another brick off the walled garden ..

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from Ovum my comments below.

11:45 3 UK: another brick off the walled garden

Dario Betti

Mobile operator 3 UK is to give its subscribers mobile access to the Internet outside of its own ‘walled garden’ of products for the first time this month. From the end of September, 3 users will be able to pay £2.50 per month to download up to 5Mb of data from the Internet. However, access will still be restricted to sites that 3 has deemed “optimised for viewing on compatible video mobiles”.

Comment: In 2003, at the time of launch, 3 had a very different strategy. It saw itself as a media company and wanted to be in complete control of what was on offer to its users. After its false start, 3 has re-focused its business more on voice tariffs and less on media services. Opening up the so-called walled garden is a necessary step: no single operator, even a large one, can offer the range of services that users might want. Also, it is good to offload some of the risk for new applications onto publishers. As long as the operator can charge for traffic and for billing, its business model is sound.

The service does not yet offer a complete web browsing experience. 3 only allows certain sites to be accessed on its handsets. The threat of bad user experience is very high: navigating the Internet on a mobile phone can be frustrating. We think that 3 is restricting access more to protect its users than to shield its own service line up. The operator says it will make 'hundreds' of such sites available in the coming months, and is offering users a chance to nominate those that they want to be made available.

However, 3 is not knocking down its walled garden, although it is taking one further step towards it. This is an add-on, paid-for service; only keen users will be attracted to it. The problem is how to charge for access to the worldwide web/WAP. In a prepaid dominated market, it should look at offering this in other packages and not just as a subscription. After all, other operators are already opening their portals or offering web browsing options. T-Mobile is counting on its 'web and walk' offer, O2 will launch the open garden i-Mode service, and Vodafone Live! intends to open up its off-portal access even more. This is an area to watch. Expect plenty of talk about walled gardens, open gardens and parks in 2006.

In many ways, 3 epitomises the walled gardens concept. While it seems to be getting some benefits commercially, like AOL, long term it will not work out. AOL, at least had access to exclusive content through the time Warner deal. 3 may need some such suitor. Even then, AOL was forced to open up and I predict so will 3. As the comments from Dario(ovum) below show – 3 is still way off from all the other operators and it’s just a matter of time before the walls break down completely

emailed to me by my good friend Lore Ridings of Prasada

Image courtesy : Pink floyd – the wall – a complete analysisA fascinating site – well worth a visit