Category Archives: Mobile

Mobiles and Social Web over the next 10 years: five megatrends

Having gone through some 22 forecasts about mobiles and the social web from 2010 to 2020, I’ve collapsed them into five transformative trends:

1. Mobiles will be used for more things, dominating other networks

Mobile devices (phones, tablets, laptops, netbooks) are set to become much more important for communication and broadband connectivity. There will be more content generated and distributed, more digital marketing, financial transactions, health care services and environmental monitoring over mobiles.  The cost of powerful smartphones will fall…and handheld form factors become old hat. Advertising revenues may exceed TV and the internet by reach and by revenue.

2. Mobiles will change our reality, through augmented/mixed reality and location/person/object aware applications

New applications will be used for search, discovery, entertainment, gaming, healthcare and retail. In time, nearly every user interaction with mobiles might be location-aware. Advanced augmented reality and location-aware applications will become mainstream and core revenue earners.

3. The Social Web matures

The era of experimentation with social networks will end with users, businesses, governments and civil society embedding social networking and social media into everyday lives and business activity. User sophistication develops as filtering tools and techniques are applied and the relevancy and utility of connections improve. Collective intelligence helps to filter and respond to what is worthwhile to users. More control over what is created and done online is placed with individuals and their trusted intermediaries.  Porting data will become easier.

4. The Social Web transforms

Social networks online change the nature of work and generate new economic value and social benefits. Companies will function on social networks. Online reputation drives work and personal relationships. Most people expect social network connectivity and interaction to be real-time and available anywhere.

5. Applications re-shape the value-chain

The applications market continues to grow internationally, with more stores and more uses, within an open and innovative environment for applications development. Underlying networks and platforms provide utility access and connectivity.

Trapped girls call for help on Facebook

Interesting news item from yesterday – two girls from Adelaide who were trapped in a drain called for help by updating their status on Facebook using a mobile phone. Some say this one comes in the category “you could not make this up”‘. Others – like Don Tapscott – would probable say this comes under “digital natives think differently”.

Now, as I understand, the two girls (aged 10 & 12) opted to seek out help from their social network instead of going straight to the authorities (eg. phoning ‘000’) because they wanted to avoid getting into trouble with their parents. Still, there are some important messages here, this one from Laurel Papworth:

“Incredibly important today is understanding how social networking protects our children. There is stuff they can’t tell a parent or a teacher or the police but they can’t bottle up any more. So they tell their friends, they tell people they play online games with, they write anonymously on websites full of emo-angst and they tell forum moderators and game GMs, who understand and ‘get them’. Expect to see lots more “we should’ve seen it coming” from adults waking up to teens pushing out warnings on online communities. It keeps them safe in the absence of an understanding adult”.

From my perspective – and drawing on Don Tapscott’s knowledge of these things – the girls had trust in their social network, more trust than in dealing with authority figures. Seems to me like another indicator of the central role that social network services play in the lives of digital natives.

Looking at this from anther perspective, Facebook, MySpace and Bebo all have age restrictions that limit access to those aged 13 or 14 and above. Such policies no doubt reflect the concerns that many have about social network site risks. Thing is, the reality is different. According to a UK study reported in August 2008, age restrictions do not stop many children from participating. A spokesperson for the UK research outfit said that “Children are at the vanguard of the social networking phenomenon, using sites such as Facebook and Bebo in the same way other generations used the telephone”.  True for Australia too. The ACMA’s Click and connect: Young Australians’ use of online social media 02:Quantitative research report found that:

  • the internet is a regular part of everyday lives of children and young people aged eight to 17 years
  • both frequency and length of use increase with age
  • young people of high school age (12 to 17) years used the internet on average 6.3 days per week for an average of 2.9 hours per day
  • the use of social networking services increases dramatically between the ages of eight to 17.

Plenty of room for thought here, not only about what digital natives do now that is so different, but what implications lie ahead for institutions and social interaction.

Convergence – getting your business model right

Telecom TV has a good panel discussion of convergence and business model implications for telcos from over-the-top applications. The panelists are Alan Meehan, CEO of INQ, and Alan Nunn, Head of Services, Intelligence, Applications BT Innovate.

I guess there were four things that stood out to me, that:

  • the walled-garden approach is not sustainable (not that I needed convincing of that)
  • there is a clear drive to “make the Internet real” for mobile users
  • we can expect continued innovation in communications from applications development
  • innovation and growth is happening in the web and a lot of the focus is shifting to mobile connectivity.

From the INQ perspective, “making the Internet real” is in making it easy to use what their target market wants – Facebook, Instant Messaging and Skype. Now, what these applications have in common is that they are used to keep in contact with people. I suspect that Telstra’s “phone mum” advertising campaign actually resulted in a lot of those connections being over Skype or Facebook, not a phone call. In short, connectivity for many people these days does not involve making a traditional phone call.

Alan Nunn spoke about some going innovation, such as converting speech to text, arising from BT’s acquisition of Ribbit, an IP phone company.

There is also some interest insight about mobile network investment decisions such as stringing out HSDPA & deferring optic-LTE roll-outs, and the anticipated roll-out of femtocells. Nonetheless, the end-game is expected to be LTE, taking IP to the edge and cutting through the remnants of mobile operator walled-gardens.

It’s all another sign of the de-coupling of content from underlying infrastructure – a market-led separation in fact, driven by what the consumer is doing.

Cloud Media

Ross Dawson has launched the Future of Media Lifecycle framework developed for the Future of Media Summit 2008. Again, I do like the imagery created by Future Exploration Network.

I like the ‘personal cloud’ imagery to capture the way people store, create and consume content. Including ‘conversation’ in the Sea of Content  helps to capture the participatory nature of social media, although ‘life streaming’ would fit just as well.

Viewing media as a personal cloud captures the way people consume and create media at work, socialising, in transit (mobile) and in the home. I agree that personalised location-specific and outdoor media may well be more interesting – i.e. of value – to people than mass-market marketing.

Reading Ross Dawson’s blog posting got me thinking (as you do). I would say there are more clouds in the media lifecycle:

  • Social clouds – clouds where networked people store and share their sea of content
  • Community clouds – a community sea of content, created and maintained by groups of people with shared interests, including communities that endure over time, transcending individual influences.

In other words, fundamental social elements and actors map to the Cloud. And likewise, participation is in the home and mobile. Social and community clouds – as well as personal clouds – are wherever, whatever, and however you like.

Mobile Internet Type II

Following on from my recent “Mobile Internet’ posting, a message (some would say ‘vision’) – that the future is mobile – is one that the wireless industry has been on about for about four or five years now. It’s only recently that there are signs in Australia of the promise coming to fruition. But there are two distinct offerings at play.

3G operators like ‘3’ and Virgin offer mobile broadband dongles (modems) for as little as $20 month for 1GB (upload + download). Just plug the modem into your PC or laptop and away you go – just like fixed network broadband access. There is an article in today’s The Age about the high demand for this form of wireless broadband in preference to fixed-line broadband. What’s more, the networks seem to have plenty of capacity to make these offerings – acting to stimulate demand rather than building more capacity (as the fixed line networks must do) in response to demand.
Meanwhile, 3G operators continue to offer mobile phone plans including voice, video/TV and data services…oh, and the mobile Internet.
The distinction is that mobile phone plans are run over the GSM cellular ecosystem (i.e. integrating service access, addressing and billing systems). This operating systems enables carriers to charge for every transaction, differentiating based on what the traffic is. It’s that charging capacity that carriers want to take forward to the brave new world of 4G with the IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) standard. That appears to be the issue of so much concern to Joi Ito.
Virgin’s advertising captures this interplay between the two offerings well in its blurb “The Internet should be free”. Get their mobile modem for no charge….as long as you purchase the bundling home or mobile phone package.
In summary, there are two ‘mobile Internet’ offerings available – one that may well have content and voice service provision tethered to the network and one that is just another broadband internet access service (but one that is mobile). The broadband internet accesss offer resembles a commoditised utility service. The mobile phone plan offering is consistent  with the more familiar telecommunications offering of any-to-any connectivity for voice, video, messaging and some data.

The Mobile Internet

Here is an interesting posting by Joi Ito. The open, innovative and competitive nature of the internet is compared with the closed ecosystem of the mobile phone industry (an industry that is operated by comparatively few players). Joi essentially questions the ‘fit’ of the internet with the mobile sector.

In a world that has over 3 billion mobile phones as against 1.3 billion internet users, there is no question that the mobile phone and the internet are highly valued respectively. While the open nature of the internet has generated so much growth in the communications and media industry, people love the convenience and usefulness of their mobile phones. It will be very interesting to see how these two stand-out forms of connectivity will evolve over the next few years, and what  will come from the influence of one on the other.

Telecommunications and the mobile internet

Susan Crawford has posted a useful perspective on the ‘open’ conditions placed on C Block spectrum (in reference to the recent FCC auction, USA) and what is possibly a strategy to get around them. Bear in mind that the intent of the open conditions rules is to decouple applications and devices from the underlying network, thereby promoting innovation and choice.

There are fundamental issues at stake here in the migration of voice and multimedia to wireless IP networks. Verizon’s strategy appears to be a reassertion of the telecommunications model of vertically integrated, fully managed and billed services. As Ms Crawford observed, that’s not the internet.

The strategy underpinning Verizon’s business model hinges on the successful deployment of IP Multimedia Subsystems (IMS). Developed by the mobile industry standards group 3GPP, IMS was developed as an evolutionary replacement to GSM (an ecosystem for cellular networks inclusive of billing systems). IMS allows for traffic discrimination, billed according to network operator requirements. As an industry standard – as with GSM – IMS is a standardised set of specifications for devices to connect to broadband wireless networks.

Susan’s posting also provides a view on government’s role in this context:

– In cooperation with industry, develop a standard set of specifications
for all devices to connect to broadband wireless networks
– Ensure the specifications do not unfairly discriminate
– Police the industry to ensure that industry effective comply with the
policy intent of de-coupling networks from applications and devices

Verizon’s mobile sector strategy in the United States is a test between vertically-integrated, fully managed networks vs. the open nature of the internet. What’s more, my understanding is that IMS could be deployed in wired networks as well. Will openness win over closed systems in the long-run?