Posts Tagged ‘Motorola’

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

Technology Scouting and the Catch 22 of Innovation

Monday, October 14th, 2013

I came across what I would call the “catch 22 of innovation” the other day while working on a project that’s tipped to disrupt an entire industry.

Every major city now has the desire to become a smart city and to use digital technologies to provide better services and products for its citizens. However, as anyone who reads the news understands, the majority of this innovation in digital technologies is coming from small startups, not from the larger more established companies. One of the services that KeySo Global provides is technology scouting to large companies and for exactly this reason; they are not innovating broadly or rapidly enough, and are beginning to recognize the urgent need to partner with smaller startups that have the technology capability to enhance their more traditional offerings.

So the “catch 22”, as we see it in this context, lies in the request for proposal (RFP) / request for quotation (RFQ) process that cities use when looking for new technologies and solutions to meet existing needs. In most RFP’s and RFQ’s there is a statement that says “we are open to new ideas and technologies that will provide services to enhance the process or reduce the cost of providing those services”. However, buried deep within the RFP, under terms and conditions, is a sentence that also states “any company proposing a solution must have been in existence for at least 3 years, provide a list of existing clients and show financial capability to support the project through its anticipated life.” How many startups do you know that can meet these criteria?

The real drawback of this is that true innovation is unlikely to come to a city near you at any time soon. Of course there are ways around this dilemma but most of these are not straight forward. The technology scouting service we provide at KeySo Global can help by offering new and innovative startups the hybrid solution of partnering with more established companies so that together they can leverage the digital components needed for a thriving smart city infrastructure.

The process of scouting, filtering, evaluating and on-boarding technologies is crucial to an organization’s future success but it can be challenging as well as time and resource consuming at a time of restricted budgets. The option that we offer is to partner with a team that has successfully performed similar roles and created transformational processes at Motorola, Sony Ericsson and TRW. We offer a unique blend of experience, insight and proven processes to achieve this outcome. Our strategic review process and implementation framework enables us to rapidly partner with clients to successfully find, evaluate, acquire and on-board innovative technologies. A significant aspect of our approach is to help the startup and the established company understand one another’s’ mindsets. We use the “two weeks analogy” to help frame the fundamental differences in perspective of the two:  two weeks to a startup can mean life or death whereas to a large company it’s just a meeting!

Contact us  for more information and to find out how we can help accelerate innovation.

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

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

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

 

Galvin & Jobs: Great “Men of Ideas”

Monday, October 24th, 2011

Article first published as Galvin & Jobs: Great “Men of Ideas” on Technorati.

The onset of autumn has brought the passing of two significant individuals who have shaped what the Economist refers to as “the era of personal technology”.

Since October 5 the media have been swamped with eulogies to Steve Jobs and coverage of memorials set up outside Apple stores by devoted followers. Without doubt, Steve Jobs possessed the unparalleled ability to combine design and technology, and infuse this with the emotive spark that consumers can relate to. He was highly skilled at identifying the right design for the right technology at the right time. Very rarely, however, did the products he introduced push the limits of the technology curve. His passion did not lie in the pursuit of leading edge technology or in the next great breakthrough but instead in the creation of user centered elegant and simplistic devices that slip into everyday life.

October 11 saw the passing of Robert Galvin, better known as Bob Galvin. Bob was long time CEO of Motorola and son of the founder, Paul Galvin. During his tenure, Motorola became an early pioneer in semiconductors, paging and cellular communications. These major milestone technologies required incredible foresight and the tenacity to overcome the challenges of long development cycles and innumerable roadblocks. Bob’s inspiration and commitment resulted in Motorola not only becoming a global player in these industries by delivering multiple breakthrough products but, more importantly, creating a wealth of knowledge and experience that has moved across the industry and the globe.

The life work of each of these men enabled the dawn of an exciting new era. Over the last 30 years computing, telephony, entertainment and consumer electronics have been on a converging path, and many recent landmark products and technology innovations were the result of the vision held by these two remarkable individuals. Their lasting legacies within Apple and Motorola will continue to exist as questions:  “What would Steve do?” and “What would Bob do?” The challenge for the next millennium is to build on these legacies; corporate leaders, employees and new entrants in all industries need to ask themselves “how do we take ideas and make them relevant to the consumer?” and “how do we turn ideas into the technology to make them possible?”

It’s sometimes hard to believe that innovation and growth can survive the turmoil of the current economic climate or that creative solutions can be found for the world’s problems. Statistics show, however, the world’s GDP has actually increased 7 fold over the past 30 years and it’s my belief that these two “men of ideas” were key contributors to this growth. Both were highly innovative and successful men who never lost touch with reality. Most significantly, they both had faith in the power of ideation to generate a sense of optimism for the future. May they now rest in peace.

At KeySo Global we are advisors and consultants about the impact of digital technology on society, business and individuals. Please contact us at info@keysoglobal.com, +1-847-478-1633 or visit our website www.keysoglobal.com

Steve Bell, President, KeySo Global LLC