Mobiles for the Next Billion

The Economist writes:

Games consoles are the most powerful mass-produced computers in the world, but mobile phones are the most numerous. And the handset-makers, like the console-makers, will also be reaching out to new markets in 2006. In September 2005 the number of mobile phones in use passed the 2 billion mark, according to industry statistics. Since nearly everyone in the developed world now has a mobile phone, most of the next billion subscribers will come from the developing world, in particular from China, India, Latin America and Africa. Indeed, Africa now leads the world in subscriber growth: in some African countries subscriber growth exceeds 150% a year.

The greatest barrier to wider adoption is the cost of handsets. Azmi Mikati, the boss of Investcom, which runs mobile-phone networks in the Middle East and Africa under the name Areeba, says subscriber numbers would double in those markets if the cost of the cheapest handsets could be brought down to $30, from around $60 in early 2004.

Enterpreneurs and VCs

David Beisel writes about “Common Tactical Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make in their Initial VC Pitch which are Simple to Fix.”

1. Not clearly stating in the beginning WHO the customers are, WHAT problem is being solved, and HOW the companys product/service accomplishes it.
2. Not controlling the timing and pace of the meeting.
3. Worrying about the demo/pres that doesnt work.
4. Not knowing who you are talking to ahead of time.
5. Not following up.
6. Attempting to force feedback immediately.
7. Inauthenticity.

RIM’s Licensing Strategy

[via Daniel Taylor] C. Enrique Ortiz writes:

what I believe has been RIM’s most important change in strategy is the company’s licensing of their technology – RIM is now licensing their technology as BlackBerry Connect, a strategy that begun around a year ago with a number of partnership annoucements. I believe that RIM has come to realize that with so much competition, and with the technology becoming commoditized, the next logical step is to take advantage of their unique position (popularity) and presence in the enterprise — licensing is what will help RIM maintain leadership in the secure wireless email space, in the enterprise.

If you haven’t noticed, RIM has been creating relationships with all major handset players, ensuring that BlackBerry software runs on all major platforms and carriers: a relationship with Symbian to ensure BlackBerry Connect runs on Nokia and Sony Ericsson handsets, with HCT to ensure BlackBerry Connect runs on their Windows-based handsets, and now with Palm to ensure BlackBerry Connect runs on Treo handsets. Missing is support for Linux. Similarly RIM has signed BlackBerry Connect licensing deals with carriers such as Vodafone, Cingular and others.

SSE, RSS, and Web data

Phil Windley writes:

SSE stands for simple sharing extensions to RSS and OPML.

The spec is doing a few things from my perspective: (1) SSE brings RSS on par with Atom (which is already bi-directional) and ups the ante in certain ways. (2) SSE keeps RSS in the ballgame. I think having battling standards in this area is not a bad thing right now. But, there’s something more important.

RSS has had a big impact on how Web 2.0 has played out. If you discount XHTML, RSS may be the most (some would say only) popular XML format in use outside the firewall. Even so, RSS’ (and Atom’s) future may be even brighter.

Nokia’s N70

Om Malik predicts a hit.

What you get is Nokia N70, a hot 3G WCDMA/GSM phone from Nokia, that is surely going to be a sizzler for many months to come. N70 is part of the Nokias N-series premium phones that are supposed to be less phone, and more convergence devices. High end digital cameras, music players and video cameras are supposed to be selling points of these phones…On a scale of one to 10, this phone merits a solid 7.5 on a scale of one to 10, and a Very good rating.

I use a 6630. Perhaps, its time for an upgrade?!

TECH TALK: The Best of 2005: Mobility

4. Russell Beattie on the Mobile Web

In April, Russell Beattie had a couple posts [1 2] on the sad state of the mobile web and what can be done about it.

What’s wrong with [the mobile sites]? Well, first is the content: Most of it is truncated down to just snippets of information. Why? I click on my mobile web browser, I wait 30 real-world seconds for it to connect and grab information. Finally it’s there and what do I see? One paragraph of a story which tells me only the bare-minimum of information, or worse, a page of links for me to choose from so I can wait *another* 30 real-world seconds to get to some info. Great. I wouldn’t have pulled out my phone to read a mobile website unless I had 20 or 30 minutes on my hands (I’m getting an oil change or I’m on the bus, etc.). I’m bored. I’m trapped. Entertain me, don’t frustrate me!

There there’s the opposite of this where there’s just too much data. Just taking your website’s RSS feeds and slapping a “mobile” template on the page doesn’t count. First, the formatting may not be right for mobiles. Most of the mobiles I’ve seen aren’t super-picky about XML formatting (they learned their lesson from WML which would balk at lots of common mistakes) but the effort still needs to be there to close your tags, etc. Beyond that, the pages just may be too long.

But there’s more! The formatting of just about every website I saw is horrible. XHTML-MP phones can support all the basic formatting you need for a decent web page: alignment, font size, colors, tables, and standard images like gifs, jpegs and pngs and they support a basic version of style sheets called WAP-CSS. Every phone and browser renders differently, trust me, but hey, focus on the top 20% of the popular web browsers out there (which you would assume count for 80% of the web access) and you’ll be doing pretty good. There’s so much more that can be done for the mobile web.

Web and mobile are going to be different worlds for the forseeable future, so we might as well embrace this fact. So what I’d do is make an alternative area for your mobile content right away, but do it with an eye towards maintainability and findability. Creating a new mobile template for db-oriented data is actually a good idea, but just one version and watch your content lengths, image sizes and external links. If your mobile site links to another site, it better be accessible via a mobile phone as well.

5. Ahtisaari on our Mobile Future

Marko Ahtisaari of Nokia wrote about the seven challenges to our shared mobile future. The challenges:

2. Sometimess Off vs. Always On
3. Hackability
4. Social Primitives
5. Openness
6. Simplicity
7. Justice

This is what he wrote in the introduction:

Next year there will be more than 2 billion mobile phone users in the world. Over the last fifteen years the mobile industry has seen amazing growth. Much of this growth has been in the developed economies but increasingly the value is created in emerging markets.Just as it is difficult to perceive the speed of an airplane from within – blogging over Las Vegas – it is hard to fathom the scale of adoption of mobile technologies. We are numb to it.

How will we explain to our children that before, when you wanted to call someone, you needed to stand against a wall? Mobile phones today have become ubiquitous, embedded into the fabric of everyday life. They have become a mobile essential. If someone owns a mobile phone today it is likely to be one of the three things that she always carries with her, the other two being keys and some form of payment.

What made this growth possible? Where did this massive scale come from? What was the structure of the mobile industry that made reaching this two billion mark possible? Three features stand out:

1. An object with a social function tied to a service. The primary human benefit driving the growth of the mobile industry was that of social interaction, people connecting with each other. Initially this meant calling people – a familiar activity at the time – but with a new twist: the cord had been cut. Over time this began to also mean sending short text messages.

2. Service providers – mobile operators – subsidizing price. To compete for customers those providing voice and messaging services subsidized – in markets where this was legally possibly – the price of the mobile devices in exchange for a longer term customer relationship. As a result end customers rarely saw the full price of the device and the infrastructure combining both devices and networks was rolled out at unprecedented speed.

3. The shift from a familiar collective object to a personal object.The last, and often overlooked, feature of the mobile industry is that it was based on a shift from a familiar collective object – the family phone – to a personal object, the mobile phone. The idea of a personal phone simply did not exist in the popular consciousness 20 years ago.

With this growth, this bigness, came a new communications mass market, some of the most valued brands in the world, and massive economies of scale. And with it came perhaps the strongest example of a hybrid consumer product. The mobile platform – because of it’s scale and it’s focus on the big human fundamental of social interaction – is a center of gravity for other familiar benefits and functionalities. Think of the clock. Imagine how many people wake up to a phone each morning, how many have stopped using a wristwatch. Or, to take a more recent example, the camera is now moving onto the mobile platform.

Tomorrow: Mobility (continued)

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