Posts filed under 'Telecom Carriers'

World’s First Firefox OS Smartphone Released In Spain

Though having Google’s Android and Apple’s IOS hitting the market with their name, quality, value and functionality, Telefonica has launched a new Firefox OS Smartphone in the market jointly with Mozilla and ZTE. Telephonica is Spain based telecommunication and broadband service provider in Europe, Latin America and Asia and 5th largest mobile network provider in the world; Mozilla, a open source project by Netscape Communications Corporation, launched the Mozilla Firefox browser and now developed Firefox OS for the Smartphone; ZTE Corporation, China based multinational telecommunication equipment and systems company, the 4th largest mobile manufacturer in the world, has developed this Smartphone’s design.

The above trio has launched world’s first Smartphone, ZTE Open, with Firefox Operating System in Spain for 69Euros(90Dollars) and soon be launched in Latin America.  As per the statement by Carlos Domingo, Chief Product Development, Telephonica, in one conference, this device would be mainly  be for youngsters and those who are new to use the Smartphones.

Equipped with a 3.5-inch & 480x320pixels touchscreen, includes a 3.2MP camera(back), 256MB RAM and 512MB flash memory enhanced with a 4GB MicroSD card that comes as part of the package.

The ZTE Open is fully integrated with Facebook and the Spain-based social network Tuenti and talks are on about incorporating the WhatsApp instant messaging service, Telefonica said.

Mozilla executives said the ZTE Open is the “first chapter” in what they expect to be a long project, one that is already attracting interest from many other telecommunications companies.

 

Excerpts – Techgig

July 3rd, 2013

Facebook not quite “Home” yet on mobile phones

Apparently, Facebook “Home” is not to be, not yet at least.

The Android application launched by Facebook to create an FB overlay on the Home screen of the phone was supposed to be the big bet by FB to control the first touchpoint screen for a smartphone user. But due to poor reviews by initial analysts, Facebook is said to be revamping the FB Home application. The device which was supposed to launch this was HTC One and in US, AT&T was to be the exclusive carrier for this. In UK, operator EE and Orange were planning to launch it. The social network is said to be encouraging the carriers to delay the launch to give the firm more time to create a more palatable user experience.

The battle for the phone user is becoming more intense as time goes by. With smartphones overtaking web users globally, it is of paramount importance for tech firms to own the phone customer and drive more and more smartphone traffic to these firms’ offerings, in order to attract ad revenue and other commerce monetizations.

Without a doubt, Facebook social network application remains one of the top apps on all mobile systems including Apple iOS and Android. But Google, Facebook, wireless carriers and other media are jostling for more and more of user attention on phones as well as real estate on the limited phone screen, which are the next evolution of internet cycle.

Facebook released the following statement on Thursday evening via Engadget: “Following customer feedback, Facebook has decided to focus on adding new customization features to Facebook Home over the coming months. While they are working to make a better Facebook Home experience, they have recommended holding off launching the HTC First in the UK, and so we will shortly be contacting those who registered their interest with us to let them know of this decision. Rest assured, we remain committed to bringing our customers the latest mobile experiences, and we will continue to build on our strong relationship with Facebook so as to offer customers new opportunities in the future.”

htc-first-2

HTC First aka “Facebook Phone”  (Photo: Courtesy / HTC)

After extremely disappointing sales of the HTC First, Facebook will reexamine the Facebook Home before expanding its operating system to more phones in more countries.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has said he would’ve rebuilt Facebook as a mobile exclusive app if he had the chance, so clearly offering a solid mobile experience means a great deal to Facebook. In this regard, the Facebook phone was a brilliant idea and makes a great deal of sense — like Google and Android, a true Facebook phone would allow Zuckerberg & Co. to have complete control over the user experience and ad strategy. The HTC First was the company’s first attempt at such a device — Facebook would focus on software while HTC would focus on hardware — but with the phone failing so soon after its initial release, Facebook will need to take a long look in the mirror. 

Failure of the HTC First may be blamed on Facebook’s decision to make Facebook Home features too accessible to other mobile users on Android and iOS, or maybe Facebook will realize that the Facebook Home features were not that stellar to begin with.

Facebook has fumbled on mobile before, when it launched it’s first mobile site using the mobile browser channel – with poor user feedback on that approach, Facebook later changed course and focused on more cleaner mobile apps, but this was much later in it’s lifecycle; Facebook mobile has a history of bouncing back. The early years of Facebook mobile efforts were limited to working on a common mobile website version of it’s platform addressing multiple platforms like iOS and Android with one approach. It later realized that that approach did not augur well and got into building platform specific Facebook apps, which have been superb hits since.

The last note above take one back to mobile site vs mobile app debate, which continues to simmer in the mobile development world. So far, it seems, the Apps are winning with many firms (eg Financial Times) having switched from a common http://m.xyz-firm.com approach to custom mobile apps for each mobile platform. More on this later in this space.

(with extracts and ideas from International Business Times article dated May 24 by Dave Smith)

May 26th, 2013

Day 1 News from International CES 2013 (Consumer Electronics Show), Las Vegas

At the outset, we would like to wish a Very Happy New Year to our readers and Thank You for your continued patronage of CellStrat content. This is the first post of this year and starts with lot of hopes and aspirations for our readers and ourselves in the Year 2013.

As is customary each year, the year kicks off with the massive Consumer Electronics Show or CES in Las Vegas. We are glad to report from the ground there (well, just kidding) – we are hooked to the internet and getting minute by minute news feed from the ground so it is same as being there physically (almost).

Today was the first major day of CES. Some notable news from CES :

Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs opens the event with the “Born Mobile” mantra

Every year, either Bill Gates or Steve Balmer provide the opening keynote at CES but this year it was taken by Qualcomm CEO, a pre-dominantly mobile chip firm. This highlights the importance of Mobile to all things electronic now. With smarter devices and smarter everything, mobile chips are in almost everything we see in the future right from home appliances to mobile devices to industrial equipment, as well as most automotive assets like cars, trucks and containers.

Paul Jacobs explained his “Born Mobile” mantra today and there was a surprise when Steve Ballmer joined him on stage briefly – Paul said that even Microsoft has adopted the Born Mobile mantra. Paul launched Qaulcomm’s new Snapdragon 800 processors, which are the fastest mobile processors on earth as per him. These chips are about 75% faster than previous processors and can deliver HD video seamlessly as well as support Ultra HD television.

Sony launches new signature smartphones

Sony launched new Xperia Z Android smartphones, which have a five-inch screen, HD 1080p Reality Display and 13 megapixel camera. It is powered by a Qualcomm quad-core Snapdragon processor. What was unique is the new One Touch functionality that allows the device to wirelessly interact with other Sony devices such as speakers, headphones and TVs. Sony showcased a new Bravia TV which can display the phone content from the new smartphones if the phone is tapped to the TV remote.

Intel launches new smartphone chip family

Intel launched new chips for smartphones and tablets at CES today. Intel has been late to the mobile party and struggled againts ARM Holding and Qualcomm in this space. Now it is trying to get its mobile act together with an array of new smartphone and tablet chips.

The company’s new Atom processors which are in the next-gen category will be available in 2013 holiday period. The new chips assume Touch based interface as a key aspect of the functionality.

Samsung brings smartphone experience to it’s TVs

Samsung announced seamless integration between its smartphones and Smart TVs. The phone functionality of Touch and Speech recognition will be made available in Smart TVs. Samsung is probably the biggest success story of 2012 and has taken market share in almost all categories.

AT&T focuses on Digital Life and Project VIP

AT&T CEO Ralph de la Vega showcased the new Digital Life offering which falls in the Connected Devices or M2M category. This solution involves a Connected Home and Security apparatus and applications with remote management and monitoring of the Home by consumers and home owners. Glenn Lurie, head of AT&T’s Connected Devices business said, that less than 20% of US homes have security and less than 1% homes have home automation.

AT&T is pioneering the M2M space and a global leader in evolving and maturing M2M business models around Home and Security.

AT&T also announced APIs for developers to provide advanced call management applications – these probably use the IMS or IP Multimedia Subsystem interface to the wireless network.

AT&T also announced its intentions to deploy its new LTE network to 300 million people by end-2014. Currently, AT&T’s LTE network reaches 170 million people in USA which places it in second ranking behind Verizon in LTE deployments.

Project VIP (Velocity IP) is AT&T’s new $14 billion investment initiative to focus on LTE, Connected Home and other emerging areas.

Other news

Other news at CES today included LG announcing special emphasis on NFC as a linking tech to link all its products and providing an ability to put all these devices on the Connected Grid for remote management and control, Nvidia launching the world’s fastest mobile processor (as per its claims at least) and NTT Docomo launching a new M2M platform for global service providers using Jasper Wireless platform.

If one were to summarize, this year’s main themes seem to be Smarter and Faster Mobile Chips, Connectedness, Smart Devices, Digital Television etc. Let’s see what the remaining days of CES offer. We are watching the news in excitement about the up and coming technologies at this event. To get full coverage on this event, visit the event website here.

January 8th, 2013

The Internet – still an Equalizer ?

Today there is a post in the Wall Street Journal as to how the websites are tracking all user activities, right from location, personal profile, profession, hobbies, likes and dislikes.

Today’s internet is perhaps “too open”, where users information is freely available to retailers, analysts, marketers alike. While this may serve the purpose of “personalizing” offers and deals to consumers, it risks being labeled discriminatory if such information is used to offer different product pricing or search results to consumers. Not to mention the bigger risk of spammers and ID thieves catching hold of such information and launching malicious campaigns against consumers.

A WSJ investigation found that the office products retailer Staples is offering different prices on the same stapler to two different consumers who were just a few miles away.

Retailers are justified in offering different prices to different customers – this is what happens in stores too especially in different stores of the same chain. Retailers argue that local operating costs, real estate pricing, manpower costs and other logistics etc influence local pricing. In that sense, the online differential in pricing is no different than it’s offline cousin.

“But the idea of an unbiased, impersonal Internet is fast giving way to an online world that, in reality, is increasingly tailored and targeted. Websites are adopting techniques to glean information about visitors to their sites, in real time, and then deliver different versions of the Web to different people. Prices change, products get swapped out, wording is modified, and there is little way for the typical website user to spot it when it happens”, says the Journal.

WSJ said that many firms resorted to such price tactics, including Discover Financial, Rosetta Stone, Home Depot etc. Office Depot told WSJ team that they use customers browsing history and geolocation to offer tailored product offers and pricing for online shopping.

Technically, this is all legal, but the boundary line to ethical or discriminatory behaviour is not far. Eg certain racial groups may claim discrimination or local governments may cry foul. It seems that 76% of Americans are opposed to this kind of differential pricing.

But there are advantages too for differential pricing. Eg certain services like movie theatres offer senior citizen and student discounts.

The key takeaways are :

  • the fundamental premise of internet being an unbiased and same-for-all internet is bring eroded now as personalization increases and website behave differently for different people. The INTERNET IS NO LONGER AN EQUALIZER.
  • while differential pricing is normal and legal, it can raise ethical and discriminatory haggles across sections of the society. So retailers need to tread carefully.

What is CellStrat view : Retailers and web commerce firms need to abide by laws and be careful in offering personalized offers and pricing. Tailoring offers based on user information or their location has to be considered in view of the prevailing laws and user acceptance. Otherwise, the online commerce firms risk alienating the consumers who took to the internet to find an equal society, in the first place.

(Excerpted from WSJ article titled “Websites Vary Prices, Deals, Based on Users’ Information” dated 23 Dec 2012)

December 24th, 2012

Map wars

Since the launch of Apple iOS 6, one is seeing major activity in the world of Digital Maps. Both Apple and Google have been duking it out recently on this front. Before the iOS 6 was released, Google Maps was the default map application installed on the iPhones. But map application in recent times has become perhaps the most popular mobile app and hence substantial customer engagement and media sales get initiated with the map experience. The primary fruits of iPhone mapping app were being enjoyed by Google, until iOS 6 came along. With iOS 6 and iPhone 5, Apple decided to take the Map app internal and worked on Apple Maps for this version of iOS, thereby dropping Google Maps as the default Map app on the new iPhone.

In it’s haste to release the Map App along with iOS 6 launch, Apple mapping team seemed to compromise on reliability and accuracy in Apple Maps. The error proved deadly, as the Apple Maps app was widely criticized after iOS 6 was launched, being that rest of the iOS 6 as well as iPhone 5 was much appreciated. Apple Map Apps shows incorrect placement of landmarks and is frustrating mobile users around the world who rely on smartphone maps to guide them around cities.

This resulted in Tim Cook of Apple issuing an apology to Apple customers. Google, with a guilty pleasure, enjoyed the Apple Map criticism. Google has since announced that they are working on a custom Google Maps app for the iOS 6 platform. It is expected to come out before the end of the year.

Why are Map Apps such a big deal after all ? In an App survey conducted by Wireless Technology Forum, Atlanta, Google Maps was rated as the most popular mobile app. That means that navigation and directions via smartphone maps has become the most key use of these phones. One knew that Mapping Apps were popular and widely used, but who would have guessed that Map App is “the” most popular mobile app out there. Especially Google Maps. Obviously, smartphone users really use this app in their daily movements.

Maps are also used for the most cutting-edge of phone applications, that is Location-Based Services or LBS. LBS refers to finding businesses nearby and guiding customer traffic to those businesses. LBS also enables local advertising and shopping. LBS is key aspect of SoLoMo – Social Local Mobile – a concept referring to convergence between local commerce, mobile phones and social shopping.

Maps also facilitate searches now – Search is more relevant if locational aspects are added to it. Search Advertising has been a revolutionary concept and LBS makes Search even more relevant.

When the iOS 6 Apple Maps app faced ridicule, Tim Cook suggested that iPhone customers download Bing or other Map Apps from App Store. Google, of course, had not planned a iOS 6 compatible Map app, until it realized that iPhone users were clamoring for the Google version, after having experienced the cloogy Apple Map App. Apple Map flap has caused many a casualty at Apple office – with many execs including one of the most senior execs, Scott Forstall, being asked to leave. Just today, Apple fired another manager in charge of Map App.

With the Apple Map app mess, other mapping programs have gained eg Embark and Bing Maps.

Mapping wars are front and centre in the smartphone evolution, the various map providers need to check their coordinates in this new war.

November 29th, 2012

Main Themes from Nasscom Product Conclave (7-8th Nov), Bangalore

(from our Bangalore desk)

I attended this conference in Bangalore earlier this week – it was most interesting with hundreds of company execs, entrepreneurs and thought leaders speaking about product innovation, development strategies and emerging technologies.

I will list some major themes I picked up at this conference:-

  • In India, next decade belongs to Product development and these will have major impact on business and social empowerment.
  • Hiring best practices and product quality differentiate successful organizations and individuals from all others.
  • In the new world, individuals and professionals which take initiative and drive innovation will take their organizations to leadership positions. This applies to large and small firms alike. These individuals will be the ones in most demand going forward.
  • Design and Image is crucial in the new world – this translates to User Experience and Engagement in all we do. Think Apple or Amazon.com
  • The big opportunities are in Smartphones / tablets, Mobile, Cloud, Analytics, Big Data, Social – all usual suspects. These are all big enablers of new innovation and present opportunities for growth. At the same time, these technologies create a level playing field. As a result, larger firms now find that small startups can cause immense disruption in the former’s usual businesses – hence executives in the larger firms must think like entrepreneurs to create new opportunities and ensure customer delight via superb delivery and engagement.
  • India has 900 million feature phones and only 10% of these are smartphones. So Mobile Apps and Enterprise Mobility offer incredible opportunity growing forward – this is true of western markets as well, as Enterprises there adopt mobile in a big way for all their applications. Mobile has truly gone from Mobile Also -> Mobile First – >Mobile Only strategy. Now, major new programs and initiatives in leading firms are planning to do a Mobile only strategy.
  • Cloud Computing is the new way of doing almost everything in IT for end clients – IT investments are shifting to Cloud at an incredible space – so much so that most new projects or initiatives are looking at Cloud as a preferred solution over an in-house hosting strategy.
  • Big Data is not a fad – with all the Social channels and frenetic transaction activity, Big Data is a problem which is growing in size everyday – as such, it offers major opportunities for solution providers and product developers to slice, dice and analyze, in order to achieve actionable intelligence and business decisioning.
  • Open source technologies are now fully mainstream and driving major new development.
  • Collaboration and leadership are key aspects in driving success. Most new innovation requires good collaboration and partnership skills as well as passion to succeed.
  • Naveen Tewari, Founder and CEO of InMobi, said that the three critical factors for success for a startup are :
    • Thing Big – you can do it
    • Hire the best
    • Focus on product quality. Good products sell themselves
  • Naeem Zafar, Founder and CEO of Bitzer Mobile as well as more than a dozen startups earlier, said that for each CEO, the main responsibility is “Don’t run out of money”.
  • IBM-mers Peter Coldicott (Chief Product Architect), Robert High (IBM Fellow in IBM Watson), and Daniel Yellin (Enterprise Mobility Chief Engineer) spoke about IBM’s Smarter cities program, Cloud and the new IBM super-computer Watson which is making waves.
  • Sharad Sharma (ex-MD, Yahoo India), spoke about product entrepreneurs as transformers of the society.
  • Deep Kalra, Founder and CEO of MakeMyTrip, spoke about his entrepreneurial journey and the Indian startup ecosystem.

The event is one power-packed event with almost 1300 delegates which included almost 150+ blue-chip speakers and thought leaders from India and abroad. The presence of so many Silicon Valley luminaries seems to indicate that action in Bangalore is accelerating and many westward folks are now looking east to this part of the world for next revolutions in tech and digital.

Kudos to Nasscom, Nasscom President Mr Som Mittal and all the dedicated NPC volunteers for putting together what we consider is a remarkable show.

For more updates from this event, click here.

November 12th, 2012

CMO is the new CIO

Recently I am hearing a lot about the fact that the IT budgets are increasing coming from the CMO department. Indeed “CMO is the new CIO”. Why this trend ? Reasons are manifold :

a) Customer touchpoint is the new focus : Customer touchpoint is where the action is now. Whether it is Customer Engagement, Customer Service, Customer Access or anything to do with orchestrating these, these are the hot topics now for enterprises large and small. This essentially means mobile devices, mobile apps, social, local, cloud, analytics etc. To be more specific, the big themes now are Mobile, Social, Cloud and Analytics – all that relate to customer facing technology or orchestrating the customer experience.

Who owns the customer experience – it is the Marketing office and not really the CIO office.

b) Image and Branding : In this world awash with media and content, image is everything. Social and Digital Media are increasingly commanding higher order of CXO focus and budgets. It is now possible for unknown brands and firms to accelerate their visibility overnight via a variety of Social and Digital channels. Traditional firms often find themselves late to this party or reacting to their customers who are already present enmasse on these Digital Channels. Simple 140 character tweets can embarass monstrous corporations in matter of seconds. Image and Branding on new media has become a herculean challenge for large firms and leveled the playing field for consumers, smaller firms and startups.

Who controls a firm’s image and branding, CMO again. So CMO will drive investments in Social and Digital technology which is increasingly important to firms’s reputation and respect in the marketplace.

c) Backend infra is mature : Increasingly, one finds that backend infrastructure in traditional IT departments is mature – the big bang Oracle, SAP and middleware projects are stable and it is increasingly hard to find those big ticket IT projects now. Most of the transformational IT is now happening at customer edge and not in backend tech or networks. Of course, there are exceptions, like 4G and LTE investments by wireless industry and Big Data projects to slice and dice the voluminous data banks that now exist.

However, save for a few big items on backend, backend tech is now mature and even Oracles and SAPs of the world are now developing products for the front-end, where the growth multiples seem better going forward. The customer front-end, of course, is owned by the CMO and not the CIO.

d) Emergence of new tech : Web 2.0 is now being replaced by Web 3.0 – a world of seamless mobility, applications, and front-end use cases. Mobile Payments, Mobile Media, Mobile Devices, SME Cloud Apps, Social Networks, Location Services, hyperlocal marketing are the big glamour areas of tech now where most developers and firms want to focus their energy now. Apple may have started the trend of massive consumer revolution when it created the iPhone, Amazon has brought Web services to SMEs on a massive scale, Google is innovating in search and platforms, Facebook has amassed the largest number of eyeballs around the world. These kind of firms are at the forefront of consumer revolution in tech devices and applications.

Again, tackling this world is in the primary perview of the CMO with it’s mobile strategy, social and digital technology, connected consumer and advertising.

e) Consumerization of IT or COIT : COIT is a popular term now – where consumers walk in into the workplace with their consumer devices and force the CIO to adopt to their devices and apps rather than the other way round. The concept of a Social Enterprise is being adopted by all large firms to drive employee engagement, mindshare and collaboration. Gen Y employees are forcing their employers to change their ways and business practices to make these corporations employee oriented. Talent crunch is forcing firms to adapt to the employees wishes rather than the other way round. Hyper-informed customers are, in turn, pressurizing companies to provide relevant product information and fantastic customer service.

Certainly, CMO is the consumer and people expert and not the CIO. Most of the COIT trends require CMO to play a key role in the tech strategy.

To be sure, the CIO is not going anywhere and remains the bulwark of operational infrastructure and execution framework within the firms. The tech jazz (and related budgets), however, are now owned by the CMO due the macro trends outlined above. Indeed, CMO is the new CIO in the tech world.

September 24th, 2012

Apple iPhone 5 is here : CellStrat opinion

As if you have not heard enough about iPhone 5 already, here is more of it :)

Apple announced iPhone 5 on Sept 12th. The other big thing that happened that day was Quantitative Easing version 3 announcement by US Federal Reserve – one wonders, it was a synchronized announcement – just kidding.. Certainly, some market analysts have said that iPhone 5 may do more for US GDP growth than Fed’s QE3..amazing..

Well, intentional or not, both the announcements have a dramatic impacts – QE3 will accelerate the stock market rise around the world, fuel more inflation etc. Apple announcement will lead to Apple maintaining it’s hegemony in the smartphone ecosystem. I know, I know, some of you are on side of the table which is less than enamoured by the new iPhone 5. However, our take is that the ecosystem of Apple is much too strong and still underestimated by most. The vertical integration of iTunes, Macs, iPhones, iPads, licensed content in there, seamless charging via iTunes, cross-device synch capabilities are so intense and so transformational in the tech world, that few can match up with Apple prowess over the marketplace. Apple ran out of online inventory of iPhone 5 in one hour of opening the sales..validation enough of a huge pent-up demand out there.

Lack of NFC or some other popular features, now commonplace in other smartphones, will not deter iPhone 5 in creating breakthrough success once again for Apple sales. What most people fail to realize about Apple is that it does not usually toe the line created by others – it creates new models which, in many cases, become the benchmark over time. Coming back to NFC, Apple did bundle a feature called Passbook in the new iPhone 5 – a loyalty and coupon management feature – this is not payment enabled but it could evolve into a Digital Wallet. Many leaders like eBay, Square, Paypal are making do without NFC in Mobile Payments and quite successfully at that. It is likely that NFC may never become the mainstream mobile payment tech if Apple and others listed here do not push it.

As to what Apple iPhone 5 does pack, it has a laundry list of neat features :

LTE (4G capable), Thinner, Lighter, bigger screen (4 inch diagonally), all new Apple-designed A6 chip, better retina display, improved camera (although megapixels remain at 8 megs), enhanced HD video recording, 5 rows of icons on the screen, improved Siri assistant, new lightning connector, new Apple mapping app, better iCloud integration, 700,000 apps, new iOS 6 OS, Passbook loyalty feature, the list goes on and on.

To view all iPhone 5 features, click here.

As far as we can visualize, we still feel demand for iPhone 5 will be back-logged and people will go gaga over this device the world over. Apple mobile leadership is far from being threatened, not until they make major blunders or others truly can provide a neat vertically integrated ecosystem. So far, we see only Amazon as being anywhere close to providing the vertical ecosystem with Kindle platform. Samsung tried but it is missing many major components for creating a complete ecosystem, music partnerships to begin with, among other things. Google does not try as their focus is entirely different – to monetize via search engines on Android devices.

So – for now, it is Apple’s world to rule in the mobile arena, until somebody else “does an Apple” on them.

September 17th, 2012

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

Mobile Payments dogfight

Recently, we heard that Starbucks – the behemoth in coffee retailing business, invested in Square – the American Mobile Payment startup; as well Starbucks stores will be accepting payments via Square mobile app. Starbucks already had their mobile wallet solution and had seen a record number of transactions via this platform, wherein the customers would just wave the starbuck app barcode on their smarphones in front of a reader in a Starbuck store and the amount gets deducted from the user’s Starbucks mobile wallet.

Now Starbucks is betting on Square – that zingy startup which has attracted tons of VC money from big name investors. Starbucks buyin gives Square the credibility that is needed by the tech firm to sell into big name retail. So far Square app was popular for mobile payments, but primarily limited to thousands of small businesses which had adopted this solution. Starbucks approval puts Square square and centre in the Mobile payment contender space – along with the traditional digital payment firm Paypal. Paypal has been experimenting with Mobile Payments for sometime now and has the backing of millions of consumers and merchants who use Paypal daily for moving around money online.

Paypal, in turn, announced a partnership with Discover Card financial services, Paypal mobile app will mediate a Discover payment in select stores. Discover is the smallest of the 4 big Credit Card vendors in United States. Visa, Mastercard and American Express cards are working on their own mobile payment solutions or partnering with other internet and telco players. Discover is relying on Paypal to carry the smaller card vendor into the Mobile payments vertical (although Discover works in Mobile Payments via telco partnerships as well).

It seems like a dogfight between Square and Paypal has begin to try to dominate this upcoming area. Although there are other heavyweights in the ring – namely, ISIS (telecom carrier joint venture), Google Wallet, Apple potentially, banks and some others. It would be interesting to see what tricks Apple has up it’s sleeve. Apple is a killer firm which, when it enters a market, comes up with such innovations that few are able to compete with it.

The Mobile Payments space is fragmented and there is no clear winner or dominant player yet. The complexity in financial regulation and the difficulty in scaling this business over a large number of merchants has kept this area into the hobby domain so far. As it seems, it seems to be breaking out now with some startups and large firms making aggressive moves to create a market in this now. We watch this space with keen interest.

As far as India goes, there are local startups who have tried to tackle this space – firms like ngpay, paytm, obopay and some others. But most are still small and captive scale is not there yet. Many of these firms have survived in India by doing things other than Mobile payments. Eg Ngpay has become a mobile shopping mall, PayTM has gotten into recharge business and so on.

August 23rd, 2012

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