Tim O’Reilly of the Web 2.0 fame posted a great article on the NYT. He talks about the fact that mobile handsets are gradually becoming more and more like wireless PCs. This change along with the movement within the service provider community is forcing the”Open” mantra within the mobile landscape.
He reflects disappointment behind the fact that even though carriers are beginning to listen, they have not welcomed this with open arms (no pun intended). I am in complete agreement with his recommendation to the carriers to adopt the well established internet/PC business models.
I have mentioned this in a previous post. Carriers are inching towards the “Open” thought process versus taking the bull by the horns. Its simply a strategy where they are hedging their bets with a safe approach.
Yes I understand that they do have a lot of responsibility with the service. Even if they get past the thought that going “Open” won’t hurt their business, they are still worried about security and privacy. Carriers are concerned about the fact that Open models will lead to malicious content on the device, which results in a bad experience and increased customer support calls.
Most of you know about the infamous mobile Walled Garden, enforced by the big boys of wireless in the North American market. This approach to lock the wireless offering has led to significant frustrations for the service / application providers and subscribers alike.
The walled garden established by the carriers, allowed them to have complete / absolute control of the content and applications provided to the handset base. Application developers were at the mercy of the carrier, who essentially controlled most aspects of their business. Right from application functionality, marketing/promotions, discoverability and pricing were mandated by the carriers. Unless you as an app developer partnered with the carrier and deployed a native application (specific to their ecosystem), you had little or no chance of getting into the mobile ecosystem.
As expected this mode of operation has received lot of heat from the application developer community over time. Lately the pressure increased after Google decided to throw down the gauntlet for the upcoming 700 MHz auction. Google’s approach to open the ecosystem drew a fair bit of heat from the incumbents (obviously).
However one thing was certain, the mobile landscape was about to change. Participation from Google and other’s with the strong software background meant that carriers could no longer operate in a close environment. They would have to rethink their strategy.
I haven’t done much weekly wrap ups on this blog. However the past week was pretty interesting. That’s why I am thinking of introducing a weekly post where I cover some of the salient stories for the week.
Google Officially in the Race
Google, who has been dabbling with the idea of participating in the FCC’s 700 MHZ auction, finally confirmed their participation on Friday. This comes after various discussions on this topic during most of 2007. The news was first broken by WSJ.
Here is some of my previous coverage around Google’s wireless plans.
In the previous post I covered the importance of XOHM (Sprint’s WiMax service) and why you as a consumer and mobile enthusiast should be interested. Today, I bring you some additional details (from Sprint Blog, yes their blog) about this new service.
Below is video by Sprint executives Barry West (Chief Technology Officer and President, 4G Mobile Broadband) and Atish Gude (Senior Vice President, Mobile Broadband Operations) to their internal teams. The video clearly reflects Sprint’s commitment to this business unit and their vision around this space.
Over the past month I have closely covered the story around Google’s efforts with the FCC. Google had ponied up a sum of $4.6 Billion for the auction if its conditions were met. Again the conditions were (from Google’s press release):
This had surely irked most of the big boys. FCC eventually agreed to including 2 out of 4 requests and factored in “Open Applications and Open Devices”. Google was definitely not disappointed with this reaction and they welcomed the change and positive thinking at the FCC. However it was unknown that if Google will still continue to participate in the auction scheduled for early 2008.
Yesterday Google CEO Eric Schmidt, speaking at a conference said that Google will “probably” participate in the auction next year for the wireless spectrum, which becomes available in 2009. This is great as Google is doing a much better job in representing user’s interests and championing free speech.
Here is the video of Eric Schmidt’s presentation:
Sprint for past year or so has been chasing the WiMax carrot. The carrier has been facing huge subscriber churn issues since its merger with Nextel. Many think that WiMax would be its savior. WiMax is a key wireless technology, which will allow true broadband speeds (in multiple mbps) to be delivered over the air. The technology is critical as it will enable further reach than typical cable or DSL infrastructures.
Sprint who is spending billions in the WiMax network officially announced its brand name yesterday. They will launch this service as “XOHM” (pronounced as zoam). The website went online late last night with basic service information.
So why should you as a consumer care? How does this impact you? Let’s look at some of the elements of this service, which will potentially have some social impacts.
Verizon Wireless as you know has been one of the big boys of the wireless sector here in North America. Along with AT&T and Sprint they continue to dominate the North American market. However for quite some time they have been known as the slow poke of the wireless world, always trailing Sprint or AT&T in adopting new services. Focusing more on their network rather than bringing new services to their end users. I am sure you all have seen those goofy “Can you hear me now?” campaigns.
However today marks the arrival of a newer, fresher Verizon when they announced release of Mobile Web 2.0. All this started late last year when they announced a key deal with YouTube. Since then VZW has been gradually improving its mobile offering to become the best in the North American market.
Through the Mobile Web 2.0 offering VZW will bring the following key features to bear:
- New Content Channels — Local, Connect, Tools, Commute, and Money give customers more options
- New Search functionality — Allows both keyword and local search, enabling customers to easily discover sites and content of local interest
- Improved graphics — Tabbed graphics, top headlines with photo links and refined features improve cursor discovery and location
- Dropdown headlines — Allow customers to select up to seven headlines, for faster access to articles — 10 Button Navigation — Improved navigation and menu structure provides customers with more options on each page
Carnival of Mobilists is a collection of web’s best posts for the week around mobility and wireless. This week the carnival is hosted on Mobile Messaging 2.0 (one of my favorites).
My post about the Free Ad based Mobile Service has been featured on the blog as one of the interesting posts in the “Carrier/Operator News”. Check it out.
Thanks to Debi for selecting the post and adding this link.
Most of you know about the FCC auction of 700 MHZ spectrum. I covered it in a previous post. Google had thrown the gauntlet in the game and asked FCC to include following conditions in the auction rules:
- Open Apps
- Open Devices
- Open Services
- Open Networks
They backed up the request with $4.6 Billion cash. These rules would have really allowed other players to get into the market and offer services, which would loosen the stong-hold by the big boys. This would have been a great win for the consumer.
The ad based free mobile service concept isn’t new. It has been discussed on Tech/wireless blogs, Business 2.0 columns and in tech conferences. Virgin Mobile USA also decided to jump into this by offering their Sugar Mama service. However Virgin’s service isn’t as seamless as everyone imagined.
Enter Mosh Mobile, the mobile MVNO service which is in Beta right now. Yes you heard me right, its in Beta. Very novel concept for a MVNO. Not only that, it is also restricting access to only a chosen few (kinda like early days of GMail). The site boldly states “you gotta know someone to be someone”. These guys continue the edgy theme popularized by Boost and the late Amp’d. They havent announced who is the base carrier. My speculation is that the carrier is Sprint. I am basing it on the fact that Mosh’s site states that users must dial *2 on their phones for customer support, which is standard on any Sprint phone.
Let’s talk features. The guys at Mosh Mobile are going whole hog with this offering. They intend to offer the whole enchilada in just One plan. The language reminded me of Steve Job’s presentation of Leopard’s pricing (comparing to 1000 price options for Vista). Again the service says, “We only offer one plan… who needs more… when the one you have kicks ass?”. Nice…
Over the past few weeks I have posted about how Google rising to create its own network for a “Any Device, Any Application”. Although related, this one is not the next in that series.
Earlier today, I was reading John Dvorak’s article on MarketWatch about Google Sprint partnership and what it means to other big boys. We already know of Google’s big move with the FCC and its open ambition to become a big time wireless player. This move has ruffled AT&T’s feathers to some extent, drawing out some interesting public statements.
Now Google and Sprint have formed a partnership around WiMax and are planning a range of services. Sprint already hurting after its merger and losing some of its tech savvy customers to iPhone. We can easily bet that Sprint would be looking for an iPhone killer. Something which can reinstate its image as the most technologically advanced carrier.
Few days back I wrote about the rise of Google as a network provider and their offer to the FCC. Read it here.
This is the second installment of the article. Continuing on their path of strategic moves within wireless, they made another announcement today. Google is partnering with Sprint to deliver WiMax services
On the first glance this doesn’t look much as the press release only mentions that Google will offer search services on the WiMax devices. However this is just the begining.