A gathering of mobile noteables at the Mobile 2.0 Event here in San Francisco today are engaging in a very thought provoking conversation. Here are some notes, taken during the session. Moderated by Tony Fish, on the panel is Patrick McVeigh (CEO of SoonR), Russ McGuire (Sprint), Jean Marc Frangos (BT Group) and Russ Daniels (HP Web Services). Here are the main takeaways as stated by Tony Fish at the end of the discussion:
(Patrick McVeigh) Wireless has been around for a long time. What is new in the wireless business is enabling the white collar worker with wireless technology. The company that really started this is RIM – they started PUSH email and generated a good experience. If you are a grey collar worker you either need to learn the device or you are out of a job. The bottom line if you look at the next generation of wireless experience you have to keep the user experience in mind. Using things like Web Kit and the Nokia browser we’re making progress. Back to the PALM example, 12,000 employees had palm devices before the CEO even noticed it. How do we get these web-based tools up and running and mobilize them quickly and easily?
(Russ Daniels) We’re very early in the stage of mobility. It’s roughly like 1995 with the Internet. People had started to understand how to communicate but they didn’t figure out how to make any industry changing paradigms beyond communication. The barrier to innovation is how hard it is for people to understand how to make money. The point I’m trying to make is are we willing to give half of our $11 billion dollars away? How can we create a way for others to share in this value chain without giving it away?
(Tony) If you constrain people they are motivated to be even more creative.
(Patrick) There are barriers everywhere. Not from all business models – the API’s are all different. It takes 3.5 years to create a new smartphone OS. It is a highly fragmented industry – the browser is probably the best bet for this to change.
(Russ Daniels) One end is the consumer, the other end is the person providing the service. One of the things we can learn from other experience is the migration of value to other areas of value. Other enterprises that have shareholders and large companies making plays that want to preserve the values they have – as well as determining what disruptive technologies they have – Google is one of these companies.
(Tony) Do you think you are competing with Google?
(Jean Marc Frangos) I think the Google move is built out of frustration. We cannot all share in this fragmented market. In lieu of the Apple way – which is to build it from the OS on up to ensure end user integration – Google is focused on capturing the market in a different way.
(Patrick) We’ve seen the value that can be created by focusing specifically on a segment of the market and focusing on that market. There are two challenges – the capital costs of being a network operator (not everyone can be a low-cost player). The MVNO model has not yet revealed a stellar success model. Until this all works its way out it’s hard to break it down in the way you have asked. If you are going to be a low-cost player, you need to differentiate in different ways. You need to have different strategies.
(Tony) Given the convergence with WiFi and WiMax – (didn’t get the whole question here)
(Jean Marc) I think to be clear – the ideal situation is to invite developers and 3rd parties to out platform. We’ve opened up our API’s – BK.com is an entry portal into the messaging and capabilities platform we are opening up to 3rd party developers. We are trying to create enough interest – in order for it to be developed in a meaningful way you need to open up your SDK and open up security and authentication modules and allow everyone to access it.
(Tony) You are talking about the web. mobile is about the location, personalization and the analysis of who you are doing these things with. How can you play in mobile without access to your customer’s data?
(Jean Marc) We are (BK Telecom) considered to be an MVNO and we do have access to our customer’s data.
(Tony) Are you hearing anything that is truly mobile 2.0 and high value?
(Russ) I’m one of 8 CTO’s at HP. I’m not aligned with a specific business unit but across several. I’m looking at this not from the web perspective, but the ability for digital content and capabililties to extend into human experiences. Mobile plays a role in this – it’s difficult to derive value without understanding the broader perspective. I think there are opportunities everywhere.
(Tony) Are people going to pay?
(Patrick) It has to be extremely relevant. If you look at the PC industry and Microsoft’s dominance – it makes complete sense if you look at it in reverse. If you look at the PC industry in the last 70’s you saw the PC’s and the Apple docs. We didn’t know what the “killer app” was and someone wrote “Visicalc” and the industry was born – they became spreadsheet machines. Out of the failures come the sucesses. It is too hard in this industry for people to fail because it costs too much. The least common demoninator seems to be the next generation of mobile browsers. Our current projection is late ‘09 there will be a lot more memory and persistance (users want instant reaction; they don’t want to wait for the system to react) this will give us the right platform to fail faster and innovate quicker.
(Jean Marc) The response time is hampering the mobile user experience. People want instant response. Even if there is a 1/2 second delay it affects the mobile experience. Soon we’ll all have WiFi and we need to think about which way we are going. Are we going thinner clients or thicker clients? What will we need to do to make the interaction just like it is on the PC?
(Russ McGuire) You’re saing it’s all about the browser and how to make it work. It’s just like saying how are we going to take the Internet and make it work with spreadsheets? What we want to see is new things that are possible. Mobile technology is much more personal than desktops – location is the easy one. There is a variety of information available – we know how the devices are being used, the nature of the telephone calls – as long as we can gain insight without invading privacy we can get somewhere.
(Patrick) If you look at user stickiness for video the usage is a magnitude larger. Mobile is a personal device, not a family device. The first order is to make these things compelling and friendly. Steve Jobs has done one thing right – usability is the major enabler.
(Russ Daniels) Mobile isn’t just about the phone. I feel when I am in my hotel room I am using ‘mobile’ and there is an aspect of a phone which is all about the ability to connect and communicate. Whatever user experience I choose to communicate with is a pretty atractive proposition to me. We should be thinking about mobililty more broadly than just as a handset.
(Tony) In closing, what do you want people to come up and talk to you about?
BT – If you have something that is multi-bandwidth, wireless, cellular and fixed IP is worth talking about. WiFi applications is something we’re very interested in talking about. BT.com/developerchallenge
SoonR – has buit a platform for people on the go to access their data very very easily. It is a platform – we have a set of open API’s and our go-to-market strategy is to partner with operators – we want to integrate our solutions and offer our users more value.
HP – we have a very software-centric mentality. The interesting question is when you think about the end to end experience that causes someone to spend money – what are the opportunities to do this? If you have something that addresses the human experience, please come and talk to me.
Sprint - we’ve created value on top of our mobile platform. I’ve recently published a book called the Power of Mobility? How do we open these up without destroying the value we’ve created in the industry? The next wave is WiMax – and we have the opportunity to start from scratch and we’re excited about this.
All in all a very interesting ‘fireside chat’ and a look at how these companies are viewing the mobile space, the opportunity and direction. It reminds me of my conversation with Malcolm McClaren (former manager of the Sex Pistols) who said at a conference he and I spoke at last year, “BE A BRILLIANT FAILURE.”