iPhone rocks Seoul and sacred cows

KTF will probably sell between 300,000 and 500,000 iPhones in Korea, and Apple make a big splash for Christmas.

The buzz has been building up for many years, people have been massively preordering iPhones (over 60,000 units, to be compared to an estimated 400,000 base of smartphone users in Korea), and well ahead of the official release (yesterday), massively purchasing iPhone accessories.

As we mentioned before (see "
iPhone wakes up Korean mobile internet market"), Apple will probably be associated with a boom in usages which should have happened much earlier : it's less a matter of design and hardware (Samsung and LG handsets have caught up in user experience), than a litany of missed opportunities, protectionist regulations, and terrible marketing (dissuasive pricing for data, app stores launched much too late...).

If Korean operators and manufacturers have no one to blame but themselves, at least KT / KTF will enjoy the exclusivity for awhile. And the context is perfect : hipsters don't have much choice for Xmas, all high tech fields considered. There are fantastic TVs out there, and the World Cup is coming soon, but that's a completely different range of prices.

Speaking of which... a "basic" iPhone 3GS 8 giga costs KRW 132,000 (about USD 112.6) for a 2 year subscription at the "basic" rate of KRW 45,000 (about USD 38.4 - the kind of basis many MNOs would love to boast). The 32 giga reaches KRW 365,000 (about USD 311), but the price goes down to KRW 264,000 for subs with a KRW 65k plan, and to zero for premium customers (KRW 95k / mo).

That's much more aggressive than what competitors expected, but Apple and KT obviously learnt a lesson from China, where the device struggles. Apple didn't want to fail in the homeland of two major rivals, and decided to forget about short term rentability.

What does it leave for rivals, beyond negative campaigning ? Differentiation by technology ? There's no DMB on iPhones, and that's the key techno for mobile TV in Korea... for the moment. And SKT customers pay for DMB TV, not KT customers...

You get it : the only way is to join the price war. In other countries, rival operators could counter the iPhone with a wider range of terminals but here, LG and Samsung control 90% of the market. Samsung and SKT united to discount iPhone rival Samsung Omnia2 to the max, dividing the price by two or three, and giving it away for subs who pay KRW 95,000 per month. The beauty used to sell for KRW 900,000, and incredibly enough, price cuts only started a few weeks ago, and by not even 15% ! So instead of acting as leaders and making the most of their window of opportunity, they wasted it milking the stupid cow.

By the end of the year, that will change. And the local smartphone market shall look a bit smarter.

mot-bile 2009


Femtosat, but not seamless yet

Covering France has always been a headache for operators : unlike in the UK, population is very much dispersed, and 75 million visitors roam the country every year with a special fondness for bullet trains, mountain hiking, or kayaking down remote valleys.

Curing the great "digital divide" between broadband France and forsaken France became a national cause, local administrations pushing their own agendas to prevent businesses from leaving their regions, and national authorities forcing operators to pool resources in non-telecomly-strategic areas... As of today, total unbundling is available only in 30% of France Telecom POPs, and even Paris is struggling : rolling out FTTH remains a painstaking process from one old building to another.

As far as 3G is concerned, SFR is supposed to cover 90% of the population and 98% by 2012, but remains closer to 80%. Orange is not respecting its own obligations either. Bouygues Telecom ? even further downhill... Many wonder how potential newcomer Iliad Free could roll out a brand new nationwide 3G network...

But for the public, all 3 incumbents are seen as Scrooges : either of the Scrooge McDuck kind, sitting on a mountain of money and refusing to spend it, or of the Ebenezer Scrooge kind, bitterly sitting in the dark while everybody else expects Santa Claus Free Mobile for Christmas.

SFR obviously refused the role and announced two innovations for this week (for the moment, same brand but different worlds) :

=> a Satellite Internet Pack with Eutelsat (from EUR 29.90 / month for a not so broad band - max 3.6 Mbps and 4.7 GB -, but unlimited browsing between 11 pm and 7 am)

=> a femtocell quad play booster, Home 3G (via SHD, a.k.a. Société du Haut Débit, a SFR / Neuf Cegetel unit). Theoretically, Home 3G's EUR199 adaptor can be plugged on any ADSL box, but not all equipments will be compatible :

4 SFR 3G subscribers will be able to communicate at the same time on the same femtocell, but if they fully enjoy the service from day one, they may adapt their usage after receiving the first bill... and reconsider the virtues of the ADSL box they had in the first place.

Nevertheless, the best defense is a good offense, and being the first to strike at the macro and micro level necessarily paves the way for the next steps.

mot-bile 2009


Mating season for media : Steve & Ruppert / Time Inc, Conde Nast, Hearst & Meredith

Gossip of the day : Hearst heart Time heart Meredith heart Conde Nast. It heard it through the newsvine, or rather the NYT : "Group of Magazine Publishers Is Said to Be Building an Online Newsstand", the fabled "iTunes for magazines". The New York Times itself being an item on the Amazon Kindle platform*.

The previous day, the same NYT had a story about that flirt between Murdoch and Balmer : jealous of Google's curves, Baldy would like to keep the moghul's treasures for himself : only Bing would be able to reach inside its pages**.

In Korea, courting may turn predatorial : antitrust laws allow press groups to develop bigger TV channels. Big fishs are literally venturing into / vulturing around the pond.

The hate / love relationship between traditional media and new media remains in this transitional phase when nothing seems to be granted, even for major stars. No one seems to be sustainably bankable.

So major studios people tend to cling to behaviors they feel comfortable with : investing in the latest technologies to appear up to date, promising blockbusters with Ocean's Twenty Six castings... but they still have no script, no storyboard, and no director whatsoever.

So what they're basically trying to do is to put everybody together for one night in some sort of Kodak Theater, betting on favorable buzz outside and last minute deals inside, forcing smiles and spotlights to the point no outsider may notice the collection of butcher knives.

mot-bile 2009

* Speaking of platforms and music : Brian Stelter also mentions in his article YouTube's Vevo music video platform.
** "
News Corp. Weighs an Exclusive Alliance With Bing" (NYT - 20091124)


Sonyntendows, beware : Freebox now a game console

mot-bile 2009 - First a set-top box remote control looking strangely like those you play basic videogames with on a boring flight, then some new games, now a developer toolkit... the gaming war is definitely on between French MSOs, and Free-Iliad wanted to shoot first, ahead of Xmas and of likely anouncements by SFR & friends (Universal). Ahead of December the 17th, too, the date when regulator ARCEP is expected to deliver its verdict for France's last 3G license.

Freebox should by no means be likely to compete with Sonyntendows (Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft). But as an enabler for low end gaming experiences, an emulator, it could have some impact. Game console manufacturers cannot expect to rule over The Big Screen as easily as they used to. Besides, The Big Screen is already as much a PC monitor as a game console monitor, when it's not already itself an internet enabled device.

The only question that seems to matter is the future of what is still called video game industry. Some day, players will have to move beyond the old PC/Mac - Sony/Nintendo/Microsoft - Java/BREW comedy. Without rejecting as false the choice between safety and ordeals.

More to come before Game Developers Conference 2010, next March in San Francisco.


Gizmo5 found its Google Voice

Skype owners were considering snatching Gizmo5 as a B plan, should the legal matters with founders turn nasty.

Turns out Gizmo5 had a G plan : Google showed them the money, made a star of founder Michael Robertson, and yes, "
Google Welcomes Gizmo5".

Gizmo5 welcomes visitors on its website with the less enthusiastic "Gizmo5 Has Been Acquired by Google". Note that "New user signup has been suspended and will return when we re-launch" Gizmoogle6.

Now that it owns a PSTN entry point, Google Voice will probably make use of its Dark Force : the fabled "dark fiber" it's been piling up and laying out everywhere.

Now let's see how cellcos swallow this VoIP doubledecker.

2010 should be an interesting year for anti-Big G movements (i.e. in the book section, Google may face a global front after reaching an agreement with the US Authors Guild).

mot-bile 2009

UPDATE 20100219

See this video from "Google Voice, Explained" (Google Voice official blog 20100219) :


iPhone Worm Raises Its Ugly Head : Rick Astley

Worse than I Love You ? Never Gonna Give You Up.

Rick Astley made history as the first iPhone worm... down under. Not in the charts, but in Oz land : victims are plagued with Astley wallpapers on their handsets*.

After Monty Python's SPAM, England brings us another laughingStock (Aitken, Waterman) for online generations to come : the ultimate musical junk from the 80s already gave its name to "Rickrolling".

Why Astley ? Because Ashley. "Ashley Towns, a 21 year-old unemployed programmer from Wollogong, Australia", guilty for creating the worm and furthermore, for his terrible musical taste.

mot-bile 2009

* "
First IPhone Worm Spreads Rick Astley Wallpaper" (PCWorld - 20091108)

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