20050730

Zero noodle. Korea goes South.

Wireless goes TV : the latest Samsung TV phone for TU Media has a stand so that the user can watch it without holding it. Next disruption ? I suggest the integration of the "mobile TV" in a 1950s piece of furniture...
TV goes wireless : China's Haier claims the world's first UWB HDTV. Remember the first 802.11b TV ? I don't give a damn which techno makes it provided "zero noodle" happens before "zero paper".
Korea goes South :

  • It may take BenQ some time to catch up with LG and Samsung in the mobile handset business, but Taiwan is already ahead of Korea as far as LCD screens are concerned.
  • One year after turning down Qualcomm's EV-DV chip, LG Telecom will fulfill his 3G duties in Korea with Qualcomm's EV-DO revision A erzatz (EV-DO rA ble ?). Sign of the times : LG just applied for a wireless license in China and among the 8 players to apply, only Amoi prefered CDMA to GSM.

Japan goes West : Mobile payment 1 : 0 Mobile philantropy (injury time).

  • NTT DoCoMo are pushing as hard as ever in the mobile payment arena. One day after clinching a deal with East Japan Railway on common infrastructures for Suica and Osaifu Keitei, they announced a JV with ULTRA d.d.d., the Slovenian owner of Telargo (a mobile assets management specialist of which DCM will take 49%) and the much more interesting
M-PAY...
  • While DoCoMo are pushing, Arun Sarin is considering an end to the Vodafone Ka Ka in Japan.
  • West meets East : China Netcom and Telefonica decided to work together on their core businesses and, more spectacularily, to share managerial best practices and seats at each other's Boards and Committees. The Carlos Goshn's effect ? Expect some wireless byproducts (Goshn in a clamshell ?).



    20050725

    Livedoor to incumbents : you've got mail

    What's up in Japan ?
    Nothing spectacular as far as incumbents are concerned. As their 3G lead is shrinking, KDDI seek new growth engines through CDMA-GSM roaming ; NTT DoCoMo try to think positive despite gloomy news (i-mode struggling even in Australia) ; and after posting a first non disastrous month in a long time (+5,000 subs in June), Vodafone KK seem eager to play a role in the VNO frenzy to come in Japan.
    More exciting : three new 3G licences are to be awarded by the end of this year ; two in the 1.7 GHz band (FDD) and one in the 2.0 GHz band (TDD). The first two should land in the hands of Softbank and e-Access, while IP Mobile Inc are betting on VoIP & TD-CDMA. They have the techno thanks to their partner IPWireless but their hunt for new investors seems sterile and they lack the marketing know-how. Another TDD competitor, Willcom Inc, proves to have both the technological know-how (Kyocera is a shareholder with 30%) and the deep pockets (the highly controversial Carlyle Group is on board too with 60%). KDDI Corporation hold the last 10% : can the regulator allow this cdma2000 player in the W-CDMA arena ?
    There's clearly a window of opportunity for a new player with money, ambitions, and the potential to fill the pipes. With or against the other competitors.
    Unsurprisingly enough,
    Livedoor Co. Ltd recently expressed their plans to apply for a 2.0 GHz licence. They seem to have all it takes, even if their President & CEO, Takafumi Horie, scares the hell out of the Japan Inc establishment since he tried to take over Nippon Broadcasting System (Livedoor are suing Fuji TV for a potential illegal poison pill).
    So the company previously listed as Livin' On The EDGE and then EDGE eventualy decided to bid for 3G. If not as famous as Softbank, Livedoor managed to build a fairly impressive interactive / marketing empire in Japan and across the globe. Should they make it in Japan, they could very well make it elsewhere, starting with China or the Americas. Among their jewels :

    • Livedoor.com : the third portal in Japan and #40 in the World. One should notice a strategic partnership with SKYPE...
    • Livedoor Mobile : founded in 2004 in order to boost the creation of mobile sites, this wireless side of the portal should become the base of the future mobile operator.
    • MyRice.com : formerly Lycos China and now a leading convergent portal - in the World's top 100 thanks to 5M daily visitors and 35M daily hits. Livedoor can also leverage on their Dalian unit, China Livedoor Software Development. They even have a subsidiary in Thailand (EDGE Siam).
    • interactive marketing is clearly a major asset, going glocal through subsidiaries and partnerships with ethnic marketing specialists. mailcreations.com (a subsidiary of Livedoor Inc, their US branch) claim over 200M opt-in e-mails worldwide : 85M in the US (2,5M hispanics), 22M in LatAm, 16M in Europe and 33M in Asia thanks to such initiatives as melma!, a portal devoted to e-mail news : melma! Spain was created after the original Japanese melma!. by Livedoor Interactive / Cyberclick Agent, the Spanish unit located in Barcelona (also a specialist in WAP & i-mode sites). Livedoor also owns EX Marketing and ValueClick Japan.

    Among Livedoor's other assets : SeekOver (a US search engine), Cázalo.com (a Spanish search engine based on the ODP), Innovation Lab (the Group's R&D arm), EDGE Telecom, Joboon (formerly Livedoor Career), Turbolinux (Penguin Inside ?), Livedoor Factoring...

    Also to be noticed :

    • Livedoor Finance : this is Japan, and any player can turn out to be a potential banker.
    • Contents : if they failed in taking over NBS, Livedoor are clearly focusing on contents everywhere. In Europe, their Berlin unit (Livedoor Europe) licenses local software mobile contents. In the US, they clinched a licensing deal with WAU Móvil, a mobile content provider working with 20 operators across Latin America ; Livedoor's True Tones will cover 8 countries for a start. Livedoor also holds AlienQuest.com (a game portal), and an intriguing Broadband Pictures Inc... Consistant, but Livedoor arrived late after the Japanese mobile content wars and remains a dwarf in contents. Their strength seems to lie more in their swiftness or their ability to deliver. Well, that's something.

    Up to now, Softbank has been quite a disapointment in the wireless arena, but they're much stronger now. Can Livedoor take the helm ? Can both succeed at the same time ? Can a non-Japanese player make a surprise 3G late check-in ? How will 2G incumbents deal with Mobile Number Portability next year and new competitors soon after ? To be continued.



    20050716

    madult content : follow the .$$$

    What domain extension could follow .xxx but .mobi ? At the crossroad, Informa proposes new estimates for the global market for adult content on mobile devices : US$2.3 billion and 114M regular users by 2010. Informa plays it safe thanks to the following warning : "However, this figure is only expected to be realized if mobile carriers and content providers work with regulators to determine solid controls and age verification procedures".
    If we say these regular users will represent 40% of all users and 90% of the pie, we're talking a $8 ARPU for all users and a $18 mark for hardcore madults. As far as age verification is concerned, some operators could follow Daum : parents open accounts for their kids and other people cannot send anything to their mailbox without answering a few questions. A great firewall against spammers but Korea's Ministry of Information and Communication went even further.
    Spammers' e-mail and fixed line phone accounts will be stopped and convicted spammers and felons will be prevented from opening new ones. That is provided e-mail services adopt new rules and ask for the subscribers' real names... I'm sure shareholders will love to see the fall in subscriptions.
    Mobile operators are not concerned yet but there was already an opt-in solution : no e-mail marketing is allowed without the victim being consentant. Great protection indeed : I receive an average 100 spam m-mails a day and according to Cetizen, 95% of mobile subs are still enjoying m-spam.



    20050715

    Humble pies and compulsive eaters

    End of June, WCDMA and CDMA2000 1x claimed respectively 28,3 and 186M subs (still no split for 1x EV from the CDMA Development Group), which means since our last count, one semester ago the global 3G market* grew by one third and 3GSM's share didn't take off dramatically (from 10 to 13%).
    CDMA is still leveraging on its key asset (compared to GSM-WCDMA, migration remains a piece of cake for operators), but the phenomenon is reaching its limits : "3G" now represents 3/4 of the global 256M CDMA subscriber base (only 2% for the 1,430M GSM family, not to mention the other technos joining WCDMA). Besides, WCDMA is just gaining momentum and will eventually make it in Korea with the help of HSDPA, for which KTF and SKT just agreed on a march 2006 launch**. Even in Japan, FOMA is catching up with 38,7% of the 3G market... less than 2G laggard KDDI but 12 times better than Vodafone KK...
    Well. I'm getting nowhere. This WCDMA vs CDMA2000 thing is getting boring. What matters now is what's growing out of this pie.

    You'd better focus on players used to claiming leadership beyond the mobile market. While maintaining a market share acceptable by the regulator, SK Telecom claims 10M subs for NateOn or 14M for Cyworld. Their S-DMB service has seduced 75,000 subs within 2 months and still expects 600,000 by the E.O.Y. If you remember, that's far ahead of MBCO's DMB service : MobaHO! reach only 10,000 after 3 months, a poor score for a consortium of 90 companies (including SKT). Beyond the glamorous "Take Out TV", TU Media basically remains a mobile phone and the usage of the service logically contributes to the operator's wireless data ARPU, but this shouldn't be always the case. Let's see how stats will be kept when other accesses appear, when actual new biz starts.


    * Well that's the 3G market defined as the sum of the two most relevant IMT-2000 technologies implemented by cellular operators : TD-SCDMA's been delayed again, and neither EDGE nor DECT can be considered 3G. TDD has been implemented but not in the right spectrum yet.
    ** SKT's HSDPA rates are as follow : 16k wons per month (about $16) for the charge and 2 to 3 megs for the bits. Manufacturers will make sure handsets are on time for the World to see. For the moment, Koreans see WCDMA attracted 3,000 customers in 20 month including such "customers" as the operators' staff and partners...



    20050714

    Scott Summers and French Blockbuster Seasons

    X-men 3 isn't shot yet but when she's back as Phoenix, Jean Grey may have some trouble spotting the original Cyclops among Orange World customers.
    One month after France Telecom R&D (press release + buzz at the European Research and Innovation Exhibition),
    MicroOptical / Essilor International & Kopin CyberDisplays (self-proclaimed The NanoSemiconductor Company) announced a more commercial way the launch of innovative binocular video eyewear next october.
    Connected to Samsung's SGH-D600, this 70g device similar to Scott Summers' protective glasses brings interesting superpowers to its user : unbeatable stereo sound and a virtual 12' screen 2 m away. Thus, our superhero can avoid Paris' much acclaimed dognuments but can't tell whether the person coming towards him is smiling or carrying a shotgun (or both, who knows with these nutty supervillains).
    Well. I've tried this kind of marvels but they were designed for actual fighters and the screen would appear at the bottom corner of your visual field. More likely, our Orange Cyclops will comfortably seat in a chair to enjoy the show on the go. Not as glamour, but it definitely beats the portable DVD player... provided the power allows the viewer to watch more than a few short mobisodes... which is made possible by the cable connection between the glasses and the handset. The "wirefree" vision may take some more time...



    20050709

    London Videophones vs CCTV : 1 - 0

    Unlike 9/11 and 3/11, 7/7 is the first massive terror attack in a significantly 3G-enabled-videophone-equipped country. Each Londoner being caught by CCTV an average 9 times a day, the police must be crunching much more images than Mr & Mrs Smith from their sofa, so most of the public footage comes from videophones.
    Tony Blair seems to seek as little publicity as possible for the terrorists as well as for his own agenda. He can control mainstream medias but not the personal ones.
    Blogs have long taken a comfortable position as news / propaganda providers. Podcasting / videocasting is following as expected.
    This defining moment exposes the positive side of the medal - expect massive controversies next, especially considering today's legal attacks by the Bush Administration on non-friendly journalists and bloggers.



    20050707

    From Hallyuwood to Hollywood

    Remember when WAP emulators were all the rage ? They kind of fell into oblition because of that WAP thing and because of that 3G fade (I'm so customer centric I do have to film the damn guy holding the device, even if it saturates the surfer's not-so-broad-band connection.
    Now SK Telecom just released an emulator for their new services and it sounds like the perfect remote control. For the enduser (in order to control the said services) as well as for the operator (in order to control the said enduser).
    SKTWorld provides a good start to the victim of their massive ads : Nate, June, Moneta, NateDrive, 1mm, PlayOn, Moville, TU dmb + direct links to the new stars on the block (MelOn for music lovers, Cizle for moviegoers on the go, GXG for mobile gamers). As one could have suspected, they leverage on the entry point to get you straight into their databases - they don't care whether you're already a customer or not : they presume the customer experience is so much fun you can't resist and go for the actual thing. You're a customer and you have the required device ? You can download the app at once and enjoy a free trial on it ("Free Experience Tour"). You don't have the device yet ? Order it, and customize it while you're at it ("Peripherals Mall"). You're not a customer yet ? No sweat : shopping or portability are just one click away.
    SKTWorld goes further thanks to an Amazon-like collaborative filtering system : beyond the usual tailor suited piece of advice ("My Type Mobile" guesses the best service after your usage patterns), a "Mobile Together" feel-good concept (this goes too far for you not-so-early-adopter you ? don't worry : here's what fits people your age and sex).
    But SKTWorld is bound to go even further. Just like the juicy MelOn, this is a dotcom website, not a dotcodotkr nor even a dotnatedotcom one... And by the way, SK-Earthlink
    just announced new headquarters in Westwood, Los Angeles. We're not talking Koreatown but Hollywood / Beverly Hills lads, the expected next step for SK "Hallyuwood" Telecom (from the beginning we expected business oriented SK-Earthlink to enter the multimedia arena). And the company is hiring. Staff for a start. Consumers should follow soon.



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