OTT and Telco: Threat? Opportunity? Head in the Sand?

It's ok, you can come out now!

There’s a strange dilemma in telco.  Worldwide demand for its core product is skyrocketing, and all that the industry can do is complain about it.  When you step back from it, it’s quite bizarre.  It’s like a spoiled child, given everything they could ever want, with no restrictions, and over-protective parents decrying any attempt at discipline.  Then, when the child has to fend for itself in the big bad world, she is totally unequipped to even consider the threats and opportunities that presents.

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Telco Busting Business Model #487

Imagine for a minute all iPads were 3G enabled.  Now, imagine that no data plans were sold with them.  Next, all users get free access to the iTunes app store.  Now, everything is an app.  Connectivity is an app (for random browsing).  Bundles of call minutes could be sold as an app.  Text and instant messaging too, if anyone still pays for that stuff.  All other apps would have access bundled with them in a 3G context, in the same way as books for the Kindle have access bundled with them.  Telcos become infrastructure providers for consumer electronics and applications (media) providers.  The end.

What are the British Telcos’ thinking?

The U.K. phone hacking scandal has been very much in the news this week. The hacking scandal, perpetrated at the News of the World, at first involved just celebrities but has expanded to now include families of murdered children.

Phone hacking is fairly easy and is usually accomplished by misrepresentation rather than code changes. New Scientist has a very good article on how voice mail systems have been compromised and how easy it is to accomplish.  While the motives and actions of the News of the World are deplorable, they were made so much easier by the lax safeguards typically in place at most mobile phone companies (this is not just a “British” problem).

Which brings us to the Guardian, which analyzed the advertising spend at the News of the World over the first 5 months of 2011 using the IBM Many Eyes program.

NoW Advertising

On examining this data further, 3 of the top 5 advertisers are mobile Telcos and all 4 major providers are in the top 10. So my question is, why would you continue to support and advertise in a newspaper that has abused your systems. They appear oblivious to the damage to their brands. I would of thought  that they could of used that money (over 4 million GBP) to put in better safeguards!!.

The digital divide starts early

George Bernard Shaw is watching youGeorge Bernard Shaw once said “Youth is wasted on the young”. I used to think he was spot on but now thanks to a fascinating piece of research from AVG, I am not so sure. AVG examined the take-up of technology of very young children ages 2 to 5. While their sample was worldwide, it did only focus on developed countries (U.S., Canada, the EU5 (U.K., France, Italy, Germany, Spain), Japan, Australia and New Zealand) who you would expect to be more tech savvy. They asked mothers of the 2-5 year olds to document their children’s technology and life skills.

Amongst the results they found:

  1. More small children can play a computer game than ride a bike.
  2. There is no tech gender divide between young boys and girls. As many boys (58 percent) as girls (59 percent) can play a computer game or make a mobile phone call (28 percent boys, 29 percent girls).
  3. The EU countries lead the US in terms of technology savvy for the 2-5 set.

While some of these results may be due to primarily copying (seeing your parents make a phone call) rather than learning (riding a bike for the first time is not intuitive), the research does show how much technology is influencing our lives and how it is trickling down to our young ones.

The power of the internet (and the technology that drives it) continues to amaze me. Maybe I should not have been so surprised that the Egyptian revolution came out of nowhere and was enabled by the internet.

As an aside, I found it fascinating that the Egyptian government closed down their ISPs (and hence the Internet) before they curtailed and restricted  the reporting of traditional media. Times they are a-changing.

It is all in the name

I just love stories like this.

In a wonderful case of mistaken identity a young American woman, Ashley Kerekes, while minding her own business, has become 450px-Ashes_Urna darling of the cricket world. Known affectionately by her family and friends as Ashes, she chose the Twitter handle of theashes . Now as anyone who has ever been exposed to cricket knows, The Ashes also refers to  the international series of Test matches, played between Australia and England dating back to 1882 and is probably one of the most celebrated international rivalries in any sport.

It seems that quite a few Twitterers (people who tweet) made the assumption that someone with the handle of theashes must be associated with the game of cricket. The good thing though is what started out as an annoyance turned out to have a silver lining for Ashley as she was whisked off to Australia to see the final test.[BBC article]. If you have the time, listen to the wonderfully British BBC announcer interview Ashley, it is delightful.

Supporting the Cause

[In the interest of full disclosure, my son works for Creative Commons]

While WikiLeaks and the reaction to it has been getting all the publicity, it is opportune to also remember other groups that make the ‘open internet’ a reality, such as Creative Commons (CC).  While there are many many definitions for the ‘open internet’. To me, it means ”facilitating the sharing of ideas and content while allowing for the protection of the original authors and other contributors”. Creative Commons supplies the tools to make this possible, whether it is allowing anyone anywhere to freely build on and translate MIT course materials, run a course at the Peer 2 Peer University on anything from Web Development 101 to Digital Journalism, or contribute to the incredible sum of knowledge that is Wikipedia. DSC_0649_edited-2

I, like many others, extensively use CC licensed works (including this blog) and the reverse is also true, the accompanying photograph is appearing in an Israeli online text  book written in both Arabic and Hebrew, which I think is kind of cool. This type of sharing is made so much easier through the efforts of Creative Commons.

So the questions I am asking you to consider are: How do openness, creativity, and innovation impact your every day life? How much more interconnected is your world now that music is remixed, videos are shared online, and educational materials can be downloaded before they’re bound in paper?

Creative Commons provides the tools necessary to make sharing, adapting to new paradigms, and the expansion of creativity possible. Help them make the world bigger and better by supporting their 2010  fund drive. [link]

Friends – who loves ya baby?

I have been thinking a lot about friends lately and the real value of social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo etc. I came across an excellent (if long) presentation on slideshare by Paul Adams of the User Experience team at Google. It looks at relationships (friendships) and the differences between the way your online social networks (such as facebook) work and your real life social relationships and how they influence each other.kojak

Online, people are either your friends or they are not. There is some filtering at a very high level, Plaxo and LinkedIn for example are typically limited to business acquaintances not personal friends, but beyond that everyone is treated the same, from your best buddy to the guy you met yesterday. To paraphrase that wise TV philosopher Theo Kojak, “(online) Who love’s ya baby?” the answer is all your online friends. He uses the analogy of the time and trouble folks take on planning the seating at a wedding in real life and yet how on a social network they are all just lumped together.

Paul provides a view of your offline relationships that can be segmented by groups of people (family, college, neighbours, activities etc. (most people have 4 to 6 major groups)) and the strength of the relationship (strong (4 to 5 relationships), weak (up to 150 relationships) and temporary) and how they influence your decisions. As he points out,

Social Networking is a means to an end.

You need to understand what the end is.

So what does this mean? I think there really is a need to be able to segment friends on social networks to better reflect how life really works. Until then, I for one will continue to be just a casual user of facebook (social networks). As always comments welcome.