Questions & Answers
What do you see as the biggest mobile industry successes of 2009, in the light of the tough times everyone has experienced over the past 12 months, and also the biggest disasters?
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Chris Goswami, Openwave director product management:
Whilst niche mobile internet services on phones and dongles have undoubtedly been a success during 2009, failure could be lurking around the corner.
The day has finally arrived where demand is close to rivalling the hype and networks are straining. The demise of the mobile internet is a very real fear and could lead to widespread disillusionment.
The first issue at hand is how operators can deal with the imminent tidal wave of data usage heading to their networks when their customers are used to enjoying all you can eat platforms. Secondly, operators need to assess how they monetise this bit-pipe use of their networks.
In the short term, operators can take quick action to ensure they are optimising their network bandwidth using data management and compression techniques. The ability to rapidly adapt to meet changing customer needs, as well as support new protocols, content types and applications is critical to competitiveness.
In the longer term, bandwidth management will require more than just optimisation. Some operators are starting to move towards tiered usage models as with home broadband services. If so, they must decide how to migrate their users to new pricing structures. They must also ensure they are equipped to analyse what data is flowing through their networks, who is using it and why they are using it. Smart operators will be able to distinguish themselves from their competitors by offering premium services to premium customers.
The expanding eco-system of the mobile internet will also bring new business opportunities for operators. New devices mean new mobile Internet services and additional sources of revenue, as seen through the introduction of the iPhone and mobile apps.
The scale of the challenge facing the mobile industry is immense. It is paramount that operators consider how their networks will withstand the tidal wave, and further, how they can monetise it. Some have started, but more need to follow.
Mike Hopkinson, Pama:
From an accessories perspective probably the biggest success of 2009 has been the iPhone, and as a result of that the spin off of a variety of associated products.
With approximately eight million users, the iPhone, available now on both Vodafone and Orange, could double to 16 million users by March or April 2010.
What we have seen is the general public recognising the user benefits of the device, pursuing the ability to utilise it to the max in a way not seen before and, having purchased a quality item have the desire to surround it with the same.
Just one example of this impact is the public take up of the rapid advancement of the Parrot range of car kits and head units, with hands free conversation and music combining into one complete car kit solution. Parrot’s new MKI range has enabled for this to happen along with the privileged ‘Made for iPod’, ‘Works with iPhone’ recognition.
Taking a very inward view that fact that Pama has successfully grown its wholesale and retail businesses in the recent tough times is something that everyone at Pama should be very proud of. It’s been a fantastic team effort.
The biggest disaster for the market has been Sterling’s drop against major currencies such as the Euro, and of course the Dollar, allied to customer confidence in the economy. All of this has meant pricing stability has been difficult and everyone’s creditworthiness questioned.
Playing safe has been the name of the game, which is not normally conducive to good times in a fast moving world of technology and development.
The successes of 2009 include the further improvement of mobile data networks and the move to be closer to a completely flat monthly mobile billing model that includes both calls and data.
As business mobiles now are mostly smartphones, their value is dictated by the software solutions they are capable of running, including business solutions like mobile CRM which requires good quality 3G or 2.5G networks to operate reliably.
Also, flat rate mobile tariffs that include no additional usage elements help businesses plan their cash flow more effectively, needed especially in the current economic climate.
RIM’s continued evolution of its business smartphones is a continued success, especially the exceptional BlackBerry 8900 which has set the standard for a business smartphone. And finally, the removal of the UK iPhone exclusivity with O2 will allow all consumers across all networks to enjoy this excellent piece of hardware!
Ronnie Nag, Quore managing director:
I think it goes without saying that that the biggest success for 2009 was mobile broadband. Mobile networks, as well as fixed line providers, have all pushed broadband.
However the problem for 2009, and this will spread into 2010, are the mobile dealers that don’t understand the term ‘valued customer’; money is still being thrown at acquiring customers even though the customer will never generate the income needed to offset costs.
I think network operators need to reduce volume targets and replace them with ARPU targets. How can we be given connection targets but are being paid in terms of value of the customer? This is something I don’t understand. Surely if all network partners were given a monetary target, we could take away connection targets? Replace it with value and let’s see the sector becoming more profitable.
John Doughty, Rocket Science director:
I think we’re seeing an upturn for those businesses that were already run well before the economy had such a challenging time. These businesses were on top of overheads, maintaining existing business, and still looking to grow into new areas, all of which ensures you can ride out the difficult times, and even capitalise while other organisations are more inwardly focused.
The less efficient organisations have probably had to spend the past few months taking a long hard look at themselves, their internal structures, and even whether some of the business they’ve been doing, during an era of fairly constant growth, was actually that commercially sound, and therefore worth continuing to pursue during more challenging times. Not only will that have detracted from their customer, and market focus, it will probably have led to them having to make painful decisions, which will take their P+L, and their teams, time to recover from.
What mobile applications are going to be the killer apps of 2010?
Mark Seemann, Outsourcery product strategy and development director:
From a business perspective, unified communications (UC) and CRM applications will be the killer apps for mobile in 2010. For CRM, specifically mobile applications that link to online software as a service (SaaS) in the cloud will offer small and medium sized businesses unprecedented value and be extremely popular.
For instance, Outsourcery’s new CRM Mobility application links users of BlackBerry, Windows, iPhone and Nokia smart phone users back to the Hosted Microsoft CRM Service and is included free of charge with the SaaS service.
Furthermore, some of the mobility applications, such as CRM Mobility, are web based and therefore can be customised to suit specific customer requirements and devices. Because these applications are web based, maintenance of the application is easy as no specific software is required to be installed on user’s phones.
UC in the cloud will be one of the big topics in IT for 2010 and 2011 and the mobility aspect of UC is an integral part of the UC solution. For instance, the ability to instant message chat to business mobile users, even when they are in a meeting, will bring instant productivity gains for businesses. Also, presence information for a mobile user is fed back to the main UC system in real time, giving businesses a holistic view of all employee productivity in real time.