Posts Tagged ‘Apple’

Is Apple still disrupting the Industry?

Saturday, September 20th, 2014

Graphic oneI recently attended the CTIA 2014 “Super Mobility Week”, a week-long technology conference in Las Vegas which hosted thousands of mobile professionals and executives, 1,100+ exhibitors, as well as 1,000+ media and analysts from across the globe.

In recent years, both CES and MWC have developed into high profile showcases for the technology industry, and consequently it has become difficult for CTIA to justify the value of the exhibition side of its event. Recognizing the importance of convergence technologies and in an attempt to compete, this year’s event partnered with smaller independent IT and telecom conferences, and wrapped them around the CTIA exhibition to attract greater attention from the industry – and it seemed to work!

What interested me in particular about this year’s conference was that, during the keynote speeches on the second day, time was allocated for beaming Apple’s live announcements directly from Cupertino, California. During this streamed video, there were four highly respected analysts on stage interpreting what these announcements meant for the industry; they included wireless industry expert, Chetan Sharma, and columnist and commentator, Shelly Palmer.graphic two

The much anticipated introduction of the new iPhone 6 brought no surprises: the screen size had been increased, its battery technology had been improved and the device now included NFC. Following these announcements, comments from the analysts on stage were reiterated by a series of ad’s from Samsung and comments in the press, all concurring that none of this was new technology.

graphic threeWith the introduction of its new smart watch, however, Apple demonstrated how it has incorporated fashion and luxury as a key part of its strategy going forward. The Apple Watch comes in two sizes and three different styles, and with changeable straps. More significant was Apple’s user interface design rethink utilizing the traditional watch crown, along with touch to control the screen and displays; the intent is to encourage users to really embrace and engage with this new device. graphic fourSome from the watch industry have dubbed this a “beginner’s step” but nonetheless Apple seems intent to move the bar. If they succeed, the army of developers and the size of early majority users that are Apple fans could result in this becoming the catalyst for change in the smart watch space.

The introduction of the Apple Pay system aroused much attention at the conference and even seemed to trump the excitement over Apple Watch: the utilization of a thumb print, combined with Near Field Communication technology to verify purchases, provides a slick simplification of the payment process. graphic fiveAnother interesting and simple mechanism introduced was the ability to add a credit card to your existing iTunes account. You simply take a photograph of the credit card, and the cloud reads the details from the card and verifies these with your bank, then syncs this with your phone and your iTunes ID account. The whole emphasis is on simplifying the payment process. What was also extremely impressive was the fact that Apple has 220,000 outlets signed up for this already, and that AMEX, Visa and MasterCard are all supporting the process, along with major banks, including Citibank. Supporting retailers include Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Walgreens, Whole Food, Subway and, of course, Apple retail.

The conclusion I came away with from CTIA 2014 was that, while Samsung may be the technology leader in the device space, Apple, with the introduction of Apple Watch and Apple Pay, is continuing to foster business model and value chain transformation. This legacy capability, as demonstrated by Steve Jobs with the introduction of iTunes that subsequently blew up the music industry, appears not to have been lost with his passing, but is seemingly being diligently pursued by the current Apple management team.

Steve Bell, President, KeySo Global

Is Apple Cooling or Transitioning to a Techno-Luxury House of Brands?

Sunday, June 8th, 2014

Blog graphicThe recent announcement that Apple is acquiring Beats Electronics for its streaming audio and electronics capabilities has caused consternation on Wall Street in terms of whether this is an indication that Apple’s renowned ability to innovate in-house is cooling and that the company is beginning to stall.

Most of the attention around the Beats acquisition has focused on its streaming capability and whether it offers as good a service as Spotify or Pandora. The potential that this joint team brings for developing future offerings in the broader entertainment landscape, including video, should not be ignored.

Other key benefits for Apple include Beats’ wealth of aggregate knowledge of the entertainment, music and electronics industries, as well as its connection with the youth culture – something that many other companies seek to emulate. Beats is considered to be a relatively strong U.S. brand with a youth flavor and one that, when attached to Apple and its global market presence and subscriber base, could infuse a stronger linkage with their younger purchasers, further extending their cool image and status.

At the heart of this transaction, however, is the issue of “the innovation divide”, where larger process driven companies are not always as flexible and in tune with the rapidly changing technologies and consumer demands that startups seem to easily tap into. This is why we have seen Facebook acquiring WhatsApp and Oculus. as well as Google acquiring Nest.

The real challenge faced when executing such acquisitions is being able to blend the cultures and mindsets of the new company with the dominant corporate culture that prevails. This may seem easy but the reality is that the founders and creative thought leaders who drive the acquired company usually leave fairly quickly. What can Apple do to prevent this happening and also create a mechanism and process for future acquisition and expansion going forward? The key may be keeping them as independent operations and brands supported by the power of the Apple global logistics, branding and design machine.

Are there other reasons that Apple should be considering this broader transformation? At the recent DLD NYC Conference, Scott Galloway identified that technology is a terrible business to be in because: “If you don’t reinvent it every year, your stock gets hammered”. He stated that “you want to be in a business that leads with your heart not your head, as it results in irrational wants and needs which in turn lead to larger margins”; he believes that the investment community has recognized this, giving Cartier as an example of having a larger market cap than Deutsche Telecom. Galloway identified that “the best neighborhood in the world is luxury” and although, in his opinion, Apple is the best house brand in the world, it’s in a bad neighborhood which can be a “terrible stock strategy”. He believes that Apple needs to transition its business into the luxury neighborhood in order to become a great iconic luxury brand and, in so doing, become the first trillion dollar market cap company. There seems to be strong evidence that Apple has already initiated this transformation with the appointments of Angela Ahrendts, former CEO of Burberry, and Paul DeNeve, former CEO of Yves Saint Laurent, into key positions within its organization.

The possibility is that the acquisition of Beats could be Apple’s fledgling step to creating not just a single luxury brand but a house of brands, similar to LVMH, with multiple appeal points for a broader global audience, rather than limiting their offering to a single brand or a single technology. The creation of a new techno-luxury house of brands supports Apple’s quest to become the first trillion dollar market cap company, and the company’s transformative strategy indicates a return to its historic reputation for unpredictability!

Steve Bell, President, KeySo Global LLC

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

2014: The Year of Digital Renaissance?

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Digi Renaissance firework 2013As fireworks fill the skies tonight and 2013 comes to a close, it seems a good time to reflect on the current state of the telecoms and ICT industries, and what has changed in the last five years. Having just participated in the 2013 ITU Telecom World Conference in Bangkok, this gave me the opportunity to assess whether the Digital Renaissance that we at KeySo Global have being predicting has in fact transpired.

In 2009 the world was reeling from 12 months of global financial turbulence and anxiety levels were high. WiMAX was causing angst for U.S. carriers and the iPhone was forcing the rethinking of how Wi-Fi and cellular could effectively inter-operate. Data congestion on overloaded 3G networks designed for voice was reaching critical levels as operators adjusted to the realities of YouTube video upload and downloads. The European markets and technology suppliers were firmly in control of the industry, with Nokia the dominant handset supplier controlling 38% of the 1.1 billion phones sold that year. Apple, on the other hand, was gaining credibility and achieved a respectable 2%. ICT was the main theme of the conference as cellular held center stage with 67% market penetration, having enabled 4.6 billion people globally to have access to personal communication capability. In 2009 the prime discussion, therefore, was around internet connection and the role that mobile could play here.

graphic oneFast forward to the 2013 conference in Asia and the global economy, having experienced five years of unprecedented instability, is still in a volatile state where virtually every treasured economic rulebook has been proven ineffective in controlling a 24/7 interconnected digital world. This has been facilitated in part due to cellular penetration reaching 96% and 6.8 billon people having access to cellular – 3.5 billion of whom are in the Asia Pacific region. More significantly, the number of people now online has increased from 26% to 39%. The single biggest contributor to this has been mobile broadband access which has grown from below 10% in 2009 to 30% penetration this year. This growth is closely tied to smartphone growth as well as the availability of lower cost data packages.  In 2009 smartphonesgraphic 2 accounted for approximately 10% of handset shipments, whereas in the 3rd quarter of 2013 smartphones totaled 250 million units, over 55% of total phone shipments that quarter. The biggest loser in this dramatic shift in emphasis towards smartphones and operating systems has been Nokia, but others such as Sony Ericsson, Kyocera, Sharp, Rim, HTC and Motorola have been damaged along the way, to greater or lesser degrees, by the shift to an Android world.

In conclusion, we are living in a far more connected world than we were five years ago. However, the extent to which the interconnection of this increasingly complex human digital and physical world is understood is limited and the ripple effects of these technologies on industry structures have only just started to appear. Telecoms and ICT are certainly not immune to these, as we have seen, but within the next five years we will see the boundary industries of automotive, medical, retail, utilities and manufacturing become increasingly subject to the transformative effects of the mobile internet.

Of greater interest will be the unanticipated consequences that will undoubtedly emerge from the mobile internet and Internet of Things blending with big data analytics, and the unavoidable impact this will have on digital life and behaviors. As an increasingly urbanized planet adopts these technologies to facilitate ever smarter cities, the opportunities for ICT to make a difference to societies are colossal – but the question is how to bring the people along with these changes, and instill trust in them that technology will be used for good and that ethical government will prevail? Clearly, the recent Snowden revelations on the NSA and other agencies have given everyone pause for thought.

As we enter 2014, it is clear that the Digital Renaissance is technically well underway but the structural and behavioral implications are only just beginning to emerge and, when they do surface, I suspect that the predominant challenges we face will be societal. In shaping the future of this brave new world we need to engage its citizens, understand their needs and manage the “Faustian bargain” that will be a fine balance between a surveillance state and the right to privacy. None of these challenges are unsurmountable but they are ones that will need careful monitoring, open conversations and perseverance on the part of governments, industry and citizens around the globe.

Steve Bell, President, KeySo Global

BlackBerry and JC Penney: Two Giants That Have Lost Their Way?

Monday, August 26th, 2013

What do BlackBerry and JC Penney have in common? Possibly more than you might realize.

1. Both missed the shift in their industry.

2. Both changed leadership.

3. Both implemented radical change.

4. Both achieved less than impressive results after this change.

5. Both implemented change following agitation from Wall Street – even though Main Street reacted neutrally or negatively to the change.

JC Penney even went as far as to hire the retail guru from Apple, Ron Johnson, as its new CEO to turn the company around but, in so doing, the needs of the customer were ignored. The introduction of tablets at point of sale, a relaxed dress code for the sales staff and the removal of coupons and store cash registers confused the target shopper – a very different shopper to the one found at the Apple store. The application of technology in this case was not the issue. The crucial question overlooked was whether the benefits of that technology outweighed the resistance to adopting it; in the case of JC Penney they did not. Not only was there resistance from the customer but Ron Johnson failed to gain the collaboration of staff and management, which proved to be a critical mistake.

Sales of the new BlackBerry 10 operating system based products – the Z10 and the Q10, and most recently the Q5 – are down as BlackBerry has lost significant market share to Apple, with its sleek and easy to use operating system and beautifully designed product. It was BlackBerry’s misconception that its superior new operating system and good design would enable it to reclaim its former position in the market. The reality was that BlackBerry started as a technology but developed into an experience. In the early 21st century the device became widely known as a “CrackBerry”, referring to the excessive and obsessive email-checking by its owners, for both business and personal use. The technology was convenient and secure and, most importantly, BlackBerry had become a trusted household name.

BlackBerry’s demise, however, was not just related to the fact that the operating system did not evolve; it put too much focus on the consumer and lost sight of its valued customer base, the corporate IT customer, whose growing desire was to access both their corporate digital networks and their social media networks on the same device, but this was ignored by BlackBerry. The infamous “BlackBerry outage” was the final straw and violated the trust that former loyal consumers had in the BlackBerry experience. RIM, as it was, was an engineering company that had no idea how to continue to design experiences and now, as “BlackBerry”, does not have the marketing knowledge or clout to rebuild consumer trust in the brand.

Both companies tried to emulate Apple in a classic “best practices” way but failed to understand that the Apple store and its devices were designs that embodied feelings and experiences, and created by a man with exceptional vision; someone who posed questions such as “how do we reinvent the store?” and “how do we do things differently on a phone?” Steve Jobs never just produced a “me too” product.

So, what’s the walk away? Wall Street hates failure but, more than that, it’s terrified of change. Both however are essential for innovation and creativity which are cornerstones of modern day business success. Wall Street’s demands for continuity of performance can ultimately result in giants being brought to their knees. What’s more dangerous is that when Wall Street sees these giants falling they demand a change of leadership. This new leadership is then faced with the challenges of innovating and risk taking to enhance performance when, in reality, all Wall Street wants is to preserve the status quo. JC Penny and RIM, as well as Motorola and Nokia, are prime examples of this. Apple looks as if it is unassailable at this point of time but calls by Wall Street activists to withdraw cash from the company will ultimately weaken its ability to take the risks that are necessary to sustain it going forward.

Steve Bell, President, KeySo Global

Apple and Huawei – Zen and the Art of the Long View

Monday, April 29th, 2013

Article first published as Apple and Huawei – Zen and the Art of the Long View on Technorati.

The telecoms and technology markets have always taken the long view with regard to product and business development. This week has seen two companies look to the future in different ways. Apple, the original Zen Master of strategy, coming to grips with an apparent hiccup in their recent string of successes and Huawei struggling in the aftermath of rejection by the U.S. government.

Apple has been in the press recently due to the substantial fall in its stock price and the increasing demands from shareholders to receive part of the $145 billion cash mountain that it has amassed. Apple CEO, Tim Cook, finally acquiesced and has just announced a capital buyback program that will increase the return to shareholders from $10 billion to $60 billion, as well as increasing its quarterly dividend by15%. This may quell the unrest of Wall Street investors in the short term but it exposes the company to a significant long term threat to their enterprise viability due to their increasing risk adversity and lack of innovative product introductions, particularly when compared to those of Samsung. It’s very easy to slip from grace and require cash to sustain operations if you miss market turning points – have a look at what happened to Motorola, Nokia and Rim! Steve Jobs, with his Zen Master ability, excelled at recognizing long-term future opportunities and betting the company in order to secure that future. He was protective of the cash, understanding that to “bet big” you need to cover the downside mistakes. Unfortunately, that doesn’t appear to be the case with Apple today.

Contrast this with Huawei that announced within the last 48 hours that it would abandon its pursuit of penetrating the North American telecoms network market after five years of battling the U.S. government. At the same time as this apparent retreat, however, Huawei has begun focusing on building its consumer product brand in the U.S. The company’s introduction of new products at this year’s CES gave it significant presence, and this month it announced a new marquee handset along with sponsorship for the Jonas Brothers tours, starting in Chicago. Huawei appears to be adopting a long term strategy to establish itself at the heart of the U.S. psyche as a “brand of trust”, potentially making it more difficult for them to be politically blocked in the next round of network purchases. Equally, since 4G networks have effectively been sold and rolled out in the U.S., the market opportunity is now elsewhere. The reality is that the market momentum of Huawei globally over the next five years will probably cause two of the five remaining network providers to be eliminated, meaning that Huawei will be the only real alternative to Ericsson when network operators look to upgrade their systems in 5 years time. The bet is that the U.S. government will have little choice but to reluctantly accept Huawei, even if it’s not with open arms.

The Zen Master, it seems, has actually moved back to China.

Steve Bell, President, KeySo Global

Digital Awareness – a Critical Component for Success

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

A key pillar of our work at KeySo Global is the belief that digital technology has significantly impacted and changed the digital lives of every one of us, and that systems and business models are consequently having to adapt to meet multiple stakeholders’ expectations.

Business models are dynamic and unique, and are a reflection of historic development, management personalities, economic and business environments, customer and channel requirements as well as resource, assets and technology. As much as humans like stability, no business model stays the same, no matter how perfect it seems at the time.  In their 2001 book entitled “How Digital Is Your Business” Adrian Slywotzky and David Morrison compared the brilliance of the Dell business model with competitors like HP, Compaq and, at that time, struggling Apple. Dell spent limited amounts on R&D, leveraged a choice board for consumers to design their own PC, and outsourced manufacturing to Taiwan and distribution logistics to FedEx; this was seen as a virtue at the time when compared with HP, Compaq and Apple. Technology and a successful business model don’t guarantee success if a company doesn’t keep up with consumer need changes or fails to innovate. The focus that Apple placed on user experience changed the game; in recent news we’ve seen how Dell’s business model is now struggling to compete against the growth of smartphones, tablets and cloud services – particularly those of Apple.

Being aware and responding to developments around you is a significant and important part of senior management responsibility. We strongly advocate the interaction with external resources that will bring a different perspective to a business. Utilizing “thought leaders” or tools that allow the current situation to be viewed from a different vantage point can greatly strengthen a company’s thinking and focus. As the saying goes “no single event makes a trend” but the search, listing and assembly of data from multiple sources can enable companies to recognize emerging patterns and opportunities, particularly in complementary industries where competitive shifts in business models could be applicable.

Over the last few weeks I’ve observed in the news a number of noteworthy events that will, I’m sure, impact multiple industries. I’ve listed these below, together with what I believe are the broader implications for business.

Recent news events:

  • Online clothes shopping hit 10% of U.S. sales.
  • Macy’s overall sales increased by 11.7% and their online sales increased by 48.9%.
  • H&M and Inditex – European fashion retailers – are reported tochange their in-store clothing range every two weeks.
  • 15% of shopping malls will close in the U.S. over the next five years.
  • Amazon’s fourth-quarter sales were down but their margins increased.
  • Netflix develops streamed original content (House of Cards) targeted at “cord cutters” abandoning cable and satellite TV.
  • Traditional Procter & Gamble partners with crowd sourcing venture capitalists “Circle Up” for new ideas and innovation.
  • BSkyB in the U.K. introduces advertising based on localized demographics and TV program choice.

Digital implications for your business:

  • smartphones and tablets have changed consumer behavior patterns i.e. online couch shopping and mobile price comparison
  • traditional T.V. advertising is losing its effectiveness
  • the digital consumer expects broader and more frequently refreshed product lines
  • digital business models enable diverse competitive offerings
  • traditional business models now embrace crowd sourcing and funding

If they haven’t already done so, these implications and others like them are likely to impact your business model. My message here is that you need to become aware of digital change and be prepared to do something about it. Have you checked to see if neighboring industries and competitors are already responding to the urgent need to adapt? The big question is – are you? Are you ready to take the first steps towards adopting a digital strategy, one that will strengthen your competitive position in today’s digital marketplace?

We at KeySo Global can help. To discuss how you can structure a digital strategy innovation session, contact us at info@keysoglobal.com or visit our website www.keysoglobal.com

Steve Bell, President KeySo Global

Could TomTom Provide the Roadmap to Success for Apple?

Sunday, February 17th, 2013

Article first published as Could TomTom Provide the Roadmap to Success for Apple? on Technorati.

Much has been written about Apple’s $135 billion in cash and the desire of some shareholders to see part of it returned. Technology companies that thrive in their heyday often face the challenges of a post-glory period when their product ceases to appeal or the market has moved on. Nokia and Blackberry (formally RIM) are recent examples of this, and Motorola is another within the mobile space.

At times such as this, a company’s cash reserve is the only thing that allows for continued investment in R&D; it enables them to try to hit the next product cycle and provides coverage for a cash flow shortfall should the company no longer have the volume to generate profits. Having cash on the balance sheet also provides a company with the opportunity to invest, through acquisition, in new technology and intellectual property to ensure enhanced offerings.

In the case of Apple, the recent debacle over the new Apple Maps app on their iPhone 5 emphasizes the fact that when they’re looking to create a new experience, Apple is better off using in-house software. Dutch navigation company, TomTom, which provides the map software for Apple, has recently been reported to be struggling as its hardware sales begin to falter. For the last couple of years the company has focused on selling their map software but they haven’t had the financial resources necessary to successfully compete against the deep pockets of Google or Nokia (Navteq).

TomTom could, however, be an ideal acquisition candidate for Apple. Within their portfolio they could provide the inspirational innovation to blend hardware capabilities with location, content (iTunes) and contextual information to create new and engaging consumer experiences that enhance the digital life of the consumer. In reality, this mapping capability is already within the portfolio of Google and Microsoft, their main rivals in the operating system space.

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

 

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