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Ring! Ring! Hot News, 21st January 2008

O2 sells fewer iPhones than expected. Here’s a Telco 2.0 teachable moment for you; you know how we keep banging on about the importance of the enterprise and SMB markets? Well, what they need is something like this: IBM has ported the Lotus Notes client for the overhyped gadget, thus making it considerably more useful. No wonder that, during a week of horrible economic news, IBM announced stellar results from a parallel universe of high-end custom integration services built from open-source application servers. Let’s list those ingredients for success again: open platform, integration services, sold to people with the money and the real customer relationship.

Sprint-Nextel, however, had terrible news; 4,000 staff to go, 125 stores to close, and it’s now officially the case that since the big merger so much value has vanished that one of Sprint or Nextel might as well no longer exist. You could have let off a neutron bomb outside head office in Overland Park and saved the merchant banker fees. An ill-advised dash for subscribers at the expense of product and customer quality can really make a mess — a poster child for ‘bad metrics can mess up your business’.

But these are tough times for all telcos. Vodafone claims it’s in pole position to enter the Chinese market; but that could turn out to be pole in a race to the bottom. China Telecom suffered a net loss of subscriber lines for the fifth successive month; the mobile/VoIP pincers are crushing them, too. It’s fair to say, we think, that neither selling downloadable celebrity autographs or pictures of hot babez cleaning the inside of your iPhone are going to fix that.

France Telecom and Lagardere are giving music away; not much margin in that. KPN is in big trouble with the regulator about special discounts for big customers; who would have thought paying your customers to stick around wasn’t good business?

Even Carphone Warehouse couldn’t get beyond flat like-for-like results. No wonder T-Mobile is looking from their backhaul bill to the rest of Deutsche Telekom’s DSL empire, then back to the backhaul bill, then back to the DSL… And it looks like Nigeria is getting its first MVNO.

Telcos have to respond: AT&T launches SIM-only service, which is at least competitive. It’s a pity about the detail; if you go to their website, you’ll notice that it’s described as a “3G 64K SIM card”. We hope that’s the card memory capacity. In KBytes.

Less depressingly, DirecTV commits innovation. Their subs will soon be able to control their DVR set top boxes from mobile devices; that sounds like a good idea to us, and one that’s been implemented in a simple fashion using a stripped-down website. What we particularly like are products that make the best of several delivery systems, combining into a whole that is more than the sum of the parts — as opposed to shoe-horning one media experience into another. Why don’t more mobile operators do this well? Relatedly, HBO has announced video-on-demand over IP; but you won’t be allowed to put the video on a mobile device for later consumption, because that would be wrong. The unavoidable conclusion is that you’d really be better off buying a Slingbox and doing an ‘over the top’ media-shifting solution yourself.

Over at Nokia Forum, they’re having a coding contest; nobody could accuse them of being seduced by shiny gadgets and fancy graphics, either. What are they offering prizes for? The best inter-process communication framework for multiple run-time environments, that’s what. Wild and crazy guys.

And if you’re an operator, and the rest of this broadcast hasn’t depressed you yet; Brough Turner reckons mobile VoIP will boom in the next two years.

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Mmmm.. BTW: i think lotus revenues were flat.

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