Monday, February 14, 2011

How Nokia and Microsoft will take up Innovative Mobile Services

Nokia smartphones will be running Windows Phone, but the company is hoping to hang on to some of its service-provider identity even as Microsoft grabs the choicest morsels.
Nokia tried hard to redefine itself as a provider of services, which is what everyone wants to be these days - hardware margins are tight and most software platforms are being given away for free. Over the years, Nokia has launched a plethora of services, including PIM synchronisation, cloud storage, and its very own instant messaging service – all of which eventually got lumped together under the Ovi brand but never really gelled as a coherent offering.

Recently, the Finns started killing off some of the more esoteric offerings, such as the cloud storage service, and they farmed others out to better-equipped companies, which included dumping Ovi e-mail and messaging with Yahoo. Ovi will no-doubt continue to provide services for non-smart phones, and the 150 million Symbian handsets Nokia expects to ship during the transition, but much of the service offering will now be handed over to Redmond.
Nokia gets to keep mobile mapping, while Microsoft gets handset advertising, an area in which Nokia has never showed much interest. Nokia also gets free rein to take Google and Apple to the cleaners over mobile patents, while Microsoft gets to poke Intel in the eye one last time.
These days, it's almost possible to feel sorry for Intel, which must really hate the mobile industry. First, the company pissed money into WiMAX, which got killed off by the network operators in collusion with Qualcomm. Then Microsoft announces that desktop Windows will be ported to the ARM architecture used by every other chip manufacturer, and now, Intel's attempt to undermine Microsoft with its own mobile platform is in tatters with MeeGo redefined as a "project" by Nokia and kicked into the "longer term".
Not that Nokia has much to celebrate, with Microsoft taking some of the best services for itself as well as collecting OS royalties. Contact and calender synchronisation will inevitably end up with Redmond, on smartphones at least, as will e-mail. The Ovi store gets integrated into the Windows Marketplace. We're not sure that that means. Perhaps developers will be able to submit applications to either company, but more likely, Microsoft's store will take advantage of the operator billing that Nokia has been able to put into place.
Ovi Music could survive. Microsoft has no problem with alternative content providers as long as they integrate with the appropriate Windows Phone 7 hubs, but we've yet to hear any details on that.
Ovi Maps will be the location technology of choice, on Nokia's handsets at least. It's not clear what happens to other Windows Phone 7 manufacturers which is where things get interesting. Bing Maps is currently well integrated into the Windows Phone 7 experience, automatically linking to contact addresses and calender appointments. Bing Maps can also be utilised by third-party developers through a Silverlight control, and we have to assume the same functionality will be available on Nokia handsets using Ovi Maps instead. With a consistent interface, and Microsoft getting the advertising revenue, one has to wonder why Nokia would be so keen on providing maps anyway, other than to justify the $8bn or so the Finns spent on Navteq in 2007.
Nokia has never shown much interest in mobile advertising, which is surprising when Google spent $750 on AdMob, and Apple shelled out $275 on Quattro for its iAd platform. Even Opera managed to find $8m to buy up Ad Marvel. Nokia owns Novarra, which already optimises – and inserts advertising into – mobile browsing sessions for Vodafone UK and Yahoo, but Nokia seems happy to hand over the whole smartphone advertising business to Microsoft's adCenter.
In return Nokia gets "significant" and "substantial" amounts of marketing dollars, and a doorway into America. Like all European stars Nokia has always been desperate to make it big in America, sometimes embarrassingly so, and this deal will likely put it there, but America changes people, and the Nokia that succeeds there will not be the Nokia we remember. source

A free cloud service for building smartphone apps

 Conduit, an application developer for Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association, is now making its app-building tools available free. The Tel Aviv, Israel-based company has developed a website for building an application once that will run on five smartphone platforms: iPhone, Android, Windows, Blackberry and Nokia's Symbian.
The service uses feeds from your website or social networks. "You can slice and dice it how you want" for the mobile app, said Dayna Verstegen, marketing director of the company.
The app-building site also walks the developer through the application process for each smartphone marketplace, whether it's iTunes or the Android marketplace. Conduit also runs its own marketplace and apps built in on the free platform will be added to it.
Apps built on the free service will display ads, which is how Conduit makes money from the service.
The company started out building browser apps for companies in 2005 and grew to include mobile apps. Clients range from large and high-profile companies -- eBay, TechCrunch, Fox News -- to small business owners, such as a high-end pet store in Baltimore, Verstegen said.
The free cloud service, Conduit Mobile, launched this morning and there are now 2,000 mobile applications that have been built.
The company said it had 230 million users active as of February and 230,000 customers.
It will continue building custom mobile applications through a revenue-share model as well.source

Swarm Of Google Services

This week NetSpeak takes a fresh look at some of the latest offerings from Google.
Google's dominance over the online world seems to be insurmountable. Aside the wide variety of search services from its flagship search product pack (web search, video search, blog search and the like), Google offers numerous other services as well (Google mail, Browser, Google Apps and the like). Even in the fastest growing mobile web segment, Google is surging ahead.
The on-line world is now agog with the news that Android, the open source mobile operating system from Google, has become a major platform for mobile devices (http://www.gpsbusinessnews.com/Canalys-Android-is-World-Leading-Smartphone-Platform_a2775. html).
The staggering number of mobile applications being released for Android-based smart-phones further underlines this trend. NetSpeak will deal on this topic in one of the forthcoming editions of this column.
An interesting feature of the Google's product ecosystem is that its constituents interact with mutual synergy, making it grow in an organic manner.
This aspect is quite apparent in Chrome, the popular browser from Google. As already mentioned in an earlier column, the strength and popularity of Chrome lies in the availability of a variety of extensions that enhance its power.
Extensions meant for accessing almost all Google services with ease are in place. You may also note that the latest version of Chrome has got a feature called ‘Instant', which is similar to Google Instant.
This feature enables the browser to load a web page as soon as one starts entering its URL. Besides this, instead of a site's URL, if you are entering a search string, search results will start appearing as you type.
Google Apps marketplace
Google Apps (http://www.google.com/apps/) is a significant component of Google ecosystem. For those of you who are not familiar with Google Apps, it is a Google service that provides various Google products (such as gmail and google docs) on a custom domain. Anyone with a domain name can avail of this service, which is free for up to 50 uses.
Google Apps allows a domain owner to leverage Google's infrastructure and deploy Google's popular applications on his domain without incurring any additional hardware/software overhead. Google also offers ‘Google Apps Marketplace', a web-based platform meant for finding/installing third-party on-line applications that work with Google Apps' built-in application mix.
The latest development in the ‘Apps Marketplace' front is the launch of a new channel exclusively meant for the education segment (http://goo.gl/pdGZJ). In this category one can find several applications useful for both teachers and students.
Brainpop, a popular on-line service that creates educational content for kids is a good example.
The service offers animated educational movies on a range of topics within Science, Technology, Social studies, English and so on. Although Brainpop is not a free service, for ‘Google Apps' users it is available for free till March 11, 2011.source

Travelling Numbers

Almost all mobile service brands say the much anticipated and much delayed mobile number portability is not going to be a game changer in their industry. And yet, not one of them is holding back on doing their best — in effort and expenses — to get subscribers to port from competing service brands best — in effort and expenses — to get subscribers to port from competing service brands to their own.

Idea Cellular started advertising before the launch of MNP in November 2010. By now, there is a communication deluge as MNP cuts across India. Leading players such as Airtel and Vodafone have gone aggressive across TV, print, radio, outdoor, at points of sale and online.
Newer entrants Uninor and MTS have been advertising over the past two months or so. To Idea’s celebrity endorser Abhishek Bachchan, Airtel has roped in AR Rahman, Shah Rukh Khan, Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor.
Vodafone has a TV ad featuring a kiddie photo session and hoardings welcoming subscribers to much better services and quality without changing their mobile numbers.
And riding on the din, though perhaps not specifically MNP-driven, is Videocon with its zero-paisa per second call offer — for the period of one year — on its TV ad and outdoor media.
So is it much ado about nothing?
Mritunjay Kapur, MD, Protiviti Consulting India (Protiviti is an international risk management and business consulting group), said, “Because one brand is doing it, others are also doing it. It’s a very competitive market.”  With as many as 15 mobile service brands fighting for business, no one would miss out on any action, not even in a market with a subscriber base as large as 75.22 crore as on December 31, 2010, according to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) figures.
Atul Bindal, president, mobile services, Bharti Airtel, said, “Pre-paid subscriptions make up 95% of the total mobile customer base in India. With already very high monthly pre-paid churn at around 7%, MNP will have very small impact at an industry level.”
Samaresh Parida, director, corporate strategy, Vodafone Essar, said, “In most countries where MNP has been launched, the action mostly lasted over three-four months, by which time subscribers settled down with the service of their choice.”
However, port-outs and port-ins are happening with every service, big and small. “We have seen 2,17,000 port-ins and 1,25,000 port-outs,” said Parida.

While attractive price deals are very visible, the bigger players insist that low pricing cannot be a sole driver for MNP movement. “We find customers changing operators due to network issues. Our research also indicates that they are switching operators because of service and not pricing issues,” Bindal said.
But, he added, “the possibility of ongoing tactical promotional offers at the local level cannot be ignored. As prices in India are already very low, there is no further scope for a sustainable price drop. With MNP launch, all existing operators will be working on improving their quality of services — network, customer service, products.”
“Customers responding to MNP are making more considered choices. Their requests are on network quality, service, brand strength and also tariffs,” Parida observed.
Rajat Mukarji, chief corporate affairs officer, Idea Cellular, said, “Consumers, our research shows, are looking for a pan-India network offering seamless connectivity; affordable, relevant products and service offerings; accessible and humane customer care; accurate billing systems; voice clarity; and no call drops. These are the key parameters for satisfaction and will ultimately be the deciding factors for exercising choice, post MNP. These were the highlights on our ad campaign, with its key message, ‘No Idea, Get Idea’.”
Newer operators are, however, more upbeat on the mix of attractive pricing and less cluttered networks since their subscriber bases are smaller.
“We expect MNP to boost our subscriber base. January-November 2010 TRAI numbers show that 14% of incremental subscribers were brought in by new operators. Post MNP, 60% of our port-ins were GSM consumers. The new operators received licences at varied intervals between 2008 and 2009, so their achievement is even more significant,” said Leonid Musatov, chief marketing officer, MTS India, which offers CDMA services.
Olav Sande, EVP, western circle, Uninor India, said dynamic pricing has worked wonderfully for Uninor. “We see MNP as an excellent opportunity to grow. In itself, MNP is not a basic need. The basic need is the attractiveness of the plan in terms of price and the services we offer on that plan,” he said.
Every mobile service brand wants the high ARPU (average revenue per user) subscriber — who is mostly a post-paid customer — but is not averse to lower revenue customers too.
Parida explained, “Naturally, I would give higher priority to my high ARPU customer. Below that, based on usage segmentation, I would offer different services to different customer sets.”
Airtel’s Bindal was more direct: “We remain focused on delivering complete ‘value’ as against offering just the price proposition. We hope to acquire few customers in the category of deal seekers that keep switching operators depending upon ‘offer of the day’ schemes. Our early analysis indicates that among MNP port-ins, Airtel is getting disproportionate share of high value customers from other operators.”
Does MNP impact anything then? Protiviti’s Kapur concluded, “It gives consumers choice. It puts greater pressure on mobile service operators to improve their products, services and quality. Overall, MNP can create better balance in overall deliveries. Consumers gain.”source