The past was bright, the future is Orange Telecom

Once upon a time, France Telecom held a high potential brand and a valuable set of brains in Voila, the pride of the CNET. Then they snatched a bigger brand and another valuable set of brains in Orange, the bride of Hans Snook. As a result, Voila got fired, Orange castrated, and the "France Telecom" brand resurrected as a safety net for gallic customers - an umbrella as disgracious and noxious as a nuclear mushroom some brilliant Kommunikator decided to hide behind a swootch wannabe ; the not-at-all-orious esperluette (the & the self proclaimed net company couldn't even build a website on). As a result too, at the end of year 2004, Hans Snook held a comfortable #950 spot on the UK wealthiest list (£40M) and neither Orange nor even Vodafone were in Interbrand's Best Global Brands Top 100.
Now that rebranding is so passé, France Telecom is considering switching for "Orange Telecom". The metonymy won't be much challenged by the regulatory body which swallowed the FT-Orange fusion without a whisper and almost welcomes its daily anti-competitive abuses.
Will Orange win back its so bright future as easily as the group behind will win back market shares through household shares ? Can the brand that carried so much actually become what it was bound to be - something far beyond the brand of a carrier ?


4G take-offs and SOFT landings

Captain Kirk obviously paid a visit to Japan, where "4G" trials are announced by ever-the-customer-oriented NTT DoCoMo : "the 1Gbps real-time packet transmission was realized through Variable Spreading Factor-Spread Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (VSF-Spread OFDM) radio access and 4-by-4 Multiple-Input-Multiple-Output (MIMO) multiplexing using "adaptive selection of surviving symbol replica candidate" (ASESS) based on Maximum Likelihood Detection with QR decomposition and the M-algorithm (QRM-MLD)".
This nuclear mushroom is supposed to impress people listening to the sound of miserable 3G+ trials under way across Asia (ie HSDPA in China and Taiwan, HSUPA sites under construction everywhere - websites, that is).
This time, no one is wondering why high speed is needed : back to Paris I badly miss my 100 Mbps home. Jet lag is OK the other way : that's what I call the "SOFT landing" (Seoul Optic Fiber Transition).

PS : I don't know whatever happened to Club Nokia but here are a few figures from Samsung's Anycall Land : 180,000 hits per day for 4M members.
PS2 : I don't know whatever happened to KTF's investment fund devoted to content but here is how they start countering SKT's shopping spree : a minority stake in a movie investment fund set up by a key player in distribution (among
Showbox Inc assets : Megabox multiplexes, On*Media cable TV...)
PS3 : sucks (according to an independant Redmond based group of Xbox consumers and developpers).


Flux your muscles, watch your wallet - music for a song ?

Viacom's MTV selected Japan and KDDI for their first subscription based music video service over 3G (Vids over 3G EVDO, then). I don't care if it raps, rocks or rolls but this rather sounds like classical music to my ears.
The other side of the East / West Sea, Korea's Daum are about to offer music for free to all their customers. Well, you can LISTEN to up to 3 songs a day within Musiccity's 400,000 song library, but the service usually costs W3,000 per month. All you have to do is being one of Daum's 35+ million subs. Obviously, the former leading portal seems allergic to MelOn, a key factor of success of SKT's Nate nowadays, along with Cyworld, the leader in homepages, a serious competitor to the Bank of Korea thanks to their quasi-currency loyalty program, and one of Musiccity's big customers. Because Musiccity is into "background music" and this kind of music seems likely to be heard far beyond its original mobile devices (elevators) : even if you can't podcast it, you can have people hear it wherever you post things (personal pages, blogs, e-mail ?). You don't even have to buy the latest 2.5 Gb-mp3-7-megapixel-4WD-phone to enjoy it*.

And what do the music majors think of this ? The Korea Music Copyright Association just gave their blessing, considering Daum already pays W125 / month / user.
Well. Once again, Korea's leading major is now a 60% SKT subsidiary.
A smarter combo ? Amp'd offers more than background music : back-uped content. I like the "safe haven" approach (for each download on your mobile phone - including mobisodes shot at Amp'd's brand new studios or your own content-, the US 3G EVDO MVNO will provide a simultaneous remote download), but I wonder if Amp'd can deliver before the big league players tune in, especially when they also envision ambitious multiplayer experiences with InfoSpace. Anyway : more hype announcements for Motorola and Kyocera, the suppliers supposed to release nice new handsets for Amp'd this fall. Remember lads : the word "fall" is zweideutig, and Moto have also been supposed to deliver ipod phones soon for a while... Verizon could hold the best spot for a takeover, being Amp'd's host through Verizon Wireless, but also a major US LLO.
Whatever the outcome, at the age of many-stop-storing and collaborative purchasing, at the age of Snocap and Mercora, you need a considerable reach by yourself and through your partners, but also more and more through not so loyal endusers.


* You'd better invest on iRiver's latest player for your kid (ReingCom are now targeting the babies - I guess they'd better diversify beyond portable multimedia players). Anyway, any device will be more fun than Movida's : even in Puerto Rico you can't make people believe a Nokia 2270 will mobile-ize their life ("Moviliza tu vida" / "Get moving with Movida"). Talking about a revolution and an innovation... heard about Virgin Mobile's "disruptive" new service with BT Livetime ? TV over radio and an exciting EPG (Electronic Program Guide). That's DAB and SMS alerts... Radio Definitely Killed The Video Stars.


At the edges of the middle

NTT DoCoMo know 4G will take off in Asia but they also know they can't do it on their own. They failed last time but for the next gen they decided to invest massively where size matters. China. Putting $2.5 bn a year on 3G+ / 4G R&D in Beijing will not solve the diplomatic quagmire caused by the surge of nippon revisionism but it may help DoCoMo take a lead in standardization.
On the other hand, investing massively in AT&T Wireless didn't prove to be the best way of reaching the US market. Chinese developpers can as well take the money and run, rock, roll and roll out without caring much for their once powerful neighbors.


License to bill

SK Telecom will enter the European market through GPS (their "i-Kids" service could sell with the help of Netherland's SF-Alert, starting with KPN) and implement RFID trials at home with the country's leading retailer (Shinsegae) and a producer with stamina (Korea Ginseng Corp, the king of insam / hongsam). Wireless service it is, no license needed.
At the other end of Eurasia, Alcatel and Nokia start working on cellular / Wi-Fi convergence trough UMA. Not the Thurman show, you know... remember Unlicensed Mobile Access ?
Elswhere, shareholders still rely on ye good ole business model where you pay for a license, you pay for the roll-out, and you pay for telling people to pay even more for your service.


Outlook To Hook, TiVo To Go, Apple To Intel

Back to basics : Microsofts ends up playing the same tune. They tried to reinvent mobility but innovation is not their middle name. So it's again Windows Mobile, WM mobile, Outlook mobile (catching up with 3.5 million Crackberries), and TiVo-ToGo-this-time-truly-mobile-portable-and-on-the-go (see TiVo's press release).
What else ? Formerly disruptive Jobs keeps annoucing boring news ("this time I have intel inside and on my side")...
Tell me something new. Make my day. Does a mature market have to get that boring ?


MelOn with a slice of pie

As expected (Hardware behind, hard work ahead - 20050504), SK Telecom are moving at high speed towards content : after taking a couple of months ago a slice (21.7%) of IHQ, a producer of TV shows and soaps, the Korean leader in mobility (and instant messaging as well, NateOn extending its edge over MSN Messenger) just purchased 60% of Korea's leading music major (YBM Seoul Records) to boost its MelOn mobile music portal. Their deep pockets should help them cope better than Daum with Lycos. The new and improved SKT should also pray for the Korean wave (Hallyu) to last longer than the fad for Bae Yong Joon.

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