Ronnie05's Blog

Setting up mobile for the next thunderstorm!

Posted in Industry updates by Manas Ganguly on November 16, 2013

If there is anything static about the evolving technology paradigm today, it is the regularity of disruptions.Nicholas Taleb christened such disruptions as Black swans – We could look at naming it Thunderstorms.Technology disruption trends are driven by ‘thunderstorms’. Everything seemed calm and static, then suddenly the Web comes and changes the rules. The cellphone business appeared static and then the iPhone changed the dynamics.

The perfect thuderstorm

Some trends are predictable: like the power of processors doubles every 18 months or storage capacity doubles every 12 months. Some are unpredictable: like growth of mobility and Web.For example, we had smartphones long before iPhone. But they were difficult to use devices and not accepted until Steve Jobs made an easy-to-use device in 2007.Today, the mobile handset is in flux. Microsoft has bought Nokia. Earlier, Google bought Motorola. Huawei and lenovo almost bought over Blackberry. The key here is that convergence of solutions, internet and mobile is driving the Applications based internet as the next thunderstorm.

Web is dying. It’s like AM radio of the digital era. Web will be here, but that’s not where major commerce will happen. Smartphones are becoming so powerful that to use them as just file viewers makes no sense. The future architecture will be one where there are very powerful apps, connected to resources in the cloud, and this connection is the future architecture.

The dominant players in the tech industry will have an app Internet ecosystem — a phone, tablet, PC, app architecture and a group of partners. Now, who will dominate it? One is obviously Apple, which has 30 billion app downloads; Android has 27 billion downloads, but 80% money is made on iOS.

It wasn’t a surprise when Google bought Motorola, or when Microsoft bought Nokia, as they needed a phone to complete the ecosystem. Amazon could well be a very important app Internet ecosystem player. There are feelers that within 12 months, maybe six months, Amazon will have a phone. They already have a tablet, an operating system called Silk, and they might have a PC as well. Amazon buying Dell is an interesting possibility. As a trends, every 10 years in the tech industry, one big player, who looks like dying, comes back. In the 1980s, it was Intel. In the 1990s, it was IBM. In the 2000s, it was Apple and now it could be Amazon. Having said that Apple, Android and Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook are possibilities in phone business – making the mobile scene shift extremely.

Two of those five — Apple and Amazon — have a big advantage. They have customer credit card details. Apple has 450 million credit cards, Amazon has 220 million, Microsoft has 50 million via Xbox. Google and Facebook have zero. That’s the thunderstorm — in terms of a loyal user base — one can expect here. Every company in the world, selling insurance, tyres, banking will have to be a software company, via apps.

Integrating the elements of convergence: The case for APIs

Posted in Internet and Search, Mobile Data & Traffic, The cloud and the open source by Manas Ganguly on February 28, 2012

Convergence has been the buzz word for a good part of the last decade and will continue to do so in this decade as well. However, for the discerning the definition or at least the meaning of convergence has now shifted from device convergence to technology convergence. The later being the superset of which devices are just another maifestation. So earlier its was the camera, the mobile phone, the GPS, the MP3 player and other such device charecterestics that really converged. However, in the present context it is the convergence of enabling technologies and the three big technologies that seem to be convergent at this time are: Mobility, Cloud Services and Big Data.

However, it is a relatively small lynchpin that drives the convergence of these three mega trends. Small in terms of what it is, but large in terms of the innovation spurts that it provides. The key here is APIs or Application programming Interfaces. APIs tie together the mega-trends in a fundamental and unalterable way. APIs are the lingua franca of the new wave in internet of all things combined with super mobility and seamless connectivity. In my mind, each of these three technology trends (on their own) will be on the fast track to commoditization and will risk facing the same fate as did most social business software plays. The magic and the premiums will come from contextual application of this innovation and smart integration.

To stake a few examples, Box.net as storage without document and device sync and collaboration is commodity. Apple’s iCloud as storage without ubiquitous local and iTunes media sync across devices is commodity. And Google Drive (as discussed here in Ben Kepes’ CloudU community) is also a commodity business not worth getting into had it not been for Google’s services such as Google Apps, Piccasa, and its media and unified communication capabilities under the Google Plus brand.

The premiums from big data, mobile access and cloud comes from
a) dynamically assembled media and content, and interpreted data in the cloud,
b) available wherever you need to consume and / or collaborate and
c) insanely focused and simple interfaces to complex backends.

Thats where money would be made in these commoditized services. APIs provide the integration through the value creation network. The only other differentiator in this case being experience!

Tablet and Notebook categories to converge

Posted in Computing and Operating Systems, Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on July 7, 2011

Its raining tablets… rather it’s a deluge. The Taiwanese and Shenzen factories are producing Android’s faster than Egyptian Anubis’s army. However iPad has a stranglehold on the Tablet markets so long and Tablets have threatened to cannibalize PC sales.

However, a contrarian view published by Bernstein Research analyst Toni Sacconaghi declares that tablets might not be cannibalizing on notebook sales as everyone initially thought. Instead, what could be happening is that there is a convergence of the of the 2 categories of portable machines coming into play. The demand for ultra-portable devices has seen the birth of MacBook Air, as well as Intel’s new breed of ultra-portables. Tablets are getting more powerful while the ultra-portables are getting lighter, and the distinction between the two is blurring. With falling prices and more powerful capabilities, it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to assume that convergence is indeed the case. In the next two to three years, the distinction between Tablets and Ultra-portables will be completely off. OEMs will offer notebooks at the weight of the touchscreen tablets and integrated keypad capability. We see the case of Asus Transformer as what could be one of the first of such Tablet-Notebook Hybrids: a broad harbinger of notebook and tablet convergence. Whether its solid-state storage prices decrease and low-power/high performance processors coming to fore, the convergence is writ large on the horizon. Ironically, availability of such notebook devices might undermine tablet sales, rather than vice versa.

In other words, the cannibalized becomes the cannibal. And in the end, it turns out that the post-PC era doesn’t mean that the PC is dead, but rather that it’s been born anew as a converged device — an ultrathin, touch-sensitive notebook.

Profiling Near Field Communication

Posted in New Technologies, The Technology Ecosystem by Manas Ganguly on November 26, 2010

Web 2.0 Summit (San Francisco, 15th November 2010): Google CEO Eric Schmidt announces NFC integration in the Gingerbread release of Android.
In the same summit, RIM CEO, Jim Balsillie re-iterated “we’d be fools not to have [NFC] in the near term”.
According to reports Apple is also working on the NFC payments domain and would be coming up with their payment product sooner.
In July 2010, Nokia’s Anssi Vanjoki stated that all Nokia smartphones will have NFC from 2011
AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless also have announced the launch of ISIS, an initiative to develop a single platform that will enable their combined 200million customers to make mobile payments using NFC with a launch planned over the next 18 months, with a nationwide rollout planned by 2013.

User Acceptance of NFC usages

Near-field Communication (NFC) is characterized as a very short-range radio communication technology with a lot of potential, especially when applied to mobile handsets. Imagine users using the cellphone to interact with posters, magazines, and even with products while at the store, and with such interaction initiating a request or search for related information in real-time. Other usages of NFC include the electronic wallet to make payments using handsets, the same way as with a credit card. NFC makes all this is possible. But NFC is still a young technology. That said, NFC-enabled handsets are being introduced into the market, and deployments and pilots around the world are occurring.

NFC is a short-range high-frequency wireless technology enabling devices to exchange data. It has long promised to enter the mobile phone industry and catalyse many new usage scenarios, from proximity payments and transactions to device pairing and data exchange. But despite gaining considerable traction in Japan, where at least 60 million devices are enabled for proximity payments, NFC has struggled to meet expectations elsewhere. This is despite the technology’s steadily growing presence outside the mobile domain in transportation (for example, London’s Oyster card and San Francisco’s Clipper card) and credit cards (for example, Visa’s payWave and MasterCard’s PayPass).


A comparison of short range communication technologies

The mobile phone’s unique position as the most pervasive item of consumer electronics makes it the logical device for NFC to establish ubiquity. While security remains a concern, the maturation of the mobile phone into a highly personal converged device that contains sensitive personal data and performs many other functions means potential social barriers to usage have largely been overcome. In that regard, NFC represents the basis for the next wave of innovation in the mobile space. This goes beyond the utilization of NFC for payments and transactions, the roll-out of which will be slowed by the associated complexity of commercial agreements and the requirement for consistent payment platforms. Therefore, simple applications that extend the versatility and intuitiveness of the mobile phone are likely to be what captures consumer imagination and drives adoption in the near term.

Examples include:
• Touching phones and other devices to share content, contact details or synchronize data. NFC would be used to initiate data transfer over Wi-Fi or another technology.
• Tapping an accessory such as a headset or speakers to establish Bluetooth pairing.
• “Checking-in” to a location for services such as Facebook and Foursquare. NFC could also enable the tagging of friends by touching their devices.
• Selecting applications to be purchased from a wall display in a store.
• Getting applications, vouchers or product details by touching an advertisement.

The boundless diversity of the scenarios enabled by NFC, coupled with the intuitiveness of “touch and go”, means that NFC represents a technological step as significant as the introduction of Wi-Fi. The ease with which NFC can facilitate data transfer means it is likely to play a central role in the pursuit of “convergence”, as it enables the pairing of devices and seamless movement of content from one to another.

Operator Dumb Pipe Syndrome

 

In the war of convergence, the eco-system is expected to favour the species which collaborates and coordinates the most with other stakeholders out there. So being “OPEN” is “IN”! Open Source and Crowd Sourcing are the new buzzwords of the new era. The case in point is the spawning of Application stores after Apple has successfully used it as SaaS differentiator versus other players in the smartphone space. The other case in point is the coming of age of crowd sourced platforms such as Digg and Twitter. Even while Convergence of Internet and mobile services is a event in process, the technology frontier has now moved to Cloud computing (instead of desktop computing and legacy systems.)
The cloud eco-system, is effectively using the following as service based business models.
IaaS: Infrastructure as a Service
PaaS: Platform as a Service
Saas: Software as a Service.
Refer to the slide below for a snap shot of the service models that are being hosted by the cloud.
cloud-ecosystemI shall not be probing into the depths of each of these cloud hosted services. Instead, we will try to draw the Telecom industry equivalent of Cloud Services –> Lets call this Telco 2.0 eco system (and services).
telco-20-eco-system

In as far as IaaS is concerned, Telco’s are sharing the infrastructure and keeping the costs under control.  This gives them the ability to focus their efforts in building greater foot prints, bigger advertising budgets and larger promotions (which on the other hand is commoditizing the core product.) Also IaaS means the SME network and voice solutions being provided. The central idea in here is that money made through the IaaS route is not being used for any significant innovation efforts.
As far as SaaS and PaaS is concerned, Telco’s have little and no control on this aspect of the eco system. The control rests either with the internet/web 2.0 pioneers –>Google, Yahoo, FaceBook, Twitter etc or lies with the OS system holder –> Nokia, Apple, Google, Palm, Microsoft, RIM etc. The operator makes money through the usage and just that. It exercises no control over Content, Consumer or the Device. (For Telco Carriers (At&T, Sprint , Verizon etc) there is a point here, since they have the choice of devices on their network. Hence there is some amount of co-creation.) However there are ominous signs that the iPhone style model is winning, i.e. Telco’s are being used as a transaction point in the retail channel but all the real value is ending up outside the Telco eco-system. A recent release by AT&T and Canadian Rogers have indicated increase of data usage on their networks through the introduction of iPhone and a subsequent increase in data ARPU. However, the iPhone cost subsidy doesnot allow higher usage of data translate into direct profits for these carriers.
Tabulated below is AT&T and Rogers numbers for the year 2008.
impact-of-iphone-on-profits
With voice moving towards zero tarriffs (VoiP: Skype and Google Voice anyone?) and mobile broadband commoditizing fast, the margins of the operators who have been the lords of the Telecom eco-system is under huge pressure. Thus the operator is at a threat of being used simply to transfer bytes to and from the customer’s device and not being able to increase their position or add any additional services beyond simple network operations. Thats the dumb pipe. (The term basically stems from the internet where ISPs managed to botch their position and now provide nothing but connection and bandwidth.). Operators can increase charges and higher percentages in the revenue generated by the content providers for using the operator pipeline. However, this is unsustainable because it results in high prices for end users, and consumers being deterred from accessing mobile content on a wider scale.
Endnote: With services getting polarized towards content providers and OS makers and device manufacturers, the Operators will need to differentiate thier offerings and must innovate on their services to maintain their relevance in the Telecom eco-system.
A report by Juniper Research, examines the three main scenarios facing the operators and the sector as a whole – the ‘dumb pipe’, ‘smart pipe’ and ‘on-portal’ routes. One single scenario will not win out, since different business and revenue models have to co-exist in the mobile content market.Players will adopt multiple approaches that best fit their markets. Crucially, if MNOs are to benefit financially, they need to move away from their dumb pipe roots to the smart pipe model, though they will clash with the content providers which already dominate the smart pipe.
The report predicts that under the smart pipe model, MNOs will not see their share of the overall mobile content market rise appreciably, but revenue will rise in value by 125 per cent over the 2008 to 2013 period.Meanwhile under the on-portal scenario, content providers will see their share of the market rise from 54 per cent in 2008 to 68 per cent by 2013, providing they can secure more attractive terms from MNOs.The report also concludes that various players can find a compromise and concludes that if MNOs can change their focus from the traditional average revenue-per-user mindset, to instead concentrating on value creation and support for their partners, they can swiftly make the change to a more beneficial scenario for everyone. In effect, it advocates moving away from the existing mindset to a more collaborative view of the eco-system. 
References:
mobile analyst firm Juniper Research’s recent Mobile Content Strategies & Business Models: Scenarios & Forecasts 2008-2013 report

Examining the case for Nokia netbooks

Posted in Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on March 4, 2009

Lap Top makers Lenovo, Dell, and Acer have announced their ventures into the smart phone space. I had covered a few of these in earlier blogs. http://technologyandtelecom.blogspot.com/2009/02/smartphone-debut-dells-mephone.html http://technologyandtelecom.blogspot.com/2009/02/lenovo-promising-smart-phone-debut.html http://technologyandtelecom.blogspot.com/2009/02/toshiba-timeline-iphone-in-its-sights.html

 Now, the king in the mobile space, Nokia takes the battle to the enemy camp by announcing its foray into netbooks. Olli-Pekka Kallasuvuo mentioned in a recent interview that Nokia was “actively looking” at the laptop market as the cellphone and mobile PC markets get closer and closer to convergence (read article http://www.reuters.com/article/technologyNews/idUSTRE51O6Z320090226). This had created the immediate buzz that it was expected to create around the technology geeks and followers around the world.However, this is more than i-fight-you-at- your-home-while-you-fight-me-at-my-home motive out here (meaning Nokia fights the lap top makers with its entry in that segment, even while Lap top makers try to prey on smartphone space). For starters, Nokia was already the largest computer maker in 2008, if the smartphone population are allowed to be counted in as computers.

An interesting line of thought that has featured in Nokia Conversations (Nokia’s informal PR window to the world) is about how “mobile lifestyle” is fusing with “mobile computing” even as internet apps change the mobile phone from a medium of communication to projectors of our selves in the cloud. (Suggest the article as a compulsary read). Essentially, there are three major take outs from the article

1. Mobile devices will have to evolve to more creative usages in networking people.

2. The Cloud will be a platform where people would needto project themselves as a means of communication with others

3. Hence the need for a netbook device!

The article very beautifully explains the device story behind the need to graduate from Mobile Computing to Cloud enabled netbooks. So Nokia’s device strategy follows the convergence story as it unravels and transitions from a N 97/ iPhone to netbook!Interesting times, as industries converge and new paradigms emerge. However the question that pops up is, whether Nokia is doing things one too many? Its 2007 – 2008 strategy has revolved around services and even after a while, Ovi is not exactly “there” in terms of consumers, services, applications and stickiness. The opportunities for Nokia’s software services would surely outweigh the cost of building a commodity consumer electronics device.

The first reaction to this one is Nokia shouldn’t be looking at the netbook space. They’ve got enough on their plates at the moment, the new devices need attention and promotion, it will confuse the marketing message, there’s very little profit in commodity devices…

On the other hand the Netbook can be seen as a natural device extension of the Ovi platform which links up from the consumers to the crowd.

My take on this is Nokia should be looking at its services eco system foremost. Netbooks will seriously not be an differentiator in the age of content and the internet. Investements in the netbook may not be both time, investment and attention consuming for very little returns.

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