip in your watch, refrigerator, gym machine and so forth). In my opinion, broad M2M is a pipe dream at least several years away.
vii) Carriers get into cloud computing in a big way. Compete with Google and Amazon there.
viii) At least one major handset OS bites the dust (Palm OS – anyone ?)
ix) MVNOs bounce back with niche business models (eg eReader network)
x) Internet video via game consoles. eg XBox and PlayStation drive IPTV – cable firms feel pressure.

 

Jeff Kagan, Prominent Analyst has this to say :

Wireless Industry changes every 5 years or so and basically re-invents itself. Current state of Wireless Industry is Very Good and Wireless is stronger than ever in spite of (or perhaps due to?) recession. Communication thrives both in good times and bad times. It is a critical social behavior.

Apple changed the smartphone sector. It brought amazing user experience and other handset makers were forced to follow suit. Phones are doing what computers used to do. iPhone is still the fastest growing smartphone business. Why – Apple is a marketing genius. Other handset makers play catchup in marketing strength. Google is in this space now. Verizon is pouring lot of money in Google Android promotion for its Cliq and upcoming Android handsets. Customers love Google over the internet and it is free. Google’s success in Mobile is quite different than that of Apple. Google will succeed with several carrier and handset partners. Apple is limited in partner base but vertically integrated.  Google wants to be everywhere. Apple wants to be the premium player and mind-share leader. Apple is a rifle where Google is a shotgun.

Wireless will transform other industries eg Meter Reading, eReaders, Smart Grid, Healthcare. Wireless will continue to be a strong industry but it will look substantially different in 5 years from now.

Gerry Purdy :

Android is customizable. It may face fragmentation (remember J2ME or Java Mobile Edition!). But it is all about the consumer experience and Google will eventually figure it out just like it did for the Web. Apple has low fragmentation – it is vertically integrated via iTunes and iPod/iPhone and quite beautifully at that.

All speakers were also of the opinion that off-network traffic will accelerate. WiFi, Bluetooth, Femtocells all have bright future because classic wireless networks will be buried under the load of iPhone like traffic and Mobile Video.

When asked, which of the Incode predictions were more likely to bear out next year, Jorge from Incode says that it is No 5 – “Wireless Rate Plan pricing looks like airplane pricing (read – complex and unfriendly)”.

What happens one year from now :

Gerry – Apple and Google continue to do well in fast growing smartphone space. RIM (BlackBerry) remains under pressure as they have a Virtual Software environment (cloud-based mostly) and lack a good Mobile OS as capable as Apple’s or Google’s. Microsoft struggles in mobile space. Palm will probably be acquired by Nokia. Maemo – Nokia’s one of two Mobile OSes (other being Symbian), may see mixed success.

Jorge – No further Mobile OS will be seen in the marketplace as it is already too crowded.

Jeff – Things will be faster and better in wireless, one year from now.

Excellent presentation by an accomplished panel. Kudos to WTF and its board for pulling together yet another excellent General Session. The next General Session at WTF is on Jan 21 and it is focused on Investing and Funding Opportunities in Mobile and Wireless domain. Stay tuned for this session and do attend if you are in Atlanta area.

December 21st, 2009

eBay to spin off Skype in 2010 IPO

eBay is finally doing a smart move with Skype. Spinning off this excellent asset will fetch billions for eBay and allow it to invest in innovation in its core business of auction and PayPal. eBay has other aces like PayPal which make more sense to keep in-house. Skype never fitted the profile of eBay and the company let it shrivel over time although it continued to grow on its own. Spinning it off and assigning new managers have great merit for Skype. The new Skype management can focus on innovating and saving their VOIP turf from fast encroaching VOIP upstarts, the latter are sprouting like mushrooms all over. VOIP remains a killer app in communications domain with the likes of AT&T and Verizon also jumping into the ring.

April 15th, 2009


Categories

Blogroll

Archives