mobile payment : hibernation is over for the Near Field Communications forum

Showtime for FeliCa Networks : the DoCoMo-Sony JV will provide chips for all Japanese MNOs. KDDI signed the agreement last September and Vodafone KK just joined suit right after one more lousy month (their market share is not likely to improve dramatically until they replace that problematic 2G of theirs with a reliable and comprehensive 3G service). Just to remain one step ahead, DoCoMo announced at the same moment a deal with East Japan Railways around this mobile payment enabler developped by Sony Corp but with a specific branding ("mobile suica").
When 3 fierce competitors on a major W-CDMA vs cdma2000 market decide to use the same solution for such a key entry point, one can expect a big boost for mobile commerce. We're talking about Vodafone, DoCoMo (who as usual insists on the packaging of the solution with i-mode), and KDDI (a relatively small player but the herald of the CDMA Development Group in a huge market).
This surely is bad news for such competitors as Moneta (time will tell whether they can make it abroad as a solution as well as as a business model), but this goes far beyond the mobile players' arena : the likes of DoCoMo and Vodafone don't want Procter & Gamble / Procter & Gilette dictating them the way mobile payment will work (remember RFID ?), and Sony are just pleased to open a real new biz opportunity to brighten their IR slides. Yet in Japan Sony is much more than the Sony you know and the conglomerate just reorganized their financial businesses' organisation around Sony Life Insurance Co., Ltd., Sony Assurance Inc. and... Sony Bank Inc. Because Sony is also a bank and because SK Telecom is almost a bank, reproducing the successes of mobile payment overseas will certainly not be a walk in the park (the French MNOs know very well you cannot make mobile payment happen without involving big banks).
To know where the wind is blowing, watch out for potential changes of memberships in the various m-payment fora : will Sony or FeliCa join the Mobile Payment Forum (the only cross-industry m-payment forum) ? will DoCoMo join simpay (the operators' forum where Vodafone has a seat) ? or will Vodafone simply let his KK collect some Ks on its own in Japan ? will all these players keep staying away from the Mobile electronic Transactions forum ?
Even better lads : along with many other organizations, that MeT forum and the Mobey Forum (the one meant for and by the big banking institutions) just announced they joined the NFC Forum as non profit members. Yeah, the very forum I was mocking at the other day because of the abandon of its website released a bombshell on february the 24th. Sony happens to be a founding sponsor member of this forum, along with Nokia and Philips (LG and RF Micro Devices being non sponsor members and Korea's ETRI a non profit member). So in their first press release in ages, the NFC Forum announced a potentially disruptive conference at CTIA Wireless 2005 next month and an impressive cast of new members : Microsoft, Visa International, MasterCard International, Samsung, Motorola, NEC, Texas Instruments and Panasonic / Matsushita Electric Industrial Co become both new sponsor members and members of the board (just to make sure you know both where and how hard the wind is blowing), and Gemplus, Logitech, Smart System Technologies Inc, Skidata AG, Cetecom Spain, Giesecke & Devrient, JCB Co Ltd, 3ALogics Inc join as non sponsor members.
Well. Nice crowd, but still no MNO to be seen.
So you thought Vodafone & DoCoMo were wise enough to chose the same solution in Japan ? They're just about to realize that while their US counterparts (Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, Cingular, Sprint-Nextel) demonstrate the advantages of wireless retailing in New Orleans, LA, the whole industry will signify their independance in the same Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.


The times they are a-changin'

Microsoft will have to replace their connecting cables for millions of X-Boxes but a big wireless victory makes for these minor cable losses as Nokia accepts to provide a bridge between OMA and Windows through a key entry point (DRM) and around a key solution (Windows Media Player)*. The common targets of the former archrivals : music majors today, movie majors tomorrow (anyway they are often the same players). All major content providers should follow and sooner or later, and operators will get real and get rid of Real. That's what Microserves are wishing very hard from their King county campus.
Are the telecom-IT wars over or does this Yalta mean we're heading for a cold war ?
Since vendors can never agree on universal standards by themselves and are not eager to reproduce the WiFi scenario anytime soon (ie IT players creating the market in unison without waiting for customers to ask for it), the show belongs to those who can actually show the money, and this means either the few big clients with big bucks (ie MNOs) or the multitude of small clients who decide which direction the big rivers will flow (ie WMA endusers).
And handset manufacturers don't like the way MNOs are trying to get a grip on them, the way they consider giving up handset subsidies to the enduser and instead kind of financing / patronizing vendors, be it for speeding up the evolutions of 3G or the avaibility of handsets and even laptops.
Setting new standards used to be about long processes of discussions and negociations entertained by florentine attacks and betrayals, with a celebration feast among survivors to wrap it up. Now the war is a neverending race involving all fields and players, coopetition making sure anyone is an ally and a foe at the same time.
The good news is MNOs are getting smarter and watching the game will be much more fun. Stephane MOT
* see Nokia's and Microsoft's press releases



Last clap for Cannes before the transfer to Barcelona. Time to really go broadband : visitors looking for a hotel room won't have to rent submarines anymore and they'll flow in bigger packets towards bigger fiestas at night. Yield managers will have to adapt their capacities from short power naps to long siestas. No hurry : la Sagrada Familia provides enough towers for all 3G incumbents as well as future 4G & beyond greenfield operators.
So France loses its biggest hotspot. La nouvelle vague is so passé, Dear : people crave for more wavelength, they want to surf and watch bimbos parade on their handsets as well as on the beach. Yet, Vertu may keep a booth to sponsor these gold plated senior citizens dozing on the Croisette.


Report bad link - Meshed Potatoes.org

The good thing about updating your favorites is you check every now and then how a techno is doing. Take Near Field Communication for example : the NFC Forum website's last press release is dated march 2004 and working groups remain to be seen (anyway, who would buy a technology labeled with such approximation ?). Elsewhere, the rebranding around the UWB (Ultra Wide Band) family obviously brought some confusion : launching the WiMedia Alliance sounded like surfing on the WiFi-WiMAX wave but in the meanwhile the tsunami took the UWB WG's url away. uwb.org now leads to a commercial site for radar products which would be very much needed in the war of standards between MB-OFDM (supported by the Multiband OFDM Alliance, about the same players as for WiMedia) and DS-UWB (Direct Sequence UWB), supported by the UWB Forum. Judging by how that forum allows a chinese spin-off, I wouldn't be surprised if China decided to build their own standard. Motorola seems to bet on it. For all I now, the rest of the UWB Forum can turn into meshed potatoes, squeezed between this MBOA and the WUSB initiative, a.k.a. wireless USB, a likely Bluetooth-killer if the Viking keeps wasting time and opportunities. You can watch the one year old WUSB toddling somewhere on USB.org, under the nose of mighty naughty fairy godmothers : some board members of the USB Implementation Forum (intel, Microsoft, HP, NEC, Philips) plus Samsung... who decided to bet on all horses (also a UWB Forum member).
As a matter of fact, WUSB is already working. And focusing on a major and demanding application : broadcasting live music. That's on WUSB.org. That's also on 90.1 fm, live from the University of Sonny Brook, NY. And guess what, WUSB's sister station is none other than the WPKN I used to tune to back in '86.


RFID - you're in the Army now

Korea and the US are simultaneously pushing RFID the way they're used to push new technologies. Amerika focuses on sekurity applikations, targetting crossborder hoppers, drug dealers, Kerry voters and other terrorists (in other words : federal and military spendings will as usual show the money and accelerate the private sector's ROI), while Korea plans to maintain its R&D edge in mobility, the MIC leveraging on ETRI's work to launch a Mobile RFID Forum and get some handsets ready by 2007. Up to now, the biggest RFID lobby was EPC Global Inc, EPC standing for Electronic Product Code because the killer app used to be "revolutionize the barcode". Unlike that old tag, RFID provides an ID for each item and can be read at a distance of a few meters without being directly beamed at - some kind of a short range GPS. Provided your system covers the right areas with the right techno and the right links to the right databases, this can be the ultimate "spyware / spywear" all experts in tracking (retailers, marketers, supply chain managers, security managers, customs officers...) have been dreaming of for ages. A quick look at EPC Global's board and you meet major league marketers (Gilette, P&G, Johnson & Johnson), retailers (Wal*Mart, METRO), and pervasive computing heralds (HP, Cisco)... plus the office of the Secretary of Defense (bekause this is Amerika and this is where frequencies meet wallets).
As usual, mobile players seem remote. Yet, RFID being about Radio Frequency IDentification, every player with some ambition in the wireless and/or customer control fields has been keeping an eye on the issue. Some vendors already claim so called "mobile RFID solutions" (ie the chip triggering applications in Nokia's
Field Force Solution). The first MNOs which will come to it will have a strong marketing / commerce drive and a tradition of launching technos that are potentially "coopetitive" with theirs. Once again, you can bet a buck on Korea.


Mavericks and Spurs

Celebration day for Texas :
- From Irving, Exxon announce record profits for 2004 (about 19.5 bn euros)
- The San Antonio Spurs complete a 3 game winning streak and lead the Western Conference (the Dallas Mavericks a distant second in the Southwestern Division)
- Dubya celebrates the elections in Iraq... yeah, the guy was born in New Haven, CT and majored Binge Drinking 101 there (not to mention 102 at Harvard in Massachussets) but he damn well managed to catch the Texan brawl and some oily connexions in Midland
- and last but not least, Oedipus Rex in San Antonio : in the Bell family, ma AT&T falls in the arms of baby SBC
Well, the old lady has been massively losing some weight lately. In a rather indecent strip tease, she got rid of wireless, cable and even consumer services, barely keeping a brand and some debts. But still, imagine Word purchasing Microsoft 20 years from now. Or Symbian wolfing Nokia down (wish I held a monopoly, laments Jorna Ollila)...
When you consider the US pond, it looks like all the alligators are about to take a nap on their big bellies. Good opportunities for those who haven't feasted yet (Comcast ?), but the swift and hungry ones could also take a bite (SK-Earthlink ?).

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