IMS strategies: Synopsis from IMS 2.0 world forum

IMS 2.0 world forum is a must attend event .. I learnt a lot from it. Here is a brief synopsis of where I see IMS is heading to ..

Seek your thoughts and feedback especially you can identify other Operators with an interesting strategy and / or if you attended this event

As I could gather, there are six broad strategies

a) Voice call continuity(VCC) / fixed to mobile convergence

b) Blended voice : voice tied contextually to messaging or rich media

c) SIP without IMS

d) Strategies from device manufacturers(especially Nokia and Motorola)

e) Real time IMS applications (multiplayer games and other such applications that need near real time blended media interaction within a session)

f) Abstraction of the core network

(d) Device manufacturer strategies (d)is the subject of a separate blog

Most of the focus is around (a) Voice call continuity(VCC) / fixed to mobile convergence

This is a pity – but also understandable Operators are most familiar with voice

In its broadest sense, voice call continuity pertains to roaming within cellular and non cellular networks(such as roaming between cellular and wifi networks). A specific instance of this is Fixed to mobile convergence for instance BT fusion

My personal view is:

a) I don’t quite know if I would be interested in FMC as a customer ..

b) I think its being sold on cost – which is not a good idea

c) I think it fulfils an industry goal(fixed and mobile networks trying to get new subscribers from each other’s networks in mature markets)

d) In general, voice is becoming cheap .. so I am not sure that a pure voice play is a good idea

Blended voice(b) and real time applications(e) are interesting but need device support. Devices supporting IMS fully are conspicuous by their absence!

In contrast, devices supporting SIP(c) – but not IMS are very much here and so are applications – for instance movial

Abstracting the network layer through software APIs(f) – is the most interesting – but I felt very few Operators had the vision to embrace this strategy at the moment. The two big exceptions being TIM and Telia sonera – who are doing some very interesting work.

To recap, by abstracting the network layer, I mean : In an IP world, as the Mobile Internet mirrors the Internet, the Operator should focus on the core of the network and leave the edge of the network to third parties. Specifically, this means – identify the elements that can be performed ONLY in the core and then abstract them through APIs. This approach gets us away from the dichotomy of the ‘pipe’ vs. ‘no pipe’. It also means that the Operator retains control.

Finally, Operators in emerging markets like Globe telecom from Philippines were also impressive i.e. they understood the space, the issues specific to their market and how they could leverage IMS in their markets. Harvey G Libarnes, Head of innovation and incubations program , Globe Telecom, gave a very thorogh presentation

Finally, there are some interesting plays : such as Mobilkom with A1 over IP and France Telecom with IPTV strategy

To conclude:

a) At Operator level, IMS is still largely about voice and a defensive approach(such as FMC)

b) Lack of devices is the key question mark

c) Device manufacturers on the other hand have significant leverage(more on that soon)

d) Some operators are going to be very innovative – TIM and Teliasonera from amongst the attendees

Seek your thoughts and feedback especially you can identify other Operators with an interesting strategy and / or if you attended this event

Nokia s60 Widgets support: Mobile Widgets and the fulfilment of the Mobile Ajax dream

blueturtle.JPG

I am getting back to my blogging now and the last two weeks have been fantastic in terms of knowledge acquisition with both the Web 2.0 expo and the IMS world forum in Monaco . For me, the big takeaway from the Web 2.0 expo was Nokia’s announcement for Mobile Widgets in the S60 platform – so much so that I changed my presentation just on the last day at Web20expo to incorporate that announcement

In a nutshell, Mobile Widgets fulfil the vision of Mobile Ajax in unifying the Web and the Mobile Web – and by linking it to specific devices, this announcement completes that cycle full circle.

In the now widely critiqued article on the Web, Mobile web 2.0: AJAX for mobile devices – why mobile AJAX will replace both J2ME and XHTML as the preferred platform for mobile applications development – Part two I said

Ajax, mobile web 2.0 and widgets reduce time to market, encourage innovation and enable a larger target market. By potentially having the ability to develop for the web and the mobile browser at the same time, widgets offer a better value proposition to developers. If widgets can ‘call’ other widgets – powerful applications could be developed from simple components. The biggest factor in favour of Ajax today is the support of small application developers. Developers who stand to make money from widgets. Widgets which could potentially have a large target audience.

I first started tracking Widgets in a blog last year called the dawn of the Widget Widget Web , which said

a) The World Wide Web as we know it, is exploding. From its fragments emerges a new ‘container based’ Web based on Widgets.

b) Modularization of software and applications is not new. The idea is simply ‘moving up the software stack’.

c) The simultaneous evolution of widgets, Ajax and other technologies is no accident since they are all feeding off each other to create a powerful new ecosystem.

But don’t take my word for it: Newsweek called 2007 the year of the Widget and Om Malik and Niall Keneddy have been running an entire conference on Widgets

If you see my original article about Mobile ajax, my real interest lies in the power of Widgets to bridge the Web and the Mobile Web.

The Nokia announcement says: Widgets open up the mobile market for Web designers

Nokia introduces widget support for S60 and takes a significant step in realizing its vision of transforming mobility and the Internet with rich Web 2.0 experiences. S60 will be the first mobile software platform that enables the creation of widgets using familiar standards-based Web technologies. Available to all S60 licensees, widget support enhances the Internet experience on a mobile by bringing a personal Web experience to a personal device.

Why is this significant?

Because it is a logical culmination of a series of rapidly evolving trends .. specifically the realisation of the Mobile Ajax vision in the form of Mobile Widgets(in addition of course, to it’s potential as a rich browsing mechanism where it has become practically ubiquitous in next generation browsers)

Here is the chain of thought .. let’s start with money .. rather the lack of it for developers ..

One of my very first posts have been about Jerry Maguire – with his trademark phrase – Show me the money. Making money on the Mobile data industry has remained an elusive proposition for many developers.

To make money on the Mobile Data Industry, we have to realise that the Mobile Data Industry is predominantly a consumer play .. and we have to work at getting critical mass. Considering the idea of a primal soup – A Darwinian term to define an ecosystem where life may emerge vs. the Killer app – (i.e. we cannot predict a specific killer application – it is better to create an ecosystem from which a killer application may arise) .. then Long Tail applications become important

The Web already has a vast repository of information and services from which Mobile long tail applications could emerge. Thus, we need a bridge between the Web and the Mobile Web – both technologically(unified development paradigms) and commercially(unified distribution models) to get a potential critical mass coupled with Long Tail applications.

To make the Web richer on Mobile devices, we need the Rich Internet Applications (RIA) paradigm to flow on to the Mobile Web. That really gives us two options: Ajax(Mobile Ajax) and Adobe Flex(Flash Lite) . Finally, when you narrow that down to Open standards(which I also believe in) – you end up only with Mobile Ajax.

In application terms, that means rich browsers(and Mobile Ajax is becoming practically ubiquitous in next generation browsers) but more specifically Mobile Widgets because Mobile Widgets are enabled by Mobile Ajax

Which brings us to why this announcement is significant.

We have a lot of content on the Web – all easily RSS enabled. Using the same standards as the Web(Javascript, CSS etc), for the first time we can bring it to specific Nokia devices in a Rich interactive environment (Widgets). i.e. when we can target specific devices, the circle is complete end to end..

The applications(WIdgets) so created can be distributed over the Web. They are simple often monolithic applications that are suited for the Mobile device.

I know that the most common argument against Widgets is: they are too simple.

But .. so what?

Why try to create complex applications which are perhaps not suited for the Mobile device? Why re-invent the wheel when we can first bring existing content type applications to the Mobile Web? Specifically, many applications developers want access to device APIs, which are currently missing(but coming soon) with most browser based development(including Widgets)

I have been saying this for a year now, and even at the IMS 2.0 conference, Mobilkom Austria head of services/innovation Reinhard Wilfinger reiterated the same theme about widgets ..

To summarise my widgets vision/dream: Mobile Ajax = Mobile Widgets = Long tail mobile apps = Happy customers and happy developers

Ahh .. but don’t we already have WAP, XHTML etc etc? .. we don’t need all this new stuff ..

Yes, we always had browsing mechanisms – but not rich enough for customers to be interested in(and consequently pay for).

Look what happened to OpenWave .. when it missed a wave ..

As Andreas Constantinou says in a seminal article called Bye Bye browser

The announcements of the Openwave Mobile Widget, MediaCast and the Openwave Personalization and Profiling System are characteristic of the company’s turn towards content delivery services. However, this turn came too late; with OpenWave’s NASDAQ-listed stocks having fallen 50% in the past 12 months, the CEO resigned in late March and the company announced it was putting itself up for sale. For a publically traded company employing 1,300 people across 26 countries, this a major shake-up. Even more so, if you consider that Openwave’s decline is a far cry from the year 2000 when the company co-founded the WAP Forum and was instrumental in drafting the WAP specification which spawned the mobile browser business.

There is also a shift in the power base to devices(and customers) .. the topic of a separate blog .. But more from the same link (Bye Bye Browser)

While Openwave was banking on the purchasing power of mobile operators to demand inclusion of its browser by manufacturers, it chose to sideline its real customers, the handset manufacturers at its own peril. Handset OEMs who previously were disinfatuated with Openwave due to the lack of flexibility in Openwave’s bundled browser and messaging components were disincentivised to upgrade to Openwave’s v7 browser framework (codenamed Mercury), the basis for MIDAS.

So, the winner in all this is Web standards, Rich mobile applications etc.

The widgets themselves are simple .. deceptively so .. The Nokia announcement has a weather widget, a Reuter’s widget, a Spanish to English translation widget, a chat widget, a photo uploading application, an eBay/bargains type application and so on.

nokia%20widgets.JPG

All simple but useful applications – and notice that none of these require access to the device APIs.

And just to offer more proof of the power of Widgets, I saw this post on lijit.com – which shows how powerful widgets have become – effectively saying that the Google analytics widget is now embedded in 40% of all blogs

widget%20popularity.JPG

Wired article snack attack also takes up the same theme.

So, watch this space for sure ..

By the way, if you are wondering about the picture of the blue turtle .. Thinking about ‘dreams of Mobile Ajax’ reminded me of one of my favourite albums The dream of the blue turtles by Sting. In a ‘pop idol’ world, there are very few artists who still write great lyrics – Sting being one of them and you can see the simplicity and the humanity of this album’s lyrics HERE especially in songs such as If You Love Somebody Set Them Free , Russians and Children’s Crusade

Blue turtle Image source: skeletonpix

How should Operators integrate third parties into their network

For the second time in two weeks, I found myselves ‘on stage’ at a major conference and as part of an unplanned event in additional to my original event.

I was just getting down to enjoying IMS 2007 after my panel on Mobile Web 2.0 and IMS and my role as a judge in the IMS developer shootout, when Mark Newman(Informa global head of telecoms and media research and chief research officer) asked me if I wanted to chair an additional panel.

I have known Mark for some time now from my Korea days – a great guy, very clued on and also has long supported me and my work.

When he told me the topic ‘How should Operators integrate third parties into their network’ – I could not refuse! I have been historically ‘pro developer’ and it was great to question two Operators (Mobilkom Austria and Telecom Italia Mobile ) and also Microsoft about developers.

Our panel comprised of Mobilkon Austria head of services/innovation Reinhard Wilfinger, Mario Bonnet from Telecom Italia Labs and Sam Christie(Microsoft IMS – but also ex chief architect Nortel).

Firstly, you have to understand my perspective – I believe in co-operation and with various parts of the ecosystem working together by understanding each other’s view points. Thus, while it would be easy to create controversy – and believe me, it does get you some coverage if you end up with a panel ‘throwing chairs’ at each other – in my view, that’s the wrong way to go.

For instance, for all my talk of opening up the Walled gardens, I presented a contra point of view to Tim Wu’s article on net neutrality – and Tim Wu himself commented on it with my document being included in subsequent versions of Tim’s paper.

So, my overall goal was not go about criticising the Operator – but rather on ‘what can we learn from each other’ and ‘what would the most useful things for developers to know’.

To clarify my personal bias, my view is: in an IP world, as the Mobile Internet mirrors the Internet, the Operator should focus on the core of the network and leave the edge of the network to third parties. Specifically, this means – identify the elements that can be performed ONLY in the core and then abstract them through APIs. This approach gets us away from the dichotomy of the ‘pipe’ vs. ‘no pipe’. It also means that the Operator retains control.

So, my questions were

1) As a Gedankenxperiment (I love that word as you can see if you read my blog) if a developer knocked at an Operator’s door, what would be the advice from the Operator?

2) How is the Operator enabling Long tail applications?

3) What are the key success stories of working with third parties?

4) In a world, where companies are now fighting for developer support(think beyond telecoms here to also include Google et al but also Nokia) – why should the developer go to the Operator in the first place?

5) And the final question was: What specific elements does the Operator see themselves abstracting through APIs(if any)?

My inital observation was: there are not enough ‘Pony tails’ and women in the audience.

In other words, we are still an incestuous community – mainly Telecoms engineers – comfortable with an accepted view point. Although that is changing – too rapidly for some and too slowly for others – the room still reflected people who are at consensus with each other.

Here are the interesting insights that came out from the panel

a) TIM is doing some very interesting work on abstracting the network. This is a topic for a separate blog. I am always on the lookout for Operators who are changing and TIM seems to be one of them

b) Reinhard mentioned that in one case, they went live in about one week with a developer. That’s very interesting (even if with caveats)

c) Widgets are the way to go to hit long tail applications(again Reihard). Spot on! I could not have put it better myselves – and I have been saying that for more than a year now

In a nutshell

As more mobile devices support the full web(CSS, JavaScript etc etc), they support Widgets(through Mobile Ajax)

Widgets span the Web and the Mobile Web – thereby using the same code base.

They are simple and monolithic.

The data source can be on the Web(same as for the Web widget) and RSS could be used to feed the same widgets(web and mobile)

Widgets can be distributed over the Web – so you are no longer confined to being on portal (or not as the case more often is)

d) Mario and Reinhard – partners are not a single dimension i.e. some are closer others are not. Thus, Microsoft is an important partner but Microsoft is also a partner through which they can accept a smaller company. Actually, it may be a better idea for a smaller company to go through a larger partner – specially if the application hits the network elements.

e) Mario and Reinhard again .. What’s the business case? Everyone wants 100,000 euro. But what’s the upside for me? More importantly, what’s the downside(risk) for me?

f) Mario and Reinhard yet again .. Most people don’t consider the impact of customer service. That’s a huge cost to us and a major factor in rejection

g) Sam – Long tail and customer support don’t go together as in the case of other (non long tail) apps. It’s a matter of better options(web) and customer education

h) Sam – (and this is brilliant!) – A list of elements that could be potentially abstracted .. Location, billing(micro payments), Messaging, Call placement and control, Presence, Bandwidth policy(on demand/peak etc), media processing/IVR and of course Identity

i) Reinhard – countering call placement and control as an API level abstraction – but we use SIP – SIP is open. (Skype by contrast is not)

j) Sam – as a counterpoint – it should be as easy as BT 21CN

Update from Sam:

When I referred to the efforts of BT as noted in item J above, I was using their SDK as an example of telecom making its services available for use by “regular programmers”. See web21c.bt.com for more information about their offer. As I said in the session, my teenage kids can use this SDK to make calls. Until telecom can be this easy to leverage, others will have the mindshare leadership.

k) 21CN is a standard to aspire for – everyone agrees.

l) Sam – yes, we can partner – but we have to also face reality – our competitors are much more nimble and aggressive(Google and Yahoo). We will partner with Operators where we can – but where we can’t – the market will dictate that we seek other alternatives

Update from Sam:

My comments regarding partnering with carriers are captured in a more negative tone than is appropriate. Microsoft strategy is to partner with carriers to deliver services, much as we have partnered with Dell and HP in the past to deliver software. We will work with the best willing partners. As the point captured above makes clear, we have competitive threats which we must meet. This is a call to step up to the challenge, not the threat which is captured in the original post.

m) Reinhard – Would developers come to me(Operator) as first port of call? No! (A fantastically frank answer!).

We control ‘x’ percent of the market(and I forget the percentage i.e. mobilkom’s market share). But that still leaves the rest of the market unaddressed. So, no .. Developers should think of addressing the whole market because any Operator will control only a portion of the whole. This mirrors my thinking as well. A carrier deal may not be the best option in all cases.

Update from Reinhard: I stick with my frank answer, but please add one more point: although we only have a market share of overall 40 percent, per segment this may be quite different, e.g. we have a 70% market share in the business segment. Given that, it may still be a good option for a 3rd party developer to go to mobilkom, especially if he is not going for the same market share that we have. If his service may hit the ceiling (in his niche) at 20% market share, it may be the best option to partner with us and get a penetration of 50% of mobilkom’s 40% market share.

So, that’s it

If you have questions, please comment and I will try to get answers

Many thanks to Sam, Reinhard and Mario

And of course, thanks to Mark Newman. Its great to be able to speak three times at a conference like this.

Update from Reinhard: Operators have to assure privacy of their customers, there are a lot of legal restrictions/regulations, e.g. we are by law obliged to prevent SMS-Spam.

Any external service provider violating has to be put offline immediately, otherwise mobilkom austria as operator is hold liable. So we have always to question: “opening the network means exactly WHAT? for the privacy of our customers ?” This is different to the Internet world, and the problems there with e.g. Spam, Spyware, Popups, … must not swap over on personal devices like a mobile.

Mobile as the seventh mass media ..

I am at the IMS 2.0 conference in Monaco. It’s a fascinating conference hearing different views and I am glad I am attending this (all three days) – for free since I am a speaker :) . At this conference, Tomi Ahonen gave the keynote for this conference. It was a usual Tomi performance and he touched on his favourite theme – Mobile the 7th Mass Media is to internet like TV is to radio .

In the previous evening, Tomi had been speaking to me about this idea in the lobby of the Fairmont and trying to ‘convert’ me to his way of thinking. In a nutshell, the Mobile is the seventh mass media idea is based on five principles which make the Mobile device truly unique

First, the mobile is personal

Secondly the mobile is the first always-on mass media

Thirdly the mobile is the first always-carried mass media

The Mobile is the only Mass Media with a Built-in Payment Channel

It is available at the point of creative impulse

And all this, he wraps up with the idea of ‘like magic’

Tomi asked me for my technical perspective on this article.

My view is: this idea of ‘like magic’ is a refreshing change because it seems to depend on simple ‘compartmentalised’ technical innovations such as 2D barcodes

So, the focus could be to first chart these innovations and then see how media can be fitted around it.

This is different from taking existing media/content and retrofitting to ‘Mobile’.

The starting point varies. Traditionally, we start by taking media and then retrofitting it to mobile.

In contrast, the seventh mass media approach would start with a ‘fantastic customer experience from something uniquely mobile’ (such as 2D barcodes or Shazam) and then retrofit media to that experience.

One example I can think of is: the Oki’s MobileIris app

According to Wired ..

Tokyo gals stopped carrying cash and Visa cards back in the 20th century. Now when they want to buy stuff, they just swipe their phone as if it were a credit or debit card. But the convenience may cost them if they’re careless. Keitai thieves can help themselves to millions of yen in addition to running up overage charges. One way for girls to safeguard their moolah: Upgrade to a phone with Oki’s MobileIris app and snap a pic of one of their peepers. The iris-scanning software (which works on almost any 1-megapixel phonecam with focus and flash capabilities) keeps mobiles on biometric lockdown until it matches the user’s eyeball to the one on file. No match, no sale!

Not sure how much this conforms to the original article .. but thats my view ..

Lanetro Zed symposium and Peter Cochrane ..

Last Friday, I spoke at the Zed symposium organized by Lanetro Zed

at Sotogrande in Spain

Besides me, the other speaker in the morning was Professor Peter Cochrane. Peter is a legend in the industry and it was great to meet him for the first time. Also, we discovered that our presentations had remarkably similar themes and messages although independently created – which was very flattering to know

I learnt a lot in the day. The focus of my talk was on Web 2.0, Mobile Web 2.0 and User generated content.

Peter Cochrane talked about the future – but some of what he talked of – was reflected in my talk as well (which pertained to the present). I was followed by Mr Javier Perez (La Netro Zed cofounder) – who talked about the implementation (i.e. how Zed was incorporating these ideas into their product set). And finally, in the afternoon, various Operators and key industry players talked about how they are actually changing (for instance flat rate seems to be coming in many regions).

Thus, I was left with the thought that much of the future is here and now and we have many new and interesting services to look forward to

Many thanks to Ana, Maria and Eduardo for the flawless organization and to Mr Perez and Zed for inviting me over. The lovely Ana especially seemed to defy the laws of physics by being in more than one place at once!

I was especially impressed by Peter’s talk. It was great to meet Peter and his charming wife Jane. Peter was head of Research and CTO at BT and Peter’s PhD was pivotal in BT deciding to go all-digital and all-optical in the 1970′s

There are many things I could pick up – even with casual conversation – for instance: at lunch – someone asked ‘What would be Peter’s advice to Telcos? – (considering he said in his talk that very few would survive in the next few years in their current form)

I think his answer was: As the mobile network mirrors the Internet (and by extension – value shifts to the edge as opposed to the core), the Operator can survive only by leveraging what is in the core (and ONLY in the core). This means (in my view) – Identity, Payment, Location, Customer profiles.

Its little things like that ..

In the presentation itself, there were many cool things for instance 405 the movie - which is the most viewed movie ever I believe.

However, the historical perspective of industries in transformation was even more interesting for me. For example: Supermarkets went through a dropping profit margins (22%, 16%, 8% and ultimately to as low as 2%). Operators may also go through the same – hence the consolidation and the need to rethink the business model.

I look forward to meeting Peter again soon ..

I will also be following Zed more closely. Much of their new strategy is very consistent with Mobile Web 2.0 – and it is great to see content players evolve in the new world of User Generated Content

IMS 2.0 forum in Monaco: workshop on Mobile Web 2.0 and IMS

I am at the IMS 2.0 forum in Monaco and conducting a workshop on Mobile Web 2.0 and IMS and also judging IMS application developer shootout session.

If you are at this event, let’s meet. Please contact me at ajit.jaokar at futuretext.com

Telefonica announces fixed price .. Voda also on verge of making changes ..

Apologies for the radio silence, been travelling (San Francisco, Malaga and now in Monaco). I attended an event in Malaga organised by Lanetro Zed – attended by many Operators.

More on this soon .. but a quick insight is: fixed price will be the norm rather than the exception now.

Telefonica announced a rate of one euro/day. Telia sonera also announced a flat rate(forget details).

At last we seem to be moving towards real progress in this industry! Its great to see the changes.

Vodafone also appears to be announcing some big changes.

Ray De Silva from Vodafone gets my vote as someone who, in my view, has the vision and the mindset befitting the new world of Telecoms.

Watch Vodafone for some significant changes soon.

Did you attend my keynote session today at O Reilly Web2.0 expo?

It was great to moderate and speak at the keynote session at Web 2.0 expo yesterday. With more than 3000 people in the room, this was one of the largest audiences I have addressed. Many thanks to our panel Mike McCue, President, CEO & Co-Founder, Tellme; Ilkka Raiskinen, SVP, Multimedia Experiences, Nokia ; Paola Tonelli, Head of Center, Group Research and Development, Vodafone Spain

If you were there, please comment here to say ‘Hi’. From the stage, all I could see was ‘bright lights’ ! Today, I am doing my original talk on Mobile Web 2.0 (I was a last minute replacement for the keynote – thanks to Jen, Brady, Surj and the other folk at OReilly for considering me for the keynote)

My keynote at web20expo + other talks in San Francisco ..

Hello

I am In San Francisco now. My apologies for the delay in responding to emails.

In addition to my original session at Web 2.0 expo(on Mobile Web 2.0), I am now also a part of the Keynote session on Tuesday – and that has changed my schedule.

I am also way behind in my emails. So, apologies for delayed response if you are waiting on something from me.

If you are attending any of the sessions below, please come over and say Hi!

So, the three sessions I am speaking at in California in the next three days are:

Web 2.0 expo: Keynote Mobile 2.0 on Tuesday morning

Web 2.0 expo: Mobile Web 2.0 on wednesday afternoon (the original session)

and also

Mobile Monday Silicon valley at Berkeley(monday evening): Location based tagging of user generated content via GPS.

forumoxford future technologies conference: Wow – what a day!

forumoxford future technologies conference was absolutely fantastic.

What a day!!! what else can I say .. Absolutely perfect.

Please post your comments here

I am in San Francisco and then Malaga and then Monaco in the next two weeks back to back .. so mad schedule .. but I will try and post when I can ..

On behalf of Tomi, Ajit, Peter and Rebecca – Many thanks for everyone who made it a success!