20140413

Are the French unplugging from The Corporate Matrix?

Since I've been asked by a good friend what to make of the recent 'post-6-P.M. e-mail ban' in France*, I may as well share my two cents with you.

This agreement between two trade unions and two business federations was signed on April 1st, but is more serious than presented in foreign media, and part of a wider re-negociation of the old "Forfait Jour" framework, a specific working hour plan for executives in fields known for abusive work hours (see Article 4.8.1 "Temps de repos et obligation de deconnection" in the 'Avenant Forfaits Jours'**). This new right to be 'disconnected' during off-work hours is limited to executives in the fields covered by the two signing federations: 

  • SYNTEC (syntec.fr): engineering, technology, IT/digital services, consulting, surveys, HR, training...
  • CINOV (cinov.fr): intellectual services in consulting, engineering, digital. 


Note that, typically, the two signing trade unions are rather progressive: the politically agnostic CFE-CGC focuses on executives, while the CFDT follows a social/christian-democratic line. France's biggest trade union, the more 'hardcore' CGT (workers, ties to the French Communist Party), refused to sign the agreement because it didn't apply to all employees in the sector. 

From now on, even in very small structures or in groups where no specific systems have been negociated yet, abused employees have something to oppose to their persecutors, and caring employers more leverage to protect overdoing workaholics (NB: 'overdoing workaholics' is not a pleonasm when you need to distinguish workhorses in your stable). 

Even with overtime, the French law imposes a minimum of 11 consecutive hours without work every day + 35 hours every week (24 consecutive hours + 11 consecutive hours). The employer, who is responsible for the health, rest, and professional-personal balance of his employees, must make sure that their daily / weekly rest periods are respected. Now employers have also the obligation to provide the possibility to 'unplug' from the company, and employees the obligation to disconnect beyond these limits ("obligation de déconnexion des outils de communication à distance"). This double obligation clearly diminishes the 'guilt factor' and burnout risks, particularly during intense consulting projects, or on startup mode. 

So yes, some companies might opt for email bans after 6 P.M. if they fancy, but such radical, one-size-fits-all solutions sound more suitable for 9-to-5 administrations than for internet start-ups.

Overall, the measure looks more preventive than punitive, a deterrent system rather than a coercive law. The text doesn't go into detail because technologies are evolving all the time, and because ultimately it's about humans living well together.

Of course, at the legal level, precedents are bound to happen, some potentially disruptive in very competitive fields... which, combined with the new 75% tax, and the projected multi-billion fine on Google, certainly wouldn't boost start-ups in France! 

But as for now, this sounds like a genuine progress. France is simply starting to adapt to our 'always on', 'smartphone slavery' times, and Germany could follow soon.

mot-bile 2014

* see for instance "Updated: The French Move To Protect Workers From After-Hours Email" (FastCompany.com - 20140410), "Mails, SMS, téléphone : Syntec reconnaît le droit des cadres à la déconnexion" (Les Echos - 20140406)
** see for instance:

20140328

Facebook has a blind date with Oculus VR

Facebook added Oculus VR to its portfolio.

The star product is the Oculus Rift headset..



... compared to which Google Glass looks much less autistic...



... but then we're not talking about the same kind of eyewear, human "inter-face", or applications - with Google Glass 1.0 at least. 

Besides, Oculus also proposes a Development Kit that captures motion IRL:


Apprehending environments and interactions is key in internet everywhere / internet everywear / internet of things times. Regardless of which devices will prevail when 5G is ready, you want to be at the key entry points, have your say at key standardization levels. 

Virtual Reality already enjoys moneymaking applications (e.g. games), and the ecosystem is much more advanced than say holograms, to name another 5Gology darling.

And the nerd factor is sooo Zuckerberg.

mot-bile 2014

20140225

Samsung Galaxy S5, The (Almost) Next Big Thing Is Here

"The Next Big Thing Is Almost Here", that's how Samsung Galaxy S5 is announced on Samsung.com US:



Of course, what you read is "The Almost Next Big Thing Is Here". Here? Barcelona, at the 2014 Mobile World Congress.

Analysts seem disappointed by the last generation of the leader's star product, but it simply confirms the long expected commoditization of smartphones. Like computers before, performances will keep improving, and more enablers shall bring interesting changes in the future, but the device itself has reached a plateau for a while.

Even smartwatches and smartwrists have become commodities*: meet Samsung Gear 2, Samsung Gear 2 Neo, and Samsung Gear Fit.

Boring? Not so much: Gear has switched to Tizen, the - of course Linux based - OS propelled by majors who don't want Google and Android to rule, but don't want to resurrect Microsoft or Jobs either. Samsung already launched a Tizen camera last fall, and continues its low-key approach from minor connected accessories... 

This Tizen ain't the world heavyweight champion yet

I'm waiting for Tizen on a heavyweight boxing ring, not just around a wrist.
Ah, if only Samsung had a iTunes to leverage, that could boost the launch of a Tizen smartphone. And unlike Apple 2007, Samsung 2014 can't afford to launch a technologically imperfect first model...


mot-bile 2014

* MWC confirms CES: see "CES 2014: Beep Beep Goes Bling Bling"

20140220

With WhatsApp, what Facebook gets is what you pay

With 450 M active users of one of the most pivotal services - messaging, WhatsApp is already an interesting catch for Facebook. But the best thing about WhatsApp subscribers is that in order to keep the service after the first year, they must pay a fee. Only 99 cents a year for now, but on a messaging platform, you can plug in an infinity of free or paid apps.






How many of these 450 M active users are actually paid subs? Probably much less than the half, since the bulk of the growth has been made over the past 12 months (e.g. 350 M active users back in October 2013). The key question is how many will want to pay knowing that Facebook will be tempted to peek into their messages and somehow monetize stuff. Beyond advertising, off limits according to Facebook; WhatsApp already pledges to bar ads, and Facebook needs new kinds of revenue streams, preferably CtoC or BtoC for a change. I bet that WhatsApp user fora are going to scrutinize any changes in the fine print of privacy and terms...

Business models are one thing, brands and platforms another: they too open up new horizons for Menlo Park at a time when churn rates get worrying.

Today, Google rules with the two most powerful search engines, its main service and YouTube... but both are free. Facebook already raised many eyebrows when it launched its vanity URL service precisely because terms and conditions opened the door to future fees, and a non-free Facebook could be the final straw for many users on the verge of deleting their accounts. Keeping WhatsApp as it is sounds a wiser bet to collect recurrent fees from hundreds of millions of endusers, but wisdom doesn't seem to exist in Zuckerberg's dictionary.

Anyway, the winner is WhatsApp founder Jan Koum: waiting one year before giving in to Facebook's siren calls proved very profitable for him.

mot-bile 2014

20140213

Tomorrow won't be about Samsung v. Apple any more than the present is about Microsoft v. Nokia

Over the past weeks, Samsung buried the hatchet with Ericsson, before signing cross-license agreements with Google, and then Cisco, days after a similar deal between the last two (note that Google sold Motorola to Lenovo in almost the same breath, but this is not about hardware - Big G keeps the bulk of the patent portfolio).

Samsung and Google concluded in their press release ("Samsung and Google Sign Global Patent License Agreement" - 20140127) that "there is more to gain from cooperating than engaging in unnecessary patent disputes". A clear memo to Apple, and food for thought - and juries - ahead of the next bouts in court between Suwon and Cupertino.


"Samsung and Google are showing the rest of the industry that there is more to gain from cooperating than engaging in unnecessary patent disputes". Follow my eyes...

Again*, I'm not taking sides here. It's just that I'm interested in innovation dynamics, and that I don't like to see lawyers or finance people set the agenda in that field. Such partnerships don't put them out of the equation, but allow innovators to keep their eyes on the ball.

And key players to prepare for what comes next. 5G standardization, for instance, or the still open internet of things, domains where Google and Samsung don't want to become the Microsoft and Nokia of yesterday, leaders who were supposedly the best positioned for convergence and pervasive internet...

Samsung outqualcommed the Americans for 4G but now, the Korean needs to build a common platform with them and what's left of Europe before China Inc or other players try to claim their own time slot.

Tomorrow won't be about Samsung v. Apple any more than the present is about Microsoft v. Nokia

mot-bile 2014

* see "Apple - the end of the affair" or "Omnipatent v. Impatent"

20140107

CES 2014: Beep Beep Goes Bling Bling

Very disappointing first day at CES 2014: the long awaited (see "Rise of the Nork Zombies") "Frankenstein Android" and "Headtop iBrain" didn't show up so far.

Following last year's trends*, wearable gizmos keep popping-up, and the screen war between LG and Samsung didn't abate. Now TV giants are not only flexing their muscles, but their screens as well. And if we've already seen "bend it like Koreans" on handsets, with a 85 inch TV, that's quite something:



OK, not as flexible as to wrap you up like a piece of bulgogi in a sesame leaf, but that's a good start. 

Nothing distruptive in DreamWorks' DreamTab (not flexible, but for kids who like to move it move it), just another example of how classic smart devices have become commodities:


Same trend for previously new communicating devices and internet everywhere gizmos**.

Smartwear-wise, more show off stuff from Vegas:


Vuzic V720 video headphones


Razer Nabu: not a wedding ring, but a smartwatch that does ring
LG Lifeband Touch: earn it, burn calories

.. and the Killer Melanomapp of the Year Award goes to the Netatmo JUNE, the ultimate bling-bling UV tracker:



I can't wait for the Geiger or Yellow Dust versions, to track exhausts from my North Korean and Chinese neighbors...

Again***, expect more line-blurring between fashion and smartwear from those who look for ways of escaping the commodity market curse.


mot-bile 2014


* see "I see through you: City of Sin, Screens, and Smartpagers" (January 2013)
** except maybe the Kolibree Bluetooth Toothbrush (bluetoothbrush?)
*** see "Apple's Ready to Ware v. Fast-Fashion" (July 2013)

20131214

The Bright Side Of Li-Fi

Harald Haas was in Seoul recently, as one might have expected doing some Li-Fi evangelism.

pureLiFi's moto?
"Light becomes data"
(which also reads
"data becomes light")
 website: purelifi.co.uk
Li-Fi is a W-LAN technology transferring data through light (VLC or Visible Light Communication), preferably LED for a capacity similar to Wi-Fi - theoretically, 10 Gps is possible.

No radio frequency, no spectrum, just a spot, a lamp driver, a receiver (e.g. dongle). A bit like IrDA, only sexier because it works better in the dark.

Unfortunately, it's not long range - even shorter than Wi-Fi. So forget about smart semaphore lights. But it works: last time someone flashed their headlights to my car, I could decrypt their curses.

Following his 2011 TED talk, Haas founded pureLiFi to push the technology OEM. Here's the startup-in-the-garage-style demo:



You may feel like a suspect in a police investigation, but when it comes to grilling, LED light is far less harmful than say Wi-Fi waves. And you can see what happens, be sure that no one will sniff your data from beyond your brick walls. That's the beauty of a Li-Fi Hotspot(light).

We're always excited to see dumb objects get smart, particularly when they surround us, like these plugs that a decade ago promised to transform our electric home network into a smart one. VLC can find countless applications, including where we don't expect them (art, toys), but competition is fiercer than ever among short-medium range technologies.


mot-bile 2013

20131128

Bolloreal Politik

So Vivendi and SFR shall demerge, and Vincent Bollore replace Jean-Rene Fourtou at the helm of a group more centered on media and contents.

Officially, the idea is to raise the value of both entities by focusing each one on its core business, but demerging also paves the way for separation, and Vivendi presents a bride as pure as possible by keeping the telecom participations it failed to get rid of (Brazil's GVT and Poland's PTC). Maroc Telecom could be sold to Etisalat on time for June 2014 and the shareholders' meeting expected to confirm both the demerger and Bollore's triumph.

So long for Jean-Marie Messier's old dream of convergence? At least, that's the end of Fourtou's last hopes of controlling Bollore, a man who managed to take over with only 5% of the shares*, and who's not exactly known for centering on core businesses: Bollore Group is (among many other) into media, plastics, logistics, palm oil, real estate, electric cars and(!) coal.

This group badly needs a clear long term strategy, but if he's a bit more daring than Jean-Rene Fourtou, Vincent Bollore is not much of a visionary entrepreneur either. Arnaud de Puyfontaine has been drafted from Hearst to manage the core media and content activities, but can he inspire the group, and can the group handle the months ahead, very tricky at the financial and managerial levels? 

mot-bile 2013 

* his son Yannick led the sale of Bollore Media to Canal+ that brought the bulk of these shares. Now 33 and head of Havas (also a Bollore company), Yannick Bollore is married to a niece of Martin Bouygues, a key  rival of both Canal+ and SFR (TF1, Bouygues Telecom...). Note that President Nicolas Sarkozy, a known friend of Bouygues and Bollore, did his best to undermine Canal+ (a rather liberal channel), and even invited Qatar to launch beIN Sport in France (now 1.5 M subscribers thanks to its spectacular aggressiveness in sports rights)...

20130903

Windows Mobile Go Home

The mercato is over, and while Vodafone-Verizon clinched a long expected Tottenham-Real Madrid-Garreth-Bale kind of deal, Nokia and Microsoft ended their 1990s rivalry at Intertoto Cup levels.

EUR 3.79 bn for the business units, and EUR 1.65 bn for the patents: that's all Nokia mobiles and their 32,000 employees are worth today. To add insult to injury, the buyer is generous. Microsoft would have dreamed to do just that a decade ago but today, the move sounds like a bitter defeat for two former foes years of decline had already brought close to each other (to the point Nokia's CEO - an aptly named Mr Elop - came from Redmond).

Blackberry should follow soon, but even that won't save Windows Mobile OS. Microsoft will have to leave its incredible shrinking comfort zone, slash royalties, or why not go Home, like Facebook did (a much cheaper mode of diffusion for blue screens).

Of course, the move doesn't disrupt in any way the ecosystem. It only puts more pressure on Steve Ballmer's successor. Google can rest for a little while: these days, neither Apple nor Microsoft seem to have a clue, and software-wise, Samsung remains a gnome. So no major challenges in the short term except themselves, regulators, or a new alternative popping up out of the blue (China could do that, but trust would be an issue).


mot-bile 2013

20130831

The PTT of VoIP turns 10 - No-hype Skype and the other Steve

Skype has turned 10, but where's the hype?

Skype has replaced Windows Live Messenger, but where's the innovation?

Skype has been commoditized, ebayed, microsofted, ballmerized.

The success story has turned into a stupid cash cow, as boring as Windows.

The Estonian start-up into a global PTT of VoIP challenged by smarter, faster players.

At least Steve Ballmer is at long last about to launch a massive product out of Microsoft's comfort zone: himself.

mot-bile 2013

20130704

Apple's Ready to Ware v. Fast-Fashion

So Tim Cook hired Yves Saint Laurent CEO as Apple's VP of special projects.
So nothing changes: Paul Deneve already knows the company, he used to work there. And it's not about future lines of products (we didn't need Snowden to learn about iWatch, the smartwatch market is already crowded*, and smartwear has been in the air for a decade and a half), but about the future of a brand in mature markets where smartphones, tablets, smartTVs, smartwatches, smartaccessories and smartwear have technologically become commodities.

iYSL (no, that's not for "it's your sex life!")
Long time no see! Reminds me  of the Pinault-Arnault web / telecom / luxury wars of the nineties!

Apple is used to conceiving articles that sell with a premium, but design itself won't make much difference for the basics. Anyway, Apple is now lagging in design (iPhone 5 < Galaxy 3), and brand loyalty has been decreasing ever since the company stopped delivering genuine innovation, focusing instead on legal battles, shareholder dividends, and shameless customer retention techniques leveraging purely on proprietary hardwares or softwares**.

Apple needs to revamp itself, to reinvent itself as a leader, and to stretch the brand umbrella beyond its now usual markets in terms of products and services, consumers, distribution channels... without destroying the most valuable parts of its DNA.

Apple won't shrink down to Nokia's Vertu, or even to the equivalent of 'masstige' fashion brands. But it will have to sustainably justify higher price tags.

Of course, differenciation in mature markets remains a much tougher challenge for Samsung.

BTW the company disbanded its strategic foresight unit yesterday: they didn't come up with successful suggestions for new businesses.

At least the family is already familiar with many markets, ranging from top luxury to fast-fashion...

mot-bile 2013

* e.g. "I see through you: City of Sin, Screens, and Smartpagers"
** e.g. "Anovations for Applelatres: Apple has lost its compass", "Omnipatent v. Impatent", "Apple - the end of the affair"...

20130626

SK Telecom launches LTE-Advanced on Galaxy S4 LTE-A

Up to 150 Mbps? Not bad for a mobile network. That's twice the speed of my old 4G, and we call it 4G LTE-Advanced.

SK Telecom just announced* a launch for July in Seoul, a world first at the commercial level. Russia's Yota did do something last december, but the Korean operator has the handset to go with the network: the Samsung's Galaxy S4 LTE-A.

On SKT's T world shop, this SHV-E330S_32GR sells for KRW 954,800 (USD 826):



Customers will enjoy new services or rather richer / fuller ones: faster, with more splitscreens (up to 6), more HD... and they won't pay a premium for the Advanced speed. For their new, improved, and advanced usages? That could be a different story...

Coverage-wise, SKT plans progressively adapt 20,000 base stations and reach 84 cities, which should mean at least 75% of the population if the said cities are fully covered.

Speed is expected to increase even more next year, when Enhanced Inter-Cell Interference Coordination (eICIC) is ready. For the moment, we'll have to do with "Advanced minus" stuff: Carrier Aggregation (CA) and Coordinated Multi Point (CoMP). It may sound trivially geeky, but for the enduser experience to be as seamless as possible, algorithms do make a difference, particularly in HetNet environments (more geek lingua, this time for Heterogeneous Networks).

Now is this 4.5G, 4.66G, or 4.75G? That's marketing. And not yet 5G. "New generation" usually means new spectrum / new licenses.

Like pornography, you'll know it's 5G when you see it. Particularly if you're in the finance department.

mot-bile 2013
 
* see PR release today: "SK텔레콤, 2배 빠른 LTE 세계 최초 상용화"

20130516

Smart TV and smart screens, dumb watchers and cloud potato

Okay, Smart TV sells. And the all-inclusive, app-enabled Samsung or LG devices are serious competition to the more or less usual plug-ins (set top boxes, Apple TV & co). One thing keeps bugging me: you don't replace your TV as often as you do with other devices, how to make sure your TV remains smart? Isn't it more important to have screens that can interface smartly with more intelligent devices? Aren't smart screens more important than smart tvs?

Let's see how Smart TV and smartphone leader Samsung tackles the challenge. You can bet these guys will do anything to remain leader at the crux of both devices.

First, your hardware's getting smarter, and innovations keep coming, like motion control and language recognition, which Samsung packages as "Smart Interaction" (here on an Australian commercial):



To tackle the fear of obsolescence, Samsung proposes the Evolution Kit. It works a bit like Nissan Leaf batteries at the software level: you find Smart TV cool, but it's still a young market, and you want to be sure that you're not buying a young dinosaur, that you won't have to change the whole car because your battery is from the wrong generation. You need a double promise of simplicity (kit) and future-proofness (evolutivity): we'll make sure that you're always up to date, that you've always got the best set of Smart features, so don't worry, and just enjoy. This "Evolutionary Husband" ad is not very creative either, but you get the idea:



From couch potato to cloud potato, just plug and play dumb.

mot-bile 2013

20130430

Facebook Home, a Mobile - Virtual OS Operator?

Mark Zuckerberg, who's doing a pretty good job at following Bill Gates' footsteps, reinvented the blue screen with Facebook Home.

The meta-app (embedded in HTC First for proof of concept) basically puts your Android experience in the background - nevermind the mobile network operator, that fabled 2G hero. And Google already faced a win-back surge from manufacturers, Samsung leading the way with a suite of me-too apps on time for Galaxy S3*...

Even if only 5% of hardcore mobile Facebook users switch to this "Virtual OS Operator" Facebook Home, that's going to have a significant effect, including for key partners. For instance, Bing's performances will significantly improve in all fields: search engine, mapping, translation, value aggregation... remember how Google Maps caught up with Daum Map and Naver Map within months in Korea?

Facebook Home
Feeling blue? Seeing red? No green robot around?
But of course, too much Facebook kills Facebook, and all attempts to control the user interface and customer experience have failed so far when the brand is too overwhelming (and Google was pretty good at hiding its brand on Android).

If hardware and OS become commodities, personal environments remain personal... or at least the main ruler remains smart enough to let endusers believe they do remain personal.

mot-bile 2013

* see "Anovations for Applelatres: Apple has lost its compass"

20130326

YouTube founder forced back to his old company

I just stole this laugh from Steve Chen ("mind if I send you back to YouTube?" - I consider his laugh as a "no", so here he is, back on YouTube):



Chen was invited to the 2013 Asian Leadership Conference (organized by Chosun Ilbo in Seoul), where he told his already rich (in every sense of the word) story.

According to him, the main reason why so few Korean start-ups make it to the world stage is that few have a global reach in mind in the first place, and that (a trait shared by many other countries) very few people are ready to "take the jump". I would also blame the weak SME ecosystem, with chaebols sucking out way too much value at the earliest stages of emerging technologies and innovations.

Chen started AVOS Systems with fellow YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley. They are reviving delicio.us, which they purchased from Yahoo!, and launched Zeen (social media - DYI magazines), an interesting revenge of traditional media in our paperless, always-on world.

mot-bile 2013

20130226

Mobile World Congress 2013: Unleash The Fox! Back To The Nineties!

In Barcelona, the hunt for the next killer app after Lionel Messi has started again, but for the moment, Mobile World Congress 2013 delivers at the hardware, OS, MNO levels. Vintage stuff.

Adding more flesh to its recent CES promises*, Mozilla decided to disclose** an impressive starting lineup for Firefox OS:

  • devices? ZTE and Alcatel are there, LG's on board, Huawei will follow later this year
  • apps? Facebook stars from day one
  • cool factor? Mozilla unleashed its fox, and the long tail is now meant to set the whole sector on fire. Firefox OS joining Firefox Marketplace and Firefox fo Android, the predator is one search engine shy of splashing a Google-Android-Chrome-Killer tatoo across its chest. Even the Android dude got his tee:
  • operators? check! This neither-Apple-nor-Google-nor-Microsoft OS comes as a blessing for MNOs that are desperately trying to recover their 2G mojo (see "joyn or die? forget about KakaoTalk and Anipang?"). Telefonica sums best the industry's mood by saluting "a major step to bring balance back to the telco sector", and America Movil is "committed to launch Firefox OS phones in Mexico and all possible markets during 2013". Completing the 17 member list are China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, Hutchison Three Group, KDDI, KT, MegaFon, Qtel, SingTel, Smart, Sprint, Telecom Italia Group, Telenor, TMN, and VimpelCom.

Google must be preparing its own announcements, probably further down value chains and value galaxies (e.g. a music streaming service, according to the Financial Times). And meanwhile, execs reassert that virtual reality is the future of mobile... the occasion to re-mention Ingress game platforms, or augmented-reality-enabled eyewear Google Glass(es).

Just like Firefox OS, the Nokia 105 is meant for the masses: a cheap candybar handset with a late nineties look, and a tempting price tag (EUR 15). It's resistant, it consumes little power, and it would sound smart as a fox if Chinese manufacturers were not able to deliver the same kind of object at an even cheaper price. Nokia seems to be stuck in the 1990s, at a time when global marketshare in volumes was all that mattered. They'll get less press coverage for their Lumia 520 on Windows 8, but maybe that was the aim of the game: avoiding the comparison with Samsung on image.



Will the Samsung Galaxy S4 and Samsung Galaxy Note 3 live up to the hype? Until we get the answer, the Suwon-based giant keeps leveraging its subbrand: after Samsung Galaxy Camera, here's a Samsung Galaxy Note 8 tablet (Q2 2013), a supposed iPad mini killer. I can't wait to drive my Renault Samsung Galaxy LTE-Wibro Hybrid, to e-mail e-icecubes from my Samsung Galaxy Fridge, or to airkies these fancy apartment plans to my Samsung Galaxy Augmented Reality Printer.

Augmented reality sounds like material for pre-Lehman bubbles, something from the early Noughties. If you want something really ninetiesish, dig MasterCard's marketplace approach: MasterPass, a Visa's V.me-too.

Aah, the nineties... In 1996, after surviving 3 start-ups in 3 years, I joined for 7 years a French start-up that would become Cegetel and later SFR Cegetel. The shareholders were:
- Compagnie Generale des Eaux (44%), a French conglomerate recently converted to telecoms (SFR, partly held by a pure mobile player called Vodafone)
- Mannessmann (15%), a German conglomerate recently converted to telecoms (D2, Mannesmann Arcor, Omnitel...)
- British Telecom (26%), an international telecom institution that needed to set foot on new territories as deregulation reached further across its empire, and
- SBC (15%), the most ambitious of all Baby Bells

If you followed the turn-of-the-millenium sit(ele)com featuring the trio Klaus Esser - Chris Ghent - Jean-Marie Messier, plus Li Ka-shing as guest star, you already know what happened to each party.

SBC would resurrect Ma Bell and become the new and improved ATandT. British Telecom would remain a serious player and drop its MNO activities, but still enjoy its moments of fun (BT just purchased ESPN's operations in UK and Ireland). Mannesmann would bite the forbidden fruit Orange before being wolfed down by Vodafone. CGE would become Vivendi, spin off its formerly-core-but-still-cash-cow utility business, become Vivendi Universal, then Vivendi again. Vodafone would remain Vodafone, only bigger.

Today, Vivendi is getting rid of its formerly-core-but-still-cash-cow telecom operations in France (SFR, eyed by - among others - Ypso/Cinven/Carlyle), Brazil (GVT), and Morocco (Maroc Telecom). Canal+ shall become the new "core utility", the other gems being Universal Music Group, and Activision Blizzard, both leaders in sectors subject to profound changes.

Is virtual reality truly the future of mobile?


mot-bile 2013

* "I see through you: City of Sin, Screens, and Smartpagers"
** see "Mozilla Announces Global Expansion for Firefox OS"

20130110

I see through you: City of Sin, Screens, and Smartpagers

Remember that old 3D classic "Avatar"? Now Navis can say "I see through you" instead of "I see you" on Hisense's latest see-through 3D TV.

CES 2013 is all about screens, and it starts on your wrist. I wonder if Amazon will try to sell haikus on this mini ebook reader:


Pebble's e-paper watch for iPhone and Android does look like a gizmo from the 90s, some sort of Bluetooth-enabled smartpager, but the biggest story about it is the way it was crowdfunded on Kickstarter, smashing the $100k goal and raising $10M within days. 85,000 units have been ordered before the CES, more to come.



Does your handset require a remote control that works on Bluetooth? That's another story:


Moving on to some bigger screens: how do you like your OLED TV? 4K (Panasonic)? 4K and Ultra HD (Sony)? Curved (Samsung - nothing as sexy as its "Samsung Flexible AMOLED" of course -, LG)? Multi-view (Samsung again)?

Sharing your screen, that's also possible on the Lenovo IdeaCentre Table PC, a touch table that may host interesting game applications in a near future.

Nevermind the fingerprints, the dust, or even water. One year after HzO Waterblock, Huawei demonstrated a waterproof Ascend series (Ascend Mate, Ascend D2). I'm still in shock to see a smartphone, with all its connectivity slots open, take a dive and come out just fine.

And how about this schizophrenic Asus Transformer AiO? An Android tablet taking off from your Windows 8 desktop? Will an iPad spin off from it? An Apple, wrapped in a Google, inside an Microsoft?

I still don't know what to make of the Firefox OS (showcased in Vegas). A Plan B for Android makes sense (I'm not even mentioning iOS), and it's nice to start in Brazil, but can the Mozilla ecosystem grow that big?

SmartTVs, smartphones, smartwatches... it all sounds like logistics these days, more about fine tuning delivering processes than about delivering new goods.

Still better than last year's shark lawyer frenzies.

mot-bile 2013

20121226

joyn or die? forget about KakaoTalk and Anipang?

Remember last year, when KakaoTalk celebrated its 10 millionth user (see "Kakao Talk of the day")?

Well, 1000 days after launch, the Korean player claims 70 M users in 13 languages, with daily averages of 27 M users, 43 mn per user, and 4.2 billion messages. Even if Skype remains far ahead with its 280 M users (and the support of Microsoft* - whatever that's worth nowadays), Kakao Inc. has already become a global phenomenon  - maybe level 5 on Gangnam Style scale - , and remains as ambitious as ever.


The way Anipang on KakaoTalk turned into an instant hit in the competitive game apps arena** probably scared the heck out of pure players (messaging services, VoIP...), not to mention much bigger netcos, starting at home with Daum and Naver, two giants on the Korean market who've - so far - failed to reach international recognition. Note that Kakao Inc. founder KIM Beom-soo is not an outsider: he created Hangame Communications, Inc., and headed NHN after the merger with Naver.

Even top players are paying attention. Sundaytoyz (Anipang's developer) is not Rovio, and Kakao is not Facebook, but I bet many people in Menlo Park start wondering what kind of value the Kakao platform will aggregate after games. And if Big G can leverage its superiority in searches to boost Google Voice (and counter Apple's Siri), the brand itself is not exactly a success.

Of course, the most nervous of all coopetitors are the MNOs, who see their customers use KakaoTalk for their calls and messages, and their own networks, even LTE-enabled, glogged with that booming data traffic. No wonder all 3 Korean cellcos decided to implement joyn, the GSMA's "Rich Communication Services" platform.

To start with, the "joyn" logo is the perfect anti-KakaoTalk: a double black on yellow speech bubble to counter a single yellow on black speech bubble. And RCS brings what operators who cooperate do best: interoperability. As the GSMA puts it in its sales pitch, the solution "delivers an experience beyond voice and SMS by providing them with instant messaging or chat, live video and file sharing across any device, on any network, with all the enabled contacts in their address book".

That's what cellcos will sell to their endusers - something young, sexy, colorful:

But first, the GSMA must convince its own customers, the MNOs, to implement the solution. Everybody must be on board for the promise to be delivered.

So further down the same page, the sales pitch sounds much more defensive and frigthening:

"Don't lose out to OTT  – stay competitive and innovate with APIs

Your consumers are hungry for access to the entertainment and interaction offered by RCS-based apps. Agile and innovative, Over The Top (OTT) providers are exploiting the massive penetration of Smartphones by developing appealing rich communication apps available at little or no cost to the consumer.

Research conducted by one operator discovered a direct link between the penetration rate of cross-platform messaging services and the reduction of outgoing SMS traffic. Without RCS, the decline of voice messaging is likely to be next, as consumers increasingly engage with alternative IP based voice solutions.

Once consumers start using an OTT app service, that offering becomes, for them, the lead brand for communications services. Operators remain more competitive by responding more rapidly to consumers’ expectations and behaviour, and by using RCS to enhance the value of their network and bring richer calls to their consumers."

And those most dramatic final words: "Act now before it’s too late - Implement RCS today!"

Stop pulling your hair out, try this air lotion and stop the airtime loss. We don't guarantee return of love.

And be quick: the end is nigh.


mot-bile 2012

* see "Skype keeps moving, Google googling"
** over 20 M downloads, only on Android (iOS to follow soon)

20121029

iPad me-too: an iPad Mini to stop the iBleeding?

With the iPad Mini, Apple catches up with rivals Samsung (Galaxy Tab 7.7), Google (Google Nexus 7), Amazon (Kindle Fire, also 7 inch screen), or Barnes & Noble (Nook, also 7 inch). As usual, connectivity comes second: WiFi enabled devices arrive before the 3-4G gizmos (TTM not specified for LTE).


At least, iPad mini is released before the Microsoft Surface 7 inch, for a good reason: it has not even been announced yet.

So Tim Cook is mocking at Microsoft, a company from the past. Steve Jobs was mocking at 7 inch tablets not so long ago, but that was a time when Apple was well ahead of the pack.

According to Strategy Analytics, Android claimed 41% of the tablet market on Q3 2012, up from 29.2% one year earlier, while Apple iOS dropped from 64.5 to 56.7%. Actually both are much lower, since some players don't disclose their sales figures, most notably Amazon, who will probably open up sooner or later anyway: Amazon is about distribution, not into OS.

Launching iPad Mini looks more defensive than proactive. The market leader was condemned to cover all bases. Now what's expected from a cultural leader reaches far beyond that.
 
mot-bile 2012

20120927

Anovations for Applelatres: Apple has lost its compass

A couple of weeks ago, I changed my Samsung Galaxy II for a Samsung Galaxy III. Hardware-wise, software-wise, performance-wise, connection-wise, they clearly don't belong to the same galaxy. Samsung even managed to made NFC look sexy! The only - minor - default I see was the way the thin back cover vibrates with the speaker, but it's perfectly OK with the flip cover.

If I were (still) an Apple customer, I'd be really disappointed by the iPhone 5: the only real innovation is Lightning, the new dock connector, yet another proprietary marketing trap.

I never considered taking an iPhone because I used to be a Mac user, and I knew Cupertino would do the same with handsets as what they did with desktops:
- start with the sexiest product and user interface,
- refuse to open the proprietary system to other manufacturers,
- progressively retreat to a niche of Appleatres ready to pay dearly even if the product is not the best one anymore,
- get a bounce or two much later, when computers/smartphones are commoditized, just by the grace of a new sexy design (the iMac, the iPhone 69)

This time, they did it all by themselves. Cupertino didn't even need as formidable a foe as Redmond. Mountain View is by no means a small fish, and it learned a lot of sharkisms from Redmond, but if Android claimed the leadership so easily, that's because iPhone refused to hold it by building the largest ecosystem. Actually, to me the last straw was when Apple copied Microsoft by playing short term against long term and dividends against investments, by putting innovation last ("Apple - the end of the affair", "Omnipatent v. Impatent").

So I'm not even disappointed by this iPhone 5. To me, Apple has lost its compass long before and far beyond its first attempt in mapping apps.

Speaking of apps, that's something Samsung seems to be eventually more comfortable with. Not to the point of becoming a reason to be loyal to the brand*, but less an embarrassment.


mot-bile 2012

* my last 4 handsets were Samsung, but I don't feel any special loyalty to the brand. I live in Korea, where their gizmos happen to be the best packages, and the customer service very efficient.

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