Of OpenGardens, Walled Gardens, Coffee, Fax machines, Ostriches, Dodos and User generated content

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Of OpenGardens, Walled Gardens, Coffee, Fax machines, Ostriches, Dodos and User generated content

(I like that title :) )

Opengardens 2.0?

When I spoke at the European parliament last week, after the talk, I mentioned that: with a blog called OpenGardens – you would expect me to speak about opening up the walled gardens, Open systems etc etc

While I am best known for my second book Mobile Web 2.0, I co-authored a book before called ‘OpenGardens’ (which is now also the name of my personal blog i.e. this blog)

When I first wrote OpenGardens, the industry was a very different place. In just a few years, things have changed dramatically. Its not just the most obvious changes – such as Operators like Hutchinson 3G doing a total U turn – its all about the direction things are heading and the accelerated pace of change we are about to witness

The debate between OpenGardens and walled gardens is accelerating – especially in the world of user generated content.

Every time you drink a cup of coffee, think about this: Do we want to model the industry on coffee or on the fax machine?

A cup of coffee is a personalised, unique consumption experience. It does not matter who else drinks coffee as long as the cup of coffee I consume – is perfect for me. In this scenario, to create that perfect cup of coffee, someone needs to manage the whole process and provide the superior experience.

We are happy to let that happen.

And to pay a premium for that experience – just ask Starbucks if you don’t believe that!

But then you have a fax machine ..

It absolutely matters how interoperable the fax machines are .. In addition, no one needs to manage that experience for us .. As long as we can connect to people ..

The experience itself is in ‘connecting to people’

Think of that when you have a cup of coffee ..

Currently our industry is all about coffee .. But really it’s all about fax machines in the minds of our customers ..

More so as we enter a user generated content world .. After all, user generated content is about communication. It needs interoperability.

That means no walled gardens simply because our customers want to communicate!

I have two motivations in reviving the OpenGardens debate in this series of posts ..

a) I intend to open up the book OpenGardens i.e. there will be a print version but all the content will be freely available online

b) The debate has moved on a lot since we last addressed it – and the pace of change is accelerating as I discuss below

The problem

From a customer standpoint, there are two problems

a) Interoperability and

b) Service discovery

By extension, developers also face the same problems. Thus the walled gardens debate is much more than ‘on deck – off deck’(or on portal/off portal – in Europe) – it is a wider interoperability debate. Indeed, the biggest successes we have seen so far are from applications that are cross Operator. For instance: admob and screentonic , each of whom have a billion ad impressions per month

Note that: the content consumption industry will always exist. Yes, there will be some elements of personalization and some context we could add to content. But primarily, I would argue that it is not ‘our’ industry. It rightly belongs to the Warners and the Disneys of the world.

Times they are a changing ..

But things are changing ..

There are two related changes :

a) The network is becoming dumb and

b) Power is flowing to the device – because devices can access more than one network type – and are at the edge of the network.

And the third change is the launch of the iPhone.

In a post iPhone era, people will simply not accept an inferior user experience(WAP/XHTML) – and the excuses that ‘That’s all we can do on the phone’. Increasingly, we will see richer and better interfaces which customers are willing to pay for .. leaving behind those who continue to insist on the old style interfaces

Much of my thinking is driven by these two core principles. To me, it follows that for an application to be successful, it must be cross Operator.

Apart from some enlightened operators opening up, providing fixed rate tariffs etc .. (and may their tribe increase!) ..

There are four key ways to bypass operators

a) At the application level, encourage Open source, unify the Web and the Mobile web. Distribute applications over the Web. This is where Ajax and widgets come in.

b) At the network level, encourage devices that support multiple network types(Wifi,Wimax etc). Make the network agnostic(and hence communications seamless and Open gardens). Ensure that the Carterphone and net neutrality principles are applied.

c) Discovery: Application discovery and distribution should be over the Web.

d) Billing : Bill via the Web.

I seek thoughts on this

Much more coming soon .. including the carterphone principle , Net neutrality, legislation, Mobile Widgets, IMS etc etc

Finally, in popular mythology, the Ostrich is famous for hiding its head in the sand at the first sign of danger . Even as the iPhone is almost upon us and customer expectations are going to change forever, we see a lot of Ostrich like behaviour amongst many players in the industry today.

The risk is .. we end up not like the Ostrich but like another VERY rare Mauritian bird

Image: wikipedia