My digital footprint personal data tradeoff report

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In an earlier post, I mentioned about the Digital footprint summit  for which I am working with Tony Fish

Here is another element we are considering as part of this event. For the lack of a better word, I will call it: My digital footprint personal data tradeoff report

The crux of the issue with My Digital Footprint is the propensity of customers to trade data for services

So, the question is: Could we predict the tradeoff between what elements of customer data would we share and for what services?

This is more than a survey and possibly involves techniques like the Analytic Hierarchy Process AHP  and pairwise comparisons

I seek comments on this if you are interested to know more





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The Telco/Mobile Operator Cloud – what are the unique aspects for Operators?

I have been asked this a few times .. and its a changing goal post ..
Time to do a quick recap of my views

Qs is: What are the unique differentiators/ advantages for the Telecom Operator for the Cloud?

Here is a brief summary

The Cloud
- The Cloud can be seen to be ‘on demand/metered’ access to HW, SW and services. Hence, its all about business models

- Cloud converts CAPEX to OPEX. The ideas are not new but the technology is here which makes the business model feasible. There are many advantages – ex scaling, outsourced sysadmin etc

- Amazon S3 and EC2 clouds provide access to computing resources – ex disk storage, CPU etc and are one of the best example of Cloud services

- The problems with Cloud are the same as that of any ‘outsourcing’ –security, privacy etc etc

What can ‘telecoms’ do for the Cloud?
- In a word of ‘on demand’ services – the question arises – which services can telecoms uniquely provide(typically then Operator) – which others like amazon cannot

- Convergence is one i.e. you are with one provider and that provider manages your mobility ‘seamlessly’ at home and outside and also stores all your data

- This model has some limited success(typically in fixed to mobile convergence for homes) and in enterprises but has not really taken off

- ‘Bandwidth’ is another service that can be provided by the Operator ‘on demand’

- Ericsson is widely reputed to be speaking of 50 billion connected devices by 2020. The management of these devices could be an important part of the Mobile cloud

- Similarly, management of sensors in venues such as cafes could also be ‘outsourced’ and managed by the Operator

- The Operator could also sell QOS(Quality of service) but end to end QOS is hard to sell and gurantee for Operators

- There is now a clear trend to store music in the cloud (maybe followed by other content) ex from Apple to be announced next week

- Security, Privacy and Identity will always the the forte for the Operator

Managing the Cloud ecosystem end to end for the Telecom operator
- One of the unique challenges which Operators face, especially in the West, is that Operators do not control the device.
- This has relevance in the cloud context since many of the benefits (ex security, guaranteed QOS etc) cannot be provided unless the Operator also has a ‘footprint’ on the client(device)

- This can be achieved in at least three ways: A SIM card (which is controlled by the operator), an operator managed ‘on device portal’ or devices like femtocells

considering the view that the Operator Cloud advantages can only be deployed if they have some footprint on the device, then there are three possible options

a) Security, privacy, Identity – you do not have to necessarily go via the Operator route for these, but the Operator has a long history in this space and also the motivation. I am moderating some webinars (free) at the Sim alliance on this topic and I will summarise these ideas more

b) Sensors and other devices – these are ‘greenfield’ and in some cases, the security, privacy and Identity arguments also

c) There is also a wider aspect of ‘Voice and the Cloud’ which Martin Geddes and Dean Bubley are speaking of and that is also a differentiator for the Operator

That’s my thinking so far ..

comments welcome

Why the two sided business model does not apply to telecom operators

I have been thinking of this since I attended the LTE world summit in Amsterdam.

The two sided business model has been used by many in the industry, especially @Telco2, to point to a potential gold mine for Operators by comparing to the Web.

While the concept has been popularised recently by Telco2, the two sided business model is a generic idea in macro-economics and in this post, I am going to consider the two sided business model from first principles.

I believe that it is wishful thinking to consider that the two sided business model applies to Telecom Operators.

Two-sided markets , also called two-sided networks, are economic platforms having two distinct user groups that provide each other with network benefits. Credit cards are one such example: Consumers prefer credit cards honoured by more merchants and merchants prefer cards carried by more consumers.

When applied to Telecom Operators, the two sided business model is perceived to have two sets of customers: The downstream customers (millions of consumers) and the smaller set of ‘upstream’ customers – specifically verticals such as healthcare, retail, media etc

However, when we look back at the definition of the Two sided business model, the Operative word is to ‘gain network effects’ i.e. the platform, in this case, the Operator, is supposed to facilitate network effects on both sides

The reason I question the feasibility of the two sided to Telecom Operators is: I do not see how the Operator provides network effects on either side.

A classic example of network effects is the fax machine or the telephone. The more people own a fax machine or a telephone, the more valuable it is to each owner. In other words, every subsequent user adds value to the whole system.

Do we really believe that subsequent users of the Telco platform add value to all other users of the platform?

Now, consider the ‘other’ side.

When considering network effects(fax machine concepts) to two sided business models, the members of each group exhibit a preference regarding the number of users in the other group (cross-side network effects). If firms account for the fact that adoption on one side of the network drives adoption on the other side, they can do better.

We are not seeing any examples of such behaviour (cross side network effects) when the Telecom Operator is a platform

So, not only is the Telecom Operator platform not demonstrating scale (on it’s own side of the platform) but nor is it demonstrating cross side network effects on the ‘other side’.

Let’s consider a concrete example: Network APIs (when applied to Operators)

Yes, network APIs have value to the customer but they do not provide network effects.

Contrast this to Apple and it’s developer ecosystem

Here, we do see a two sided business model ..

By many standards, that ecosystem is also ‘closed’ (ex approval of apps) but, critically, it DOES achieve scale on both sides of the platform (In this case, developers and consumers).

In contrast, the Operator as a platform is (relatively) closed, fragmented and not globally interconnected. The Telco platform is confined in most parts to one country or a group of countries where the customers are not necessarily constrained to using the Telco app (ex they could get the same service from an app from the device maker or from downloading the app from the web on to their phone). The same applies to all such ‘upstream’ customers – ex Retail, health care etc etc in relation to the Operator.

The fallacy lies in applying the ideas of the two sided business model to the Network Operator just because ‘Google / Facebook etc are doing it’. .

Ironically, the Apple developer ecosystem succeeds even when it is closed precisely because it manages to use the principles of the two sided business model to create network effects

Taking a more formal, mathematical approach in the paper Two-Sided Markets: A Progress Report – pdf Jean-Charles Rochet Jean Tirole conclude that

Because all markets involve transactions between two (or more) parties and therefore are potential two-sided markets, it is useful to circumscribe the scope of two-sided-markets theory.
The first objective of the paper has been to propose such a definition: A market is two-sided if the platform can affect the volume of transactions by charging more to one side of the market and reducing the price paid by the other side by an equal amount; in other words, the price structure matters, and platforms must design it so as to bring both sides on board.

Jean-Charles Rochet and Jean Tirole ‘s formal mathematical analysis makes a lot of sense to me because it takes network effects into account and in that context, I cannot see how these ideas apply to Telecom Operators.

To conclude:
The idea of a two sided business model is intertwined with the idea of creating network effects.

The two concepts (two-sided business models and network-effects) cannot be separated.

Hence, the two sided business model does not apply to telecoms because there is no evidence that the Operator platform can nurture scale on both sides of the platform (cross-side network effects)

Image: the roman god Janus – who can see on both sides – but is mythical :)
Image source: flickr

Could voicemail be the future of voice?

Still thinking of the MSFT-skype acquisition .. and its impact for voice ..

From my own experience, my phone is always on ‘silent’

i.e. I do not receive calls

All calls go to the voicemail (unless I see who it is and want to pick it up)

However, I do like asynchronous voice: i.e. the ability to call and leave a voicemail

Now, suppose as IP phones become popular, and phone came with a ‘voicemail’ button

This would allow me to directly ‘send a voicemail’ using a single button

I would like to receive such mail as well since it does not disturb me and it often saves writing a longish email.

Telcos wont introduce this because they fear cannibalization of voice

But customers may want it(at least I can see value in it!)

Now, here is the interesting part .. VOIP needs QOS
For that matter, any session based communication needs QOS
but voicemail may not!
and therein lies it’s significance

If you want to pay for good quality voice, you use the ‘normal’ calling feature

But most voice communication may fall outside this remit and thus voicemail could well not be an extra feature but the main service ..

But still I think it is an innovation which could come from Google or MSFT but not from Operators ..

could be wrong but there is a precedence here .. Visual voicemail is a feature customers love .. but the industry never implemented it until the iPhone came along .. so this may not be so far fetched after all!

Image source: mobisite

MSFT acquires Skype – Are we seeing a new type of IP based Telecom Operator?

MSFT acquires Skype -

Are we seeing a new type of Telecom Operator (MSFT + Nokia + Skype) = Internet + Devices + next generation IP comms?

same as

Google + Android + Google Voice

I think so .. and thats indeed exciting and a game changer

This could lead to a deeper alignment, more acquisitions and more pressure on existing Operators to innovate

All good for customers

The Mobile Web influencers list – the background

I have long been an advocate of the mobile web and specifically w3c web standards and the vision of One Web.

In one sense, this view can be seen to be idealistic in an era dominated by the iPhone and other technologies.

However, the ethos of the Web has a longer lifetime than commercial successes of specific products in the medium term.

Earlier this year, in a post jointly authored by Dr Nick Allott, I asked if 2011 was the year of the Mobile Web. In that post, we argued that the Mobile Web has a specific meaning in terms of Open standards and that increasingly the future of the Mobile Web will be intertwined with that of open source.

The viewpoint that the Mobile Web will dominate Mobile apps (or vice versa) is sexy and gets a lot of coverage. But as we say in the post, the revolution, when arrives, will not be tweeted i.e. it will be a quiet revolution

Indeed, one could say that the revolution is already here and many would not agree that the Mobile Web, in 2011, is an increasingly dominant paradigm.

This brings us to the Mobile Web influencers list.

The original idea came to me simply because I wanted to demonstrate that there is a world in mobile beyond the native apps and that it is growing at a fantastic pace.

Also, that the world of mobile web is driven by the work of many talented individuals who are doing some great work in this space

The original tweet I posted a week ago asking for #mobileweb #influencers got some immediate feedback. Among the suggestions, a small group of names kept reappearing. To this these names form the core group in the list. To this, I will add names of people who I personally know and also people and companies shaping the future of the mobile web – for example – in the domain of the Internet of Things such as @Webof things which I highly recommend

The Mobile Web has come a long way and indeed it has a long way to go and this list could be a small community effort to highlight it’s significance

So, suggestions and comments welcome.

I would like to thank @torgo and @bryanrieger for their help in the suggestions.

We will also feature interviews with the influencers on this blog

While this is a human curated list, i.e. by me :) , I am not using a specific metric such as peerindex. Instead, the objective is simply to create a list which is useful for the community.

In the next post, later this week, I will list the names of the individuals who are influencers for the mobile web. It will be a ‘living list’ and I will update it regularly.

Image source:

why would anyone use Alien Dalvik?

I have had the pleasure of meeting Benoit Schillings, Chief Technology Officer and industry expert of the Myriad group. I met Beniot a couple of weeks ago at CTIA and as usual, he had some interesting insights. I shall cover these in two blogs the first of which(this one) is about Alien Dalvik.

Essentially, Alien Dalvik brings Android applications to non-Android devices, allowing OEMs, operators and application stores to leverage the Android eco-system across a much wider range of mobile devices. Android applications run unmodified and with no loss of performance on non- Android platforms.

When Beniot first explained this concept to me, I wondered .. Why would anyone need Alien Dalvik?

Two thoughts.

Firstly, see this excellent post from Martin Sauter on Android and Open Source as A Door Opener for Deep Down Innovation. The Alien Dalvik takes this kind of innovation much beyond Dalvik and Android itself

Secondly, and more importantly, the value today is in the ecosystem as I have said many times before Am I the only one who is cautiously optimistic about the Nokia – MSFT deal?. So, that means, devices can easily be launched. HW and SW are commodities. Integration is complex but not a differentiator.
That leaves us with the nebulous ‘community’ aka developer ecosystem

When viewed in that way, any non Android device that can leverage the Android ecosystem can benefit and to me, that provides the best motivation for using Alien Dalvik

Comments/feedback welcome!

webinos – the vision explained in a simple video

I have been a part of the Webinos consortium and this simple video encapsulates a (very complex) vision. Feedback welcome

Note that the significance of webinos lies using the WEB (widgets) for interconnecting platforms

Begun the mobile commerce wars have – RIM and operators clash over m-payments data ..

Report: RIM and operators clash over m-payment data

The shape of things to come and as Yoda would say: Begun the mobile commerce wars have :) !!

I live the statement from the Bell Canada ..

However, Almis Ledas, a VP of Mobility Corporate Development at Bell Canada, said that “we expect some closed operating-system vendors will probably try to build into the handset. RIM and Apple fall into that

Interesting Operators are now calling RIM and Apple closed!!  :)

as per link above
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports that RIM is “locking horns” with
operators over control of data related to m-commerce services, in what
was described as “an example of the battles erupting as smartphones
evolve into electronic wallets.” The issue is centred on the
“credentials” which would normally be held in the magnetic strip or
chip of a credit card, which would be used to link to customer
accounts when a purchase is made. According to the report, the
operators want to encrypt and store the data in the SIM card, while
RIM wants the credential stored in a secure part of the handset. The
reason for the conflict is clear: if the data is stored in the SIM
card, it can be transferred seamlessly between devices, whereas if it
is stored in the handset, customers are tied to a specific device –
shifting the balance of power between operator and handset maker.

Also see an excellent blog from CEO on this issue Mobility 2011: The Year of NFC

HQME – and the future of mobile content delivered at home

Gigaom recently had a post about HQME called The Dream of Mobile Content Delivered at HQME. I believe commercially pragmatic innovation occurs in context of ecosystems and the home ecosystem is poised for innovation in a number of ways. Hence, HQME has been on my radar.

Firstly, before we discuss HQME, here is some context ..

The ‘home’ Cloud

In parallel to the much hyped Cloud computing trend, there is another, less vocal movement which I can best describe as ‘keeping content with you, especially in the home’. Cory Doctrow discussed the tradoff between memory and the network and said in  : Not every cloud has a silver lining

It’s inconceivable to me that network access will ever overtake CPU or hard-drive for cost, reliability and performance. Today, you can buy a terabyte of storage for £57. Unless you’re recording hundreds of hours’ worth of telly, you’d be hard-pressed to fill such a drive.

In other words, not all content will be in the cloud at all times.

Video and the impact on the network

Network bandwidth issues have been well publicised and LTE is only part of the solution but not the ultimate solution because the network can scale only so much both for cost and for performance

Thus, networks continue to struggle with news that (via CNN) ATT will soon cap its DSL bandwidth at 150G per month, which is bad news for Netflix . As the CNN article says – Nielsen recently estimated the typical customer is streaming around 11 hours of video from Netflix’s website per month. However, Nielsen’s data is based on PC and laptop usage only and doesn’t include any streams accessed via iPads, Roku set-top boxes, Blu-ray players or any of the other 250 devices Netflix’s streaming service is now available on. These devices have arguably been the biggest driver for the company’s online video growth, and they’re likely to also have a significant impact on many people’s bandwidth consumption.

Furthermore, people have an unlimited capability to communicate digitally .. SMS has demonstrated that trend very well.  So will video (if you consider ‘social media video content’ i.e. video created by users).

Finally, there is the case of http streaming

Apple has proposed HTTP streaming feature as IETF standard to overcome the limitations of the Real time streaming protocol. Even Adobe, which supported its proprietary RTMP protocol finally seems to be supporting http streaming. Thus, considering the above arguments, we have other parallel trends which are gathering pace for storage of content within the home especially NAS – network attached storage and DLNA in conjunction with NAS. All of the above implies that there will be a parallel move to store and deliver content from the home. With the coming of tablets, this need will increase even more.

Which brings us to HQME


HQME is a standard created by Sandisk, Sony, Softbank, Orange and others to deliver content to handsets via Wi-Fi. While it has always been possible to deliver content to mobile devices via WiFi, HQME adds elements like predictive (intelligent) caching, DRM and others. Ultimately, this is expected to lead to a greater level of experience which could translate to some form of SLA for delivering content over WiFi

So, HQME is interesting because:

-              It could provide a greater experience

-              Tablets could lead to greater content consumption over WiFi

-              Network issues, which have been well publicised

-              Overall momentum in the home ecosystem

-              The momentum of http streaming

Still early days but interesting to see how this ecosystem develops