20070526

Vivendi Mobile Entertainment : Vizzavi's Second Life ?

The epitome of early WAP failures for many, Vizzavi happened to be a very successful portal : it opened the gates of Universal for Vivendi and of Mannesmann for Vodafone. Never mind the few commoners using the service door during the JV's short life.
This time, Vivendi Mobile Entertainment* means non virtual business. A paid business model leveraging on the group's successful subscription-based business models : Canal+ and SFR claim 10 and 18M subs in France, Vivendi Games 6M worldwide just for War of Warcraft, and Universal Music does sell a few tunes here and there too.

Somehow, the new portal will compete with a couple of powerful partners, but that could prove easier than growing up in a family of brands with strong egos. Yet, this time it may work, and not only because of the commoditization of broadband : Vivendi seems ready to play it smart and sexy.
Each member of the family looks fitter, more confident, a leader in his own field, more concious of its own role than a couple of years ago, when all frontiers were blurred but convergence still a joke.
I wish Cedric Ponsot and his teams the best, and the time of their lives.


* I prefer the full version to this Vivendi ME reminiscent of Windows Y2K OS



20070525

Dell @ Wal-Mart - everyday low profile

Michael Dell used to boast about a constistent strategy relying from the start on his own Intelligent Design. Then came the first Darwinian inputs : diversity with AMD (Intel partly outside), IdeaStorming for Ubuntu (Linux inside)...
Now this : indirect sales. Through no other than Wal-Mart if you please (one year after the trials in two malls - Dallas, TX and West Nyack, NY).
Shaking the very core of the Business MoDell... but more trivially following a natural trend : you cannot skip the real life presales customer experience.

Dell eventually realizes some of their customers like to be asked "what makes you unique ?" But some analysts will ask Dell "what makes you unique now ?"


sites :
ideastorm.com, ubuntu.com.



20070521

Google too big to be true ? - discussion

(Following "Google's next moves" (20070518), answer to the question "So you think that they have gotten to the point where their size is getting in the way of innovation?")

Not that early. They are closer to Cisco circa Y2K than Microsoft right now. Besides, their DNA is supposed to protect them from the Redmond syndrom.
Yet, size does matter. Neither at the HR level nor at the geographical level (nice Mountain View over the valley), rather in the business focus area. Yahoo! did lose some focus at a certain point, Google may go too far the other way.
Google seem stronger and reached the stage where they cannot vanish overnight, but their model remains fragile, they are surrounded by big question marks, and their evolutivity is not guaranteed.
They grow a rather logical way, never going for real disruption nor actual pervasiveness, which makes them look titanic and overexposed to regulator radars considering their age. They are not competing with key customers, but they are turning into the web's Wal-Mart. It's difficult not to make business with them but you wish there were alternatives out there and would seize any opportunity to put some eggs in other baskets. Moreover, it will be difficult for them to switch to a different spot when needed.
So they are great predators, but I feel some unease as they grow. While analysts keep applauding each time they catch a nice prey, I remain cautious.



20070519

aQuantive, the ad fad and the virtual estate bubble

DoubleClick @ Google = $3.1 Bn. RightMedia @ Yahoo! = $680 M. Real Media @ WPP = $649 M. aQuantive @ Microsoft = $6 Bn...
The Virtual Estate bubble keeps inflating. Six billion bucks, that's a lot of dough, even for Microsoft who never signed such a big check (except to its owners, that is). Besides, this QuadrupleClick extravaganza is equivalent to a 85% premium vs AQTN's Tuesday's closing price...
Is Redmond that desperate not to miss the next train and this discreet commuter living around the same station (aQ are based in Seattle, WA) ? At this price, they could even go for the real thing, a real adco.
Somehow, MSN's mother company was supposed to have at least some notions of advertising. Ditto Yahoo! & Co. One can wonder whether this really will add sense to Google, today's king of online advertising.
Well. For one thing, it was a matter of taking a fifth P, lifting a powerful leg to mark one's territory. And Razorfish (one of the franchises owned by aQuantive holdings) is not the smallest one in this pond. Actually, there was a competition raging for this prize.
Yet fundamentally, there is the necessity to distinguish the media from the advertising platform. In real life, Viacom enjoys strong positions both as a media and as an adco... but not on the very same turf either. That can be OK when you are a huge conglomerate with the ability to build Chinese Walls. But it can't work when you are used to grow following the microsoftian model.



20070518

Google's next moves

(answer to the question "As the "Google-age" continues to unfold, what do you think their next move is in changing the universe?")

GOOGLE ARE NO MORE CHANGING THE UNIVERSE. THEIR AIM IS TO HAVE THE UNIVERSE NOT CHANGING WITHOUT THEM.
The bigger they get, the more it is difficult for them to anticipate next moves in their environment.
Thus, they must at least remain best followers in innovation.
A great capacity for evolutivity and integration is required. The star must become a galaxy without losing all constistence. Something like Cisco at the turn of the millenium.



20070513

MVNOs take off in France

According to the French NRA, the ARCEP, the country reached a 82% penetration rate end of Q1 2007 with a total of 52M active accounts, including overseas regions and territories.
This base grew by 7% over the last 12 months : 4% for MNOs, and a solid 302% for M-VNOs, whose market share eventually took off from .91 to 3.42%. During Q1 2007, they even snatched 11.5% of net sales for prepaid and 15.8% for postpaid.
The percentage of users of multimedia services remained stable at 29%, and the number of SMS by active users at around 30 per month. But ARPU didn't nose dive (EUR 36.4 / month, -6%) because voice remained strong : traffic gained 14% and call termination wholesale cuts didn't kill the golden goose. But Viviane Reding's roaming wars haven't started yet. And French M-VNOs are not voice killers. Yet.
Even price-centric M-VNOs (ie Tele2 Mobile, over 350k subs) or mass retailers (Auchan Telecom, Carrefour mobile) can't go far. Data-centric Ten or M-VNOs with an ethnic / geographic focus (MobiSud, Breitz Mobile) won't bring the whole house down. Nor will such players as Coriolis or Transatel. "Entertainers" NRJ Mobile and Virgin Mobile play the card of rates a more subtle way, offering more for the same price. Both are enjoying a good position on the market (over 300k subs), the latter contributing to the success story of Omer Telecom, the Phone House / Carphone Warehouse VNO behind Breizh Mobile and the Virgin Mobile JV.
But triple- / quadplayers hold the best entry points as mobile voice rates start converging with landline ones, as mobile and landline start making one. neuf cegetel started ahead of Free Iliad, but Orange and SFR, now also an ISP, won't let their market share shrink that easily. The timing seems definitely interesting for the sale of Bouygues Telecom*.

* see "Bouygues not for sale ? How about TF1 ?" (20070509)



20070509

Bouygues not for sale ? How about TF1 ?

France's new president makes no secret of his friendship with Martin Bouygues, Arnaud Lagardere, Serge Dassault or Vincent Bollore, major players in France's industrial and communications landscape.
As soon as Sarko got elected, L'Expansion revived rumors of a takeover of Areva and its nuclear gems by Bouygues, and the eventuality of the sale of Bouygues Telecom for EUR 8+ bns. Sarko loves Amerika but AT&T may have other fish to fry than a small spot in the middle of a saturated Europe. Deutsche Telecom just sold its ISP in France (Club Internet), but KPN (a fellow DoCoMo partner) confirmed its interest. And Telefonica has been expecting some reciprocity since Orange entered its home market. Even Vodafone could prefer 100% of France's #3 to 44% of #2 SFR....
Whatever. Bouygues doesn't seem as focused on communication as it used to. Lately, the group lost TPS to Canal+, the battle for TNT / DTV's best slots, part of its soccer rights to France Television, plus his Darth Vaderish leader Patrick Le Lay is about to be replaced by Nonce Paolini, a man who was deliberately sidelined during the elections nights, these key moments when medias meet with all politicians...

Beyond Bouygtel, the sale of TF1 would be a major hearthquake.
Vincent Bollore hates Bouygues and provided the private jet and yacht to Sarkozy for his Malta honeymoon with France. Silvio Berlusconi loves Nicolas Sarkozy and has unfinished business with France. He would be delighted to help Bouygues refocus on its core industrial activities. Bouygues Telecom could be sold once the question of the 4th 3G license is closed, opening a new era of partnerships at the wireless as well as the landline level (Free Iliad ?).



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