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I have accepted an offer from Vodafone Group to work in their User Experience team in London.
Crazy, I know. I've certainly done my part of operator-bashing over the years and expressed healthy and loud skepticism on how operators have acted arrogant and clumsy. Now, I'm meeting myself in the door with a resounding thump! (I'm not sure how well that proverb translates... you get the Zen of it!)
But, I got to admit it, I'm excited about this! It's going to be interesting to be sitting on the "other side of the table". And working on applications and services that goes out to 260 million users certainly has its appeal!
Speaking of tables, a lot of musical chairs is going on at the moment. The current "Internet ecosystem" looks like this (simplified):
A lot of value is generated in the "Applications" box. This is where Google, Ebay etc. resides. However, for the majority of the players, the value of their software can't be monetized directly. It is monetized indirectly via advertising. (Advertising revenues is also the driver for most innovation on the Internet and this can be troublesome if we are facing a global recession).
If we compare this to the mobile ecosystem:
|Unique||Commodity||Not much here, really. Core applications are embedded in the handset.|
In the "Internet ecosystem", after people have bought a computer and a broadband connection, they go out and buys software and uses services that generates revenue. In the "mobile ecosystem", after people have bought their phone and their subscription (often the same purchase in most countries), they don't buy anything else. The core functions are already in the phone and they can't be changed. Android promised to change this, but they have hit a few bumps in the road.
But what about the App Store, you say? Back in March I predicted a $22 per user turnover and now that seems likely according to Apple. And this is direct monetization. People are actually paying for software.
For the "Internet ecosystem" to work in the mobile space the operators and phone manufacturers has to be commoditized, meaning that they have to support standardized common runtimes like web browsers. Or do they? Many seem to believe that the mobile platform that attracts the most developers will win. A complete reversal of the current model is required for this to be true.
Not only is there a battle rising over that third "Applications" box, over the last 8-10 years we have seen half-hearted and failed attempts to create a working mobile ecosystem. So forget the value-chain, now the thing is to provide door-to-door services ala Apple. Environments that looks "open" but is run by a benevolent dictator.
Is it the manufacturers like Nokia with Ovi, Apple with AppStore that are going to win? Is it the operators with their portals and pre-installed software that are going to win? Or will the winner be Google and the "mobile web" guys?
What I think? Call me wide-eyed, but I believe the end users are going to win.