Tag Archives: economy

Cheers and Jeers for Mobile without Numbers

My article “The Future of Mobile – without numbers” created a large reaction.  I received a full inbox worth of cheers and jeers.  For those who cheered, I say “thanks.”

comedy-tragedy-maskFor those who jeered, I say, “Thank you very much!”  I have always believed that when people challenge your thinking and your logic, you have the opportunity to learn and make your own arguments better.  With this in mind, I have created a couple of broad categories of challenges from my critics.   (If you have not read the original article you should first check it out with this link)

 These areas are:

1-The sociological, technological and economic feasibility of my hypothesis that social networking and VoIP will fundamentally change the mobile industry

2-What should the Wireless Service Providers do to counter this threat?

Item 1:

To explain and expand on my logic more fully it is useful to look at some history.

What was the key invention that made the Internet a global phenomenon?

It was not TCP/IP, or browsers or even Google.

barilan_internet-thumbThe key invention was the Domain Name Server (DNS).  DNS translates a domain name to an IP addresses.   It is much easier to remember www.nytimes.com, instead of its IP address (170.149.173.130).  DNS servers are continuously updated around the globe as Internet services switch IP addresses; add new destinations or new web services are created.

DNS is also what makes email possible.

Prior to global DNS services the translation of a name to an IP address took place (if at all) in the equivalent of a local address book on your computer.  You would update this local file with new IP address/Web name pairs as you discovered them, with the obvious problem that your local address book did not automatically update to track changes.

 Does this sound familiar?        

For nearly 100 years telephone services have been in the local address book mode.  As a telephone subscriber, the implied requirement was for you to carry your own version of a local DNS in your pocket. Antique telephoneYour phone contacts would only update if you physically made a change to your address book.

The phone company would issue all subscribers a regional, printed, version of DNS on a yearly basis, the big phone book.

This fundamental use case did not change until the introduction of phones with imbedded contact lists.  With embedded contact lists you could scroll through a list and click to call.  This feature eliminated the need to dial or punch all the digits yourself, but was still limited to your personal updates.

Prior to the ability to look up and retrieve phone numbers for people and businesses on the Internet, the only global DNS equivalent for telephone service was “411”, information service.

The use case for smartphones is the start of a fundamental change.  With their larger screens and easy keyboard entry, you just type the name of the person you want to call and press send.  The connection with the phone number is further eroded.  The contact list still, however, must be maintained personally, just like our Grandparents did with their paper versions.

I can still remember the phone numbers from my friends in high school, but have to look up my kids’ numbers.  The reason is that I never use my kids’ numbers; I just type their name.

The ability to take your phone number with you when you change providers (landline or wireless) was a big boost to the manual updating of address books.  This was made necessary because of the lack of Global DNS in telephone service.

The emergence of large, ubiquitous social networks is the final missing puzzle piece that will finally alter this 100-year pattern and make phone calling similar to typing “nytimes”, instead of its IP number.  These social networks provide several key elements.

They are a collection of your friends, family members and business associates.  Your network(s) contain the majority of people you need, or want, to communicate with on a regular basis.

fhw1uoifmega5hwmediumSecondly, your networked friends should give you permission to view and have access to their actual phone numbers.  This access will give you the equivalent of global DNS for your contact list!  The updating of the phone numbers will no longer be your responsibility, but the responsibility of your friends.  This is the same scenario as a Webmaster updating their web services IP address for DNS.  Even if Voice over IP (VOIP) services do not emerge as a dominant mobile trend (I believe they will), then the social network aspects will be a major force unto themselves.

So, at least to this point the logic is that Social Networks = Global DNS.

The last aspect of social networks is that they can easily provide an “always connected” status.  This is the way instant messaging services (AOL, MSN, Yahoo, Skype) work today.  This always-connected feature creates a direct IP path between any two (or more) members.  If you have a direct IP path, you can easily create voice and video communications services.

The combination of social networks providing DNS-like service and IP connectivity is the core of the technological argument.  The fact that the Internet has trained a large segment of the world to access sites and services by name, instead of by IP number is my proof point that there should not be a sociological issue with my scenario.

The economics of this scenario are more difficult to predict.  I agree with those who said that the social networks and VOIP providers such as Skype would not run a global communications network without significant revenue and profit.  The issue to consider is:  Have the economics of providing a significant portion of this service forever altered in a significant manner?

VOIP service for home or business is significantly less expensive for the consumer than a direct-wired solution using 100-year-old twisted pair telephone technology.  The ease of provisioning and maintenance, and the lower cost of transmission and billing, has changed the economics of landline services.   It is less expensive to transmit and manage a very high bandwidth data path using Internet technologies, than to maintain individual transmission paths.  

Why not the same for mobile?

Item 2:  What should the Wireless Carriers do?

If I were the CEO of a major service provider I would execute the following strategy:

vzw_logo_1024Recognizing the importance of the trends that I discussed, the game that is now being played puts this mobile carrier at a structural disadvantage.  If you think you are going to lose at the game that is being played, you change the game.

The Carriers should obtain their own DNS service for their subscribers that updates continuously and allows for one click friend calling.  This service should be a collection of the key social networks.  

The Carriers should Interface/partner with Facebook, LinkedIn, etc and create a superset DNS of their subscribers’ contacts.  Then they should build the social networking application(s) directly on the phones to permit IM, voice, and video communications. The existing mobile numbers can be used as the equivalent IP addressing scheme.  The integration with the social networks will also permit contextual communications as the subscriber has access to their friends profile and status.

The strategy of partnering with the social networks for calling DNS functionality and contextual communications would create tremendous value. 

The marketing possibilities for a Wireless Carrier with this strategy are huge.

If this strategy was implemented by just one carrier (Verizon for example) then they could market to your friends list to switch and get In-Calling rates (free) when they call each other.  If 98% of your calls were within your social networking contacts, then it would make sense for that group to be on a single carrier.

The Carriers have tried viral marketing in the past with In-Calling and T-mobiles Fav-5 program.  What I am suggesting would be many orders of magnitude more impactful.  The first carrier that figures this out and executes will steal many of their competitor’s subscribers and really change the game.

The last issue for the Carrier strategy section is to counter the VOIP threat.

My strategy would be to embrace and profit from it.   There are two obvious moves to capitalize on mobile VOIP.  First, follow the strategy of the landline providers by creating your own VOIP mobile service that utilizes your connections into the social networks.  You can have a flat monthly fee for VOIP calls.

Secondly, you can also provide a “bring your own VOIP” service plan.  The Carrier would charge a lower monthly fixed fee that would reflect their lower costs in servicing these 3rd party subscribers.

theatre_and_the_internet

Over the past five years the bulk of new mobile service investment has been on mobile data applications. Mobile  voice services have not evolved beyond the basic voice call, callerID, voicemail stage.  This is the opportunity to merge the data application investments directly with the core voice service.

The real issue for the Wireless Carriers will be in the recognition of this threat and the real opportunity that this fundamental disruption in the market it creates for a first mover to capitalize on the changes and redefine how people communicate.

I hope I have addressed many of the Jeers that I got last week.  I welcome your comments on these expanded explanations and logic!

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America 2.0

In a historic sense, we have officially begun the era of America 2.0. Many political pundits and Presidential historians will make a living for the next generation with analysis of what the Presidency of Barack Hussein Obama will mean for our collective futures.

obamaMy angle is simple and parallels the major technological force that is reshaping our society, Web2.0.

In Presidential terms, there have been a few major inflection points in our history. If you doubt this just ask a grade school student.

There was Washington and the creation of our nation, Lincoln and emancipation and the Civil War, Franklin Roosevelt for the New Deal, World War II, and the Great (first?) Depression, Lyndon Johnson for civil rights, and Reagan for the the fall of the Soviet Union.

In each case history can be starkly categorized in a before and after view.

In communication technological terms we had similar points of demarcation such as the invention of language, use of written alphabets, scrolls and books, the printing press, mail service, libraries, telegraph, radio, television, telephone, wireless communications, computers, the Internet and now Web2.0.

President Obama came to power in the midst of, and partly because of, the changing societal norms in the way we all communicate.

Franklin Roosevelt with his fireside chats,  mastered radio as a communications vehicle. John Kennedy mastered the medium of television and Ronald Reagan combined television with a mastery of the pulpit at Evangelical Churches to communicate his message. President Obama is the first Web2.0 President.

The real message here is that we have now passed the tipping point for Web2.0. This is no longer an election story, but one that will be commonplace in how we move forward as a society.
Web2.0 will be part of all future marketing campaigns as well as political movements. The 10’s of millions of “friends” in the various Obama social networking groups do not cease to exist on January 21, 2009. Social Networks live on. These lists will grow, will influence, will be influenced, and will become the number one asset in the inevitable re-election campaign of 2012.

With a new found appreciation for the power of Web2.0, marketing organizations, brands and other organizations are jumping into this medium.

Here are my Web2.0 examples from the inauguration:

CNN.com

facebook/obama

How compelling was it to watch the inauguration on CNN’s web page with all of your Facebook friends scrolling their comments, compared to “Katie Couric 1.0” on one-way, non-interactive broadcast television?

Facebook Postings:

During the Inauguration I got recommendations from a relative in Israel, in real time, to befriend someone who was posting their reactions and photos, live from the Washington Mall by way of Facebook.

Falcons 1976:

My high school class recently started a virtual reunion on Facebook. This class was very much shaped by the titanic forces of the civil rights movement and the Vietnam war. We had an integrated school district with busing in a community that was largely segregated. To share the joy and amazement of what we witnessed this week with some long lost schoolmates was fantastic.

Other:

Twitter, MySpace and Youtube were all a buzz with a constant flow of words, photos and videos.

We are all connected in a way that has tipped the political landscape.

During his speech, President Obama stated that the old rules no longer apply. There are many ways to interpret this statement. One way is that we are so connected with Web2.0 that the old rules of controlling mass public opinion are just that, old.

Social networks, whether formed for political purposes, commercial marketing or high school reunion’s organically exist, grow and feed amongst themselves. They are the new medium for mass communication.

The important lessons from history are that this change, this inflection point, is not inherently good or evil, it just is. Its power is in how it influences our real lives. In the case of President Obama, it has affected all of our lives and perhaps the future history of the world for the next generation.

It is up to us to determine the uses.

Will it continue to empower self expression and sharing of ideas or become an even more powerful mechanism for controlling public option?

We are now sitting at a point in history that will be written about for the next 100 years.

The choice is how we use this new communication medium is ours.

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Filed under America 2.0, facebook, inauguration, mobile, mobile advertising, mobile commerce, new media, politics, President Obama, Presidental History, Social Media, social networking, Twitter, You Tube

Does President Obama Need to Bail Out Twitter?

obama tweets

During this historic week there will be many pressing issues for the new administration: The Economy, Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel and Hamas, Global Warming, Energy, Education, Social Security, Health, and lastly Twittgm logoer.

Billions are being given to GM to build more car&trucks that the public really no longer wants. For a fraction of that investment we could save Twitter and the worlds premier micro-blogging network.

To Twitters credit they have finally hired a business development person. A good step in figuring out the revenue side of their equation. However, here is my New Year’s gift to Twitter.

Twitter has a large following and seems to have no way to make money, or does it?

One of my colleagues seems to have broken the revenue code for Twitter. Since she asked that I protect her identity I will call her “Mickey”. Mickey has been blogging with Twitter for a couple of years. Her Tweets have a modest number of followers: perhaps a couple of co-workers, friends, relatives and a few random lurkers. What was valuable about Mickey’s Twitter existence was her Twitter name. It seems that a company that wanted to broadcast their product messages on Twitter desired Mickey’s Twitter name. Similar to those who made money by domain sitting on website names, there is actually a real economy in Twitter names!

Mickey and this company negotiated a settlement with real cash exchanging hands.

band

A recent article in Venture Beat revealed that 93 of the top 100 brands do not own their own Twitter brand names. Naturally this “opportunity” is not unique to Twitter. Clearly the same economy exists at Facebook, MySpace and Bebo.

All of these social networks have become large transmission networks for targeted content and thus have an obvious commercial value.

A big difference between Internet domain names and the private namespaces of social networks is that they are privately owned and reserved by the owners of the SN. The Internet has the Uniform Dispute Resolution Mechanism, while there is no such mechanism for Social Networks. These networks operate within the normal commercial guidelines of any business and are thus subject to trademark and copyright laws within the jurisdictions of their business. Namespaces for Social Networks are in a big gray area right now.

In the Twitter terms and conditions they state:

“We reserve the right to reclaim usernames on behalf of businesses or individuals that hold legal claim or trademark on those usernames.”

Now back to Mickey.

Why should Twitter allow their subscribers to barter usernames and not profit from the network that they own?

Here are my two suggestions for Twitters Commercial Business Model.

obamaFirst, Twitter should recover all trade names for companies that are owned by individuals who are speculators and not official company officials. (At least Mickey got her payment!) This move would signal that Twitter is serious about the business use of their network. Any company that wants to do business on Twitter and capitalize from their valuable network should have to pay a direct fixed monthly fee to Twitter. In addition, a variable monthly fee can be gained based on number of Tweets and followers. These businesses would pay for access to millions of subscribers, just like advertisers pay for television ads.

Second, Twitter should build a business-matching engine. This feature would suggest that users follow certain commercial channels based on their Tweets, interests and other fans and followers.

These suggestions are not going to garner 100’s of millions for Twitter, but they are the prerequisite to larger advertising and subscription models.

If they follow some of these ideas, Prsident Obama can spend more money for the bailouts of CitiGroup, Ford and GM.

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Filed under advertising, E-Commerce, economy, mobile, mobile advertising, mobile commerce, obama, politics, social networking, Twitter

Wireless, Politics, the Economy and Hockey

Sometimes if you just take a moment for deeper observation at an event you can get a sense of what pundits spend a lifetime interpreting. Last night I took my youngest daughter to a Ranger game. They lost in overtime, 3-2 to the Edmonton Oilers, so I will not dwell too much on the fantastic comeback, the grit and determination and the ultimate let down.

Here are my other observations during those 4 hours:

Observation 1 – Wireless Gen
My daughter sent and received approximately 120 text messages. She communicated to classmates about the homework she would have to do when she got home, she chatted with her cousin about God knows what, She took three calls, and she cheered the loudest in are section. She does not have ADHD, she just multitasks at the rate of a cyborg!! This is the next generation.

Observation 2- Politics

obama buttonThroughout the game the roving camera guys put crazed fans on the big jumbotron. Twice last night, the fan was wearing a big Obama button on their Ranger jersey. When they saw themselves on the arena scoreboard instead of pointing to their Ranger emblem, they pointed to the Obama button! If seems the hockey Mom and Dad demographic in New York went for Obama.
Observation 3- More Wireless
The Rangers have several interactive mobile promotions during the game. The simplest is a text to screen application where your message is displayed on the scoreboard. What is “interesting” is that you text to one shortcode, get a thank you message from another shortcode and then are instructed to text a third shortcode for a free wallpaper. Also, the thank you shortcode responds with “Thank you for voting!” Opps? Did I vote? Time to check that campaign provisioning!

NOTE TO NEW YORK RANGERS MOBILE DEPARTMENT:

I herby offer – pro-bono (maybe you can pay me with an autographed stick) to fix your mobile applications to make them coherent and effective; to have them run on one shortcode, with proper messaging before, during and after the user interaction.

Observation 4- The Economy

rangersuites

I made a quick count on the number of empty luxury suites last night. I stopped counting after 23. Madison Square Garden has about 60 suites for the well-heeled New York corporate crowd. While I have seen empty suites in the past, the number of dark boxes is very large. As a proxy for the recession/depression on Wall Street, just counting the number of flipped light switched on luxury boxes is a leading indicator of the economy.

Observation 5- The Economy – Oh Canada! (Or is it just the Oil(ers))

Since the Rangers were playing a Canadian based team, the national anthems of both Canada and the U.S. are sung before the game. I like the Canadian Anthem, and can sing it with the best of them. I have to admit I was never quite sure who Canadians are “on Guard” from?

Anyway, I observed a very large number of Edmonton Oiler fans, from Canada. This is unusual. Usually the out of town fans come from New Jersey, Long Island and Philly. This got me thinking. Is there some other geopolitical trend that has caused these fans to be in New York?

I came to three possibilities – either they paid for a tour before the dollar increased in value, or they all work for oil companies in Edmonton and have more money than they know what to do with, or they are Canadian “snow birds” who escape the harsh Canadian winter to bask in the less harsh New York winter. You decide.

Amazing what you can observe if you just take a minute to look!

iamaranger800

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Filed under economy, hockey, media, mobile, New York, obama, politics, Rangers, wireless