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Ring! Ring! Hot News, 29th September 2008

In Today’s Issue: Bankers’ favourite BlackBerry bears brunt of banking bust; IBM and Salesforce.com, again; MSFT’s new Unified Comms server, works with Asterisk; Cisco launches Web-based unicomms with VZ; Dell’s business model diverges; Apple lawyers’ war on books. FACT!; Motorola deploys android hordes; HTC keeps on making Windows gadgets; funny prepaid broadband prices; awful EU telecoms bill defanged; roll-your-own MVNO; Joost and the browser plugin to end plugins; CWN vs Pirates; Roshan’s M-PESA deployment vs Taliban; Singapore’s fibre deployment, none more Telco 2.0; global M2M alliance formed

Crisis at RIM; the maker of BlackBerrys issued a profits warning for the fourth quarter, as thousands of bankers handed their company-issued devices over to the administrators, filed last-minute expense claims, and packed their belongings in the traditional cardboard box.

RIM’s response to this appears to be as follows: keep taking the tablets. For some time, they’ve been trying hard to diversify and appeal to consumers and power users as well as their core enterprise market, hence their efforts to make the gadgets prettier (frankly, all the Blackberries up to the Pearl were ugly as hell), and more user friendly (the same went for the user interface).

After all, even without the banking crisis, push e-mail was never a technology that would defy copying. It is, after all, how an e-mail system should behave according to RFCs 822 and 2822 for over 25 years. Since Microsoft began providing it in MS Exchange Server, you had to wonder how long the good days would last.

One possible answer for RIM was to keep going with their business-focused strategy and integrate more enterprise applications on the handsets. They’ve had a fruitful partnership with IBM, who integrated them with Lotus Notes and also Salesforce.com; IBM, meanwhile, is getting on with getting closer to the SAAS powerhouse.

Relatedly, Microsoft is tightening up the last few bolts on its new unicomms product, OCS 2007 Release 2. Interestingly, one of the new features is “easier Asterisk integration”; that’s Asterisk as in the popular open-source IP PBX, very much a product of the Unix/Linux world. Perhaps MS is hoping to let its developers leave the telecoms stuff to Asterisk and concentrate on the application layer?

Cisco, meanwhile, announces a Web-based version of its unicomms system, and a lucky carrier as the main partner to market it - Verizon, with announcements for Asia and Europe to come.

Dell is rumoured to be splitting its PC manufacturing business from its sales and marketing business. As John Hagel astutely notes, this separates the product business from the customer relationship business, each requiring different skills and cultures. Telcos would appear to be equally unnatural beasts. You don’t buy your consumer electronics goods from the owner of the local power station. Why on earth are we so wedded to branding networks — that the user cares little about — and pretending one company will be good at infrastructure, product innovation and customer management?

The row over the Apple App Store Ts & Cs rages on; this time, it’s a handbook for iPhone developers that’s in trouble, as the publishers’ lawyers fear that publishing the book may breach the AppStore NDA. Is it even legal to mention that the book exists? Or will we soon need to downface a Cupertinan nastygram?

No wonder that Motorola has apparently assigned no less than 350 developers to work on Android apps, while even Nokia was represented at a recent Google devcon. Moto has a special reason to be interested; as members of the rival LiMo Foundation, not only would they be interested in what’s going on, but there’s also scope for reusing quite a lot of work between the two mobile Linux platforms.

HTC, meanwhile, promises that their involvement with Android doesn’t mean they’re going to stop making Windows Mobile devices.

Over on the network side, here’s an interesting insight into two rival carriers’ business models. T-Mobile UK is launching prepaid mobile broadband service. Once you’ve bought the USB dongle — the traditional Huawei E220, like enough — you pay for “unlimited” data service for a specified period of time. £20 buys you 30 days of Internet service. Now, consider this; 3UK already provides prepaid mobile broadband (and this blog was maintained over such a link for a while), but it charges by quantity. Over there, £15 buys you 3GB of data, which must be consumed within a month. Here’s the kicker — the cost of a bit is exactly equal for the two operators, and has been ever since the creation of their network-sharing joint venture (Mobile Broadband Network Ltd).

The EU “telecoms package” had its first reading in the European Parliament, where to the delight of many, the highly controversial provisions suggested by the French government and some British Conservatives which would have required mandatory DPI and content policing were struck out. Further, most of the rest of the bill was altered to devolve it to national authorities, including the key clause affecting OFCOM’s plans to refarm the 2.5GHz UMTS Extension band.

MaxRoam has launched a new product — specifically, it’s a set of tools to create your own MVNO based on their hosting infrastructure. Very cool.

Online video service Joost, meanwhile, has shifted from being a software application to being a Web service, using a special browser plugin to handle the P2P element. That sounds like quite a plugin, and there are complaints about crashiness and the fact that it keeps running after the browser is closed. Apparently there is a new Flash-based version coming. Despite the technology shifts, we’re still waiting for a viable business model to show up.

Surveys suggest that unlimited music services like Nokia’s Comes With Music might compete with piracy; it’s a pity everyone thinks it’s a lossmaker…

Roshan, Afghanistan’s biggest GSM network, has launched the M-PESA mobile banking system developed by Safaricom; great stuff, but they are still having to switch off 30 to 50 sites every night for fear of Taliban vengeance.

Singapore leaps into fibre with a national 1Gbps/s roll-out based on a whole wave of Telco 2.0 themes; there’s going to be Layer Zero unbundling, a shared fibre network, competition between operating companies at Layer 2 and above. And in other Telco 2.0 news, a new interoperator alliance is formed so that machine-to-machine (M2M) applications need only work with one set of standards, worldwide.

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