20050926

ColorZip unzipped

The first buzz about barcode applications for 2-3G started in the late 1990s, and the usage of handsets as code readers started as soon as cameraphones appeared. Remember SonyEricsson's happenings in the US ? Remember SK Telecom's Nate Coupons in supermarkets ?
But then barcodes evolved. They even dropped the bars and became bidimensional. The dress code switched to friday wear and then rainbow wear as
ColorZip added new dimensions : color recognition now, caracter recognition later. For CR, all you need is a camera with 100,000 pixel resolution plus a good network.
MNOs seized the opportunity (SKT's Nate Code proposes virtual stamps (
Happypost) and a mobile shopping mall), along with publishers (ie TV programs, IDEE magazine). But broadcasters just love the concept and the interaction with their own programs. KBS invested in ColorZip Korea and both Fuji TV ( Fuji Television Network) and TBS (Tokyo Broadcasting System) put more than a few bucks on ColorZip Japan, which is becoming the entry point for internationalization : Colorzip Singapore happens to be a JV between Colorzip Japan and Colorzip Media.
The franchise is blooming from Korea to Asia (Japan, Singapore, Taiwan...) and Europe (France, Italy...), not to mention USA (patents and partnerships pending). ColorZip could become the de facto standard for m-coding (why not beyond ?). The fun should be catching, and I wouldn't be surprised to see "artistic" evolutions... Definitely sexier than treacherous RFID and carceral barcodes.



20050924

Voice Discounted, data embedded, TV Finnished

18 eurocents per mn, Alles Klar. klarmobil.de is mobilcom's latest vehicle to claim more customers and lower even more their revenues. Because subscriptions are up (4.55M end of June) but overall turnover down (-8% vs Q2 2004). So the operator communicates on a growing EBITDA per customer... New owners Texas Pacific Group obviously wanted to add sexier assets to their kolossales spectrum... up for sale but when and to whom ?

At last, 3G starts being embedded in laptops : Dell are working with Cingular on UMTS and should add HSDPA Q1 2006, and in the cdma2000 family, with Verizon on EV-DO (along with HP & IBM-Lenovo). W-CDMA and EV-DO proved their reliability and MNOs shouldn't miss the window of opportunity before the WiMAX - WiBro wave.


Nokia waited for the 2bn mobile sub mark to announce handset #1,000,000,000, so that stupid analysts can praise their 50% market share. Less stupid : the choice of Taiwan for a new R&D center devoted to 3G. The Mobile Services Development Center (MSDC) is a JV with the Institute for Information Industry and the perfect bridge with mainland China. This side of the Thames, Nok-Nok are about to start their Oxford DVB-H trial with Ariqva (see
Row vs wideband), but 02 customers won't pay for the TV service... the aim of the game remains to duplicate an easy experiment everywhere across Europe and lobby regulators, not to validate the potential of a commercial service. And working with Microsoft definitely changed the way Nokia annouce future products : I cultivate the buzz far in advance (i.e. 4Gb Nokia N91 will combine W-CDMA and WiFi and laminate iPods) and I postpone the launch because of Redmond's embedded bug-and-glitches function.



20050923

IPWireless eurostars in Speed 3

For the moment, IPWireless' trial with "a leading European GSM operator" worked "up to 220 kilometers per hours in a series of recent road and rail demonstrations" but the vendor "expects that the solution will support speeds of more than 400 kilometers per hour". UMTS RailLink combines TDD (TD-CDMA) with WiFi.
Good news for France, whose TGV is already connected to 3 of the other Top 5 telecom markets (UK, Germany and Spain - Italy being the weaker link and UK the most demanding because of the Chunnel - plus such countries as Belgium or the Netherlands). SFR and SNCF have been partners for years but IPWireless already works with Orange or T-Mobile and this is not the kind of trials you do first for TDD.
Besides, 220 km/h happens to be the maximal speed of the French bullet train on conventional lines (over 300 on hi-speed lines) : the trials must have been run outside of France, for example between the Chunnel and London (IPW mentioned a 39 km section and bridge sections).

Whatever. IPWireless seems on the right track.

More on IPW in TDD & TDMB : not so TDous, Livedoor to incumbents : you've got mail (NB : no doubt the Japanese will have a close look at this bullet train experiment) or Tadaa, TDD data updated.



20050921

Mevangelists, Chief Internet Evangelists and Intelligent Designers

After Chief Yahoo! (David Filo, Jerry Yang) and Chief Architect (Bill Gates, Karl Rove), enter Chief Internet Evangelist (Vint Cerf).
Google badly needed to surf the fundamentalists' wave. Their new Guru should hire top guns as deputies (I suggest a good televangelist and an ambitious m-evangelist), and quick please : believers as well as shareholders fear AOL could leave Google for the Church of MSN (by the way, the same AOL will let Total Talk, their young Canadian broadband preacher, cross the border with Mother Time Warner).
Hopefuly, Newborn Googlers can safely join the community now, thanks to "Google Secure Access". Note the reassuring rebranding of the formerly doomsday sounding feeva (see
saturday night feeva - gloocalization)... I guess Google also found the right man for the much wanted position of Chief Internet Architect (CIA).



easyMobile sees Northern Light - a Greek tragedy

I just loved the way easyMobile calculated their 10% share in UK's online mobile services : end of June, the 15k customers they signed up over the web were supposed to represent 10% of all customers signed up over the web since their launch early March (15% for PAYG customers - that's for Pay As You Go, not Play Against Yahoo! & Google).
Business is so easy when you wear pink glasses ! Frank Rasmussen could prove a perfect successor to Hans Snook or even Elton John.
easy definitely does it...
Nordic M-VNOs, the early birds who caught more colds than worms, are being purchased by competitors ? And easyMobile's partner is Danemark's TDC, the mother company of Telmore, a Nordic M-VNO ? No sweat. Don't worry, be happy.
Will easyMobile.nl succeed ? Of course : Telfort x Telmore = more for Tele2, the strongest combo. Will easyMobile.de succeed ? Of course : it's on T-Mobile, the pinkest of all networks. Besides, easyMobile can leverage on a strong customer base in Germany : 3M subs to TDC's Talkline. A walk in the park, I telyou !
Actually, if you read closely, easyMobile.de happens to be a new JV between TDC and TIH Invest A/S (owned by Rasmussen himself, the founder of Telmore and CEO of easyMobile). This vehicle will be the new base to launch attacks "in up to 10 other European countries" in the name of easyMobile.
In other words, Stelios Haji-Ioannou is out of the picture : easyGroup provides the branding and lets telecom specialists handle the business. The Greek Serial Entrepreneur washes his hands : now you can fail, I won't wail.



20050920

Smells like tin can spirit

Bell Labs' prez, Jeong Kim, announced in Seoul that thanks to nanotechnologies, mobile devices will sense changes in facial expressions and even smell people or things. You'd better not eat garlic before videophoning your girlfriend. And watch out next time your company offers you a Blackberry : it might beep your boss each time you lie or recover from booze or pot smoking or all of the above. What a Xmas gift !
"Merry Christmas" is the name of the software developped by Sookmyung Women's University for a PR firm : it crawls across the cyberspace and displays a rather graphical way both the positive and negative opinions on people or issues. US firms are already using such tools to roam the blogosphere, when their employees don't do it directly. And when I say "do it", I mean either roaming (funny how
people keep visiting from Redmond, WA or Cupertino, CA) or building the blogosphere (e-pinion minions). Not always in the open.
Speaking of which... Korea's MIC seems to confirm the implementation of its "real-name system" plan by the end of this year. Before posting any comment on the web, Koreans will have to enter their personal ID. Not that of their service provider but the official one they use in their everyday life. The public seems to want that reform, and not only for the big internet players (who often have already implemented it) but for the whole web. Yet, major portals like Daum or Naver fear users will switch to foreign based providers.
So now both your mobile and your cyberalter egos will expose your true self. Not much will change for me : I decided to use my real name on my personal spaces as well as on public fora as a challenge. Every lapse, every mistake, every stupid joke will remain somewhere : I'm sick of the forgiveness of word processors and other polishing softwares, allzusoftwares.



20050915

Count your beams

NTT DoCoMo's expansion strategy has always been clear : globalizing, diversifying beyond voice and widening the reach of mobility itself.
Internationalization's been quite shaky for DoCoMo the investor, and rather disapointing for DoCoMo the Application Service Provider / Licensor : FOMA remains basically local and i-mode subscriptions remain minor overseas. Yet, step by step, more spots are covered. Israel and Russia are joining the i-mode community and even if the service manages to limit it's penetration to 5 to 10% everywhere it exists, that's sustainable. Not the massive revolution many dreamt of but DoCoMo didn't leverage on their 1999 momentum. By the time i-mode reached Europe, WAP was back on tracks with decent services and a better business model.
Diversification beyond voice is no more a strong asset for DoCoMo, who don't even rule in the area. They're better at widening the reach of mobility. The collapse of Simpay definitely means good news for FeliCa but I'm not sure ToruCa™ can make it overseas. This information-capture concept requires handset upgrades (coming up soon in Osaifu-Keitais), but also specific writers / readers at the other end. Asking consumers to wave their handsets in front of new devices doesn't appeal as much as leveraging on RFID or even improving the good old beaming system so that they can transfer pictures or videos from their handsets to their TV sets.
Just like FOMA with W-CDMA, IrSimple is supposed to be an IrDA improvement - in other words : DoCoMo gains a TTM advantage in the short term and potential fees in the longer term.
ITX E-Globaledge Corporation and Sharp joined this new "global standard". Simplicity is very much needed. Humility could help too.



20050913

PayPal m-pilots and 90s revivals

Bango didn't wait one day and the beginning of the Mobile Content World forum to announce their implementation of PayPal. The M-content enabler had to surf on the other news of the day (eBay putting their hands on Skype).

A couple of months ago, operators would pull the plug on Simpay (analyze this : pulling the plug on a wireless project) and now, in a weird late nineties revival, mobilecos are talking next gen networks and fearing for their golden geese (screaming to the top of their lungs they might lose their dear voice ARPU) while ambitious dotcoms are splashing headlines with megabuck megamergers. The same dotcoms with about the same indecent market caps (eBay, Yahoo!, Google...), followed by the same usual suspect (Microsoft).

But this time, they're not only using paper which may end down the drain : they're laying actual greenbacks from actual profits. Even better : consumers are using their mobile payment solutions.



20050912

Skype scrapers - continued

Watch out for piercing arrows from Amazon, folks. eBay eventually purchased Skype for a cool $2.6bn and with a clear intention : integrating it as soon as possible, especially with PayPal, and becoming a comm² co (commerce + communications).
All Skype's shareholders (including
Hutch) are supposed to have agreed on the deal. The solution is definitely in better hands with a swift multi-platform giant than with a single operator or access provider, whatever its reach.
Beyond P2P / C2C, I'm sure eBay will develop interesting B2B solutions. Call centers, pick up your phones.



20050911

TDD & TDMB, not so TDous

After all, TDMB still has a chance in Europe. Part of the lobbying I mentioned about LG is about the easiness of piggybacking on existing DAB networks, whilst DVB spectrum remains to be seen. And LG are starting this month a T-DMB trial in Regensburg, Germany, supposedly under the helm of the EU IST CELTIC Project, CELTIC standing for Cooperation for a European sustained Leadership In Telecommunications. I guess Nokia appreciates the joke, especially since they are part of CELTIC's Core Group (the same can be said about BT, FT or Telefonica). And CELTIC's "Call 2 projects tackling convergence" still includes WingTV, a program devoted to Nokia's DVB-UMTS integration. Fixed incumbents are already involved in such trials, but they are also busy taking shares of IPTV market as quickly as possible in a competitive DSL world. France Telecom's MaLigne TV could go international with a more colorful branding (the color of a juicy fruit, for instance), and Telefonica's Imagenio could leverage on the operator's reconquista of the Americas. Mobile broadcasters will be stronger if they already are strong IPTV leaders...
TD-CDMA have been back from the dead for months : Orange in France, T-Mobile in the Czech Republic, Nextel in Washington D.C.... even Japan reserved the 2GHz spectrum for IP Wireless' beloved technology. TDD could prove a quick fix for such US players as Sprint-Nextel or T-Mobile : W-CDMA is on its way (in different bands) and the HSDPA -HSUPA have the favor of many GSM players, but TDD could deliver earlier and cheaper coverage without major spectrum hurdles (especially compared to demanding HSUPA). Beyond data cards or dongles, handsets are yet to be found, and the industry needs more than IPW partnerships with Atmel or Teleca to solve this.



20050909

RockR's mTunes and the March of the Emperor

Steve Jobs had to pull out of his pocket a new and slender iPod Nano to compensate for Moto's RockR, the ugliest tribute to Meat Loaf one designer could dream of. To survive, iTunes needs much more Cingular moves.
More disruptive news for the industry came from Cellon : the manufacturer will use Trolltech's Qtopia Linux software on its triband GSM/GPRS C8000 series. Cellon may not be a giant and its partner may be a troll*, but that could prove to be the tip of the iceberg for our dearest penguin. The Chinese don't care about greenhouse effect gases but Cellon happens to be respected there, working for Siemens, Alcatel or Philips. And China happens to seek alternative solutions to Europe's Symbian or USA's Windows Mobile.

Yet, the March of the Emperor will require the involvement of a new kind of player between manufacturers and operators, more efficient than a simple OMA spinoff. Some kind of a mobile Red Hat with a safe but cool suite. Neither expensive nor sophisticated : you don't want to need air-con on your handset just to help your penguin survive.

* a troll with a powerful ring : index ventures supported MySQL and Skype



20050906

Mobile Real TV - LG and the H-free handset

Nokia are to duplicate in the Netherlands their Finnish Mobile TV experience, with KPN starring as Telia-Sonera and Nozema Services + Digitenne as Elisa. In this RealMobileTV* show, you don't care where the customers come from : whatever the casting, everybody ends up telling how great the experience was. Plus PR people can relieve themselves in public (in Dutch for Nozema or in English for Nok-Nok).
This time, the plot is about mixing broadcasting and mobile with as many users as possible and in a truly mobile environment (thus the coverage of railways and motorways). The Finns provide the already vintage DVB-H 7110 plus a IPDC solution (sounds like the heavy metal version of IP), the Dutch their bad taste for programming (remember where Endemol and Big Brother came from ?). Nozema already confessed an affair with the Wi-Fi - WiMAX - Mobile-Fi (802.20) family.
But guess which manufacturer could make mobile TV on handsets a true hit in Europe ? The inventors of DVB-H, Nokia ? Nah... LG
decided to launch their 3G - T-DMB phone next year in Europe and China. LG-V9000 will be up for grabs Q1 2006, on time for the 2006 World Cup in Germany : LG happens to be a top sponsor and intends to become a top lobbyist for the Korean norm. Even if the Chinese team didn't make it through the qualifiers. Even if T-DMB competes more directly with DVB-T (already commercialized in many European countries) than with DVB-H. Even if no DMB network has been announced yet in Europe.
Well. LG are also into bigger TV screens, and you don't have to be a mobile operator to roll out DMB. Consumers shouldn't give a hyphen provided the service works. They might even dig the motto used to sell this rolla : "personal mobile (digital) TV".

* guess what : realmobiletv.com is available but mobilerealtv.com has already been locked by some guy living on Sunset Bvd. If he sells Palms, I gather they're not of the tree kind.



20050904

Skype scrapers

I wonder what Li Ka-Shing's Hutchison Whampoa will do of their 5% holding in Skype. Since Skype are into big packets and Hutch into logistics, the Hong-Kong mogul could start shipping voice on containers.
I wonder what Ruppert Murdoch would do if he were in his shoes. He too is rumored to covet Skype, and I guess he should be interested in a Voice over IP concept. As a over-hip competitor to "The Village Voice", that is.
Skype scrapers usually want to rise above the crowd. To the risk of becoming perfect targets. Ask Thomas Middlehof.



20050901

Brand new KPN - Brand new USA - Same old standards

KPN-Telfort are not the sexiest player around but they do have interesting cards to play. Of course, these days, the buzz is about Telfort's HSDPA trials with HUAWEI for an expected H2 2006 TTM. But the buzz should rather be on the Chinese manufacturer gaining shares in the European handset market soon : their Huawei U636 UMTS/GPRS/GSM won't help the mainland get mainstream that early but it could be the begining of something*.
KPN are the ideal partner for a big brand wanting to build a solid base in Europe. This medium-size incumbent is gaining - if not momentum - confidence. Enough to consider taking a bite of O2 in Germany after wolfing down Telfort in the Netherlands. Enough to launch VoIP and In-car TV at home. Enough to try such unfamiliar M-VNOs as Ay-Tildiz (for Turkish communities) or MTV (for the youth - not the main brand but local channels : TMF in the NL, VIVA in Germany). Enough to have KPN Mobile, Telfort, E-Plus and Base bring cash flow. Yet the group lacks scale, thus the discussions with Deutsche Telekom regarding O2 Germany. And neither O2 nor KPN have brands, whether DoCoMo likes it or not**. Anyway, KPN's board is screaming "f..k me I'm getting famous".

The other side of the Atlantic, I found interesting Verizon Wireless' cut in unlimited 3G EV-DO charges for existing PC card subs : $59.99 per month***, that's a little bit less than 50 euros but certainly not an offensive move. If Verizon aimed at bigger market shares or even substitution, they wouldn't focus on their high value customers. Even if they're moving closer to Cingular Wireless (47M subs vs 49), they are clearly fearing churn and a fiercer competition. As a matter of fact, voice and data are being discounted (the Google Talk - Yahoo ! Dialpad - MSN Teleo war certainly won't help) and concentration is speeding up : number 3 Sprint finished swallowing Nextel and starts pushing EV-DO, Alltel just became number 5 after absorbing Western Wireless, and number 4 T-Mobile is almost up for sale (Vodafone would love to split from CDMA Verizon but they already have to get out of their KK quagmire, plus T-Mobile US may need $10 bn for network improvement and 3G licenses - Cablecos are also cited as potential predators). The market will definitely be fun watching as auctions are nearing. Remember the time when US operators would invest massively in Europe ?

Now US players are more interested in US players. History will tell whether the 600 million bucks Qualcomm will lay for Flarion and their FLASH OFDM (Fast Low-latency Access - Seamless Hand-off Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplex - Now You May Breathe) techno helped ever the microsoftian Doc Jacobs rule 4G or, to the contrary, postpone to 5G the rise of a truly universal mobile standard****.


* Bad news for Nokia, still struggling with a 17% market share in 3G.
** As expected, i-mode proved a low end and limited brand : 12% of E-Plus' customer base (1.158 M i-moders in Germany mid-2005), 11% of KPN Mobile's (725 K i-moders in the Netherlands), a symbolic 1% of BASE's (25 K i-moders in Belgium). Often praised as a successful NTT DoCoMo sales representative, Bouygues Telecom launched the service on November the 15th, 2002 but converted only 16% of their base end July 2005 (1,230,000 i-moders in France).
*** newcomers remaining at $79 and V-Cast - VW's unlimited handset access - at $15, the same price as Verizon DSL's 768K offer with a one year contract.
**** (gee, I gotta stop foot-noting my damn blogs) GSM+ is winning the propaganda war : to confront CDG's end H1 figures (128 cdma2000 operators +22 committed to deploy next year), the GSA (Global Mobile Suppliers Association) announced 96 operational GSM/EDGE networks in 60 countries out of a total of 153 networks committed to EDGE in 85 countries.



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