Extending the definition of Mobile Web 2.0 ..

I have always been exploring ways to extend the basic definition of Mobile Web 2.0.

In it’s original incarnation, Mobile Web 2.0 extends the ideas of Web 2.0 to mobile devices by considering the core principle of harnessing collective intelligence.

In this scenario, the Mobile Device becomes the key element to harnessing collective intelligence since it is always available at the point of inspiration. The problem is – if the mobile device does not add something special – then we end up feeding the Flickrs and the YouTubes of the world i.e. chucking all the content to the ‘Deep blue sea’ of the Web where it merges with the vast oceans of already existing content.

The paradoxical challenge is to provide something unique from a mobile angle but at the same time, maintain the ethos of the Web(open standards, no walled gardens, customer choice etc).

In overcoming this problem, different strategies could be used and we discuss some here. Ultimately, I see these techniques as extensions to the core definition of Mobile Web 2.0(beyond the idea of harnessing collective intelligence)

a) Unique client side features and One click uploads: One way is to provide unique client side features. This is where the concept of ODP is relevant(both from an Operator and from a device manufacturer standpoint). This has been covered in my previous blog. One click upload is also a part of the same strategy.

b) Upload gateways: The second way is to provide some kind of ‘upload gateway’ for the lack of a better word. This is an ‘interim area’ between the device and the Web and provides the context based on a number of rules/content feeds etc. Obviously, this is a key value add for the end user. I have seen at least two operators develop/propose this concept. In addition, Shozu also works on similar principles. I like this concept because it is ‘open’ (in the sense that it does not confine the user to a specific social network) and at the same time the mobile ecosystem(operator, device manufacturer, application provider) can add value ..

A block diagram from TIM(Telecom Italia Mobile) is as below. Many thanks to Dr Massimo Valla for his kind permission to include this from his presentation.

TIM.JPG

The basic idea is: The operator adds some kind of processing in this gateway. The gateway then connects to any social network or web site (such as flickr/youtube etc). Depending on what is being added, it adds value to the user i.e. the user must want to use this gateway. For instance by adding machinetags . Other functions that could be included as part of the gateway include

- Add context to content

-  Support deferred / interrupted uploads

- Synchronize content on the mobile terminal

- Publish content on multiple sites

Orange is doing the same through pikeo (still in beta)

c) Device manufacturers/Ovi: The interim gateway, one click and other strategies are not necessarily confined to the Operator. The same could also be used by device manufacturers. Especially Nokia, with Ovi

and it’s acquisitions like Navteq have critical advantage to provide a ‘One stop shop’. The Ovi solution could be hosted at an Operator or could be independent – but in either case, it is a powerful mechanism from the end user perspective.

d) Network abstraction: Network abstraction(In essence abstracting telecoms APIs and providing the facility to mashup between telecoms and non telecoms services). Is another way. I have covered mobile telecoms network abstraction before, hence I am not covering this again.

e) Identity: This is a key telecoms industry advantage and operators like T-mobile are doing some interesting work in this space. For instance, Dr Jörg Heuer’s team working on papers like: A role-based architecture for seamless identity management and effective task separation

All of the above is a much more sophisticated proposition than simple deals like the Vodafone – Myspace partnership. It gets good press but nevertheless a good starting point.

The trouble with single partnerships is : how many such partnerships can be done? The number of social networks are increasing and the number of social networks a person belongs to is increasing as well. So, individual partnerships between Operators and social networks will never work. Hence, the need of an open architecture but with something to leverage the unique potential of mobile devices.

I am exploring this whole area in detail and any comments/feedback welcome. I will also add more blogs later this week about extending the core definition of Mobile Web 2.0 along the mobile differentiation problem.

Links from my Oxford courses: Web 2.0, IMS, user generated content, mobile web 2.0

Last week, I conducted two courses at Oxford University: Web 2.0 and user generated content (now conducted for the second time) and Mobile Web 2.0 and IMS (conducted jointly with Mark Searle)

These courses have an industry audience – i.e. not normally for the students of Oxford – and participants included senior strategists from Qualcomm, France Telecom, Nokia, Du, HP, Mobile Dhamal (India), Vodafone, BBC, three, Openwave, HP, Michael Page International and also a number of start-ups and communities

I always learn a lot from the participants and it was great to have so much feedback and many insights from the two courses.

Many thanks to Peter Holland for some great promotion of these courses and they seem to have become a permanent fixture of Oxford now.

Here are some of the links I used in this course

And also links from my blogs

Crossing the chasm with the Long Tail

Salt, Pepper and Social networking

The mathematics of Web 2.0

SEO – how to use blogs for social networking

Feedback on the book Cult of the Amateur

Communities are not web 2.0 because talk is cheap

I am not a Tag, I am a number

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

The Mobile Ajax FAQ

Dick Hardt’s Identity 2.0 presentation

Finally, my book is at Mobile Web 2.0 and forumoxford is at forumoxford(free to join) – chaired by Ajit and Tomi

Crossing the chasm with the long tail: Mobile web 2.0, mobile advertising, user generated content

In this blog, I ask the question is: How does Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm apply to a Web / Mobile Web based business? and I propose that : On the Web and the Mobile Web, you have to cross the chasm with the long tail

I was invited to be a part of the Nokia thought leadership program for the Nokia ad service facilitated by mobiadnews. This week, we had our first meeting. The group comprises some very interesting, senior people from some of the biggest companies in the world (I am not sure how much more I can blog about the attendees – but everyone in that room was very clued on – and I learnt a lot from it!). Many thanks to Nokia for inviting me.

I am interested in Mobile advertising because it is critical to the success of Mobile Web 2.0. In a nutshell, like Web 2.0, Mobile Web 2.0 involves User generated content driven by mobile devices. Obviously, the advertising model is the best way to monetise that content. I am of course a big fan of the Nokia Ad service program – mainly because it oriented to the Long tail.

I raised this (i.e. Long tail) as a critical success factor for mobile advertising services. It was not possible to elaborate in detail and I promised to blog about my reasons why. So, here we are ..

Let us first understand the advertising value chain and the flow of money in it.

Note that some of these roles are being blurred – but for the purposes of this discussion, these roles are good enough(If you can add any more insights to this value chain, please comment and I shall incorporate that)

Money starts with the ‘Brand’ the advertiser(say Nike). The brand approaches an agency. The agency works with the Media buyers – who in turn, approach the publishers(i.e. the sites /destinations where the advertisement is actually placed)

This is a well established value chain – and worked well prior to the Web.

Web 1.0 (around 2000), tried to replicate the existing advertising model to the Web. That was not very useful because the Web was behaving in a different way to the advertising industry.

I believe that to understand this, we have to understand how Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm applies(or not ..) to Web based companies .

The basic idea of Crossing the Chasm is:

A company should focus on a single market, a beachhead, win domination over a small specific market and use it as a springboard to adjacent extended markets to win. .

According to Moore, the steps are:

- Target the point of attack:

- Assemble an invasion force:

- Define the battle:

- Launch the invasion:

Source: parkerhill.com summary – as below

(If you have not read the book, see a summary HERE(pdf) )

The methodology has analogies with the D-day landings in Normandy

Question is: How does Crossing the Chasm apply to a Web based business?

More importantly, does it?

These ideas certainly do apply to a manufacturing type business .. but I believe that they don’t apply to a Web business.

Who exactly do we target?(because we don’t know who the customer is)

If we don’t know the customer, what invasion force will assemble?

Where is the battle?

What are we invading?

What if we can categorise the customer, but we are not sure that they will pay?

What if ..

We landed on the beach .. only to find sand?

Sand .. is actually a good analogy ..

Many small grains .. endless .. each with low value in itself ..

And that was essentially the genius of Google ..

Change the battle plan ..

Redefine the battle ..

Its ok if you don’t know the customer individually as long as you know the customer collectively aka the Long tail

Hence, on the Web, you have to cross the chasm with the long tail

If you think about it, it makes sense .. when a market is very tiny(as the Web was initially), it is difficult for the big media agencies to give it attention. When they did, it replicated their existing model – which does not go very far as we can see with Doubleclick v.s. Google(Google acquired Doubleclick .. and one would expect at the start that it may have been the other way round i.e. the big media model will acquire the new media)

The next big frontier is ‘mobile’ – and by extension mobile advertising

The same Long tail principles apply .. with one exception ..

Because the Mobile Web is fragmented, you need to unite it across some dimension across Operators. We see this with admob and screentonic .. both of whom have individually a billion ad impressions (across Operators) on the Mobile web.

If we naturally extrapolate this, the Nokia ad service is very powerful since it follows the same principles(Long tail) and unites the customer base across devices.

In some ways, this is counterintuitive – but the evidence of admob and screentonic shows that it is successful. As an industry, we are heavily oriented towards context .. context is great .. when we can achieve it .. but I believe that the Long tail + advertisement sponsored (user generated?) content could also be very successful – even if we had limited context – because the users would gain something of value.

Mobile 2.0 – A conceptual diagram ..

When I spoke at the keynote at Web 2.0 expo , I ended up speaking about Mobile 2.0.

I have traditionally defined the term Mobile Web 2.0 as opposed to Mobile 2.0 (which is the title of the book Mobile Web 2.0 written by me and Tony Fish ).

In our book Mobile Web 2.0, we define the term Mobile Web 2.0 as extending the idea of Web 2.0 to Mobile devices. A more complete definition and the approach behind it can be seen in the blog Of Web 2.0, Mobile Web 2.0 , Blue chairs, Blind men and Elephants – but essentially, it is technology agnostic because we can view the root principle of Web 2.0 as ‘harnessing collective intelligence’ and then extend Mobile Web 2.0 as ‘harnessing collective intelligence using mobile devices’.

Thus, the definition of Mobile Web 2.0, as we define in our book, is

a) Technology agnostic(i.e. any mobile technology can be used to capture intelligence from a mobile device)

b) Capturing intelligence at point of inspiration. The mobile device lends itself very well to this purpose because it is available at the point of inspiration

c) Adding metadata to the harnessed information (for instance location metadata)

d) And in future, we will define ‘Intelligence’ more broadly: For instance through Mobile communities, Identity, Location based tagging and mashups between the Web and the Telco world. Hence, see blogs like Bothered 2.0 from Tony ..

However, coming back to Mobile 2.0 (as opposed to Mobile Web 2.0)

Mobile 2.0 is a term first used by Daniel Appelquist and then also elaborated by Rudy De Waele .

For my O Reilly Web 2.0 expo keynote, I referred to some work by both Dan and Rudy and came up with the diagram as below.

mobile%2020%20conceptual%20diagram1.jpg

Its self explanatory and it also follows from my work with IMS at Oxford university , talk about IMS in Monaco and my work with Frauenhofer fokus .

Essentially, we talked of abstracting the network at an API level. The first step in evolution is IMS – the ultimate stage is a ‘mashup’ for the lack of a better word between the Web and the Telco world.

To come from the world today to the world of Mobile 2.0, we need a few other things to happen – for instance Open Standards, Devices accessing multiple networks and so on

Seek your thoughts on this

Feel free to use the diagram referring back to this blog. Download a high res version here: Mobile 2.0 conceptual diagram

Of Web 2.0, Mobile Web 2.0 , Blue chairs, Blind men and Elephants

chairs.jpg

I will be speaking at the O Reilly Web 2.0 expo. If you want to catch up for a meeting, please email me at ajit.jaokar at futuretext.com

I often start a talk about Mobile Web 2.0 using the slide of the Blue Chair. It looks like a silly slide – because all it says is ‘A blue chair is a type of chair’. However, I believe that it is one of the most important slides in my presentation because it sets Mobile Web 2.0 in context of Web 2.0

As McKinsey legitimises the usage of Web 2.0, I find it amusing that people still insist on creating their own definitions of Web 2.0. There is nothing wrong of course in attempting to create your own meme of Web 2.0 (independent of the O Reilly definition), but that definition must be strong enough to stand intellectual scrutiny.

If not, your new definition operates in intellectual vacuum.

When I first saw the seven principles of Web 2.0 in Christmas 2005, like for many people, it was an ‘aha’ moment for me. These principles brought together many things we knew individually but missed collectively. That last bit is very important, because the idea was to get the big picture i.e. all the seven principles – not just a few(and if you miss that, you will insist that Ajax = Web 2.0!).

There are three types of intellectual stumbling blocks to the acceptance of Web 2.0 :

a) Firstly, people who create their own definition of web 2.0 independent of the O Reilly definition. Strangely enough, they are deluded into believing that they can still create a different meme of Web 2.0. This tribe has thankfully decreased – but in the early days, you saw many of them

b) Secondly, people who create web x.y where x>= 2. This group includes all definitions of Web 2.5, Web 3.0 and so on – independent of the definition of Web 2.0. If someone comes across with similarly succinct definition of Web x.y as that of Web 2.0, I am happy to listen to it. So far, I have seen none.

c) The third group is the most common. They remind me of the parable of the Blind men of Indostan and the elephant. They latch on to a part of the definition of Web 2.0 – and like the blind men in the parable, they miss the whole elephant .

elephant.jpg

Which brings us back to the chairs ..

When I say .. a blue chair is a type of chair .. silly as it sounds, but by that I mean: you can’t define a concept in isolation.

Specifically, Mobile Web 2.0 cannot be defined independently of Web 2.0. Mobile Web 2.0 is not a new meme – it is a sub class of an existing meme(Web 2.0)

On reading the seven principles of Web 2.0, my first impression was: They were excellently thought out. However, the sixth principle was interesting for me, because it talked about ‘Software Above the Level of a Single Device. However, all it mentioned was the iPod. Being based in Europe, when we think ‘Mobile devices’ – we think ‘Mobile phones’.

Therefore, to me, there remained the possibility of expanding this segment of the definition (Principle six).

BUT .. I did not want to be a blind man of Indostan (inspite being born in India :) )

The Blind man definition(pick up bits you like and then extend them to other settings) – is an intellectual cop out and lazy thinking.

Thus, the next logical question is: How can you encapsulate all of the seven principles into a single idea? (the objective being of course – that if I could do so, THEN I could extend it to Mobile devices! – and consequently – it would not be a ‘blind man’ definition.

This led ironically to one of my shortest blogs and the most successful one till date.

It’s key insight was: Tim O Reilly’s seven principles of Web 2.0 make a lot more sense if you changed their order and then realise that the second principle(harnessing collective intelligence) encapsulates all the others. Tim commented on that idea on the O Reilly radar

So, now if we accept that Web 2.0 is harnessing collective intelligence – then Mobile Web 2.0 becomes a case of ‘harnessing collective intelligence through Mobile devices’

The only small question which remains is: What exactly is a mobile device?

For the answer to that question, I used Barbara Ballard’s Carry principle

So, there you have it –

a) Web 2.0 can be encapsulated as harnessing collective intelligence

b) Mobile Web 2.0 can be thought of as harnessing collective intelligence through Mobile devices and

c) ‘Mobile devices’ are defined by the Carry principle

So, this is what I blogged about in the Three Characteristics of Mobile Web 2.0 and we (Tony Fish and I), later adopted that definition for our book Mobile Web 2.0

Finally, why attempt to attack existing definitions and create new one?

Because shooting down something without understanding it is the quickest way of getting attention – ask any blogger – negative blogs always get traction – but the McKinsey study shows me that good quality thinking survives in the long run!

I will be speaking at the O Reilly Web 2.0 expo. If you want to catch up for a meeting, please email me at ajit.jaokar at futuretext.com

Comments are working on this blog finally – so please feel free to comment.

Of OpenGardens, Walled Gardens, Tim Wu, Net Neutrality, Carterfone and IMS

netneutrality.JPG

Probably my longest article on this blog. I am preparing a pdf version as well!

Introduction

As many of you know Columbia University Professor Tim Wu has written a fascinating article called: Wireless Net Neutrality: Cellular Carterfone on Mobile Networks . If you have not read it already, I very much recommend that you do!

With a blog called ‘OpenGardens’, this topic is clearly of deep interest to me.

However, after reading the article, I have mixed views. The paper does a great job of highlighting the issues we face today, but I also believe that it mistaken on many other issues – and I find my selves taking a stance which is much more neutral.

This article outlines my thoughts on this document.

All comments welcome to ajit.jaokar at futuretext.com.

Particularly, I welcome feedback from Operators – since many in Europe I know are thinking of Opening up the network in some way.

Synopsis of my thinking• Tim Wu’s document does a great job of highlighting the issues. It does an excellent job about raising consumer awareness and I truly hope it drives some thinking at Government and at Operator levels.

• The USA is clearly losing out due to the practises highlighted in the document. However, these practises are not a global trend. Even within the USA, there is a range of behaviour exhibited by Operators. Legislation may not be the only option here – and indeed may not be the best option.

• The whole document is primarily based on the application of Carterfone principle to the Mobile Operators. I believe that the Carterphone principle can be applied to voice but not to data unless certain other conditions are fulfilled first – which I explain below. Thus, it is not a simple case of applying the Carterphone principle to the Mobile Network Operator as is implied

• Oddly enough, the document does not talk of IMS . IMS is a huge buzzword in the industry and addresses the very same issues that are outlined here. I discuss some implications of IMS below.

• In fact, if IMS were to be considered, Skype would be one of the ‘walled gardens’ (since it does not use the SIP protocol – which means it is not Open).

• It is ironic that the Carterphone principle (opening up the Mobile network as envisaged in the document), would benefit the two closest walled gardens – Skype and iPhone. (My previous caveats about applying the Carterphone principle to voice apply in this case)

• The issues highlighted are not ONLY due to the Operator in all cases. For instance, for Mobile Video, the government is an important player(and cause) of the delay in deployment.

• The document does not address net neutrality as I understand it. Thus, net neutrality seems to be a keyword designed to gain some emotional currency

• I totally agree on the discussions about Disclosure. There may be a case for legislation in this sector only i.e. enforcing greater disclosure

• Cooperation and not competition is the key!! In that sense, unless America does some fundamental rethink, it may well lose out in the end because of it’s culture of competing vs. collaborating

My core belief (and potential solution to the issues outlined by Tim) is :

In a consumption driven world, competition is the driving force. In a creation driven world(User generated content, Web 2.0, Mobile Web 2.0 etc), cooperation is the driving force. For reasons I explain below, we have no choice but to accept a diverse ecosystem in the West and legislation is not a good option. Instead, we should look at cooperation and try to identify the dimensions of the stack where we can get critical mass.

Analysis

Verizon: Firstly, let us acknowledge that Verizon is an exception. Much of what they do will be severely limiting in a Web 2.0/Social networking world – simply because Version customers will want to interact with other people (and not just other Verizon customers). Like AOL, Verizon will find out that it can’t maintain a walled garden for ever. Now, having got the issue of Verizon out of the way, let us look at a wider picture

Skype and iPhone: The irony here is – Opening up the network in this way, would benefit two of the closest gardens : i.e. Skype and iPhone

No IMS?: Surprisingly, Tim Wu’s document does not mention IMS at all. This is strange, since IMS is such a huge buzzword in the industry today. IMS also plays directly on the net neutrality issue in the sense either you can view it as a walled garden (at the packet level) or you can consider the disruptive potential of naked SIP (SIP sans IMS). Or, like I do, think that IMS has some unique and powerful features and depending on how IMS is implemented – this can be truly beneficial to the industry.

In any case, what you can’t do is – ignore IMS!

SIP and Skype : If IMS were to be included, Skype does not look that good – because it does not follow an open protocol(SIP).

The Carterfone principle: The whole document is primarily based on the application of Carterfone principle to the Mobile Operators. In my view, The Carterphone principle can be applied to voice but not to data unless the Operator creates APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) first. Carterfone without APIs is practically useless.

We can illustrate this by considering the example of Visual voicemail in iPhones. As a consumer, I love the idea of Visual voicemail. That’s EXACTLY what I want .. I hate trawling through old voicemail(and worse still – remembering keys to go next voicemail etc etc!). So, it’s fantastic to have visual voicemail .. BUT guess what? Supporting visual voicemail implies that the two (device and Carrier) are intimately in bed! Else, it is not possible to provide such a service(because the voicemail is stored on the network and not the device) .

Thus, in a Voice scenario, Carterfone may work – but in a data scenario it will not because to make a useful service(like Visual voicemail), the device needs the network to be abstracted(i.e. API enabled).

Tim Wu’s document misses this critical point.

An API enabled Mobile Operator actually is a very powerful proposition – something which I have been speaking of for some time as in Mobile web 20: Re-engineering the digital ecosystem with converged digital processes in a Post IMS/Quad play world and in The Long tail and Mobile Web 2.0

Thus, it’s certainly not a case of directly applying the Carterfone principle (i.e. Plug and Play) to Mobile Data scenarios.

Carterfone, APIs and Pipes: Note that in the above API enabled scenario, the Operator is still the hub(and not the dumb pipe). The Operator still retains leverage in this situation by managing the APIs

The iPhone : Tim says: >>> Most importantly, to the surprise of many, the iPhone only works on the network of a single carrier, AT&T Wireless. The hundreds of millions of consumers who are not AT&T Wireless customers cannot make use of the iPhone unless they become AT&T customers. The question is, why? Why can’t you just buy a cell phone and use it on any network, like a normal phone? <<<

No No No .. I was not surprised. See my longish post saying ..

The iPhone is extraordinary not because of it’s UI but because it’s the tail wagging the dog ..( But the real question is: How many dogs can it wag?)

In fact, as I said before, the iPhone CANNOT work with multiple Operators with ease because it needs to be in bed with the Operator to give that unique user experience. The client alone cannot deliver that user experience and I use the case of Visual voicemail to indicate why

Locked phones? In light of the above, locked phones are not such a big issue.

Qualcomm/ BREW : One must also not ignore the role of Qualcomm/BREW in this – i.e. Qualcomm by definition leads to a certain ecosystem biased towards a walled garden at all levels(network, apps and so on). Outside that scenario, the Mobile world is a lot more open place.

Mobile TV and Video: Mobile TV and Video is hobbled not by the Operators – but due to a range of other factors(including broadcast spectrum allocations in Europe). Thus, it’s a much more complex issue – with standards wars at technology/broadcast level – not a pure Operator scenario

Developers: When the article talks of developers, the implicit assumption in the document is : you need to be on the carrier portal/deck. However, Operators were never good at marketing mobile applications. In other words, even if you did end up on the deck, it may not translate to sales(excluding simple content such as games etc).

The Operator Portal also degrades the brand of the content/application owner. They are not the destination site. If they were strong or innovative enough, they would not want to be eclipsed by the Operator’s brand and instead would want to promote their own brand. Clearly, the off portal market in the USA is not mature (and this is the real problem i.e. short codes need to be viable and interoperable). In the UK, companies like Yell Mobile , which have good content, are primarily taking the off portal route rather than the Operator route.

Thus, if the service is compelling enough, I would not recommend the Portal route. As a corollary, I think the off portal market in the US needs to improve. That’s a real issue

WAP vs. Full browsers : Yes, WAP was a crippled version of the Web. That’s true. But, in the early days (low bandwidth, low CPU etc), was there an option? i.e. could we have really been able to run full web browsers on mobile devices? Today, as we increasingly see the uptake of full web browsers on Mobile devices from companies such as Nokia and Opera, these vendors are redefining the landscape(and I include Widgets amongst browser technology). This will lead to applications that span the Web and the Mobile Web using technologies like Mobile Ajax, Mobile Widgets and WICD () – making long tail applications possible.

Openmoko : Openmoko has been on my radar. It is interesting. Time will tell. It still needs a network though and I am not sure how that works.

Net neutrality: Defining net neutrality primarily in terms of terms of the Carterphone principle sounds limiting to me?

The mobile network is different and the Mobile network operator is not anonymous : Mobile network operator is not anonymous. In fact they are a (longish!) phone call away. But accessible none the less. Which means – they can be sued. I don’t think this fact can be ignored. For instance, if you get Spam on the Web, there is not a lot you can do. However, if you get Spam on the Mobile web – who do you call? Your Operator. In practise, this fact cant be ignored.

The security risks are also higher due to the personal nature of the device. For example, a child may be using a PC(which may be also be used by an adult). But in case of the child’s phone, it is always being used by the child – hence more risk.

The point of these arguments is: there are genuine reasons to be cautious.

Why change and why now?

In the last few years since I have been tracking this space, why is the idea of opening up Telecoms networks suddenly of interest?

Here is the reason in my view.

Telecoms is a mature industry. Voice revenues still drive a lot of the business. Data revenues are small, indeed non existent. However, Voice revenues are under threat from VOIP – and that’s a universal phenomenon – on both fixed and mobile networks. (albeit on mobile networks today, it is still mainly voice over WiFi).

Also, in most places in the West, the markets are saturated. Thus, growth prospects for voice alone are limited. In contrast to the Web companies, especially with the uptake of Web 2.0, Telecoms is not an attractive investment proposition in light of the (lack of) future growth.

Hence, witness the interest in Fixed to Mobile convergence (fixed operators trying to poach customers from mobile operators and vice versa) and acquisitions in fast growing markets like India. And also an interest in Mobile data for the same reason.

Hence, market forces will drive the change in many part of the world. Other factors also help. Better devices, mature networks, better browser technology etc.

Case for Government intervention?

Tim Wu’s article concludes: “At some point, I think Americans are going to put their foot down and say, ‘We won’t tolerate this anymore.’”

That’s true

The real question is: What could be done and should the government intervene?

In fact, a government mandated environment leading to fantastic rates of growth and innovation does exist today. It’s in South Korea where the Ministry of Information and Communication (South Korea) or MIC Korea plays the overseer role.

But is that the best way? Is that the optimal path in the West?

Think about this, Korea and Japan have made great strides internally but have struggled (and will continue to struggle in my view) to export their Mobile/communications services globally. That’s the dark side of government mandated standards – high internal growth – low global growth.

Thus, excessive government intervention is the wrong thing in my view.

See my blog Should you be thinking of Vegas on your next flight to Tokyo or Seoul? .

Speaking of Governments, ours(UK) did intervene in the dot com boom and reaped a windfall through the 3G spectrum auctions . By saddling the Operators with debt, I believe the British government squashed a golden opportunity for British companies to take a lead in the Wireless space. We definitely don’t want more of that – Thank You!

The Web itself is not exactly free of monopolies. Take the case of Microsoft. However, with my Randian / free market view, I would oppose any regulation on a company like Microsoft. After all, if customers truly hated it, they could change(nothing prevents them from making that choice – much as the same with leaving a specific Operator). With Google applications , that may well happen – but the changes will be market driven and not regulatory.

The search for disruptive elements

The problem with the Mobile industry is: It’s still very arrogant. We talk of concepts like Mobile Youth – but the IPTV industry does not talk of ‘IPTV Youth’ or the fixed line industry of ‘Fixed line youth’.

Once we accept that there are only ‘people’ and they want to communicate irrespective of transport mechanisms – then we have to ask ourselves the question : Where can we get critical mass?

In my view, no single Operator can gain critical mass because the Operator’s subscriber base is fragmented along many dimensions, for instance devices, Pre pay-Post Pay etc.

So, disruptive elements can arise if we unify the stack across Operators along some dimension

At the application level, I believe that Web technologies will do this (especially full web browsers, widgets etc). At a network level, the combination of devices and WiFi/WiMax is the key.

These will happen organically – and we will always have to get used to working in a diverse ecosystem.

Co-operation as a solution

To recap, I believe that :

In a consumption driven world, competition is the driving force. In a creation driven world(User generated content, Web 2.0, Mobile Web 2.0 ), cooperation is the driving force. For reasons I explain previously, we have no choice but to accept a diverse ecosystem in the West and sweeping legislation is not a good option.

In that sense, unless America does some fundamental rethink, it may well lose out in the end because of it’s culture of competing vs. collaborating. In contrast, the European / GSM approach is more collaborative and suited for future growth

To conclude

1) We will continue to live in a diverse ecosystem and that is good

2) Operators will end up with Open APIs and that’s not a Pipe.

3) As we go from a consumption driven ecosystem to a creation driven ecosystem, cooperation will be a driving force and not competition. The need to communicate will overcome outdated business models.

4) Market forces are the main drivers to opening up in Europe(the need to show growth to the investment community for example)

5) In my view, government regulation is the wrong step(except in cases like Disclosure). A combination of Web enabled devices, devices supporting WiFi etc will drive disruptive applications.

PS: In an ironic twist, the March 26 issue of Business week’s best performers – has Google in the top spot. But guess who is on No 7? Yes, Verizon communications!. It indicates to me, that if customers want to leave a service, they will – but they don’t at the moment because they are primarily consuming content.

However, I believe that the future will belong to those Operators who open up because the creation driven ecosystem will demand that (in contrast to the current consumption driven ecosystem)

Image source: Image shack

http://img145.imageshack.us/img145/5388/internet3yc.gif

A note on comments:

I have been having a lot of problems with Spam. Hence, comments are disabled. Please email me at ajit.jaokar at futuretext.com and I shall be happy to post your comments

Mobile Youth is a fundamentally flawed strategy!

A recent article in the Times said

The growth of mobile internet use, by comparison, remains sluggish. More than half of respondents said that they never browsed the internet, and only 8 per cent said that they used it once a week or more. When it came to daily use, the figure dropped to 1 per cent. (Of the more than 7,000 12 to 24-year-olds surveyed by Forrester Research,)

I believe that : Focussing on Mobile Youth is a fundamentally flawed strategy!

Before you start to throw reports and stats at me pointing otherwise, think of this – why don’t we have IPTV Youth or (horror) Fixed line youth?

Sounds stupid does it not?

Youth will always use technology to communicate! (Operative word is to communicate)

I have always believed that ‘mobile’ is an incredibly arrogant industry – we think we are somehow unique and in some way carve an ecosystem radically different from the Web. (Again – show me a report on the potential of Fixed Line Youth if you think that the Mobile industry is not arrogant!)

We got into this mindset because we saw consumers in Japan accessing the Mobile Web and then kids in Scandinavia adopting text messaging

But, as I said in my 3GSM presentation on Mobile Web 2.0, there is a battle for eyeballs. MySpace is a competitor to the ‘Ringtones’ – and at the moment, the Youth are going MySpace. MySpace and their ilk of course are not technologies but mechanisms for communication – same as Text messaging.

Which brings me to my point that ‘Mobile’ Youth is not a relevant concept

Now coming to the Forrester report.

That report is confusing terminology

a) Mobile Internet is not the same as ‘Mobile Web’ – I think from the references they are talking of the ‘Mobile Web’ when they are saying

More than half of respondents said that they never browsed the internet, and only 8 per cent said that they used it once a week or more. When it came to daily use, the figure dropped to 1 per cent.

The Operative word is ‘browsing’ i.e. Mobile Internet would be any IP based Mobile device (not just Mobile browsing)

b) The critical assumption in this report is: ‘The Youth are not adopting the Mobile Web’ - but That does NOT mean the Mobile Web is itself not taking off i.e. others (non youth) are driving the adoption of the Mobile Web

The Mobile Web (using my terminology as above) is alive and well and growing very fast. Increasingly, with browsers supporting Web standards like JavaScript and fixed rate pricing, the Mobile Web will grow.

Both Admob and screentonic have announced a billion ad impressions on the Mobile Web. So, the evidence of the growth of Mobile Web is there.

There is no evidence of Youth adopting the Mobile Web in the West .. but like I said .. that does not matter either way .. Because the Mobile Web is aligning to the Web and the Web is for everybody!! (In that sense, I agree with the Forrester report i.e. Youth are not adopting the Mobile Web)

So, like the Youth, let us grow up as an industry and not be defined by the past

At 3GSM, I spoke to a major Operator who said that their plans are now for ‘everyone’ i.e. services which can be used across the board. That’s right! That’s more money for the Operator. Youth have little or no money! So, expect to see Operators take up more holistic services.

Speaking of Operators – Operators have a great role to play here – as the Web and the Mobile Web become convergent, Operators can play a big role through technologies like IMS (that’s a major area of my thinking at the moment i.e. the synergies between Mobile Web 2.0 and technologies like IMS). If you have synergies between Mobile Web 2.0(User generated content, Mobile Web and network technologies like IMS), please email me at ajit.jaokar at futuretext.com

Mobile Youth, like I said, is irrelevant in the larger scheme of things and focussing on Mobile Youth means foregoing the larger revenue streams from the entire population

I am speaking at 3GSM in Barcelona ..

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I am speaking at 3GSM! – more soon – but if you are attending would be great to meet up.

I will be the moderator and Opening Speaker for a session entitled ‘Technology Breakout Session: Mobile Web 2.0’ speaking on ‘Mobile Web 2.0 – Separating Fact from Fiction’ and then moderating the session

Although it will have a technology focus, I guess we will be covering all aspects of Mobile Web 2.0

Addendum: Mobile Web 2.0/IMS/User Generated Content/Mobile Network Operators training course ..

Here are some addendums to the previous post on Mobile Web 2.0 and IMS

Many thanks to Tony Kypreos – Executive Vice President of T-mobile and course attendee last week (Web 2.0 and User Generated Content training course at Oxford University) for his help and feedback in creating this addendum

All the below in context of IMS/IP/Web 2.0/Mobile Web 2.0

Cross functional appeal for an organization (Marketing/Sales/Customer service/finance/legal)

Cross industry:

Media Companies – impact of User generated content and Long tail

Telco -

Impact on own network,

a) Product development cycles (no longer sequential and silo big scale no iterative, testing and pilots. New services no longer siloed products – mash-up of products to make new services. Fail early and small to learn from customer feedback to succeed big.)

b) Business cases (current approach is not flexible enough to take advantage of fast moving world of User Generated Content),

Legal (much wider reaching and grey areas of collaboration rather than typical vendor buyer),

marketing (understanding of new social trends and competitive threats), service (new ways of servicing more demanding customers)

c) Brands – how can brands develop better interaction and achieve wider reach e.g. via mobile?

d) Consumer trends – how are consumer social trends fuelling the web 2.0 evolution and what are the implications of this to Telco and Media companies?

including Personalisation, Productivity (how web 2.0 is increasing effectiveness (e.g. WebTop applications)), Participation (no longer passive consumers but adding to the community (e.g. myspace))