OpenGardens change this manifesto – draft – part 1

As some of you know, Tony Fish and I have been accepted to create a manifesto at changethis. Considering other acceptees include Tom Peters, Seth Godin, Mark Cuban, Amnesty International and Al Gore – we are quite happy

I am syndicating the manifesto here in draft form for any comments feedback


We first advocated the philosophy of OpenGardens in our book ‘OpenGardens.

In this article, we discuss the philosophy of OpenGardens from the perspective of the mobile data industry. The mobile data industry is primarily concerned with the deployment of applications and content to a consumer audience over a wireless network. In a majority of the cases, that wireless network is managed by the telecoms operator (also known synonymously as the ‘carrier’ or ‘Mobile Network Operator’). Examples of a Mobile Network Operator are Vodafone, Verizon, NTT DoCoMo, T-mobile etc.

For consistency, we will use the phrase ‘Mobile Network Operator’ or ‘Operator’ in this document.

The central idea we are advocating here is – the industry as a whole – should work together to remove walls(both commercial and technical). This will unleash innovation and reduce fragmentation leading to more choice for the customer and increased revenue for all players in the industry.

On first glance, it seems an ‘idealistic’ proposition which could be realised only in the distant future. But it’s not as futuristic as it first sounds. We believe that it’s an idea whose time has come.

Market forces are conspiring with savvy customers to breach arcane revenue models. Inbuilt within the walled gardens argument is the belief that the customer is ‘dumb’(docile/resistant to change/ill informed about choices). In reality, the customer has a choice and she will take it – whether the industry likes it or not!

There are three reasons why OpenGardens is the ideal model for the industry:

a) With the rapidly changing competitive landscape, customers have a choice and customers will take the best option. In other words, OpenGardens will happen anyway.

b) The mobile device is ideally placed to become the focal point of digital convergence. The more open the industry is – the more it can benefit from the emergence of digital convergence.

c) OpenGardens overcomes the problem of fragmentation in the industry leading to more services, greater innovation, happier customers and increased revenue for all players in the industry.

It’s later than we think ..

On the surface, the industry seems structured, regimented and sometimes arcane. But, the tectonic plates are shifting. It’s later than we think.

Ironically, change is perhaps more visible and urgent in a relatively isolated country – than it is for us in mainland Europe.

Take the case of Greenland. With a landmass more than three times the size of Texas, two thirds of the country is permanently frozen. One look at the map below shows that settlements are based only around the coasts – with hostile terrain separating the cities. The entire population is only around 50,000 people!



The sheer size and a relatively low population spread over a geographically hostile terrain – means that operator has a tough job on their hand in building and maintaining the infrastructure.

Everything in Greenland is costly(and house prices are comparable to London because its so expensive to build – i.e. all components have to shipped in). But try telling the telecom customers to accept higher prices! As everywhere else, the increasing use of VOIP(Voice over IP) is chipping into voice revenue. There is a strong push for flat rate data charges – which are being resisted (in a losing battle). Customers want more for less .. in a place where clearly the infrastructure is very expensive.

Note that, one can perfectly sympathise with the mobile operator’s predicament. But sympathy does not equate to commercial reality. The only choice is to evolve, embrace the new and profit from it.

Here is another sign of change – from a warmer climate(Barcelona – Spain). On May 23,2005 the mobile content direct to consumer conference was held in hotel Hilton in Barcelona. Presenters included among others – Disney and Vodafone. It’s indicative of interest among content providers for reaching the customer directly. Thus, OpenGardens is already happening.