20061226

Year Of The Golden Pig - sorry, no golden geese

This toddler of a blog (established 2 years ago) wishes you a happy new year.
A few days in advance for the solar calendar and a few weeks for the lunar one, according to which 2007 happens to be the Year of the Golden Pig. People born in such a year being supposed to grow wealthy, you want to keep an eye on new ventures.
Yet, investors are worrying : 2007 looks like a financial terra incognita. Something's gotta give somewhere and somewhen but what, when and where ? Up or down ? East or West ? Not to mention Middle East ?
Did China delay its decision on 3G just to wait for a Year of the Golden Pig and give TD-SCDMA a good fat sheng fuishy boost ?

Does the year of a filthy animal mean even higher profits for mobile adult contents and mobile casinos ?
Do Vodafone's new ambitions in India mean the "I" in BRIC will experience a sudden concentration in telecoms... or does the rebranding of Bangalore into Bengaluru mean Indian players will at last claim the spot they deserve in the global markets, sidelining former colonial powers ?
Will big medias end up in manure or will they eventually understand M-VNOood may not be, for them at least, the best way into the US wireless market ?
Stay looney tuned.



20061222

Is SKT's MelOn-opoly MP3 game over ?

One day SK Telecom is fined 3.8 billion wons for illegal subsidies and the next 330 million for anticoncurrencial behavior in the mobile music field (these days KRW 1,000 = about EUR 0.827 or USD 1.090).
Even ten times lower, the second punition could be most bitter to swallow : if "subsidies" were a simple breach of clearly written rules (decision by Korea Communications Commission), market dominance demanded a much more complex analysis and reached a much higher level (decision by the Fair Trade Commission). In any case, two blows in a row cannot be considered good news.
The KCC gave SKT 60 days to allow the subscribers to his service to play MP3 files downloaded from other providers.
As seen earlier in these columns, MelOn is Korea's favorite flavor in the juicy market of mobile music, with millions of subscribers paying 5,000 wons a month to download from their mobile phone as well as from the web. Yet, it gives SKT the music major a 60.2% market share on the mobile music market which is only slightly over that of SKT the mobile operator. This isn't what I would call a MelOnopoly. But from the "customer share"'s point of view.
SKT appears to be eventually experiencing the drawbacks of its pervasive strategy, and may not remain free of entering any given market without assuming the burdens of his leadership in mobility. At home at least.
On the other hand, compelled to open up its entertainment / financial / you name it activities could lead it towards even higher ambitions.



20061221

Pandora's set top box

The F.C.C. ruled that municipalities had to take quick decisions (within 90 days) regarding video franchise agreements with telephone companies. Due to excessive delays, telcos often cannot compete with cablecos on their highly profitable turf (Comcast & Co charge an average $43 per month, 5% more than last year and double the rate of 10 years ago). And the battle reaches beyond services : rolling out a fiber optic network can be prevented on the ground that it can deliver television and video.
But Verizon & Co haven't won yet. Is the F.C.C. the relevant authority ? Is the American broadcasting ecosystem ready to open all gates at such a crossroads (convergence, DRM issues, free DIY n-to-n casting for everyone...) ?

We already know that USA doesn't mean United Spectrum of America, but things are not that easy in the fixed arena either, where Federal, State and local layers also pile up. We already know that US operators always finish last in the lobbying race : media / content groups are tough opponents and high tech players make sure the game remains open to all of their kind.
Ten to fifteen years ago, Europeans would dream of a US like market where local calls would be free and hundreds of TV channels available to almost everyone.
Nowadays, I guess many US players are envying their European counterparts. If they cannot even leverage on the scale of their own country / continent, they should be worrying about yet another set of competitors (Asia, Middle East, you name it).



20061219

Skype Web TV - Life is a Venice beach

"The best of the Internet with the best of TV" ? Here's The Venice Project by Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom*. Maybe the founders of Skype were jalous of MySpace and YouTube. Maybe they think they could have asked more from eBay.
If they want to outscore these video whiz kids, I'm afraid they'll have to offer the worst of the internet with the worst of TV... in which case they'd better rename it The Santa Barbara Project.
Unsurprisingly enough, the techno relies on peer-to-peer and the founders are not worrying about DRM issues. They can talk about advertising revenues but they can't fool us. Their customer is not the end-user anymore. They understood the customer is really king when he means business and offers big bucks. Especially when he knows how to negociate with major broadcasters and editors. Heck, he could even be one ov'em.
For those who missed the previous platforms, please take your ticket.

* "according to FT.com :
Skype founders to offer web TV" (20061217)



20061215

TF1 Sat bis with Bouygtel ?

France's TF1 group seems to be ready to strike again. After losing ground to competitors (LCI challenged by iTelevision, BFMTV and France24, TPS wolfed down by CanalSat, TF1 itself targeted by TNT bombers - French free DTV channels...), TF1 took a large slice in Groupe AB.
That was enough to revive rumors of a new satellite adventure. France's leader in audience would start late but with a total freedom of movement (no M6 around anymore), a strong brand portfolio and a vivid crash test experience.
Other rumors can now be reignited as well : a
SKT-TU Media like combo with Bouygues Telecom, new international partnerships...
For the moment, TF1 Group focuses on France's 2007 Presidential Elections. An ambitious satellite program demands a powerful launching pad and Martin Bouygues has been betting on Nicolas Sarkozy from the very start.



20061212

Crash Test Thumbies

The ITU released "digital.life", the 8th part of its "ITU Internet Reports" started in 1997.
In this episode, the young wizzard Harry Wireless Potter experiences new powers with his thumbs. Even the nerdest readers may learn some useful tricks like the origins of the word "avatar" : "I'm not wasting my time in silly games, Mom - I'm paving the way for the descent of God". Dubya may object this rather Darwinian approach doesn't leave much room to the Intelligent Design theory according to which the rise of the Thumb Generation was programmed from the start by the God of Operators.

Like all reports, this one was obsolete even before being released, but as an history book it has some virtues and I found it quite refreshing. It was like reading a old series of articles published ten years ago (remember the digital world of tomorrow, the sociological and psychological impacts, the new id and all those paradigm shifts ?) but with the actual figures instead of wild projections.
Now 2 billion mobile subs could have sounded wild ten years ago.



20061207

888.com mobile and other crimes

You can draw but you can't hide. Poker and casino invaded our screens and not only in the late night hours, where other non glamorous but lucrative programs used to rule (porn, TV shopping...). People enjoy watching other unathletic nobodies become wealthy superheroes just like that, sitting at a table. Later, when they turn to dumb their online gaming automats, they believe each winning streak is due to their talent and each losing one to bad luck. Gibraltar-based virtual casinos can submerge all European medias with their greenbacks ; they know the ROI will be huge.
And this goes far beyond the Rock and your usual sin cities : if Macau SAR gladly returns to the colonial rule of the roulette, Tony Blair also wants to turn Brighton & Hove into Western Europe's Las Vegas. Never mind those medical reports on gambling addictions (nor the statistical reports : half a million French citizens hooked to online poker within a few months !). In the US, one can wonder if the theo-cons who recently managed to have some speakeasies banned are not themselves involved in legal joints. Religious fanatics actually served as a convenient cover-up for the main lobbyists : Sin City Inc.

France's most vocal moral safeguards happen to be the two public-controlled incumbents : La Francaise des Jeux (lotteries) and the PMU (horse racing). Both enjoy legal monopolies and mean to keep them. They can read Nielsen Netratings and they know that in the UK, The National Lottery only holds 35% of the sweepstakes sector, followed by a pack where William Hill (6.3%) and Ladbrokes (5.6%) seem about to be overwhelmed by the new tide (6.2% for Partygaming, 4% for Pacific Poker, 3.7% for Cyberslots...).
FdJeux sponsors a cycling team for a few million euros a year and just couldn't let newcomers massively sponsor most of the Ligue 1's pro soccer teams. The incument got Bwin's top executives arrested but also, and as a side effect of this rather mediatic event, the attention of Bruxelles. As a proof of its moral virtues, FdJeux just decided to start a campaign to sensibilize the public to the dangers of over-gaming... after decades of shameless aggressive marketing campaigns.
Meanwhile, 888.com Mobile was launched late last month. Anyone can download the program for free (but for the telecom- and, of course, the gambling part) and the company claims a 85% coverage of the European market because 340 devices are supposed to be compatible. The die is cast, "faites vos jeux, rien ne va plus".
US players crushed by the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, European players waiting for a clear legal framework... will Asia become the ultimate eldorado (even if the 2nd Mobile Gambling Summit Asia didn't bring any major disruptions) ?
MNOs want their share but fear for their image... They can do cute things* but big bucks may involve meeting with wiseguys and goodfellas, or even getting nasty. Dealing with timeslots backstage definitely looks simpler than dealing cards or managing slot machines for your customers.


* see "iPub by O2 - boozer friendly" (20060301)



20061201

You are Commander of the T-World

SK Telecom are sipping T more aggressively than a Liptonic britton. After TTL, Ting, TU Media* - , T Roaming or T-PAK**, they branded their new one stop online experience T-World (tworld.co.kr), yet another layer between SKT and its services brands. The logo appears on many ads and looks like a big orangish T (which should please both T-mobile and Orange) popping out of a screen. It nurtures its own "events" such as a T World festival.
The T World website mostly constists of a frame connected to all the other brands websites.... Definitely less interactive than "You are Commander", SKT's latest MMORPG.

Remember the MOMU*** ? SKT decided to launch an international version of its online Mobile Museum. Forget the "museum" thing. This "Global MOMU 2006" (eng.momu.co.kr) appears to be a display for SKT's latest services, technos and solutions ; the perfect pedagogic tool to serve its international ambitions.


* now dubbed "Real DMB TU" - a positive way of distinguishing SKT's pay S-DMB from free T-DMB, which doesn't hold virtual market share as we recently discussed (20061124) in "
3M DMB subs - SBSM on its way", in which I also mentioned RFID, but without mentioning SKT and KTF's latest shows of mobile RFID and instant payments at RFID/USN Korea 2006 as well as across U Seoul. Not the University of Seoul but "Ubiquitous Seoul", the expression covering the NFC / WiFi / Wibro / Whatever cloud envelopping Korea's capital city. Koreans love to label everything with popular expressions. Like "Well Being" (pronounce "wellbing"), "Ubiquitous" is becoming a "must have" flavor. All high tech brands have now their ubiquitous exhibition lounges for trekkies (including SKT's U World, a virtual town exposed in last year's edition of U Magazine and a little bit more animated than T World).
** see "
Pervasive Korea in US, China, Vietnam..." (20061030)
*** see "
Finding MIMO ? after MoMu and MoMa" (20050422)



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