20050331

Tadaa, TDD data updated

When you thought TDD was on the verge of being dumped by MNOs in favor of HSDPA, IPWireless just brightened its future with Orange (UMTS trial in Lille, France). Good point for a techno that just needed some push from a key player. The window of opportunity remains open.



20050329

Triple play and the extension of local spheres : time for mobile-fixed substitution ?

Debate on the broadband wireless access technos (WiMAX, Flash-OFDM, TDD...?)
MNOs definitely have to unite and give their 3G+ techno some momentum. They have the money, the will and the motivation to get more involved in technology than for 3G. And this time, don't expect the same scenario as with Wi-Fi. UMA is a quite interesting initiative but there is still the risk of all these coopetitors neutralizing each other. I would also keep an eye on other kinds of players, especially triple players... Stephane MOT on a forum



20050328

DMB @ DMZ : earth, wind &... fire !

South Korea's 6 Terrestrial Digital Multimedia Broadcasting (T-DMB) service providers will be the top 3 networks (KBS, MBC and SBS) and 3 consortia : Korea DMB (CBS plus a team of enablers : Haansoft, GAEASOFT, Sinjisoft, Feelingk...) YTN DMB (behind YTN, Korea's leading news channel, about 20 investors including MTI, TBN - Traffic Broadcasting Network -, GAEASOFT, Kwangju KBS, PSB...), and KMMB (the merger of MMB and KDMB consortia : ANTV & co, led by net&tv's CEO, a promoter of MPEG-4). Among the losing consortia : ucube, the NDMB Plus consortium and his partners, including BBS (Buddhist Broadcasting System)...
The Korean Broadcasting Commission expects commercial launches in may 2005 for Seoul, the same TTM as for Satellite DMB ; T-DMB with a free service covering Seoul only (the rest of the country next year) and S-DMB with a national coverage but a W13,000 monthly fee (not to mention an initial W20,000 connection charge)... plus some not so exclusive contents including those of KBS, MBC, SBS and YTN...
Anyway, Korea Inc is again at it in full gear : the ETRI expects 80,000 jobs to be created by DMB, and the usual doomsayers must realize handsets will be ready. Remember
Samsung's portable S-DMB movie theater ? Just to keep one step ahead of their competitors (LG, Pantech & Curitel), the company just announced a T-DMB laptop with a brand new WHQL logo (FYI that's for Windows Hardware Quality Labs, not Windows Horrible Quality Loopholes).
One more techno added to the export-prone Korean Air Wave. Next time Ahn Jung-Hwan comes back home to play some soccer or sell some shampoo, he won't need any special spray to have his hair curl.



20050326

Folly came from Miami F.l.a., HIJACKED her way across USA

Far from New Orleans and P. Daddy, Motorola enjoys the eternal sunshine of the spotless Cirque du Soleil in Miami, FL, introducing at the M3 Miami Music Multimedia summit a couple of novelties :

  • HIJACKED by MTV International
  • iRadio (but no iPod, no iTunes)
  • a couple of new musical handsets branded like artificial colorants (E725, E685, E780i)
  • the first NFC gizmo

Here is how they market the techno : "Near Field Communications (NFC) - For consumers looking to expand their own personal music collection, Motorola’s is showcasing a Near Field Communications (NFC) solution. At M3, users will be able to use a NFC-enabled Motorola mobile phone to read a smart tag embedded in a concert poster to download information about the artist to their mobile phone, purchase songs or order tickets to an upcoming concert from the Web. This is just another way Motorola is changing the mobile music scene." Well. Such applications were performed about four to five years ago with barcode solutions but with much less glamour. At "the only gathering in the United States to merge modern music, technology, fashion and multimedia art as an integrated lifestyle", conferences are presented a non-sensical way : this is about "sunset sessions", "poolside networking parties", befores and afters... Hell, you have to convince your former-rockstar-always-pothead-manager you're working hard to sell your damn tunes.



20050324

Friend or Foe (debate on Microsoft in the mobile world)

FRIEND : when they succeed in setting a standard in a confused landscape
FOE : how they do it (me-tooing before purchasing or crushing, destroying competitive and innovative ecosystems - save the penguin before it's too late ! -, running business the ugly mobster way...)
Stephane MOT on a forum



Bad Boys over the Finnish line

Who said the bubble and strass years are behind us ? CTIA Wireless 2005 welcomed a new kind of keynote speaker : Sean "P.Diddy" Combs, Chairman of Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment Group. At the very moment another bad boy, WorldCom's Bernard Ebbers, was waiting for his sentence (85 years ? now that would be long distance, chum).
Another show, another miracle : at CeBIT 2005, Symbian announced their agreement with Microsoft (a license for Exchange Server ActiveSync protocol). After a key entry point for consumers (Windows Media Player, remember "the times they are a-changin" ?
), the main gateway to the business targets (i.e. e-mail, calendar, addresses, files...). G-RIM prospects for BlackBerry, already threatened by new competitors signing operators by the dozen with their no-logo solutions (ie Visto) : Rest In Misery (BlackBury) or Resell It to Microsoft ?
But don't think Redmond has crossed the Fin(n)ish line yet. The momentum is on the likes of Samsung Electronic rather than Nokia, so Bill Gates had to listen to what President Hwang Chang-Gyu said at the second Samsung Mobile Solution Forum. Fortunately, the Korean maverick learned from Olilla's bravado and decided to declare war to... intel : you led the PC era, we will dominate the mobile age, and with a strong customer focus. In which case I strongly advise Samsung to adapt their speech to endusers. The six disruptive innovations announced to over 700 IT enablers in Taipeh would sound like a Star Trek dialect to the ears of John and Jane Smith : "1Gigabit mobile DRAM; a System-in-Package (SiP) that carries a 300MHz mobile CPU; a 1Gigabit (Gb) NAND Flash memory, a 256Megabit (Mb) mobile DRAM for mobile phones; a qVGA resolution, one-chip display driver IC (DDI); a 260K color DDI for active matrix organic light emitting diodes (AM OLED); and a 2.5-inch qVGA TFT-LCD for MP3 players". At this pace, they'll dominate the whole hyperspace before this small broadband world.



20050316

Bluephone : a 2,005 pound gorilla or a GNOME ?

One year behind schedule, BT's Bluephone Project may give birth to the piggyback phone : your handset sniffs some open network and connects to it wirelessly. It's a phone, and it's "blue" because it sounds like some short range techno which happened to be all the rage a couple of years ago.

As usual, there are glitches with the branding : BT was good at "creating" the i-mode brand, but other people took the bluephone domain names long before the Project was even initiated. They need to hurry if they plan to launch such byproducts as the "steal a ringtone / ringtune" concept (Bluebell ?) or the "sniff & snatch some snuff / adult content" concept (Blueballs ?).

You can already perform such calls (i.e. with a Skype + laptop + wifi combo) and wifi handsets are on their way but this is about providing a better customer experience and making things happen. From the team that definitely knows how to bring people closer to each other to produce hot air : the Fixed-Mobile Convergence Alliance (FMCA - BT, Brasil Telecom, Korea Telecom, NTT Com, Rogers Wireless, Swisscom) and the Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA - Alcatel, AT&T Wireless, BT, Cingular, Ericsson, Kineto Wireless, Motorola, Nokia, Nortel Networks, , Rogers Wireless, Siemens, Sony Ericsson, T-Mobile US)... early Wi-Fi birds, mobile players eager not to miss the next big thing plus the usual niche start-up waiting to be purchased by any of the former). Yet these empty shells may turn into something interesting - see how the NFC Forum came alive !

Right now, Bluephone is so small it's called a gnome. According to Sourceforge, "BluePhone is a GNOME applet to allow you to remotely administer a bluetooth-enabled mobile phone from your desktop and also to control your desktop from your mobile phone". MNOs and ISPs are gonna hold each other so tight the adult version could come to life ahead of schedule... Especially if you are both a MNO and an ISP. Expect some move by France Telecom (Wanadoo - Orange).



20050311

Movida : the Generation Ñ M-VÑO ?

I've been asked a reaction to Movida Communications, Walmart's hispanic centric M-VNO on Sprint's network with the help of The Cisneros Group of Companies. The fact is quite a few people Googled this blog right after Cisneros' press release : the announcement was made on february the 22nd and I was mentioning Movida over one week earlier (only referring to the 3GSM congress moving from Cannes to Barcelona) ! Besides, I've always kept an eye on Wal*Mart, expecting some involvement in the mobile business from the World's dominant retailer.
Needless to remind you how powerful Walmart are with over 138 million visitors every week in their 3,600 units in the US and 1,570 abroad, how they impact the lives of over one million employees or how they influence whole markets, being by far the first customer of big companies (hence the P&G - Gilette deal), some smaller players sometimes even outsourcing their marketing units at the master of data crunching. So here's my reaction, beyond the usual platitudes going with Wal*Mart (like "whether you are an operator, a service/content provider, a retailer or a vendor, you need to pay attention") :

  • My first thought is AOL and Telefonica definitely missed the opportunity a couple of years ago. I can understand no US MNO wanted to open their gates to the then aggressive hispanic leader, but AOL did have at one moment both an Hispanic and a MVNO drive. Well AOL kind of drowned under their own ambitions so I can understand too... as Lenny sang it : so much Time wasted, playing games with love (…) But Baby it ain't over 'till it's over (actually Cisneros does own AOL Latin America Inc !). Of course this is not only about the US : Telefonica knows Walmart holds important positions in Mexico, Argentina or Brasil. And once WMT master the craft of ethnic marketing in mobility, they can consider other targets in Germany and the UK, even if they only rely on Wal-Mart Supercenters or Discount Stores without any Neighborhood Markets. And while they're at it, they can switch to their own brand and sell their always everyday low price service anytime anywhere including Korea and China. Walmart may not be as fun as Virgin nor Walton as sexy as Sir Dick, the perspective can lure new partners : Wal-Mart just signed a deal with CMT (Country Music Television) early march, but as CMT puts it "The two companies are exploring possible opportunities to expand the promotional program to other MTV Networks music services", the said promotional program including "digital media extensions"...
  • My second reaction is Cisneros seems a smart move : there is some competition with Wal-Mart (retail in Puerto Rico) but mostly a perfect complementarity. Wal-Mart partners with a czar in hispanic entertainment and broadcasting (Univision, Venevision, Caracol, Claxson Interactive Group, Eccelera, Playboy TV Latin America & Iberia...). Wal-Mart partners with a great marketer very much familiar to the core target. Wal-Mart partners with an influential player : Gustavo Cisneros holds seats in the media commissions for the UN and the World Economic Forum, and the group knows how to work for/with big partners (ie AOL Latin America, DirectTV Latin America, Pizza Hut). Wal-Mart even partners with a company involved in telecoms, ISPs and mobilecoms : at home, Cisneros hold participations in Telcel Venezuela, Americatel (fixed line services) or Business Service Provider. Talking of which the choice of Sprint makes all the more sense that the ailing MNO joined forces with Nextel, more focused on biz targets.
  • Now regarding the service (TTM S1 2005) : pay as you go vs prepaid looks fine (especially since Cisneros notices that it amounts to 90% of the hispanic wireless business), and I just love the "For English Press Two" claim. Movida branded phones (and cards) mean Walmart wants to control as much as they can their manufacturers, maybe also that they already plan their own brand. It will be interesting to see who will join (speaking Chinese may help).
  • How about the figures, then ? Movida target today's 40 M US Hispanics (17% of all Americans by 2010), and Virgin Mobile USA claim 3 million customers after 2.5 years. I have no idea where the penetration stands among the Hispanics but it may be around the national average (a quite low 61%)… Even with all competitors clinching deals with the remaining Hispanic partners, I don't think the Wall*Mart - Cisneros combo can fail and do under 5 million within 3 years. That would be 13% of their core target, and not necessarily the lowest half of the 25% most cost oriented Latino shoppers.



20050305

Neil Gershenfeld - Potent pending

A few years ago alcatel would invent the manufacturer without factories. Then came MIT's Neil Gershenfeld with his disruptive personal fabrication concept. Well guess who's on board his "Things That Think Consortium" ? Lego (now that was a must), Steelcase (they should know about designing offices), Ricoh (Canon followed suit shortly after), and such newbies as Nokia and Motorola (LG Electronics are joining too). Oh, and a telco / cellco too. Guess which one ? Telmex. Not a neighbor of Massachussets for all I know but one of their execs must attend interesting meetings and have the intelligence of making something out of them. To be continued...



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