Archive for the ‘Mobile Internet’ Category

Has Google Seeded the Future of Mobile?

Monday, February 10th, 2014

This past week’s news was dominated by Apple struggling to fulfill Wall Street’s expectations, Samsung’s proposal to reinvent itself as a software company and, the coup de grace, Google selling Motorola to Lenovo. All of these events reveal an industry in transition.

Smartphones, as we know, have transformed the mobile experience for consumers but have hardly changed since the iPhone was introduced in 2007. They have become faster, bigger and have more sensors but they remain square, slim screens that in developed markets cost around $400. In this scenario Samsung and Apple have thrived, sucking out 90% of the industry profitability.

ARA Motorola projectClearly, the future for smartphones lies in the emerging markets where the next 2 to 3 billion devices will be sold and the price point will be closer to $100. So will these two giants still dominate or will Chinese players such as Lenovo, Huawei, ZTE, Coolpad and an army of white label manufacturers take over this space? Is the smartphone/mobile industry about to enter the commoditization phase?

Against this background it was interesting to see that Google is holding on to the Advanced Technology team that is developing the Ara endoskeleton phone design system, which was revealed late last year. Also revealed was a partnership with Phonebloks with the intent of creating an ecosystem of hardware developers to work with the software developers that support Android. The initial offerings will probably not be successful but the following should be taken into consideration:  for the past few years chip manufacturers have been producing ever more capable systems on chip designs, two examples being Qualcomm’s Snapdragon that dominates the smartphone space and Intel’s Edison for the M2M and Internet of Things space. With the advent of 3D manufacturing and ever more capable components, the concept of a spine that acts as a connector may be the catalyst for a fundamental rethink of devices.

Eco-mobIt is no coincidence that ZTE presented a concept design, Eco-Mobius, at CES 2014 that uses a sliding track enabling users to assemble and disassemble screens, core processors, memory, camera and battery; here the concept of “customize your own device” seems to coincide with a growing interest in wearables. The future may well see the fusion of these two trends with fashion styling enabling devices to fit seamlessly into peoples’ lives.

Discussions around the Internet of Things, Internet of Everything and the Internet of Me are all about the future pervasiveness of mobile connectivity across multiple industries as well as the “always on” digital world we live in. These modular architecture concepts that Google and ZTE are experimenting with will help facilitate this. But, more importantly, since Google excels at building ecosystems, if they succeed in creating an ecosystem of hardware developers to fuse with software companies, the future of mobile will see a complete change. Google may well have seeded the future direction of the industry in a way that only a few of us have foreseen.

Steve Bell, President, KeySo Global

Can Innovation Survive in the Telecoms World?

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

From an innovation perspective, I have always been convinced that “the language we use defines the horizons of our imagination” and so it struck a chord with me when I read in a recent ITU document that “voice calls are no longer the preferred communication mechanism between people”.

This phraseology implies peril for the telecoms industry and a golden opportunity for the internet world. Voice is, however, still the preferred mechanism of human communication but voice calls via a fixed or mobile telephone system are now not the only option available.

This glass half full, myopic misperception leads me to suggest that the business models of telcos are overly focused on the delivery of “coms”. While this has been a highly successful strategy throughout the 20th century, it is rapidly running out of steam as the internet world and telecoms collide to create the new mobile cloud world of today.

Maybe we should learn from Max Frisch (1911-1991), the Swiss author and critic, who said: “We live in an age of reproduction. Most of what makes up our personal picture of the world we have never seen with our own eyes—or rather we have seen it with our own eyes, but not on the spot: our knowledge comes to us from a distance, we are tele-viewers, tele-hearers, tele-knowers”.

So is it time to pivot this focus? Given the colossal change that convergence has forced within a concatenated time frame, the answer should most definitely be “yes”. The challenge for the telecoms industry is to shift its mindset to focus less on the delivery of “coms” and innovatively focus on “tele”literally meaning “at a distance”.  This demands a focus on innovation that leverages the assets already in place, the layered technology developments of the last 5 years as well as the new ones that are emerging; most importantly, a focus on the evolution of global consumer and business usage needs and patterns. It means combining capabilities and services to “enable engagement over distance”. Now the question to ask is: what is it that tele-consumers and tele-enterprises really need in this 3.0 world?

As an entrepreneur, I have learned much over the past five years about the concepts and practices of lean startups, and I realize that some of the challenges they face are very often closely aligned to those of the telecoms companies: namely, having to pivot and adopt a change in strategy without changing the vision, as well as creating multiple iterations of minimum viable solutions to solve customers’ real problems. In essence, getting back to what mobile operators were doing naturally in the early days of cellular. This may require smaller out-boarded organizations but, more importantly, a return of the visionary leaders and problem solvers to replace the accountants and managers before they succumb to the same fate that awaits many startups – running out of resources!

In conclusion, the panel on innovation that I moderated at last week’s ITU Telecom World 2013 conference in Bangkok was about the need for new mindsets and a reevaluation of the telecoms landscape, chiefly because the current map and strategy no longer accurately represent a territory that has been ripped up by the convergence forces of the last five years. I have no doubt that innovation will thrive in the converged industry but the questions still remain: who will the players be and where will this innovation come from?

Steve Bell, President, KeySo Global

The Value of a Global Mobile Mindset

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

Over breakfast the other morning with a former Motorola colleague, we reflected on how we had both been part of teams and companies that had created two exponential growth industries:  cellular and, most recently, the mobile internet – both technologies and industries that have drastically changed and still are re-shaping lives, societies and economies today.

Being part of this transformation can’t help but influence and shape you as an individual; to have lived through an era where the rate of growth outstripped supply of components and capacity on a global basis was no trivial experience.

As a result of this, having a “global mobile mindset” has become part of my DNA. I believe that I intuitively think differently, and deliberately look for the inter-connections and the multiplier effects. Boundaries and borders between business, industry and nation states are historic and do not reflect the flows of knowledge and trade that are enabled in a digital mobile world.  I look at how humans interact with systems, things and other people whilst in motion. Nothing that used to be static or fixed remains that way any longer, and the systems and business models that support the current status quo are subject to continuous disruption.  I tend to assess each situation that I encounter with this broad and open minded approach, and pose the question “how can mobility fundamentally change current assumptions or remove existing constraints?”

As part of my consultancy practice, I now apply this honed intuitive capability and process to help traditional companies and industries look at how the mobile internet, as well as the emerging Internet of Things, can create seismic opportunities for growth. I have translated over 30 years of international experience and best practices into an adaptive solution to client needs. However, there are only a handful of companies that are readily open to this approach; the reason being that strategic innovation requires venturing away from familiar ground into uncharted territory – and that requires courage and leadership.

As a manager, do you consider yourself to be a strategic visionary or digital leader of change that intuitively senses the impending shifts in your industry? If so, you are our natural client and we can help. What we bring are unique insights, frameworks and valuable experience that can help you reshape the way you perceive your industry, and an adaptive methodology to accelerate the strategic innovation plan needed to drive your company into the digital age.

Steve Bell, President, KeySo Global

The Challenges of a Digital Artisan in the 21st Century Workplace

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

A recent article on top technology trends talks about “wiki-work”, which describes today’s seamless internet-facilitated creation and distribution of work, and the “porous workplace” where mobile technology enables work to be carried out in any location and at any time. Trend spotter, Howard Tullman, believes that these and other trends will contribute to a future where more people will piecemeal their workloads, working multiple freelance jobs instead of one full-time position. “By 2020”, Tullman claims, “40% of the U.S. population is going to be acting as free agents.”

This projection aligns with the concept of the “digital artisan” that we have defined in our previous blogs; an individual who is adept at leveraging digital capability to create, enhance and deliver high quality products or services in small quantities, tailored specifically for select customers and markets. In other words, it’s the antithesis of today’s world of mass-production and mass-markets.

For me, however, Tullman’s forecast arouses some concerns and prompts me to pose the following questions: if 40% of the population becomes freelance by 2020, what will the overall economy look like? Will large companies still dominate the economic landscape? Will mass-production and consumption still be the drivers of economic growth? What will be the role of Wall Street in this new world? How will labor law and human resources operate? How will people transition into these new roles? And how will society and the ecosystem evolve to support them?

I’ve also recently been reading about the new Catch 55 – a derivative of the famous Catch 22! Catch 55 refers to the requirement for employees to now work beyond the traditional retirement age, primarily due to dwindling pension funds. This is becoming complicated, however, at a time when companies are being forced to ease the 55+ year olds out of their positions as the younger generation – which is cheaper to employ – push for promotion and the top jobs.  Again, this is something that we have written about – with the loss of the older, more experienced worker goes a wealth of tacit or aggregate knowledge that corporations traditionally hold so close to their chest as proprietary capability. This loss of know-how is effectively released out into the collective where it can, potentially, become fuel for the fire of competitors or new entrants.  The question then arises – how do these 55+ year olds transition into a new world where the corporate workplace considers them too expensive to hire, even though they invariably bring valuable experience-based capabilities and a keen desire to continue working for at least another 10 to 15 years?

Having been one of those 55+ year olds who made the transition from corporate life to free agent / freelancer / consultant, I can attest to the challenges that this brings, and in particular the acquisition and application of new and practical skills. Aspects such as learning how to sell and market yourself,  building a pipeline of work, ensuring that projects are in various stages of completion and execution to maintain a continuous cash flow, dealing with large companies that often delay projects, don’t pay or delay payment – all these are taken care of by others in a corporate environment. There is clearly an opportunity for a new type of agency to emerge – one that seeks and feeds jobs and projects to this select group of freelancers, and leverages their talents to meet corporate requirements. In a report by Vistage “The Future of Work”, this concept is referred to as “Going Hollywood”,  where in movie making today a different set of actors, directors, screenwriters and producers are brought in each time to fill the necessary roles, versus the days when large movie studios controlled the whole process.

One final thought that comes to mind is that, if 40% of the working population is going to become free agents with no guaranteed employer or income, then credit bureaus, mortgage companies and banks will have to drastically rethink and readjust their perspectives on how they assess people for loans and mortgages, or otherwise the future implications for home ownership and wealth creation, as well as the building industry, appear pretty grim.

Since collaboration is now the name of the game, the social networks and communities that have rapidly emerged over the last 5-6 years should now be evolved into broader learning and support mechanisms for today’s digital artisans, to ensure that this group of individuals acquires the necessary skills, support and training to make a smooth transition into the 21st century workplace.

Steve Bell, President, KeySo Global

Connectivity – The Space Between

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

How WiGig, a new standard, could fill the gap

This year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona (MWC 2013) provided an opportunity to foresee the future of wireless technology, not just for mobile phones but for all connected devices.

As this picture confirms, the average computer invariably needs to be connected to numerous other devices in order to perform its multiple daily tasks. Increasingly, the converged world is blurring what content and applications can be obtained from what device; films are available on tablets, Internet on the television and video conferencing on PCs. For those of you who embrace these new opportunities there is invariably that moment when you need to swap from one device to another or share content simultaneously between two devices; at this point you’re scrambling to find the right connector, adaptor or cable. In the very near future this situation may be a thing of the past. Connecting the space between devices and enabling easy and rapid sharing of data, video and connectivity became a step closer to reality over the last three months with the unification of the WiGig and Wi-Fi Alliances.

For the past five years, the Wireless Gigabyte Alliance (WiGig) has been developing a new wireless standard that operates at 60 GHz and can deliver data rates up to 7 Gigabits per second – approximately 10 times the speed of the fastest Wi-Fi technology currently available. One of the major proponents behind this technology is Intel which envisions a future of all your devices cleverly synchronizing masses of data, and without effort on your part. High definition video and images will be instantaneously sharable between PCs, televisions, tablets and other consumer electronic devices. Another proponent, Panasonic, has already demonstrated their prototype WiGig-enabled SD card, showing how it will only take one minute to wirelessly transfer a full DVD video from a wireless controller to a display mounted within a car.

The memorandum of understanding between the Wi-Fi Alliance and WiGig Alliance comes shortly after the IEEE has approved the WiGig standard as 802.11ad, thereby encompassing it within the Wi-Fi family. It is hoped that this unification and standardization will help drive the mass adoption that the Alliance has been aiming to achieve by changing the “perspective of end-users that it was two different standards and two different brands” according to Dr. Ali Sadri, President of the WiGig Alliance, when I interviewed him at MWC 2013 in March.

With multiple manufacturers planning to install WiGig technology into devices across a broad spectrum of consumer electronics products, this will not only increase the speed of massive data and video file transfer but also – through improved and efficient protocol adoption layers (PALS) – facilitate enhanced applications for HDTVs and other consumer electronic devices in the future.

Another potential benefit of WiGig could be seen in large venues, such as shopping malls, sports stadiums, hotels or conference facilities, where high speed, ubiquitous coverage for high volumes of users is difficult to provide using current Wi-Fi technology. The 802.11 ad / WiGig standard will allow five access points instead of the single Wi-Fi access point currently in existence, thereby allowing approximately 50 times more capacity. In addition, the range is controlled utilizing sophisticated beam-forming antennas with a footprint of about 10 m so that overlapping footprints can be created every 10 m or so, enabling users to connect and shift seamlessly between access points while maintaining a high speed data link connection.

Needless to say, key players in the semiconductor industry such as Intel, Broadcom and Samsung will be aggressively marketing this technology. They may not have to push too hard because the huge appeal of being able to wirelessly connect devices and seamlessly share ever increasing amounts of content is bound to drive rapid consumer adoption. Finally a solution to all those trailing wires and connections!

Steve Bell, President KeySo Global

Are New Players Forcing the Mobile Industry to Change?

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

As much as this year’s CES was about the influence of mobile at the center of consumer electronic growth and development, there was little that was outstanding from the perspective of new mobile device introduction.

Certainly Qualcomm, Samsung, Nvidia and Intel talked about enhanced chip set technology that has increased performance and graphics while cutting back on power consumption, and Samsung showcased their new flexible screen technology; but apart from the above, no real breakthrough or “wow” products were announced.

Most mobile device manufacturers tend to hold off until Mobile World Congress (MWC) in February to showcase their new product portfolios for the upcoming year. Increasingly a minority of the big guys have premier events before MWC. Apple has done this is past years and in all probability RIM is planning to introduce its new Blackberry this year. The audience at MWC is made up of global operators that provide the purchasing power and the ability to make or even break manufacturers with decisions to range their products and link them to new services and subsidy provision.

The dawning of a fundamental shift in the composition of the mobile industry may, however, have been observed at this year’s CES. The two major Chinese infrastructure manufacturers that have struggled to gain market position in the U.S. – and in one case is being actively barred – are working on building their customer brand and device portfolio. ZTE and Huawei both had large stands and comprehensive product offerings at CES, and the two companies showcased their new products that clearly targeted the Samsung S3 and Galaxy Note. ZTE launched its Grand S LTE unit and seemed determined to let everyone know that they are now the number 4 smartphone manufacturer worldwide. Huawei’s main product introductions, however, lack LTE capability which is a little surprising given the North American market focus on LTE growth. I am sure that there will be an announcement at MWC, or possibly later at CTIA in May that will address this hole in the U.S. portfolio. The real point is that these two companies are striving to build brand awareness and become household names; at the same time they are targeting Samsung which, together with Apple, is taking a 90% chunk of the profit currently generated in the smartphone market.

The Chinese are known for their long term strategic plays and it is likely that they will be the root cause of a complete shake-up of the mobile space that we are about to witness. The Apple’s and Samsung’s will undoubtedly survive but will be under increased pressure to maintain their brand and technology prowess, and at the same time sustain the margins that Wall Street has become accustomed to. Those manufacturers in the middle of the mobile market will find it a struggle. HTC, which showcased a star product at Mobile World Congress last year, now has non-existent profits and has failed to maintain its technology and brand presence. At CES this year, rumor had it that a major European / U.S. carrier was considering deranging and dropping HTC because they no longer offer hero products or have the brand to support them.

Amongst this turmoil, RIM will also face the challenge of re-establishing itself in the market, despite the introduction of its new Blackberry 10. Both LG and Sony may be forced into a niche, and Nokia could become to Microsoft what Motorola has become to Google – a hardware capability but with no direction or insight into how to recreate the Apple model.

Playing in the background are the major equipment manufacturers, such as Foxcomm, which build products for major smartphone, tablet and PC manufacturers. Within the last year Foxcomm has acquired the brand, Sharp, primarily for use in China but, one would suspect, ultimately as a potential global distribution channel.

With the stage set, the next 18 months could prove to be pivotal in terms of the strategic scenarios that play out. More significantly, the role of the mobile operator as orchestrator could once again be changing to the role of king-maker or breaker as they decide to support the upstarts or partner with the incumbents. Watch this space!

Steve Bell, President, KeySo Global

 

How Networks and Components Have Forged the Growth of Mobile

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

Mobility at the core of consumer electronics industry growth has been a predominant theme of 2013 International CES in Las Vegas. Keynotes given by both Verizon and Samsung emphasized that the foundation for the growth of mobile is based on two intersecting forces:  the power of the network to connect and deliver data, and the integration of components such as application processors, solid state memories and displays into ever more efficient devices.

Both Verizon and Samsung stressed the need for partnerships in order to continuously evolve the consumer experience. In the case of Verizon, they showcased how their partnerships with the NFL have created increasingly compelling and interactive sporting experiences, with Ford they have developed a more seamless driver experience via the SYNC project, and together with the healthcare industry they have blended network bandwidth, secure cloud capability and data analytics to root out fraud.

Samsung talked about their cooperative development partnership with ARM to develop the Exynos 5 Octa chip which increases performance twofold and reduces power consumption by 50%, which in turn enabled their partner Electronic Arts to develop better games, such as “Need for Speed”, for mobile devices. They showcased their solid state memory for servers that HP is using to reduce power consumption in data centers by combining 2800 servers in a single rack. This will help cut the estimated 167 billion kilowatt hours per year that the 34 million servers on the planet consume by approximately 20%. The final, and most dramatic, technology that Samsung unveiled at CES has the potential to change the reality of design for devices as we know it: their new flexible OLED display technology allows screens to be bent back and forth, and means that device size will no longer be determined by the display. With this new technology, flat surface devices made of glass could very soon be a thing of the past!

All of these keynotes were part message and branding, and part showmanship and one-upping the competition. Samsung concluded their presentation by talking about their Hope for Children Foundation that is currently working to help 2.5 million children in Africa receive technology-enabled education. They referenced their cooperation with the Clinton Foundation and then introduced President Clinton as guest speaker. In his powerful address Clinton urged the industry to embrace technology and to take a lead in helping solve global issues, such as climate change and inequality, by breaking down boundaries and creating opportunities for a better world. An inspiring close and one that shows the reality of the global Digital Renaissance we are living and experiencing.

Steve Bell, President, KeySo Global

Qualcomm at the Birth of the Mobile Generation

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

Paul Jacobs, CEO of Qualcomm, opened this year’s keynote “Born Mobile” at CES in Las Vegas by pointing out that this was the first time a mobile company has opened the show. Globally, mobile is at the heart and center of everything we do, transforming the way we live and giving rise to the new “Generation M”.  A survey of those people who have grown up “mobile” identified that 84% of them can’t go one day without their devices. Mobile is the largest technology platform in the history of mankind. There are 6.4 billion mobile connections worldwide and 1 million smartphones are added daily which is twice the global daily birth rate.

Qualcomm took the opportunity to share the platform with Steve Ballmer of Microsoft who has been the traditional opening keynote for many years. Ballmer showcased Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chipset used in the Windows-based Nokia Lumina 900 and HTC8X. Cementing their relationship, Ballmer thanked Jacobs for the opportunity to partner with Qualcomm and to experience being “born mobile”.  I would have to suspect that the famous “Wintel” partnership is in its sunset years… so what will the new partnership be called?

Jacob’s keynote offered insight into the new Snapdragon 800 chipset which will offer faster wireless connection in mobile devices by the second half of this year.  This quad core chip, operating at 2.5 Ghz, has 75% better performance and power efficiency than those of previous generations. These are coupled with enhanced graphics, next generation WiFi 802.11AC and LTE to provide online console gaming graphics capability.  Additionally, the chipset enables the playback and more importantly the capture and sharing of ultra-high definition video. This aspect is probably the most significant element in accelerating the penetration of ultra HD, which most thought would be constrained by the slow adoption of the TV industry. To demonstrate the power of the chip, Jacobs introduced the film producer, Guillermo del Toro, who previewed his upcoming ultra HD film “Pacific Rim”, played back on a Snapdragon device.

We were given a glimpse into many other exciting ways that Qualcomm is partnering to help interconnected devices, including sensors, facilitate the creation of a “digital sixth sense” that can gather information from the cyber world and bring it into the real world. One example given was an app being made available this summer called “Big Bird’s Words”. The Big Bird app from Sesame Street is devised as an early reading tool for children; it works on a device fitted with a camera and uses text recognition to enable children to point to words that Big Bird then repeats.

Overall, it was a high profile and powerful presentation that anchors Qualcomm at the center of the new “Generation M” world. To close, Adam Levine and two others from Maroon 5 played acoustic versions of some of their hits including “Pay Phone” – which Jacobs quipped should be renamed “Mobile Phone”!

Steve Bell, Principal, KeySo Global

www.keysoglobal.com

Say “Cheese” and Celebrate the Evolution of Mobile Photography

Friday, December 21st, 2012

With holiday parties in full swing and greeting cards arriving daily, it’s difficult not to see how they have both been impacted by the instant simplicity of taking a snap and sharing it with the world via social media, Snapfish, Shutterfly, Flickr or one of the many other digital photo printing and sharing services.

Pulling out our phones, snapping a photo and posting it for all our friends to see has become such  a normal part of our daily lives that it’s tough  to believe that it was only 10 years ago that the first commercial mobile camera phone came into existence. The first picture, however, was sent as early as 1997 when Philippe Kahn utilized the Motorola StarTAC with an add-on Casio camera and shared a picture of his daughter’s birth with 2,000 people.

The first integrated system with a mechanism for uploading photographs and delivering them to the internet was deployed in Japan by J-Phone, now owned by SoftBank. In 2002 the European operators of GSM systems also deployed mobile cameras along with the multimedia system, MMS, for uploading and downloading pictures. The MMS system was a development beyond what was already in place – SMS – for texts which had been around since 1992.

The progress of development was unbelievably fast. Already in 2003 more cell phones with cameras were sold than stand-alone digital cameras and by 2006 half of the world’s mobile phones incorporated a camera. Nokia was one of the first companies to introduce a mobile phone with integrated camera, and at Mobile World Congress this year Nokia introduced their N808 phone which has an amazing 40 megapixel camera capability.

The photography industry has been severely disrupted by our everyday use of mobile camera phones as they have radically changed the way that we utilize digital photography. Kodak, a name synonymous with pictures, has exited the industry and this week sold its portfolio of digital photography patents to a consortium of buyers that include both Google and Apple. Smartphones and iPhones contributed to the nearly 228 billion MMS messages sent in 2012, with another 5.8 billion over-the-top messages sent via WhatsApp and other such services. How boring would Facebook be without the 219 billion photos that are live on the system today? Back in 2010 it was estimated that 2.5 billion photos were being uploaded per month to Facebook. Currently Facebook has 600 million mobile users, many of them uploading photos daily to this site, not to mention the plethora of Twitter and Google Plus users who are also adding scores of daily photo updates for the world to see.

This week has also seen the other side of this issue emerge as Instagram (owned by Facebook) had to bow to public outrage and revoke its decision to change its terms and conditions that would have allowed advertisers free access to members’ pictures with no compensation. The issues of privacy, ownership, copyright and commercial interest are not yet clear in this digital world.

The mobile phone incorporated camera has sparked not only a picture revolution but also other significant developments, including the utilization of bar codes and QR codes for product identification, comparison shopping and bargain hunting during the busiest retail times of the year. It is no wonder that in today’s connected digital world the camera phone has become such an essential part of our lives, enabling us to capture those special everyday moments and sharing them instantaneously with the global community. Say “cheese”!

Steve Bell, President, KeySo Global

Which 3 Digital Technologies became Catalysts for Change?

Friday, August 31st, 2012

So what exactly have we recognized as being the three catalyst technologies or products that emerged in the year 2007? Below is an overview of each of these and highlighted are the main factors that we believe have influenced their evolution and subsequent relevance today.

WiMAX

WiMAX was an early 4G technology that started the move of the U.S. market to wireless broadband; it is often likened to “Wi-Fi on steroids”. The fact that Sprint and Clearwire, a startup that was supported by Google and Intel, could deliver blisteringly fast mobile Internet service forced AT&T and Verizon, the two largest U.S. carriers, to accelerate their deployment of 4G LTE. This development meant that standards needed to be agreed upon and formalized, and that network equipment manufacturers needed to accelerate production in order to provide for these large customers.

Having AT&T and Verizon focus on a single frequency (700 MHz) made it easier for device manufacturers to accelerate their development of 4G Internet products and deliver consumer-ready devices. The fact that some of these device manufacturers had been working on WiMAX devices in cooperation with semiconductor providers meant that they could accelerate products based on the WiMAX chipsets that almost 80% matched LTE.

Subsequently, both Sprint and T-Mobile have also either invested in or announced plans to build a 4G LTE network on top of their existing systems. What this means is that for the first time all four large U.S. carriers are offering mobile Internet services utilizing the same technology as the rest of the world, enabling global interoperability and roaming.

The iPhone

The second catalyst product was the iPhone which has received much acclaim for its elegant design and simple user interface. The real essence of the catalytic change that the iPhone initiated, however, was a shift in the consumer paradigm of a mobile device being used solely for communication to one that enabled interaction. The iPhone allows users to connect easily on-the-go and to share information, content, pictures and video simply and effortlessly. When it was first released, users found the interface to be so effortless that data volumes climbed exponentially and severely disrupted the AT&T network that had not been designed for large data capability! This forced AT&T, as well as other mobile operators, to rethink the entire concept of network architecture to include Wi-Fi as an offload mechanism. It also resulted in AT&T acquiring Wayport, and in the process becoming the single largest operator of Wi-F in the U.S.

Not only did the iPhone change the existing consumer paradigm and network architectures, it also broke the carrier stranglehold on its relationship with the subscriber. The iPhone was and still is provisioned via iTunes, which had previously been the domain of the mobile operator. This relationship with the subscriber, initiated at the time of purchase, was then solidified through the introduction of the app store and ultimately the iCloud. Apple effectively took the existing mobile business model, tore it up and replaced it with a hybrid that established a stronger bond with the consumer based on end-to-end user experience. The impact of the iPhone’s innovative design, end-to-end system, business model, user paradigm and elegant packaging of an everyday technology has had a tsunami-like impact on RIM, Motorola and Nokia, as well as on major mobile operators around the globe.

The Amazon Kindle

The third catalyst product that has been an instrumental agent of change is the Amazon Kindle. This device did for a 500-year-old product concept, the book, what the Walkman or iPod did for music. Best sellers are now cheaper and easier to obtain via the Kindle which provides on-the-go access to the world’s largest library/bookstore. This simple to use, low cost device made the mobile Internet transparent to the user by incorporating the cost of access into the price of the book. Amazon achieved this by creating a blanket connection relationship with AT&T for global access. The fact that the Kindle e-Reader automatically creates a relationship with Amazon means that loyal subscribers are a natural evolution. Proof that this technological revolution is affecting the literary world is evidenced by the number of large bookstores, such as Borders in the U.S., that have closed, and Barnes & Noble swiftly producing their own e-Reader, the Nook.

The iPhone and the e-Reader together have evolved into an instant-on class of device – the tablet – that satisfies the mobile consumer’s need to instantly connect, be entertained and informed. While small enough to remain portable, smartphones and tablets facilitate sharing, learning, creating and interacting using wireless broadband connectivity (3G, 4G and WiMAX) and these in turn have become indispensable parts of our everyday digital lives.

Steve Bell, President, KeySo Global

www.keysoglobal.com