Posts Tagged ‘iPhone’

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

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