There have been some excellent comments from readers of the Mobile Internet series. As part of this last post, I have summarised a few of them below.
In reference to the point about mobile operators launching non-voice based services, I think things will not change until the data transfer rates become really cheap. And my basic understanding is that the mobile operators do not want that to happen anytime soon because if that happens then their situation will be pretty much like the ISPs – their service becomes a commodity and there will be other mobile-2.0ish companies offering their services on top of their networks. You can see how much ISPs hate this sort of a scenario from the whole net neutrality debate in the US.
Even though this is how things should be from the point of view of the consumers, I think the mobile operators look at the mobile space pretty much like how AOL used to look at the internet in the beginning – “walled garden”. For them, the web subsists within aol.com and anything outside is a loss of revenue.
Without the third-party services, the mobile web is never going to scale up in terms of the quality and the variety of services it can offer to meet the needs of all kinds of people. I do not see any single mobile operator launching wide range of services catering to the needs of every single customer. It is a very wide userbase and it is not the job of the mobile operator to provide content and services.
Will an Indian mobile operator ever open up his/her network (and by that I mean drastically reduce the prices of the data plans so that the mobile platform becomes very attractive to independent software developers)? Part of the reason why iMode succeeded I think was because NTT decided to split the revenue 90%-10% giving away huge chunk of money to the service provider inorder to make the iMode platform attractive to the consumers. I do not see this happening in any other country – I’m told that mobile operators are extremely greedy when it comes to such deals.
I agree that push services have a bigger probability of winning in the mobile space than search. Blackberry is a great example. But that’s an enterprise application in most cases.
The question is what would be the willingness to pay for such services. I don’t think it will be high unless the service is revolutionary.
I think MMS and snack clips broadcast can be huge if priced really cheap and if they are easy to access. Imagine cricket highlights being pushed on the phone with some ads thrown in (ads can pay for the MMS). I am sure a lot of people would be interested.
The other service can be an SMS type of service combined with a social networking application that is easy to browse. It can be a huge success in the teenage and younger generation.
What would it take to narrow the digital gap for the bottom of the pyramid?
I believe, the real innovation in mobile internet will only come, once mobile carriers become “smart pipes” for applications and content that may be available from the Internet. I also believe that innovative services over SMS, are the shortest (no pun intended) route to digital connectivity for the bottom of the pyramid.
Also, Prashant Rai has put together a mindmap for the series.
In this context, this post by Veer Bothra on zero-rental GPRS makes interesting reading. A pay per use model will lower the monthly cost for most users as there is no minimum commitment. Another advantage is that users can feel free to try out things and evaluate the mobile web without having to commit a one-time entry fee. The monthly rental acts as a hurdle to acceptance of the service since most users cant imagine its value to shell out that fee. Provided that there are compelling content and services, this can spur usage as many more users will be willing to experiment with GPRS. It can be a positive feedback loop, in which as more users start using GPRS – more content and services are created for it and so on.
TECH TALK: Mobile Internet+T