The Internet in your phone

20070215Series60.jpgIt 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:

  1. The phone mem­ory is very lim­ited. How many sin­gle client appli­ca­tion will you be able to install on a sin­gle phone?
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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?
  5. 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:

  1. 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.)
  2. Sin­gle logon cre­den­tials for all applications.
  3. Uni­fied user interface.
  4. 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.

  • Roberto

    Hey, but you really need to have those appli­ca­tion on your mobile ??? Have you ever though how is com­plex to make a phone call with the lat­est gen of mobile and smart phone. In the past you only have to input the num­ber and press the green. That was all.
    It seems to me that we are still call­ing phone a device that is designed to do every­thing MP3– Video– Game and just in case you can use as a mobile phone.
    What is really frus­trat­ing me is that you have no choice. No one is build­ing any­more a mobile phone for pro­fes­sional user.
    So I hope that at least one com­pany could thing about it and recre­at­ing a mobile phone.

    Ciao