Sunday, December 19, 2010

Print publishers - it's time for a Copernican revolution

Today, we see a lot of print publishers willing to leverage IPad interactive capabilities to better monetize their assets. Since paper is currently their main source of revenue, they thus study how they could extend their IT systems and processes with minimal impact to deliver interactive experience.

Experience proves that adding interactivity along the way is complex and painful, often requiring manual costly processes. For a future-safe approach, publishers should consider redesigning their whole IT, taking digital and interactive as the source and "passive paper" as one of the multiple and diverse outputs.

Some of them already started this move in to adopt to the online space. It's only the beginning. This definitely requires a "Copernican revolution" and related change management processes to move the whole company in 21st century.

Thanks to evolutions during the last decade in this domain, by both industries and open source, this investment will make it much more cost effective and seamless for introduction of new formats and extension to new devices.
Having "rock-bottom" costs for the production factory can leave the money on the long run to either attract top writers and bloggers, bringing the right audience and/or give flexibility to evolve in terms of business model.

Yesterday, moving in the new space was an opportunity. Tomorrow, keeping current methods will yield a threat.
Are "Print publishers" ready for this change ? Future will say.

To be continued

Benoit Quirynen

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Digital dialog - definitely engaging

This week, I once again had to invoke my preferred customer care - the one of my telecom service provider - in order to activate a data roaming pack.

After a few hours, I received an SMS asking if I wanted to freely participate to a survey about the quality of the interaction with customer care agent. I positively answered and received 2 questions with possibility to reply by sending an SMS including 1 for yes or 2 for no. The last question was asking for open comment. My last personal comment was a proposal for service activation through SMS or web self-care, which would be much more efficient for me than dialing my well-known call center.
Funny to personally experience a format I tried to convince this industry to adopt a few months ago for different usage.

As a subscriber, I honestly found the format more interesting than audio survey usually proposed at the end of the call. It gave me some time to digest if I was happy or not and I felt it much less intrusive.

Answers were explicitly mentioned to be free. Since I answered the survey while in roaming, I'm curious to see if these messages will be charged or not on my next bill. A next test about the consistency about customer communication.

The previous test about communication consistency failed. When in roaming, I received as usual 3 messages indicating rules and caveat about usage abroad. A 4 digits phone number is mentioned in the message. I tried it and ... the answer is that I am invited to dial another 9 digits number. I actually wonder why a telecom operator can not automatically ensure the re-routing of the call to the right support center.

So, still a long way to run for full customer communication consistency but, at least, some telecom operators start to use compelling formats to communicate with their subscribers.

To be continued ...

Benoit Quirynen

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Telecom - why not simply deliver a better service ?

Blogs, articles, books, everywhere in the world strategists are discussing about the battle between internet boys and telecom elderly. Why are Internet boys so successful, in a kind of continuous hype curve, while telecom elderly are perceived as old-fashioned even if the second ones provide the necessary pipes for the first ones to operate ?

This interesting discussion was reenforced this week due to the Broadband forum.
There is certainly nothing wrong to raise the question and, even better, it's important for the whole society to find the right balance between the two sets of dinosaurs in order to support further evolutions.

But, before engaging in some hazardous strategies, telecom operators could perhaps simply deliver a better service. It's not about inventing yet another stuff. It's all about services around voice, messaging, data access and 3rd party premium services - all the services used by large panel of subscribers.

We can distinguish two aspects : provide a better user experience and solve all the numerous small inconsistencies which are very annoying for subscribers, eventually leading to a complete loss of trust.

Why the hell is the Skype user experience better than my phone experience ? I don't ask for a free service. It would nice but I understand it would not be sustainable. I just ask a mobile user experience as convenient as Skype.

The second improvement concerns the loss of trust that I still have in my telecom provider. Why the hell do I face a problem each time I activate a service ? It's true that I receive more alert messages than before, assumed to explain unusual situations. Receiving alerts when call center tells you that there is no problem creates frustration. Not receiving an alert when there is a problem is even more frustrating. And finally, each time spending 20+ minutes waiting in call center queue is certainly not my favorite activity.

Telecom systems have been built as mushrooms growing, on a yearly basis, a few month after annual Mobile World Congress. In order to face the other category of dinosaurs, it's time for telecom to debug all these minor frustrating error cases or even better, time to streamline the architectures.

Let's remove dangerous mushrooms and structure the telecom landscape for an open field based on latest technologies and concepts - supporting a new wave of innovation.
Fighting or partnering with the other side ? Future will say.
To be continued ...

Benoit Quirynen

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Microsoft Surface - which use case ?

This week-end, I had the opportunity to test Microsoft Surface during "salon de l'√©ducation" (education fair) in Namur - Belgium. Microsoft Surface is a kind of large horizontal touch screen (30 inches) that you can lay on a table.

Touch events are detected through infrared, with the capability to capture a lot of simultaneous events and gestures. It's also possible to lay objects, leading to interactions through NFC or SRW.

The screen size yields quite high definition for pictures but the processor is strong enough to smoothly handle this (far better than IPad Mobile Safari for very large images ;-).

Touch detection and gestures were sometimes hazardous but this can probably be sorted out through more frequent usage (as it is for any new device, especially the touchscreen ones).

Demo applications were quite diverse:
- an interactive map,
- picture gallery,
- quite basic educative application,
- mind-mapping brainstorming application,
- weather forecast (as on all devices),- ...

At this early stage, the price is obviously irrelevant (>10000€). This depends on volume.

Some questions still resist to this demo:
- would people actually use this ?
- in which environment (home, office, hotel, school, restaurants, hospital, industry, war rooms, senior residence, etc...) will it be best applied ?
- for which kind of usage (learning, gaming, collaborative working, leisure, etc...) ?

Since demonstrated in a education fair, I guess some people imagine that small groups of children will interact around this table to learn together. A similar product - but far less powerful- was demonstrated by another vendor, apparently restricted for drawing usage.

Collaborative learning will certainly evolve and is a very nice topic to study. However, I'm not sure Microsoft Surface  (and its competitors) will play a massive role in this market.
As human beings, we naturally prefer to watch screens with at least 30° angle. Moreover, the size of the screen naturally limits number of persons who can interact. So I only see this as applicable for some restricted usages, preventing rapid significant price decrease.
Just feel free to contradict with good use cases !

Let's be fair. Even if this device would perhaps not have a bright future, let's recognize that Microsoft invested and contributed to explore this track, helping the world to progress on a very positive and promising topic.

To be continued ...

Benoit Quirynen

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Content is king, cross-device digital rights is key ... for e-paper as well

The limited number of e-books available on IPad pushed me to install Amazon Kindle app on this device.
In my humble opinion, IBooks reading experience is better but reading Winnie-the-Pooh starts to be boring ;-)

Moreover, thanks to Amazon, I can choose to read it on several of my devices where Kindle app could installed (IPad, IPhone, PC, Android systems, etc...). Even if reading a book on a phone is not convenient at all, at least I feel that my digital rights are respected. If I loose or break my IPad and wants to buy back a Samsung tablet equipped with Android, I'll have access to my library of e-books.

Cross-device digital rights is a MUST HAVE for publishers moving to digital world. Apple can not lock readers to his devices using content created by others. It tried it in the past with music. It had to extend afterwards to deliver MP3 versions of music.

You will argue that I could read some books on iBooks and some others on Kindle. And you are right. But today, in my mind, I can accommodate the user experience of Kindle and prefer to have future-safe digital rights. So next time, I'll first search on Kindle.

For newspaper, I also experience the "content is king" assertion. I subscribed to a newspaper quite limited application - even painful from a user experience point-of-view. However, I renewed my subscription to keep access to the content which I find useful.
On the side of cross-device digital rights, I'm blocked. Even if I have a subscription on my IPad, I can not read it through my Android phone. I consider this as unacceptable since I already paid for accessing this content.

When will iBook be open, when will newspaper support cross-device digital rights ?
To be continued ...

Benoit Quirynen

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Microsoft Kinect - some good reasons why a "Kinect app store" could be soon announced

Microsoft could be the Santa Claus of the year thanks to its Kinect - a visual motion detection system combined with XBox360 to replicate Wii gaming experience without any remote control/wimote. A "Kinect app store" could have a huge impact on the overall multimedia and communication market.

Despite the fight between main smartphone manufacturers to federate application developers around their app store in mobile arena, Microsoft still applies the classical game console business model where the top-5 game editors provide a large part of the content. Zune will be the content platform. No signs of app store ... until now.

However, a "Kinect app store" would definitely re-position Microsoft against different kinds of competitors :

Against kings of smartphone apps. This would give Microsoft a first mover advantage against a possible extension of Apple or Google on TV. Both companies federate a large community of developers and already have thousands of apps available. Both Apple and Google could create home devices running their portfolio of apps on TV.

Against game console manufacturers. This would rapidly build the largest portfolio of console games. Of course, Sony & Nintendo could react but both companies don't have any experience with support of large communities of developers. Microsoft support developers for 2 decades. Of course, this would push Microsoft to some compromises in the way they currently deal with developers.

Against telco and SetTopBox vendors in the small IPTV market. Leveraging their leading position in IPTV, Microsoft could propose SetTopBox extensions/migration scenarios for consumers to benefit of these apps. Most of SetTopBox devices hardware setup is today probably too weak to support this kind of local applications, especially if it was not foreseen from day-1. Moreover, Microsoft significantly reduced the price of basic XBox. Simple SetTopBoxes are doomed to disappear.

It's obvious that KIN and KINECT have same roots. There is no coincidence. KIN project on mobile is perhaps delayed, waiting for Microsoft to focus on home during 6-12 months, develop an app position on this market and bring a compatible smartphone afterwards. Microsoft would then be the first player addressing the whole scope of multi-screen.

But even the large Microsoft is too small to develop all applications for this potential. Moreover, leveraging a community of developer largely supports the development of a device during beginning of this 21st century. So Microsoft probably has interest to delegate app development to developer communities. Apple paved the way of developer federation. Google proved that this model can be copied. Microsoft can then smartly activate developer communities, which has been his territory during last two decades, seeding their multimedia app portfolio from TV green field instead of overcrowded mobile arena.

Launching a KIN in June this year did not indeed make sense in this scenario. No obvious reasons for consumers to buy KIN now. If Kinect is a success, rules of the game then change and a complementary mobile phone then fully applies for young consumers and thus solve the issues addressed in this post and in this post.

Another market analysis published these days shows that consumers, when buying a new TV set, more focus on online connectivity than on 3D features. So consumers are demanding an Internet TV model.

Until today, this "Kinect app store" scenario still is an assumption. On the other hand, the fact that TV landscape and ecosystem will drastically evolve in the coming 5 years is a given.
So, game console manufacturers, telco vendors, smartphone vendors, gaming software editors have some time to prepare a battle plan taking the "Kinect app store" scenario into account. Telecom and cable operators would also be well inspired to analyse such a scenario.
Because, for all these players, there are so many things to do to anticipate possible next moves of the dinosaur.

To be continued ...

Benoit Quirynen

Kinect - a first step to reconnect Microsoft with youngsters ?

Microsoft has announced a 240M$ writeoff in their last financial announcement due to KIN mobile phone project cancellation. What appears to be a huge amount for any company is just a drop in the ocean of Microsoft revenues.

This week, Global Equities Research analyst have downgraded the note of Microsoft, not for this writeoff but for what sits behind. Microsoft is losing ground on Office battlefield in education, public and call center sectors (which represent 10%). Moreover, companies more and more give the choice to employees to choose a MAC or a PC.

But the tough statement does not sit in immediate market share or price erosion. As outlined in a previous post, it's much more dangerous long term than short term. Analysts outlines the danger : "Microsoft is unable to connect with the new generation of users. This could cause problems down the road." KIN phone cancellation is just an additional proof point. Microsoft software appears as old-fashioned for youngsters.

But Microsoft is not yet dead. Thanks to huge cash and some current projects, Microsoft certainly can recover if they play the right card. This reconciliation card can be found in 3 packs : mobile, Internet and games.

In the area of game console, a commercial name - Kinect - has been assigned to the "Natal research project". Thanks to Kinect XBox add-on (yes, it works with an existing XBox), you can live a kind of Wii gaming experience without the need of a Wimote. First Kinect Games are announced before Christmas.

On the techno side, even if Kinect could be a huge technological step forward for visual movement detection, it lacks the vibration feedback proposed by game console accessories, Wimote and ... mobile phone games.

On the business side, Kinect still applies the old gaming business model - a game console partnering with top game editors. We address within another post the missed opportunity : a "Kinect app store" linked with a decent "Kinect developer program" for any developer to leverage the assets of this technological breakthrough.

Even if the experience is nice and movement detection accurate enough (still to be proven ...), this project can only be a first step. It will certainly not be sufficient to reconcile Microsoft with a generation. Still a long way to go for Steve Ballmer, much more in terms of mindset than in terms of technology, before Microsoft becomes hype within communities of digital natives.

To be continued ...

Benoit Quirynen

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Racer mobile phone - the name of the winners not written in the press release

Racer, the new Android phone sold below symbolic threshold of 100 UK Pounds, produced by ZTE and distributed by 3-UK, has been announced this week. This is probably an important milestone in the mobile phone history. Funny enough, the name of the true winners is not written in the press releases.

The announcement indicates an important smart complementary offer; 3UK granting a volume data bucket of 150MB for top-up on a prepaid account.

3UK and ZTE are obviously mentioned in the press release.

Through this launch, 3UK, desperately tries to attack its strong competitors with an appealing offer for youngsters. Vodafone, T-Mobile/Orange and O2 are able to follow when they decide. If the phone is a success, it's just a question of months to come back to a similar balance between telco players on the island.

On the other hand, ZTE makes a step towards a position in the top-5 mobile phone manufacturers but there is still a long long way to run.

Funny enough, the name of the big winners of this important milestone is not written.

Android is mentioned but Google is not. Through its "free licensing model", Google will win the scale battle with Apple. Google copies the Windows model used by Microsoft against Apple during last century. Google does not directly produce cash through this kind of offer. But advertising inventory (display and search) will indirectly grow at an higher pace and this growth is directly linked to G revenues.

The name of the other winner is Facebook, with the same logic of increased inventory, since target of this phone is most probably youngsters, heavy Facebook users. This can be extended to myriad of mobile phone application providers.

Names of losers are rarely written in press releases.

We can not say that Apple will loose with this kind of move but it defines the borders of a profitable corner.
Apple, luxuriantly trapped by the very high value of his brand and its vertical approach - mandatory to change the game at the beginning but limiting the scale during next phases of growth -, will loose against Android in terms of mobile OS market share. As a consequence, iAds, advertising initiative from Apple, will then probably be restricted to high-end brands while Google presents a universal inventory for any brand, any shop.

This announcement now materializes another level of danger for Nokia. Lost in Symbian, Meego, Linux mobile OS announcements, Nokia is still the number one but does not manage to tease interest of developers for applications - the next criterion for people to buy a phone.

Moreover, the whole telco market could start to see ARPU (average revenue per user) declining faster at this stage. Through this offer with such a pricing for device and data, number of data users could reach a tipping point where messaging traffic could start to significantly migrate from charged SMS to free instant messaging.

This only if the Racer phone is good and is a commercial success.

To be continued ...

Benoit Quirynen

Friday, July 9, 2010

Identity Portability : a small mobile portability issue in UK reminds a global email portability issue nearly everywhere

For more than a decade, regulators in Europe have forced telcos, in a sense of teasing competition, to ease transfer of mobile phone number from an operator to another one. Today, nothing exist for email portability.

In UK, new rules applied from 2011 onwards still include a statement indicating that the consumer must first ask authorization to donor operator. UK is the single country in Europe where this preliminary authorization is required.

In the scope of identity portability, mobile number certainly is a key identification mean. But email is probably today as important for residential consumers.

Some petitions about email portability in order to restrict the power of AOL have been proposed to FCC in US. Email portability has been approved by Knesset in Israel. Where does European Commission stand for email address portability ?

Perhaps European Union should also define rules in this email portability area, some persons being locked with their ISP only due to their email address. And this regulation should not be restricted to ISPs. It should also be applied for email service providers in general.

Differentiation should then be done based on the service (user experience, availability, multi-screen, easy configuration, etc...). In my humble opinion, Gmail is today far ahead in this area.

Some will argue that anyone is free to buy a domain name. But complexity of configuration severely restricts adoption by the mass. So there is still a sense to have email service provider domain names.

There are several ways to bring technical solutions to this problem with different levels of facilities. There could be a progressive approach after a transition period.

Such a regulation would not necessarily hurt ISPs and/or telecom operators. On one hand, operator email addresses (e.g. are the best anti-churn weapons for ISPs when they fight with their direct competitors. On the other hand, this pushes more and more residential consumers to migrate their digital identity to an over-the-top email service provider (hotmail, gmail, yahoo, facebook will follow - all in US).
Fighting against each other, European ISPs are collectively loosing an important service in their global communication offering, thus leaving the floor for (mostly US) players eager to grab more and more ground space in the service plane territory.

To be continued ...

Benoit Quirynen

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Mobile advertising : slow growth rate or normal growth ?

Today, ABI research publishes new figures about mobile advertising. Worldwide market would reach 1.2 B$ in 2015. In 2006, analysts were announcing 12B$ for mobile advertising in ... 2011.

According to the same "ABI research" study, yearly market would reach today 313 M$, a bit more than 40 times less than expectations of 2006, 4 years ago. Last year, other analysts were predicting 5B$ for 2014.

Should we burn all analysis and even do the same with analysts ? What will be the actual figure in 2015 ?

Nobody actually knows. Figures published today sound much more accurate and realistic. On one hand, online has become much more mature, draining budgets from other media. On the other hand, mobile advertising starts to represent something, not necessarily the formats thought in 2006 but new formats, focusing more on respect of consumer. Moreover, start-ups and some big players started to grasp some requirements to build a scalable market.

Why is this so slow - reaching 10% of initial forecasts 5 years after initial target ?
The crisis probably did not help, directly hurting the amount put in the advertising envelopes. Moreover, analysts are sometimes paid by people expecting hockey stick shapes and thus tented to grow the figures.

But the main reason probably concerns the complexity to move an ecosystem and to understand the consumer expectations, complexity certainly underestimated by analysts. It took nearly a decade before Google generated decent revenues with significant volumes from search.
Some will argue that Facebook appeared on the market in 2006, now federating a bit less than 10% of "planet earth inhabitants". But Facebook had the chance to grow organically with no regulatory constraint (until now !), no need to make agreements with thousands of telcos worldwide (each with a different strategy), no need to align with local partners. And Facebook generated around 800M$ in 2009, mainly from advertising.

Will Facebook revenues continue to grow significantly ? At the end, it's a question of impact and volume. Does a "social ad" on Facebook prove the same impact as a permission-based targeted mobile ad ? Can Facebook compensate a possible lower impact by higher volume of "automated optin" ?

Will telco seriously engage in the race or will they passively wait for over-the-top players and device manufacturers to take the whole cake ? Will another Facebook or I-Phone phenomenon emerge in the mean time, keeping mobile marketing as a "second life" or "MySpace" ?

Considering all these constraints and resistance, if mobile advertising market reaches this 2015 figure, it's perhaps not so bad. But it could turn to be much more. It all depends on all of us - consumers.

To be continued ...

Benoit Quirynen

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494 - a business split still under discussion for telecom

1494, Spanish and Portuguese kingdoms ruled a dispute about ownership of the new world. Today, Portuguese prime minister wants to make use of its golden share to prevent Telefonica to control Vivo Brazil, the largest telco in the huge - fast emerging - country.

In 1494, "Treaty of Tordesillas" drew a meridian line (Tordesillas meridian) to determine ownership of the new world : Western part to Spain (all known America), Eastern part to Portugal (islands on the way to America). At this time, it was unknown that South-American territory was extending eastern this meridian line. In 1500, only 6 years later, Cabral, Portuguese navigator, discovered eastern part of Brazil, de facto becoming part of Portugal according to the famous treaty. From this presence in Eastern Brazil, Portugal extended his territory to take more than 50% of South-America.

In 2010, Vivo is the largest telco in Brazil. Through a JV, Telefonica and Portugal Telecom control major part of Vivo. Both Iberian telcos struggle with declining revenues in their home country and consider Brazil as the way for growth. Last week, Telefonica made an offer to buy shares of Portugal Telecom in this JV. Portuguese government now wants to make use of its golden share to protect interests of Portugal.

Spain still has to pay today for an error of about 12° longitude, 500 years ago. When drawing a line to share territories in a fast evolving business, you never know how, where and when it will end ... In ICT, business agreements and M&A operations are often handled much too fast, under immediate market pressure, without clear understanding of the consequences, especially since a lot of new territories are still to be discovered in this domain. What will happen in ICT world 2016 ?

To be continued ...

Benoit Quirynen

Friday, July 2, 2010

Microsoft, the "GM of software" in 2020 ?

Less than 3 months after the launch, "the other Steve" (Ballmer) stops the Kin. This "youngster social network phone" did not really virally spread. There is no shame to fail once but repetitive failures can seriously hurt long term.

Microsoft is suffering a lot with new initiatives. They keep going below the radar with mobile. Their IPTV is confidential in terms of numbers because IPTV is rather limited worldwide. Nintendo Wii sets XBox nearly out of the shelves. HP bought Palm, giving up Windows 7 for tablet. This famous tablet could seriously damage their well established PC kingdom. Windows Live is nothing compared to Facebook. Hotmail is suffering from Gmail. Bing maintains a comfortable second position, never able to compare with Google.
Microsoft, the "General Motors of software" in 2020 ? Unable to choose a battle to win it, it tries to resist on all fronts. 

The problem is not short term. The big M generated more than 14B$ profit in 2009, mainly through Windows & Office. But on this battlefield, they are attacked by serious players.

For new races, Microsoft tends to become the "Poulidor of technology", always being a second or third, never winning one. They just can't invent a product consumers love. And for years now, each new trial, a kind of "Me Too plus minus something", damages their brand. Who is today proud buying a consumer M product ? Who will show off with a whatever "Windows xyz" ?

Some will say that Microsoft did never invent anything, just smartly copy-pasting. On the other hand, the same must recognize Microsoft brought scale to massive computer usage. 
Others will argue that, during last decade, nobody bought an M product because they loved it. It was just needed. At that time, this was sufficient to become #1. But a successful "20th century strategy" does not probably work the same way in 21th.

If Microsoft wants to build sustainable consumer products, perhaps they should press "pause button" during 2 years, just keeping pace on different fronts. They could then benefit of this period to invest and come back with something very innovative, an amazing product 1.0, something changing life, a product people love, implementing a dream.

After cash generated by W(indows), mitigated success of X(box) and failure of Z(une), will Microsoft focus on a "Y" product, something fundamental, even metaphysical in order to recover #1 position ? And don't tell me it's just about the "Y" of Yahoo, except if the ambition is about keeping (a less risky but short term profitable ?) #2 or #3 position, as GM in last decade.

Microsoft has cash. There are so many things to invent. Don't tell me they lack imagination and creativity !

To be continued ...

Benoit Quirynen

Sunday, June 27, 2010

HD voice as a start for better communication ?

This week, Orange has announced arrival of HD voice. Telecom world starts to remember that "telecommunication" naturally includes the word "communication".

During last 20 years, focus has been set on connections: direct voice or data connection , differed through messaging. Nokia was the king with its "connecting people". Nokia currently suffers because Apple, Google and the likes now offer much more than a "connected device". Alcatel-Lucent was shooting for "always-on". We'll come back on these tag lines in another article.

Of course, connection is the foundation. Telecom world now has the opportunity to embrace a larger scope around communication, building on top of this foundation.

Many dimensions of communication still need to be improved. It's the beginning of a new decade where we'll see evolutions from a "connected world" to "communicating world".

HD voice from Orange is perhaps just a "meeto" to counter attack position of "Skype like services" actually offering better voice quality. As a consultant, I often use Skype for long meetings with partners, not only because it's cheap but certainly also because it provides unequaled voice quality. When competition is "cheaper and better", a tough reaction is expected. With LTE, Skype could definitely take over "voice service" from traditional telecom players.

HD voice could also be a first step of a "provide better communication" strategy, voice quality being a prerequisite.

Telecom players have the choice between two mainstreams :  Telecom operator or Telecom service provider. Either they continue to be a "connection provider" and they will be rapidly joining other utilities as power, water, and gas or they become a "communication provider". That's a decision to be expected soon before next round of consolidation.

In this last case, this will involve drastic changes, moving from a global approach towards a "multi-local" approach with:

  • more openess,
  • broader scope, much beyond technical aspects,
  • and much more "localisation" of the services because communication is naturally linked to culture

Telecom vendors must also take a position, make a choice. Either they structure their offering to serve utilities or they jump in the world of communication. If telecom vendors are willing to engage inside communication, this will require drastic changes. Are they ready for it ?

To be continued ...

Benoit Quirynen

Thursday, June 17, 2010

IPad and elderly - magic device contributing to reduce Digital divide ?

In the series, what can you do with an IPad, here is a small funny video (thanks Pascal !). Beyond this funny marriage between IPad and Velcro, I also made some experience, leaving the beast in the hands of elderly.
It's just incredible ! This is neither a quantitative study nor a qualitative one. No statistical value - just feedback. Even 70+, reluctant to use Internet, started to naturally browse with the device. Reading a book was perceived as pleasant, especially since you can increase the font size. They managed to write an email (an address, a subject, a text) and read other ones. Gestures were perceived as very natural. Watching video was also nice but will not replace TV screen - too small for long period of time. Photos were naturally appreciated, not only due to the device but also due to the persons appearing on pictures.

As you see, no complain about lack of video camera, USB ports or slots for memory cards as you can expect ;-) The single negative comment was about the wastage - the back of the page you turn in iBooks is white. Apple could have printed both sides of pages. What a wastage of paper !

A study published in France states that 85% of persons who want to buy an IPad don't know the capabilities and have no idea about what they will actually do when they'll receive it. Funny to see that persons who don't necessarily want an IPad know how they would make use of it. A special kind of "Digital divide".

Just try out and share with us what you observe.
To be continued ...


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Steve Jobs has broken a thermometer. Who will offer a new, more reliable, reference ?

During last 2 years, analysts presented a lot of reports about mobile Internet usage based on AdMob public reports. Now that AdMob is thrown away from iPhone, what will be the new reference ? GSMA has a unique opportunity to take a position.

AdMob is regularly reporting Mobile Internet traffic trends for the mobile sites - traffic per device manufacturer, per country, etc... - based on measurements on mobile sites where it delivers banner ads. The last part of the sentence is important because it naturally brings a bias to the statistics. AdMob mainly delivers banner ads for small mobile Internet websites, typically with an insufficient size to maintain an internal advertising agency.
Typically, since AdMob has a very low footprint on main mobile service provider portals (Orange World, Vodafone Live or Vodafone 360) or on successful internet sites (flickR, yahoo, Google, news, etc...), these reports were probably minimizing the mobile Internet traffic generated through feature phones (Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Samsung, Lg). Typically, due to broader "phone designed content" and/or preferential tariff, owners of feature phones were more used to crawl telco and well-known portals. This possible bias did not prevent analysts to create expensive reports from this free input.

Does this create a small or a tremendous bias ? Nobody knows the exact relevance of these reports in the past. But these reports will for sure loose any value for next issues, now that AdMob, on one hand, has been acquired by Google - a mobile OS vendor - and, on the other hand, will be prevented to deliver ads on iPhone.

So, through these drastic T&Cs, Steve Jobs has broken a thermometer. There is now a need for a new reference. GSMA could certainly become this reference.

Association of mobile service providers could aggregate local reports collected by all their members, measuring traffic in the network, on the neutral path between device and mobile web site. Perhaps these reports (aggregated measurements !) already exist but they are then published with a serious lack of impact. Mobile service providers could play the role of neutral party, providing totally unbiased reports, guiding the whole industry : device manufacturers, web designers, application developers and even end-users in the choice for an efficient phone. These measurements could even be monetized through more advanced reports sold to large Internet players, specialized analyst offices or governments willing to measure "digital divide".
Moreover, at the contrary of some other available measurements created in some countries (ComScore, Nielsen, national advertising associations, etc...), mainly done for advertising purpose, these GSMA measurements would also measure traffic on "ad free" sites.

Will the community of mobile service providers take this unique opportunity to become a reference or will they leave other players become a reference in their own garden ?
To be continued ...

Benoit Quirynen

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

IPad - not sure paper will disappear tomorrow

For 4 months, due to IPad, we read a lot of information about newspapers and magazines moving digital. Notepod creatively surfs on the wave the other direction ... Nice idea !

Notepod proposes block of sheets of paper with IPad and IPod format/dimensions so that designer can sketch screens at 1:1 scale, reducing the risk for bad design.

Paper probably stays for a while the best medium when you design a screen alone or with your colleagues around a physical table.

We will see how much time this "while" will stay.
To be continued ...

Benoit Quirynen

Monday, June 14, 2010

IPad 3G & impacts for mobile service providers

IPad 3G will force mobile service providers to rethink some of their mobile Internet offerings or face huge number of complaints reaching their customer care. User experience has a volume cost.

Beside the known impact of IPad for mobile service providers with the need to support micro SIM cards - the single format supported by the magic device, another phenomenon touches volume and bandwidth consumption.
Today, we see two different trends in terms of Mobile Internet offerings on the two sides of Atlantic ocean. On one hand, we see in Europe mobile service providers extending their offering towards unlimited offers (however never truly unlimited). On the other hand, AT&T and Verizon start to limit the previously true unlimited.

IPad creates a higher demand in terms of volume and bandwidth. As an intermediate device between PC and mobile, offering an incredible browsing & multimedia user experience, IPad requires HD websites, increases consumption of pictures and videos (Facebook, Picasa, Youtube, etc...). It's just another scale compared with "pocket size" devices.
Moreover, footprint of IPad applications is exploding. Wired magazine, presented end May, offers a very nice magazine but the price to pay, beyond the app store price, is the download of about 500 MB - yes half a gigabyte. BMW also offers a very nice free magazine, containing beautiful pictures and very design layout, but requires download of 157 MB. Each page is a high definition picture.

We can thus guess that a 2GB offering per month will be the bear minimum for an IPad 3G consumption. Or consumers will have to quickly figure out, before their first bill, that they primarily should download applications and consume Internet through home WiFi networks.
If telecom service providers do not adapt their offerings and do not warn consumers to take care of their IPad usage (through a continuous monitoring of the "connectivity icon"), this could lead to severe increase of complaints - as it happened for iPhone bought without special subscriptions.

On the other hand, Apple would probably be nicely inspired to add some settings describing "connectivity subscriptions" within its IPad in order to suggest correct "connectivity behavior" for the benefit of their customers.

Some will say that it's only a transient situation because everything will be "always-on". This however probably requires an evolution of business model to finance LTE networks and scarce spectrum resources or Femto equipments. And it's only the beginning since iPhone 4 also comes with a better screen.

The answer to the question "who will pay for the volume ?" is quite easy : "obviously the consumer !". The actual questions are more "who will charge for the volume ?", "will this volume cost be disguised or not for the consumer ?"
To be continued ...

Benoit Quirynen

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Steve Jobs and the publishers

With the creation of the famous IPad tablet, Steve Jobs gives an incredible opportunity to press industry. This industry must certainly leverage the power of these devices but does not need to give all the power to the enlighten despot.

"Steve Jobs and the publishers". It sounds as the name of a rock band but it's not. It's the title of the story that we live for a few months.

Early January, CES Las Vegas, all device manufacturers were announcing their E-reader devices, all more black or white than the neighbor. All these devices would bring a revolution to press and book industry. Amazon was considered as a king based on Kindle sales figures : about 2 millions pieces everywhere in US in about 2 years.
Device manufacturers were proud of capabilities of their devices but a bit worried about info leakages or rumors around next Apple announcements. All device manufacturers were present ? There was only one missing : Apple. But Apple is not only a device manufacturer. It's a dream factory. They play at another level.

A few weeks later, Steve Jobs announced the IPad device and was demonstrating it, reading a newspaper in the sofa. Then, as usual with new devices from Apple, started an unbelievable hype period where press world has been shaken. One company announcing an IPad version of its magazine every week. Model was clear for Steve Jobs. As an angel saving press industry, he deserves a sales commission of 30% on all sales as it happens for music on iTunes.

Then came announcement of Murdoch - the pope of the English written press through NewsCorp religion : Washington Post news would not be bought through Apple but readers would download a free app and pay for news usage within the app, not through Apple. Moreover, the app proposed a better user experience than New York Times - the preferred magazine of Steve - proposed through Apple.
During April and May, a lot of magazines have published their specific app to deliver content : some of them copying Murdoch model - bypassing Apple.

Steve Jobs publicly demonstrated his disappointment in front of such low loyalty from the ones he is willing to save. Steve jobs behaves as an exclusive guy. Either you are his friend and he will help you, taking an important part of your money or you become his enemy. He creates new kingdoms but wants to rule these kingdoms in all dimensions, behaving a bit as Louis XIV "le roi soleil" - playing enlighten despotism. This kind of "no compromise" attitude is definitely a key success factor when designing best products. It does not necessarily help in all aspects of business.
All polemics last months about its ruling of app store - latest one about definition of "independent advertising aggregation" (commented here) - prove that the despotism, even if enlighten, starts to federate a lot of enemies which will be ready to jump supporting Apple competitors as soon as they have recovered.
Everyone wants his devices but not under his tough conditions.

When will these competitors be ready ? Will these be smart enough to take benefit of this perceived despotism ? Will Steve smoothen his positions ?
To be continued ...

Benoit Quirynen

Friday, June 11, 2010

Apple versus Google : the battlefield behind the last keynote

Last Monday, THE pope of communication presented the next episode of world's media religion. Behind the official announcements, Steve Jobs has left a few mines in the way of his old friend but definite current Google enemy. What are these mines ?

During last keynote of Apple last Monday, June, 7th, Steve Jobs presented the iPhone 4 and iOS4, the new version of the Apple mobile operating system. Brilliant as usual, Mr Steve sold us the new version of his "more than smart" phone, a marvelous assembly of technology to make the product, not just a bit better but simply the best on earth. But this new announcement also reveals other versions of other products. Less visibility does not mean less impact.

Of course iOS4, new name and new version of iPhone Operating System, becomes multi-task and thus recovers Android on this side.

It's now time for Safari 5 with some interesting features presented here. This new release of the browser contains a few dangerous mines for his fierce competitor Google.

And surprisingly, some of these mines have been set in cooperation with old enemy Microsoft. This new version of Safari is optimized to make use of hardware accelerator of Windows. Yes, you don't dream. Steve Jobs forgives Microsoft about the old OS battle between MAC OS and Windows. Moreover, Safari 5 is now enhanced with Bing search build-in in the smart search field. And 20% of "Safari new feature" page is eaten by a "Bing screen". An "hibernatus" frozen in early 90's could not believe it.

Beyond agreements with old Microsoft enemy to fight the new Google enemy, Apple proposes the top of the browsers for developers. Thanks to new smooth and nice effects supported through evolution of standard HTML5, developers have the possibility to redesign websites to bring user experience the next level. This evolution also mines the way of Adobe Flash. The set "Javascript + HTML5 + CSS3", by default embedded in the browser, dangerously recovers flash capabilities. Developers also get the possibility to develop extensions and to benefit from a better "Web inspector" debugging tool.

More important in the war for consumer eyeballs, these Safari 5 enhancements will also please consumers.
And when Google, a few years ago, presented Chrome as the fastest browser in the world, Steve Jobs could not accept a defeat on the user experience side. Safari 5 not only now proposes a large pallet of rich media capabilities to consumer. It also embeds the mechanic to improve speed and become fastest browser, through DNS caching and evolutions of Nitro Javascript engine.
Thanks to Safari reader, reading articles also becomes a pleasure, removing distracting "Christmas tree ads" proposed inline with content. If spread as a feature in other browser, this one can hurt Google Display revenues (mainly flowing through DoubleClick). On this one, Google will not be the single player to be hurt. This could also lead to collateral damages for publishers, these currently collecting this way small but critical revenues during this crisis period. We come back on that matter in this post.

Now that Google is fighting Apple on Mobile OS, Apple also positions its browser in the battlefield. Lousy Microsoft, through his slow and proprietary developments of Internet Explorer, has opened the door for new entrants. A browser is the critical entry door to consumer universe.

Through this Safari 5, Steve Jobs now tries to recover Chrome. It's not a minor evolution. Even release numbering scheme suggests this release as a major evolution (moving from Safari 4.0.x to 5.0.x).

But mines are not only positioned on the technical or functional areas of the battlefield. As we all know, Steve Jobs also sets his own strict conditions in the T&Cs for developers. And article 3.3.9 is actually an even more dangerous mine for Google. This section restricts developers to only transfer user information, with prior user consent, to independent advertising partners. An independent advertising partner, according to Apple's terms, is a partner which does not develop mobile operating system or mobile devices. In other words, since Google develops Android as the open mobile operating system, Google may not leverage any more its latest major acquisition AdMob (just blessed by FCC). AdMob was the leader in promising mobile advertising on iPhone. Through this Apple restriction, this November, 9th Google acquisition for $750M could turn to be a pure loss. AdMob has been acquired for the inventory and dominant position on iPhone, not for his technology. And Apple announces that he will become a significant player in the advertising display business through iAds. Still a long way to run on this side however.

The war for consumer eyeballs on connected device has rarely be so fierce. Eyeball generate revenues from a mix of hardware devices, software apps, content and advertising. Through latest evolutions, Apple and Steve Jobs attack on all these dimensions. Thanks to "coopetition" with Microsoft, Apple is now positioned as a rich browser to be taken into account on all devices, including PC. It offers a multi-task mobile operating system supporting competition from Android on mobile handset front. And Steve Jobs even transforms Apple into an advertising company, leveraging rich interactive mobile display capabilities of its new successful IPad tablet and on his iPhone jewelry.

Search engine and social networks are the only main missing weapon in Steve Jobs' current arsenal.
Does he need it ? When is the next major acquisition ?
To be continued ...