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Maemo and Symbian: Nokia’s Dual OS strategy

Posted in Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on November 20, 2009

The Nokia N900 finally sees the light of the day. The N 900 is a device on which Nokia’s high end fortunes will depend upon. However, the Nokia N900 tablet is also a “first ever” in terms of high end device not sporting the Symbian S60 platform. The Maemo 5 OS powers the N900. The N900 sports a 5MP camera and a 32 GB memory and a flash web browser and is priced at $649. The S60 5th edition OS (as used on the N97 and N97 mini) might be mature, but it’s pretty damn woeful. Nokia’s much-hyped 5800 and N97 showed that Symbian is now ill-suited to running a sophisticated, modern and easy-to-use multimedia phone, and so now, maybe Maemo lights the way. Maemo 5 (used by the N900) definitely has a better user experience, and though it’s not perfect either, it’s definitely headed in the right direction. Nokia seems to be finally dipping its toe in to the water of an entirely new firmware future.

Rumors suggest that Nokia will drop Symbian from the entire ‘top end’ N-Series range of handsets in favour of Maemo by 2012. Nokia has products on both platforms, with the Nokia N900 (Maemo), Nokia X6 and the Nokia N97 mini (Symbian). Going forward, Nokia seems to be planning all N Series (Mobile Internet devices) on the Maemo platform and the other phones series (XpressMusic and Enterprise series) in the Symbian platform. What’s more likely is Nokia adds more Maemo-powered handsets like the N900, which it’s called a “tablet”, to an extended top-tier Nseries lineup, while retaining Symbian S60 for its mid-range multimedia smartphones and S40 for basic candybars and emerging-market devices.

Nokia must now hope the Symbian Foundation can get developers to innovate around a somewhat open-sourced OS sufficiently to reinvent the software from its base. But it has to keep an option on Maemo as it waits for the incumbent to catch up.

In the mean time, none of the US carriers have picked up the N900. An unsubsidized N900 @ $649 will be make it very difficult for Nokia to convince its consumers to pick up. Nokia can ill afford N97’s fiasco repeated again. Historically, it dosnot have a great record in securing a competent eco-system, a decent OS and also operators to support its devices. Nokia is atleast trying to change the OS aspect of the equation with Maemo.

Gartner: Top 5 mobile applications in the future

Posted in Mobile Devices and Company Updates, The Technology Ecosystem by Manas Ganguly on November 20, 2009

Gartner has predicted that Money transfer applications, Location based services and mobile search will be amongst the top 5 mobile application categories by 2012. The predictions are basis the revenue projections, loyalty and business model, consumer value and estimated market size and penetration of each of these application categories. Consumer mobile applications and services will no longer the prerogative of mobile carriers. The increasing consumer interest in smart-phones, the participation of Internet players in the mobile space, and the emergence of application stores and cross-industry services are reducing the dominance of mobile carriers. Each player will influence how the application is delivered and experienced by consumers, who ultimately vote with their attention and spending power.

A few inferences that can be drawn about the mobile applications perspective: The Importance of the eco-system approach to develop and deploy applications and the emergence of MVNAs (Content aggregators) and MVNEs (Content Enablers)!

Gartner also predicts customers will use no more than 5 mobile applications, which would be chosen according to their needs and demands. There will be opportunities from niche market apps as well.

1.Money transfer ranks No. 1 on Gartner’s 2012 biggest applications list, contending the service’s lower costs, speed and overall convenience boast strong appeal to users in developing markets.
2.Gartner believes the LBS user base will grow from 96 million worldwide in 2009 to 526 million in 2012, crediting its ability to meet a range of needs spanning from productivity and goal fulfillment to social networking and entertainment
3.Mobile search, is listed third due to its dramatic impact on technology innovation and industry revenue.
4.Mobile browsing–according to Gartner, browsers will be available on about 80 percent of handsets shipping in 2012, compared to 60 percent of devices in 2009.
5.Mobile health monitoring is fifth, followed in descending order by mobile payment, NFC, mobile advertising, instant messaging and mobile music.


SmartPhones: Will they become primary mobile devices in future?

Posted in Industry updates by Manas Ganguly on November 20, 2009

World over sales of smart-phones will exceed that of regular handsets by 2015, so much so that by 2016, smart-phones will constitute 2/3rds of total mobile phone sales.This has been reported by a Telecom trends international study. The report goes on to say that Smartphones will become the primary mobile device recording robust growth of 28% through 2016. On the other hand, the sales of the regular handsets will start declining.

A few thoughts-

1. Africa and Asia are the two markets which will power the growth in mobile handset population. The present population of handsets world over is 4 billion handsets.

2. Between 2010-2015, Asian markets would reach high volume penetrations. There would also be a strong demand of higher end handsets on a replacement basis.

3. However, I am apprehensive of African numbers.

4. Overall however, the replacement demand will have strong contribution from Latin and North America, Asia, Europe and Oceania.

5. A 66% contribution of replacement devices is thus a strong possibility

6. World over adoption of 3G and 4G mobile broadband will again bolster demand for Internet browsing devices.

7. Even with an internet sidedness of mobile communication and the utility of smart-phones, price would be a hindrance to smart-phones mass acceptance as the primary device.

8. Then, there are other devices and technologies which would emerge to be strong contenders to smart-phone functionality. Net-books could be an example. And you never know what radical innovation lies round the corner.

 Net of all things, 66% of handset sales from smart phones by 2016 will be a tough one. Upgrades and high end devices, probably yes, but smart-phone @ 66% looks a bit stretched.

What are your thoughts: Can smart-phones be 2/3rds of the market by 2016?

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What would Google’s self branded smart-phones mean for Google, its eco-system, its partners, competitors and Consumers?

Posted in Applications and User Interfaces, Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on November 18, 2009

A report by Northeast securities analyst, Ashok Kumar has caught onto the fancies of the Tech Bloggers world. The idea and the question is: What if Google makes and markets self branded smart-phone?

Kumar spoke on Google’s plans: ”Google is expected to launch a self-branded smart-phone by year end followed by netbook early next year. In its smart-phone push, Google is expected to embrace the retail channel at the expenses of carrier with the intent of greater account control. It will embed the same iteration of Android as the Motorola Droid. The hardware, featuring Qualcomm baseband, is expected to be competitive with Motorola’s offering.

Google is also expected to launch a branded netbook, again embedding Qualcomm Snapdragon, early next year. Thus far, Linux has not been able to get a toehold in the netbook segment. But the Chrome OS could be the tipping point.”


The report was half substantiated by Gigaom’s comments saying sources of its own that contend Google has been interested in developing its own Android phone

Essentially the rumor (which is all that we have at this time), speaks about Google’s tie up with smart-phone OEM for a Qualcomm -powered device running the Android 2.0 Éclair. The netbook would be designed in coordination with Quanta and would be Qualcomm Snapdragon powered. It will sport the Chrome OS. This then would be Google’s first effort at devices and the thought leading up-to its foray into devices is that Google intends to take control of its phone experience and is not confident that the current lot of smart-phone makers can make devices that explore the full suite of Google services.

Ashok Kumar also suggests that Google will not sell their phones via carriers, and instead will come unlocked to take any carrier, and will be sold directly in retail stores.


Intending to take control of its phone experience. While it would like to more tightly integrate its online services with a phone, Google is concerned that HTC, Samsung and others would regard a self-branded device as an unfair advantage. Google is apparently in talks with a Chinese company who will be manufacturing both the mobile handset and the netbook. It is not entirely too difficult for any company to make a phone these days, as long as they get at least one part right. Android and its suite of Google services hold a great promise (and challenge to the Apple OS) but Google needs a device as sophisticated as the iPhone to be taken seriously. Google already has all the data they need and they have the software too. So commissioning another company to make the handset according to their specifications does sound like the next logical step.


Delivering Android better: Microsoft has never turned Windows Mobile into anything, in part, because the hardware has not been anything special. Google thinks it can do better and, perhaps, suspects that handset manufacturers are not as smart as Google, which wrote the Android OS and created services the phone will run. This is the “Motorola, Nokia, etc., are clueless” part of the argument.

Game changing move: The Open handset will go down extremely well with consumers who often have to tie themselves into lengthy contracts with mobile phone carriers or go to the hassle of unlocking a phone so that it can be used on another network.

Keeping Apple on its toes: Google does release its own phone. Aside from the wealth of iPhone apps, the iPhone’s greatest advantage over the competition is the sheer seamlessness of its integration of hardware device and the iTunes-related services. Many companies try to ape Apple’s level of hardware-software-service integration, and very few even come close. The Android eco-system Google Smartphone combination may be the best bet yet to challenge the iPhone eco-system. It will surely keep Apple on its toes.


Selling Direct: The cost of the handset would be a big consideration. After all smart-phones do sell the volumes they sell because of heavy operator subsidies. Secondly, it might also have the effect of undermining the carriers and manufacturers who have till now been promoting, subsidizing and selling Android phones.

Partners turn competitors: Google will be making themselves a competitor against many of those who have served as partners in the past. Google is make huge strides in getting manufacturers to develop devices for its Android platform. Creating a handset of its own — making itself a competitor rather than a partner and facilitator — could conceivably hamper those efforts. Manufacturer support for the Android OS diminish if Google itself starts making and selling phones

Loss in focus of its core proposition: One important part of the ecosystem would be to have a set of well-functioning applications (an office productivity suite, for example). Google is mostly leaving applications development for Android to third parties (applications which run in the browser like Google Docs being the notable exception). At the rate things are going, we don’t see enough of these third parties developing applications for Android netbooks in the next 12 months. Google would be better off concentrating on building music and app stores, modeled after Apple. Those are Apple’s no-so-secret weapons and until Google can really compete, there is nothing to stop the iPhone.

Antitrust issues: Google is now so dominant in search that a revived American antitrust division is already making noises. They already have the choice of Android or Chrome for mobile internet devices and now, if they are able to make headways into the netbook industry they’ll make the Microsoft of old look modest.

End Lines: Going forward

Maybe the smart-phone marks the decline of the wireless hardware vendor and rise of the OS and applications provider. The iPhone seems to prove this. Maybe the only company that can make Android a hit in the marketplace is Google itself, by selling hardware it designs. That is the principle argument in favor of Google and its smart-phone efforts. The way Google handles its relationships with its current partners will be crucial to future relationships. Alternately, perhaps Google will get into the handset business and the other handset companies will run away from the Googl eco-system, leaving Google alone with a loser phone and a not-very-exciting ecosystem on the edge of extinction. Almost like Microsoft, but for different reasons. Google may aspire to walk the middle path. A Google-made Android phone would further intensify competition between the Google and Apple.



Google Android (Open Platform): The Development and Deployment conundrum

Posted in Computing and Operating Systems, The Technology Ecosystem by Manas Ganguly on November 15, 2009

Fragmentation of  Android Open platform and Google’s efforts to bring a method to madness in its OS updates and its pitfalls.

Open platforms are increasingly coming of age and the future from the looks of it is completely Open Platform led (read report). LiMo powered Google Android is the best example of trend setting into the mainstream. With every major account that Google Android takes over, the proprietary WinMo loses. The Android camp can today boast of HTC, Motorola and Samsung in its ranks. Each of those names is Android’s gain and WInMo’s loss. Earlier, Gartner had predicted a 7X increase in smart-phone numbers driven by Android in the next 4 years, even as the smart-phone market would grow 4X. WInMo in the same time would at best remain flat. (Read report here)

The best thing about open platforms such as Android is that they seem to make the devices platform agnostic. An Android powered HTC and the Moto Droid would thus be on the same interaction levels. Thus interface commonality of applications and content would make the user experience uniform.

However by adopting standard platforms, manufacturers risk losing the ability to differentiate themselves. This is something akin to the WinMo 6.1 screen that is ubiquitous across all Windows devices. The handset manufacturers had no choice with WinMo, but with Google Android they have a choice of differentiating their Interfaces and re-designing them. The fact that Android gave the ODM the choice of customizing the platform was one of the USPs of Android. However, this then causes the open platform to fragment as ODMs dig deep into parts of the operating system. So then Google Android starts branching out like the Moto Blur or the HTC Sense.


An example to this effect is the multi touch “Pinch” zooming:

  • The Motorola Droid’s Android 2.0 OS supports multi-touch out of the box, but Google and Motorola haven’t turned it on for any of the phone’s built-in apps. So the Droid’s Web browser, Google Maps, and built-in photo app do not support pinch zooming. Third party applications can also support Multi touch.
  • Meanwhile, the HTC droid Eris, which runs an older, customized version of Android, also supports multi-touch — but only for a few apps made by HTC. The Droid Eris’s Web browser and built-in photo app do support pinch zooming. But Google Maps does not

That’s just one feature compared across 2 manufacturers. The complexity could be a groundswell across multiple ODMs and a number of features. The inconsistencies among phones will continue to grow. And it wont just be confusing to consumers, but could be a roadblock to developers writing apps for Android. That is something Google can’t afford.

So then it will be important for ODMs to maintain application compatibility even as they create distinct ways to organize user’s information and services.

 On the other hand, it could also mean Google having to step in with the ODMs in the UI customization stage such that device differentiation is created and platform sanctity is also maintained.

 Google seems to have stepped into device UI customization process already as was the case with Motorola Droid. Google’s Android team directly assisted Motorola and Verizon in building the Droid’s software from the ground up and is currently assisting another, unknown, handset maker in Korea to create a finely-tuned hardware and software combination. (Read Report). Currently Google releases major updates on a chosen flagship model.

  • 1.0 went to the HTC G1
  • 1.5 went to the HTC Hero
  • 2.0 went to Motorola

While this suits Google’s scheme of things, this discrimination can hurt Android eco-system in the long run. Google will have to balance two things:

  •  Coordinating UI update releases to ensure appropriate standardization for open source innovation
  • Being fair to the ODM eco-system in terms of roll outs of the UI versions.

It would be interesting to see how Google balances the issues of fragmentation versus standardization of the Android platform. Similarly how Google handles its OS updates between its partners will be a critical for the Google Eco-System.

We will watch this space.

Worldwide Q3,09 Smartphone and Devices Market Shares: Gartner

Posted in Industry updates by Manas Ganguly on November 13, 2009

Worldwide mobile phone sales appears to be tanking with a YOY (3Q 2009 versus 3Q 2008) increase in sales of .1%. This contrasts sharply against a 12.2% YOY (3Q 2009 versus 3Q 2008) increase in smart-phone sales. This is according to the 3Q Mobile phones report by Gartner. The 3Q,2009 was charecterised by channel slowed its inventory-reduction efforts leading to increase in sales volumes and stagnation of average selling prices (ASPs). Gartner further predicts an increase in sales in the 4Q holiday season. This however will not lead to any increase in the 2009 figures, which will end up stagnant vis a vis 2008.

However Gartner issued a fresh set of carte blanches for the industry:

  1. Android’s coming to mainstream would increase the complexity and competition in the smart-phone space.
  2. Hardware commoditisation and the growth in open platforms will make it harder for devices and platforms to stand out.
  3. Grey-market sales are no longer limited to China and all manufacturers will have to compete with gray-market players as they expand into emerging markets in Asia/Pacific, Eastern Europe, The Middle East and Latin America.
  4. A greater cause of concern is the fact that Grey-market devices are no longer just ultra-low cost models. Feature enhanced phones also feature as a part of the grey market devices.

3Q 2009 Gartner

Nokia appears to still be loosing ground to Samsung who have so far done extremely well with the mid range touch phones: Star and the Corby series. LG also had a decent run with its Cookie series. Going forward the release of Nokia 5230 and 5530 will be an interesting thing to watch out for, as these mid range Nokia devices may prove to be instrumental the market share fight. Research In Motion reached 20 per cent share, its highest yet.

RIM’s sales volumes rested on the Curve 8900 in Europe and the Tour and Storm 2 with Verizon Wireless in the US. RIM also focused on pre-paid sales and more flexible BlackBerry Internet Service offerings, which helped to drive volumes in emerging markets like Latin America.

Apple’s worldwide smartphone share reached 17 per cent as iPhone sales totalled 7 million units in the third quarter of 2009 following the continued rollout of the iPhone 3GS in new countries. Its ASP is holding steady and sales in the fourth quarter should be even stronger as Apple starts selling in China, through one additional carrier in the UK, and in an additional 16 countries.

In the Mobile operating systems space, Android seems to be picking up momentum basis new launches that feature the Android. Sales of Windows-based smartphones saw another decline with the Winmo 6.5 failing to enthuse the markets.

Digital Dividend: A solution to India’s Mobile Broadband needs

Posted in Industry updates by Manas Ganguly on November 9, 2009

Last month Indian Telecom subscribers crossed 500 million. There are enough and more studies on the impact of telecom penetration on the economy. One study correlates 10% increase in tele-density to .6% increase in GDP. The canvas is $520 billion increase in GDP over 8 years time frame.

 The need is for a communications model that reaches out to the remotest citizen and low cost wireless solutions. The existing industry spectrums: 850MHz/ 900 MHz/1800 MHz are grossly inadequate for the traffic. The 3G option is being looked at as a solution providing greater bandwidth for voice and data traffic. Given the high 3G auction fees, the 3G option ensures service qualities at a high CAPEX and OPEX. High speed telecom networks would be the key for a long term momentum in the economy as suggested by McKinsey,2009.

  1. 3G investment in India will deliver over  $70 billion economic benefit
  2. India  would have gained over  $16 billion (PPP) in the last 2 years but for  delay in introduction of high speed mobile BB.
  3. 10% increase in broadband penetration can deliver  up to 1.4% increase in GDP

Dig Div IV

The spectrum: How it pans out and how the digital dividend is a part of it?

Digital compression technologies and coding systems make it possible to squeeze much more information into a radio signal than in the case of analogue technology. Digital TV is many times more spectrally efficient than analogue TV, which means UHF spectrum will be freed up. Large amount of spectrum that would be freed up in case of switchover from analogue to digital terrestrial TV is known as the Digital Dividend.

Refer to the slideshare presentation for a full description on the Digital Dividend:

The analogue TV switch-off represents a “once in a generation” opportunity for a significant reallocation of spectrum. This spectrum has excellent propagation characteristics and can be used very effectively to roll out mobile broadband services in rural areas and to provide in-building coverage. It is approximately 70% cheaper to provide mobile broadband coverage in the 698-806MHz band than at 2100MHz. This means networks can be rolled out quickly and cost-effectively, bringing cheaper services to consumers.Digital Dividend

It is approximately 70% cheaper to provide mobile broadband coverage at frequencies (approx. 800MHz) than over 2100MHz.This means networks can be rolled out quickly, cost effectively, bringing cheaper services to consumers.

As a technology the advantages of Digital Dividend over contemporary spectrum allocation are as follows:

  • Better propagation characteristics.
  • Ideal for providing wireless service in low population density regions, such as rural India
  • Target resource for rural broadband wireless access worldwide.
  • Less Infrastructure – Reduced costs
  • Reduce capital expenditure, which makes deployment in rural or high-cost regions economically viable.
  • An LTE network at 700 MHz would be 70% cheaper to deploy than an LTE network at 2.1 GHz  – GSMA.
  • Two to three times as many less sites required for initial coverage at 700 MHz compared to 2.1 or 2.5 GHz

Spectrum: Cost versus Coverage

DD 2Dig Div IIIDD3

Spectrum Infrastructure: 700 MHz versus Others!

Droid Does!(iPhone doesn’t)

Posted in Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on November 5, 2009

The iPhone was officially released in mid 2007. In two and half years, it has captured the fanfare and frenzy of the device and telecom geeks acquiring the status of an Icon and fuelling Apple’s growth story.

There have been many challengers from Samsung, HTC, Sony Ericsson, Nokia and others, but iPhone has held its ground because it combines a glitzy UI, a remarkable device and a 100 thousand strong applications store to its strength. That doesnot stop the challengers from take shots at the frailties of the iPhone.

One of the strongest challenge to iPhone yet is the upcoming Motorola Droid on the Verizon Network and backed by the new Android OS 2.0 (Eclair). That is a strong proposition and they have their sights set on iPhone if the “Droid Does” campaign is to seen. Watch the video here.

The latest in this round is the Droid stealth commercial which is an announcer of the launch date amidst a hyper technology scenario. Catch the video here!

What the “Droid does” to the “iPhone” will be an interesting thing to watch. Watch this space.

Read more about the Droid here!

Indian Telecom Story (Part XX): Telcos caught sleeping over data based revenues

Posted in Industry updates, Revenues and Monetization, Value added services and applications by Manas Ganguly on November 3, 2009

I have been writing about the how a price war in the Indian Telecom industry would be a future in vain. I have also written about why Telcos should explore future in data and consumer centric services rather than price wars. The pay per second bloodbath was clearly inevitable. However, i cant think, why would Large Telcos in the country miss the trick. A price led strategy would never be sustainable, and yet the whole industry seems to have rushed into 1 paise per second formula. Am i missing something?

The explosion of subscribers in India has put a lot of pressure on the existing telecom infrastructure and the frequencies available. While there have been efforts like sharing of infrastructure between operators which has allowed to keep Capex under control, there are also minefields such as Mobile Number Portability which adds a lot of uncertainty relating to the subscriber adds and churn. 3G is seen as an answer to the lack of bandwidth, but the license fees demanded by the government is exorbitant and will require long periods of gestation. India has also attracted players like MTS, Telenor, Etisalat, DoCoMo adding a lot of uncertainty in the existing market conditions.

The principal source of operator revenue is voice and data. (Data services here also implies SMS and MMS services). Under the present bandwidth shortages, existing operators have only been able capitalize on the voice led growth. SMS is the only the significant other contributor to revenues in Indian telecom eco-system. The current contribution of data services to operator revenues range from 8 to 11%. This includes SMS and also includes the Tata Teleservices and Reliance CDMA connections, which are typically data heavy services. GSM’s data revenues would be much lesser than CDMA. India being a 80% GSM country, the ratio of data services to Telecom services thus lags the international numbers. World over the higher percentage of Data revenue balances the fall in ARPU.(The Data ARPUs are on the rise globally). In India, data services provide no such safety net.





A case in point is the US telecom market which is the world’s highest consumer of telecom based data solutions. Over the last 5 years, Data ARPU has increased 7X while the Voice ARPU has reduced by 30% in the same period. A $15 dollar ARPU loss in Voice has been compensated by a $12 increase in Data ARPU. One might argue that this be the case in US which is a 3G country. But the point made in Indian context though different in regulatory and eco-system aspects, draws from this example.


  • While voice tariffs in India is the lowest, Data tariffs in India are amongst the highest in the world. Cost being an important determinant of penetration, higher data costs have acted as barriers to data spread.
  • Application and Content Revenue sharing models sometimes make it difficult for higher levels of applications to be built because of cost/higher break even periods. Even if applications are made, the revenue sharing with Telcos in India, would make it difficult for the Apps provider to advertise or communicate the offering to consumers.
  • There is little in terms of consumer services to High ARPU consumers. Telcos in India could perhaps learn from Indian banks a few lessons in differential treatment of HNIs.
  • All this time, Telcos in India have done little to tie up with content providers such as Googles of the world. LBS, Maps, Navigation and Social Networking could have been a great apps. This is a “Blue ocean” where Telcos have not ventured yet at all.
  • The CEOs of one of the biggest Telcos in India once dismissed the MVNOs as “loss making”. Perhaps it is time to re-think strategy in terms of branded and exclusive content. (Read Report)
  • All this while, Nokia has been preparing its platforms to differentiate itself through services. Telcos were in a far better position to aggregate service bundles and yet they didnot. Did all of them miss the trick? Did they fall into the Operator Dumb Pipe syndrome trap!

 So, when it was sunny, all the Telcos in India did was to make good subscriber numbers in falling ARPUs. That was the low lying fruit. Nobody perhaps looked at the next levels, because they were rolling in money anyways. The bloodbath in terms of per second tariffs is now catching the Telcos. They still prefer to look at market shares rather than the EVAs and Bottom-lines.

Next story in making would be the inevitable shake out and age of acquisitions.

Please feel free to rate the post and put your comments (negative or positive as may be!)

Read the earlier posts here:

Indian Telecom Story (Part XIX): Tariff war and hyper competition

Indian Telecom Story (Part XVIII): Eroding profits for higher acquisitions

Indian Telecom Story (Part XV): Net Operating margins at risk!

Indian Telecom Story (Part XIV): Can pricing differentiate new Telco services?

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