Thursday, 29 November 2007

I'm free!

I have just had the most hilarious recounting of a good friend's experience in unlocking their O2 iPhone: if you buy the device and unlock it you avoid the £35 per month or more for 18 months. Suddenly the iPhone seems like a far less expensive proposition.

It took my (not particularly geeky) friend 4 days worth of reading up of the topic and then four hours of tense, nervous tweeking coupled with a heart stopping moment when for all the world it looked as if the iPhone had just died.

He did it though and not has his existing SIM working perfectly within the phone.

It sheds some interesting light on this article yesterday from the Register which indicates that just 26,500 iPhones have been activated in the UK which compares to first weekend sales estimates of over 100,000.

Surely seventy-five thousand people haven't hacked the iPhone? But then again I was really surprised that my friend had, so who knows...

Monday, 26 November 2007

Opening up?

This post might be premature but four times in the past two weeks we have been contacted by carriers (on different continents) wanting to list our service on-deck without any pre-empting by us. We have long believed that, for the mobile internet market to be successful, operators must acknowledge that aside from their own activities they must seek to promote the best in class services available to their end user base. They must also do this without punitive revenue share conditions.

Is this the beginning of a brighter future? It would be nice to think so.

Friday, 23 November 2007

Blyk - the case for

I noticed this piece at We Love Mobile which benefits from a meeting with the team from Blyk. I thought it worth posting because, as Ben writes here, it was perhaps too easy to point out the faultlines in the proposition when, for many reasons, we all fervently hope that this succeeds.

Thursday, 22 November 2007


I was at a dinner last week with a number of CEOs from a variety of different start-up companies, including those in the tech sector. The average age was slightly higher than is normally the case at these start-up events but even so I was taken aback by some of the commentary.

Wine was free flowing and conversation open and I may have responded with slightly more vigour than normal to the assertion from a fellow attendee that the 'social communities on the internet are killing any sense of normal social interaction between today's youth and creating a vacuous generation'.... in fact if memory serves correctly I think I said 'Bollocks' as a reflex before I could bite my tongue.

Honestly. Where do you start in trying to unravel that thinking?

Others may have been able to do so more eloquently but I pointed to the ability of people to connect with others that share their precise interest, how people are sharing more about themselves then previously in order to form these communities, how these online communities are now reinforcing the old community ties that people fondly recall from yesteryear, how these communities are creating a far more mature dialogue on a large number of topics and how these communities begin to reassert themselves in the physical world.

For the latter, here is an amusing example - perhaps does nothing for the audience at that dinner to persuade them of a less vacuous generation but it made me laugh and does I think illustrate a powerful point.

Devil in detail

The really very useful Mobile Marketing Magazine carries this post today concerning PayforIt, the UK carriers project to phase out PSMS as a payment means for content. There is many a good intention behind this project but at ground level many mutterings from those being forced to use it. Beware the propoganda if you want a balanced view of its success.

First, companies are being told they must use the new system or not have their transactions fulfilled.

Second, effectively cartel pricing has meant that this is no cheaper and often more expensive than premium SMS.

Third, it often requires extra steps in the user flow for payment resulting in two cases known to me of a dramatic reduction in third party revenue.

Great concept but the operators need to work harder at being end consumer focused and on sharing any value with those subscribing to the service. Bango indicate significant savings in customer care: if so, why cannot the operators provide this cheaper than PSMS?

I have another post in draft concerning worrying signs that appear to have their roots in the fact that the operators control too many aspects of the value chain and are either implicitly (in this case) or explicitly in others abusing the position of access control to the end user.

This implicit instance is forgiveable but operators need to listen better to those focused intensely on the user experience.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007


If you want a clearly articulated synthesised view of my initial reaction to the Google Android announcement then I recommend you read up this article across on Mobhappy. There are two elements in particular which chime. First:

It would appear that Google’s trying to imply that anything written for Android will run on any Android device — but those of us who have been around a little while will remember how many times that’s been promised in the mobile world, only for different vendors’ implementations of various technologies to break the “write once, run anywhere” promise. One big question for Android is how it will avoid this.

I have been involved in alliances before. I have run alliances before. Trying to sustain progress and ensure that the common sense solution is reached is an enormous challenge and it is difficult to avoid compromises which subsequently leads to a diluting of first principles.

Either Google has worked on a governance to beat all others; has faith that its functionality will not suffer any fragmentation through flexibility or superiority; or, the reverse, that fragmentation will not matter because Android will be such a small base component of what is actually delivered. It will be fascinating to see which.

The second element which chimes with me is:

Looking at the list of OHA members further reinforces my previous assertion that handset vendors and operators are primarily interested in working with Google in this space because of its brand

This is perhaps stating the obvious but how much of the Open Handset Alliance is due to belief in the subject matter or belief that this is the right way to make it succeed? It would appear to me that the true value for companies is basking in the sheen of being associated with Google: hence, the roll call of CEOs at the event yesterday. Google and Apple certainly know how to corral a good story.

When the iPhone came out I think the single biggest impact was actually around bringing thought of mobile internet to end users again irrespective of their device. A secondary impact for the industry was to challenge existing views of user design and interaction which will also have a deep long term impact.

What will Android achieve? At this point, for the mass market it means nothing (aside from a disappointment to mild curiosity of what the Gphone might be). It will be fascinating to see how this unravels and what it catalyses generally within the industry. How do those not involved in the announcement react? Will this create a knee jerk reaction from the industry in general to greater openness?

For the latter, I think not. I must be becoming cynical. I suspect that many incumbents shall wait to see if Google succeeds in its Android ambitions and only then seek to join or respond through an alternative means in due course.

The one thing I have not really been able to fathom is: why announce it now? What was there really to talk about yesterday? Without the tools to get developing, nor the visibility of what devices will be developed or how many will be distributed, what was yesterday aside from a glorified roll call for buddies of Google?