It really seems that all operators are signing agreements with all the major internet players. 3 is launching services with MSN, Yahoo, Google and Skype, Vodafone with YouTube and MySpace.
Same thing seems to be happening with handset vendors. Just look at the last Nokia press release announcing an agreement with YouTube while, historically, they already had Flickr upload in their media application on Series 60 platform.
That sound great in a general way. Customers really want to have the Internet in their pocket.
I think there is something that need to be considered.
The first thing to consider is that a mobile phone is quite different from a Personal Computer in terms of processing power, user interface, browser capabilities (I know, it sounds old news…), etc. Because of these limitations the only way to run those internet services on a mobile phone is using a client application.
The limitations, according to my opinion:
- The phone memory is very limited. How many single client application will you be able to install on a single phone?
- All of these applications will be installed somewhere on the phone. You do not have a mouse on your handset and reaching each single application will be a nightmare since you will not have dedicated hardware keys for every single application.
- Every single application will have it’s own user interface, menus, options and operators will not have the strength to obtain a consistent user experience among all of them. This will be a nightmare for the customer.
- Usually these applications will run on open platforms like Series 60 or similar. User will be able to install his own applications on the phone. I presume that operator installed applications will have some dedicated data plan attached to them. How will the user understand how much will he be paying if he is uploading a picture using the operator provided application or if he is uploading the picture using another third party application? Things will work if you will have a flat data plan. Will this be true for every operator?
- Applications like MSN Messenger, Yahoo, Skype and similar will have their own contact list and that will not be tied with the mobile phone contact list. Do we really want the user to spend half a day updating every single application. Moreover I will not have a single sign-on username and password for these applications but I will need to configure each single application. CRM be prepared.
That said, I must admit that I cannot find an easy solution to this.
Maybe we can try to give some directions:
- Don’t stuff the phone with hundreds of applications. Let the user pick and choose what he wants. There are several ways by which this can be accomplishes. (Web based configuration, local installer, etc. etc.)
- Single logon credentials for all applications.
- Unified user interface.
- Use the native contact application list for every application that need to use buddy lists or similar.
There are also issues in the long run. The mobile phone market is so fragmented with so many different platforms, operating systems, JavaME implementations that it will be really hard to port every single application to every platform.
This is an old problem and even if Java looked like to be a solution it wasn’t. I am not aware of the details of the agreements between operators and internet companies (and of some I cannot speak) but I am wondering who is responsible of porting all of the applications to the operator mobile phone portfolio. This is a time consuming, expensive and difficult task.
Moreover there are some applications that need very low level interaction with the mobile phone that will make it very hard to port them in a Java environment. (e.g. Skype)
We will need some time to understand how operators will approach these issues.
Why do I blog this ? We need to simplify the customer experience on mobile phone. It’s not easy but if you will be able to succeed I’m preetty much sure that operator ARPU will definitively increase.