India’s Mobile Market

Telecom Asia has some interesting comments by Sunil Miital of Bharti (Airtel):

India will not only be a major contributor to GSMs next billion subscribers, but can also serve as a model for similar growth in other emerging markets.

That was the message from Bharti Telecom chief Sunil Mittal at the 3GSM World Congress in Cannes on Wednesday, saying that the key to growth in emerging markets like India was increasing affordability of mobile services.

Even today we are still trying to reduce the sachet size of our tariffs, he said in a keynote address. We are already offering services for $5 a month. Could we do $3 a month? Possibly. Our tariffs now are around 2 cents per minute, and we think we can still go lower.

Mittal also praised the GSM Associations initiative with Motorola to develop a sub-$40 handset that Motorola says will be priced under $30 by the middle of next year. I dream that we will see a $25 to $30 handset in the next few years, he said. At that price, we can give them the volume so they can lower the capex for us.

According to Mittal, India is still bursting with untapped potential, citing over 11 million households that can afford mobile service. As prices drop, that should increase to over 32 million in 2009, by which time by current growth rates India will become the third largest mobile market in the world after China and the US.

Mittal invited other emerging markets to come to India and study its mobile model. It works. We have demonstrated clearly you dont need to charge 25 to 30 cents a minute to make a profit, he said. With this model, India, China, Brazil, Russia and Africa will easily bring the next billion users in the next few years.

Software Maintenance Business

Jeff Nolan writes:

Anybody who is in the enterprise software business knows that the thing we all lust for is not license revenue, it’s the maintenance base. In fact, mature software companies will almost always generate more revenue from maintenance than they will from new license sales, because an enterprise license contract is a form of annuity.

This is partly why I’m non-plussed about the debate on hosting and subscription business models. Here’s why, if the monthly subscription fee is just a way to break up the license fee into smaller chunks and bundle them with a term maintenance fee, then why do I care WTF you call it? Apparently many pundits on hosting v. licensing are unaware that enterprise customers are accustomed to paying a recurring fee to their enterprise software vendors. In a way, locking in a customer to a 3 year deal, as an example, is advantageous because as it is now most vendors have to sell their customers annually on the maintenance component, which can run as much as 20% of the license amount. Hosting, well that’s just another way to deliver software, it doesn’t have a meaningful impact on how you price it, or how your customers pay you for it.

…there’s nothing that would convince me that a vendor shouldn’t consider providing support services for competing products.

Weblog Refactoring

Tom Coates offers a brief history of weblogging and discusses hyrbidised feeds.

Our feeds are ugly, and they don’t quite work right and neither do our sites. But this is because the technologies that we’re using to organise and collate our lives aren’t quite communicating perfectly and aren’t splicing themselves together in the way that we might like. And things are getting ever more complicated, and we need to do something about it.

And I’m beginning to think that the thing we have to do is start to reconsolidate and refactor the weblog concept itself. We need to take a step back for the first time in years and re-ask the question – what is it for? How do we find something hard and shiny in the middle of all these hybridised trends and make it the ideal shape to support all the other services that will grow upon and around it. In a whole range of issues – from the collation of our browsing to the handling of our photos, from the posting of our opinions to the way we’re relating to our social networks – the traditional weblog format is starting to buckle. So rather than concentrating on the specifics of clashing informational streams in our feeds and looking to fix them, I’m going to make the problem even larger and ask – are these clashes evidence of something more seriously broken? Does anyone really have any idea what we do next?

TECH TALK: The Mobile Phone Platform: The Next Platform?

Will the mobile phone become the next platform like the computer? This, according to me, is a narrow question and focuses only on the device. What is important is to consider a view of the world that is based around services rather than devices. In that context, I dont think it is possible to think of the mobile phone in isolation from the rest of the computing, communications and content world.

What is inside todays desktop computer will move to the server and what is inside a cell phone will power tomorrows network computer. The networks will be IP-based. Voice will become yet another service over these digital networks. The mobile phone will be our constant companion, and will be complemented by the availability of network computers with large screens.

Services will occupy centre-stage. From commPuting to computainment to communicontent, it will be a world that will converge at the back-end (server-side) but will diverge at the front-end (multiple devices). While there will be no convergence across these screens, the convergence will happen at the back-end with respect to the data store. We will have different views to the same set of data across these devices. Today, this is not the case all three devices have their own private worlds they operate on.

What I see happening is integrated access to our data and desktop across the three screens that are present in our life. The future will be about data on servers accessible across multiple devices. In developed markets, the screens will be those of the TV or Game Console or PC or mobile phone. In emerging markets (especially for the next users), I think it will just two screens a multimedia-enabled network computer on desktops at home and work, and the mobile phone. What matters are the services that are delivered to the users.

Service-centric computing is a form of computing (used in a broad sense like information processing) which is focused more around the users real world rather than the cyberspace. It has a common back-end store to store the users context (time, place, information, people). It allows a user to do five actions independent of device on the same data store: publish (write), subscribe (read), search, alerts and share. It thus breaks the artificial barriers which separate the user from his data by actually separating data store from the service functions, we make the data more accessible.

While the mobile phone is likely to have a much larger user base than computers in emerging markets for some time to come, there are tasks for which the computer is ideally suited and the inherent limitations of the cellphone become obvious. But that in no way diminishes its use or capability as a personal device. Thus, even as the computer provides access to the world outside, the mobile phone provides us a view of our world. Both are needed and important in their own place.

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