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Facebook, Google, Apple: User Data, Apps, and Augmented Reality


Dr. Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO, sometimes talks of ‘computer-assisted people’, part of Google’s vision being that the world will comprise those who use the power of the internet and the world’s computing resources to aid their everyday lives, and those who don’t. In parallel to the libertarian ideal that everyone possible should get the opportunity to be ‘assisted’, the economic reality of Google’s (and others’) rationale is that those with the assistance will be richer and better customers for their services.

Consumer Data - the Key Asset

Access to consumer data (e.g. call records, browsing histories, the contents of retail shopping carts, finance records), and information about and from the world around us (‘the internet of things’), are key enabling pieces of the business model. Consumer data can provide a lot of answers to the questions of this computer assisted world: “who are you, who are your friends, what do you buy, what are you interested in, what can you spend?” Google is one of an increasing number of players who’s data-matching expertise can bridge between these questions and their solutions and answers, most critically “where is what you want and how can you most easily get this”?

“Re-Thinking Personal Information”

Telco 2.0 is part of a team (which includes MIT, Harvard Berkman Center, Bain & Co and Invention Arts) working with the World Economic Forum on a project called “Re-Thinking Personal Information”. We’ll be discussing this at our Consumer 2.0 sessions on Day 2 of the Americas Brainstorm, 27-18 Nov, L.A., and Day 2 of the EMEA Brainstorm, 9-10 Nov, 2010.

In the rest of this article, we look at:


  • The theoretical framework for the new Consumer Information Economy;

  • The opportunities for telcos and others;

  • The roles of Apps, ‘Augmented Reality’, and adjacent players like Google, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft.

This is the third of five daily posts this week, summarising our recent and new research for the Americas Brainstorm in L.A., 27-28 Oct, and the EMEA Brainstorm in London, 8-9 Nov. It’s also the ‘last chance to see’ the material from our first ‘Best Practice Live!’ online event, with the videos coming offline on 28th September, so please watch the ones you want to see before they’re gone. The links are marked* below or can be found here. NB. You will need to register on the first page that the embedded links take you to, or log in if you’ve already registered. If you have any problems please email us at contact@telco2.net.

Telco 2.0 Analytical Framework

In Can Telcos Unlock the Value of their Consumer Data?, we provided an analytical framework to understand the many applications of consumer data (see below), in addition to expert contributions and detailed analysis on ‘best and next practice’ on privacy issues, legal and regulatory frameworks, technological solutions, adjacent competition, and scenario analysis.

user data diagram sep 2010.png

Source: Telco 2.0

(NB. Philip Laidler gives a great description of how to use the framework in his ‘Best Practice Live!’ presentation*.)

Telcos have the opportunity to act in many areas of this new information economy, in roles from a passive provider of certain anonymous elements of data, through to acting as custodians of ‘digital personas’, giving consumers the power to exploit and manage their own data and identities.

We’ve previously highlighted the relative strengths of Google and the telcos in this regard, and our forward agenda is to:


  • Describe the emerging structure of the information economy;

  • Detail the activities of the main players in this field - Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft;

  • Define the optimum roles for telcos, including ‘Use Cases’ as examples;

  • Size the opportunity for telcos.

The World Outside Telcos Will Drive the New Information Economy

At ‘Best Practice Live!’, Prof. Alex ‘Sandy’ Pentland, Human Dynamics Lab, MIT gave a fascinating overview of the latest techniques in ‘reality mining*’ - how development efforts are creating new information technologies that can extract extraordinary insights from masses of raw data. William Hoffman, Associate Director, World Economic Forum (who we’re working with in this area) showed that the key to enabling the wider ecosystem* is achieving wins for all parties, especially the consumer - a key principle we outlined in Consumer Data & Privacy 2.0: Give Customers the Power. Marc Davis, Chief Scientist and Co-Founder, Invention Arts, another visionary and friend of Telco 2.0 now at Microsoft, gave a glimpse of the possibilities of this future*, describing customer data as the ‘crude oil’, and asking what the trading and distribution infrastructure should be.

The economy based on this ‘crude oil’ is still in an early stage of development, and in parallel to the huge developments underway in the equivalents of the drilling and by-product manufacturing processes (think of the development of the plastics industry), the distribution and consumption processes are equally nascent.

Apps: New Kids on the Block

While The Internet is arguably approaching early middle-age, Apps are a relatively new phenomenon, described by Ilja Laures, the CEO of Getjar, as developmentally equivalent to a 1990 website.

Apps, in their current environment of the smartphone, are subject to four particularly interesting developmental forces compared to PC based services.


  1. Apps need to operate as simply as possible on the limited screen of a mobile.

  2. Because they are by definition mobile, location information is particularly useful to Apps.

  3. Mobiles are much more strongly tied to an individual and therefore that individual’s identity.

  4. Consequently, the more personalised and detailed the set up of an App, the more useful they can be to the user.

While some Apps are simply games that are downloaded to the phone, many of the most useful and ultimately monetisable Apps connect to other information sources remotely to aggregate limited sets of information, e.g. a train time-tables for specific journeys based on the user’s location and preferences.

At ‘Best PracticeLive!, Ibrahim Gedeon, CTO, TELUS described the key role of consumer identity data in ‘One API vs Appstores*’, while Tom Hume, Managing Director, Future Platforms, discussed how to make appstores work for developers*.

Augmented Reality: Different Words, Similar Concept

‘Augmented Reality’ (AR) is another term related to the idea of ‘computer assisted people’ and an area in which we are researching the opportunity for telcos for the forthcoming events and our overall research agenda. Apps and location based services are a mobile manifestation of AR, but there are also other aspects, and Roberto Saracco, Director of the Future Centre, Telecom Italia, gave a great ‘Best Practice Live!’ presentation on how telcos can play a central role in the AR business model*.

The Roles of Adjacent Market Players

Google, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft are all aiming to be significant players in the new Information Economy, albeit with very different objectives and strategies.

In addition to Google: Where to cooperate? Where to compete? that analysed Google’s strategy and recommended of how service providers can plan ‘coopetition’, and articles like ‘How Google’s Chief Magician Stole the Show’ from the 2010 GSMA World Congress, Google is a company that we will continue to cover.

In ‘Best Practice Live!’ we looked at how Google is looking to use its $25Bn cash pile* to expand from the PC and into the mobile and the TV and to develop new services, and at the realistic threats, opportunities, and strategies* for the telecoms industry.

Next Steps

Our next Google features will examine the rise of Android, and Google’s cunning plan to use a two-sided business model to generate extra revenues from copyright protection in YouTube.

In addition, we’re writing major new Executive Briefings on Facebook and Apple, examining their strategies, and the related opportunities and threats for telcos and others in the industry.

We’ll be discussing our Facebook analysis on Day 2 of the Americas Brainstorm, 27-18 Nov, L.A., and Day 1 of the EMEA Brainstorm, 9-10 Nov, 2010.

We’ve also made articles on these topics easier to find under on our research portal under the following headings:

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