One Stop Selling

Sony and Samsung are showing us how major players are bracing up for tougher times. This could be the final call for big players to simplify market interfaces.

Sony Pictures Entertainment decided to organize itself around one global platform. The US and international divisions will merge to address more efficiently a market that demands swiftness and reactivity.

Samsung will regroup all its local mobile and nomadic brands around the
samsungmobile.com hub. At home, the brand needed some taming : Samsung being ubiquitous from real estate to life insurance, most business units had to develop specific brands for each line of products (ie Hauzen for air-con, Raemian for appartments). And it was not only a matter of branding : Samsung Electronics managed specific CRMs for its mp3 players (Yepp), laptops (Zaigen), and mobile phones (Anycall). Synergies seem obvious, to the point of scaring competitors : getting a share of a Samsung customer will get even tougher.

But Korea has reached the point where choices had to be made in favor of convergence instead of competition. The country wasted too much time and money in sterile IPTV wars between telcos, cablecos, and broadcasters, threatening Korea Inc.'s overseas (see "
IPTV in Korea", "IPTV wars and WiBro truce ?"). Korea could display its technological know-how in convergence, but no commercial offers.

A converged broadcasting-telecom regulator was created last year (the KCC - Korea Communications Commission), and a few months after mobile leader SKT wolfed down #2 fixed broadband operator Hanaro, landline leader KT is merging with #2 mobile operator KTF. At last, triple play offers and VoIP are taking off. Korea Telecom is advertising massively for QOOK, its new brand for convergence.

The current crisis will accelerate concentration, and a few ambitious players will emerge stronger in both size and R&D. Korean, Japanese, European, or American players cannot afford keeping a defensive profile for long : after stimulating R&D and investments (TD-SCDMA, stimulus plans), China will probably force mergers among telecom manufacturers the way it is pushing carmakers to join forces.


Google Voice : Next Stop GrandCentral Terminal

GrandCentral becomes Google Voice. It took less than two years for Big G to integrate this vocal hub into its maze. Eons in this kind of business, and the switch is not even completed yet : only GrandCentral commuters can enjoy Voice services for the moment.

Looks as if Google were preempting some vital territory either ahead of a major move by the competition, or to put some soft flesh on some hardware project to be released in a not so distant future.

The Gphone is already there. It can talk, it has the Latitude to follow you and your pals on the move, it can keep you connected. It can help you reconsider your fling with the likes of Skype.
But Skype appears to be ahead in many ways. And Google (except maybe when it goes 3D) has this tendency to look rather flat, lining up new applications without getting the most of each one, without optimizing the network effect, often turning potential killer apps and killer combos into if not dead ends at least major disappointments.

GV's main feature remains the unified number for voice and SMS : your "Google number". A rather meaningful branding for a key lifetime ID. Google Voicemail (Google Videomail should follow) could come as a booster for Gmail (at last, sonic eavesdropping !)... or even Orkut, if Mountain View hasn't abandoned all hope for its globalization. Google adds several apps generally provided by local loop operators. It's a deviceless device, a virtual PBX, and a potential entry point to the corporate world.

Google brains care less about hardware than about who you are, what you do, whom you know, where you meet, and most of all what you're looking for right now or what you may need sooner than later. Don't be surprised if they ask you to give them your number.


Kindle for iPhone (no iRead for iReader yet)

Kindle for iPhone* is a non-event.

From the beginning, the Kindle device was meant as a proof of concept for the Amazon platform (see "
Kindle Kindle little star - take my Word" - 20071121**).

Amazon is into distribution, not hardware. Amazon v. Apple is more about coopetition than competition, Kindle v. iPhone more about complementalness than substitution.

Let's make both Jeff and Steve happy, and let's say you own both a Kindle and an iPhone : you don't carry your Kindle all the time, but now you are definitely more likely to purchase a new book, and if you can't wait you to have a peek, you can even read the first chapters on your way back home, before Whispersyncing it to your most comfortable reader.

I could bullpooh you for hours about other fascinating seamless user experiences, but I'll leave that to people who are paid for it.

Besides, Amazon is pushing hard Kindle the platform to set the standard, and the device comes only third after reach and speed. Even early adopters are feeling the pinch right now, so surfing on the iWave makes more sense to Bezos than waiting for the next Schumpeterian tsunami (if any).

And oh, within iPhone's reach, if your Kindle want to have a chat with your iPod Touch, that's perfectly okay, but they can't sing along yet (Kindle plays MP3, and poorly). Well, I guess neither of the two shopkeepers are minding right now...

This buddyship ain't no honeymoon, after all.

And who knows ? If tomorrow Apple happens to launch iRead for iReader...

* "
Amazon Brings Kindle to iPhone" (20090404 PC World)

** and following episodes, including "
Kindle 2 v. Print" (20090210). BTW, Amazon didn't go all the way in the fight for text-to-speech.

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