welcome to the UK Dr Condoleezza Rice

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Welcome to the UK Dr Condoleezza Rice

A warm welcome to Dr Condoleezza Rice to the UK. Irrespective of your political viewpoints, I am a HUGE fan of the achievements of this woman from Birmingham Alabama. As a first generation – non Caucasian immigrant to the UK, she (along with Colin Powell) have been inspirations for me in terms of what can be achieved inspite of adverse circumstances.

It’s a pity the event is not in London – else I would definitely have visited it. And by the way I don’t support all that is happening in Iraq – but that’s no reason to NOT welcome Condoleezza Rice to the UK.

The purpose of this blog is to show that not everyone opposes Dr Rice’s visit here

Welcome Dr Rice.

Mobile web 2.0 presentation from ETRI

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I am indeed honoured to be blogrolled by Jonghong Jeon (전종홍, Jonathan Jeon) – senior Member of Research Staff

ETRI, Protocol Engineering Center in South Korea

Jonghong has also linked my entry Mobile web 2.0: AJAX for mobile devices – why mobile AJAX will replace both J2ME and XHTML as the preferred platform for mobile applications development – Part two on his blog. It’s partly in Korean – and my Korean extends to ‘Annanayo hassaiyo and Khamza meda’ :) but I have a longer email from him with more info

ETRI is in the same class as MIT as a research institute (but with an electronics and engineering focus) and I hope to visit it the next time I am in Seoul

Also, have a look at this excellent presentation from Jonghong Jeon – which very much reflects my thinking at the moment about mobile web 2.0. Its a large file more than 5M but well worth a read.

link HERE

carnival of mobilists

The carnival of the mobilists is at Damien Porter’s weblog. It’s truly excellent!. Have a read HERE

Mobile web 2.0: AJAX for mobile devices – why mobile AJAX will replace both J2ME and XHTML as the preferred platform for mobile applications development – Part two

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INTRODUCTION

(Note: Originally I posted this document in two parts – but I have now combined it into one – with a logical break in the middle

also, there seems to be some problem posting comments – Pls feel free to contact me direct if you cannot comment

)

On Jan 1 2006, I published an article called Mobile web 2.0: AJAX for mobile devices – why mobile AJAX will replace both J2ME and XHTML as the preferred platform for mobile applications development

It created quite a stir .. and I am thankful for all the feedback. Specifically, I would like to thank C Enrique Oritiz , Thomas Landspurg , Paul Golding and Jan Standal(Opera) for their feedback.

Special thanks go to Paul Golding for brainstorming some of the ideas in this article with me.

I did not intend to write a follow-up – but the response warranted one. Clearly, I had not explained some views in detail while other concepts were being misunderstood. I strongly believe that the disruptive potential of AJAX in the mobile space is not fully appreciated.

This article(which I am calling Part II) will clarify some of the views I expressed before and also add new insights.

In keeping with my original article(which I am now calling Part I) , this article will focus on the impact of Ajax on mobile application development only (i.e. we are not discussing Ajax in general here).

In this article, we are going to discuss -

a) The limitations of the browsing model on mobile devices and how these are being overcome

b) The impact of Ajax on mobile applications development

c) The potential of Ajax/browsing model to enable applications which target a large customer base.

I welcome your comments at ajit.jaokar at futuretext.com or on this blog. Please feel free to use sections of this article but you should acknowledge the source as http://www.opengardensblog.futuretext.com and link back to the article.

OF LAWN BOWLS AND LONG TAILS

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Consider the following scenario ..

Like most people, you keenly follow the commonwealth games currently being played in Melbourne .

However, UNLIKE most people, your favourite game is lawn bowling .

Lawn ‘what’ ? people ask you – since not many outside the commonwealth have heard of your game(For the 2008 Beijing Olympics, wikipedia caustically lists your game under the category of ‘Sports held as a demonstration, or of which the Olympic status is disputable’ ). So, you are glad that your game is at least being played in Melbourne. But the coverage sucks! The sexy games like swimming, boxing and athletics get all the fame and the glory.

You explain your plight to the friendly neighbourhood geek – who explains something called a ‘long tail’ to you. Apparently, you are it!

In most situations, 80% of the revenue comes from 20% of the products/services (depicted in red below). Thus, the remaining 80% of the products have low demand and low sales. These constitute the ‘long tail’ (such as lawn bowling). The principle of harnessing the ‘long tail’ argues that collectively, these low volume/low sales products can make up market share that equals or exceeds the few bestsellers – provided the distribution channel is large enough and the per unit production cost is low.

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Now suppose we wanted to design a mobile application for the commonwealth games. The preparations would start many months ago. However, keeping the interests of your subscribers in mind, the designer would probably not focus much on the ‘lawn bowls’ section.

However, as a diehard lawn bowling fan, you want the whole works – blogs, polls, images, profiles, betting results and so on.

Can mobile web 2.0, Ajax and widgets help in this scenario? This article will show how.

SCOPE

The complete scope of this article is :

a) Can all mobile applications be implemented using browsing technology?

b) The possibilities of Mobile Ajax

c) The evolution of mobile Ajax and the significance of Opera’s announcement

d) Walled gardens, OpenGardens in context of the above approach

e) How does this approach contrast with Java Me, Symbian etc

f) Mobile gaming

g) Why mobile AJAX will replace both J2ME and XHTML as the preferred platform for mobile applications development

h) The response/evolution of Java ME

i) Conclusions

CAN ALL MOBILE APPLICATIONS BE IMPLEMENTED USING BROWSER TECHNOLOGY?

Before we start discussing mobile applications and Ajax, let us consider the question – Can all mobile applications be implemented using browser technology? In the PC/Internet world, the browser is fast becoming the universal client. However, there is a crucial difference between the PC world and the browser world.

In the PC world, we need one type of program to run a specific type of application (‘word’ to view word documents, ‘excel’ to view spreadsheets and so on). In contrast, we can use the browser to view any type of application(i.e. one client for many applications). This makes application development much more optimal and less susceptible to software running on the client(in this case the PC).

Following on – we consider the browser and mobile applications ..

With higher spec mobile devices, greater bandwidth etc let us consider the hypothetical question -

Can ALL MOBILE applications be implemented using browsing technology?

After all, the browser works well on the PC as a universal client – why not on the mobile device? A corollary to this question could be –

a) when would you be forced to develop an application on a mobile device which is NOT run through a browser? And

b) Are there some fundamental differences with browsing on a mobile device vs. browsing on the web?

Let’s consider point (b) first. To understand the differences between browsing on the web and browsing on a mobile device, we have to consider factors such as

a) Intermittent connections – Unlike on the web, the wireless network connection is relatively unstable and is affected by factors such as coverage (you lose the connection in a tunnel) etc

b) Bandwidth limitations – For example – even when 3G coverage is available, the actual bandwidth is far less

c) The need for data storage on the client: If the device has no (or little) local storage, all data has to be downloaded every time. This is not optimal given intermittent and expensive bandwidth

d) Finally, and most importantly – A local application provides a richer user experience – especially for applications such as games.

There are other factors such as limited user input capabilities, screen sizes and so on. Some of the above factors are getting better(for example coverage blackspots are decreasing) – but the overall user experience remains one of the most important factors.

Thus, the answer to our hypothetical question is – No. We cannot develop all mobile applications using the browser only. However, as we shall discuss below, the architecture of browsing applications is changing and the distinctions between the browsing and downloading applications are not as clear cut as before.

On one hand, local and native applications offer the advantage of a better user interface. However, they suffer from some significant disadvantages – in that the application has to cover a diverse range of devices, operating systems, screen sizes, user interfaces, multiple software releases etc. This leads to fragmentation(see more details below).

The POSSIBILITIES OF MOBILE AJAX

Inspite of the issues mentioned above, I believe that Ajax will lead to resurgence in browsing applications and will overcome many of the problems we now face because

a) The level of abstraction shifts to the browser. Browser based applications are relatively easier to update and can be used across operators. This leads to a greater target audience for the application. Developers could have access to a critical mass of customers to make application development worthwhile. The browser also reduces fragmentation by providing a universal client(i.e. one client to for all application types as opposed to a separate client for each application type)

b) Ajax is making the browser experience and data management capabilities better

c) Developers are supporting Ajax on the internet and by extension the mobile internet. Industry heavyweights are shifting their support to Ajax(for example IBM’s support for Open Ajax )

d) The concept of widgets is not new. It has been around for some time on the Mac. In this context, a widget is a downloadable, interactive software object that provides a single service such as a map, a news feed etc. Ajax provides a mechanism to implement widgets on browsers.

e) Finally, Ajax could foster the creation of the widget authoring market similar to Apple widgets or Opera widgets

The resurgence of browsing applications is not new. Other bloggers such as Russell Beattie have also spotted the same trend.

However, I believe that Ajax will take it one step further by providing a combination of richer experience, bigger target audience, data management capabilities and widget authoring capabilities.

In addition, the support of developers – both on the web and on the mobile internet – could lead Ajax to morph into a system with greater capabilities than we currently envisage.

THE EVOLUTION OF MOBILE AJAX AND THE SIGNIFICANCE OF OPERA’S ANNOUNCEMENT

Part one of the article was written in context of the Opera platform’s support for Ajax .

As per it’s definition, the Opera Platform comprises:

- Opera web browser running in full-screen mode.

- An AJAX framework for running multiple widgets/applications.

- Access to the phones native functionality through an abstraction layer

Opera already supports AJAX in the 17 million shipped mobile browsers in 2005. This means that – with the existing Opera browsers you can use desktop AJAX services such as GMail, Google Maps etc. This much is quite apparent and has been covered by other analysts before.

However, there is more to the announcement than merely support for Ajax.

The significant elements are

1) The Opera Platform is the first mobile AJAX framework. It also has a corresponding browser framework. However, unlike other frameworks such as Zimbra (zimlets) and Backbase it is fully designed for mobile devices – in the sense that it uses the same codebase on the browser and the mobile device. With minor configuration changes, the desktop/browser widget could also run on the mobile device Thus, from a developer’s perspective, there are more than one ways to monetise the widget(desktop, mobile and browser). This factor, coupled with the large installed base – makes the Opera announcement significant from the mobile applications development standpoint

2) Widgets could call other widgets. Complex applications could thus be developed from simple, browser based components

3) The Opera platform allows access to device APIs

To appreciate this concept, we have to consider the architectural drawbacks of the browser model (corollary ‘a’ as discussed above)

The browser model is document centric i.e. based on mark-up languages. In contrast, downloaded and native applications are application centric since they are based on a programming language.

To be really useful, any mobile applications development model must have the capacity to access data elements that are tightly coupled to the device itself. These include the telephony API, phone book, text messages, the messaging API, call records, the SIM card, the calendar, the Bluetooth stack, media player, the file system and so on.

Applications running on the phone can access these services through APIs. For most part, applications running on browsers could not access these functions(with the exception of a few proprietary solutions).

The opera platform is a browser based programming environment that abstracts the native device APIs through a set of Javascript APIs and thus provides developers access to the low level functions on the device from the browser

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This is VERY significant and has the possibility of creating richer browser based applications.

Knowing what we know now about Ajax, widgets etc – lets return back to the example of ‘lawn bowls’.

The power of Ajax lies in it’s ability to create widgets at the desktop level. Using the Opera platform approach, the same widget could be used for the mobile device. These widgets have the ability to harness revenue from the long tail. In the commonwealth games scenario, it should be possible to create a low cost widget catering for the lawn bowls fans. These widgets could run on the desktop browser as well as the mobile browser(using the Opera approach outlined above). There in lies the significance of the Ajax approach!

One would argue that this approach is not a purely browser based approach (because the client in this case needs some form of ‘software’ running locally). Note that – the platform approach is not the same as using a plug-in because a plug-in can be downloaded. In contrast, the platform is a part of the device itself and is installed by the manufacturer.

I agree that this approach is not ‘pure’. However, developers will have to deal with few (perhaps less than ten) such platforms as opposed to the ‘hundreds’ of variants that they have to currently contend with (see notes below).

Nor is this approach ‘open’ – in the sense that an application programmed on one platform will only run on that platform.

Nor is it ‘endorsed’ by OMA as far as I know. The whole issue is still also too early for the mobile operators since it has yet to flow up from browser vendors to the device manufacturers and only then to the operators. However, the W3C mobile web initiative may also be a standards body in this case in collaboration with OMA.

Finally, the approach is still not ‘rich’ enough for certain types of applications such as games( see more on games below).

Nevertheless, it’s a huge step forward because we now have a much more uniform playing field across operators.

Historically, popular technology has often morphed depending on industry support. Take the humble old ‘SQL‘ . Every vendor(such as Sybase, Informix etc) – introduced a procedural version of SQL (PLSQL in case of Oracle). SQL and PLSQL are a contradiction in terms because SQL is set based (and thus by definition not procedural) whereas PLSQL is procedural.

However, ‘procedural’ SQL exists because there was an industry demand (read developer support) behind it. We are witnessing the same phenomenon here with Ajax.

Originally, I had a logical break here since the article was getting very long. But based on initial feedback, I have included it all here. If you have reached this far – I hope you like the rest enjoy! …

d) Walled gardens, OpenGardens in context of the above approach

e) How does this approach contrast with Java Me, Symbian etc

f) Mobile gaming

g) Why mobile AJAX will replace both J2ME and XHTML as the preferred platform for mobile applications development

h) The response/evolution of Java ME

i) Conclusions

WALLED GARDENS, OPENGARDENS IN CONTEXT OF THE ABOVE APPROACH

Now, to my favourite topic – walled gardens and open gardens.

There are two types of walled gardens – firstly the extreme case – like ‘3‘ – which blocks access outside their sites completely – and there is not much you can do about that (but I don’t give that model a lot of time to survive either!)

However, the other case is an operator like Vodafone .

Vodafone live IS a walled garden(and I have no problems with that) BUT Vodafone itself places no restrictions to accessing the web from the browser.

The overall approach outlined above based on Ajax could be a way to overcome the walled gardens problem because the lowest common denominator shifts to the browser (and hence it is cross operator).

Indeed, current browser technology is also cross operator – but with the Ajax based approach as outlined above, for the first time, we have the opportunity to create compelling applications and have access to device APIs from the browser through the platform. Thus, this approach increases the target audience for any given application.

This means, if the browser experience is improved – we could write browser based apps for most operators- which could access a much larger user base

HOW DOES THIS APPROACH CONTRAST WITH JAVA ME, SYMBIAN ETC

The Ajax/platform led approach closes the gap between browser based applications and downloaded applications. Thin client applications will always be impacted due to the need to remain connected in a mobile environment. But in spite of that, the user interface is improved, access to the device is possible – most importantly – the potential target audience increases and development cost decreases.

AJAX has better deployment models and leans more towards open source (since AJAX components are open-source). Java (MIDP) is more deployed and better specified (for now at least). Symbian/WinMobile offers more phone integration, but is not portable and completely proprietary. Adobe Flash is another interesting alternative, but unlike the other technologies has already proved to work with AJAX on the desktop. Hence its an enhancer and not only a competitor to AJAX.

MOBILE GAMING

In Part One, I used the example of mobile gaming. I used porting price statistics from a source which I quoted in the article. Thomas Landspurg has been kind enough to send me updated statistics which he believes are more accurate. According to Thomas

The price/binary (of porting) is around 300 to 600 (but most of the time between 500 to 600). But we have around 80 different binaries for 250 supported handsets, including the different languages…..But this is only for a single technology (typically Java) and a common version for this technology. This does not include a Brew version for instance. One of the big cost factor is the support of MIDP1.0 handsets. Another view is that you can add from 100 to 150% to the development cost as porting costs….

Again, this might change a lot depending of the game (2D/3D) the type of content, etc….

I am not an expert on gaming – and Thomas is. Hence, I am grateful for these stats.

However, isn’t it a pity that mobile applications have been reduced to games/ entertainment in most cases?

Where are the applications(i.e. useful mobile applications such as ‘find my nearest’ etc) – as opposed to games?

And as regards mobile games themselves, I am not the only one who feels that the current state of affairs is fundamentally broken.

As per the article Games elite tackle fragmentation

At present, mobile games development is hamstrung by the fact that one game needs to be tweaked potentially hundreds of times for different handsets. These devices all implement Java differently and have a variety of screen sizes, keyboard lay-outs and user interfaces. The cost and time implications are enormous.

Its the ‘hundreds of times’ which is significant.

A thriving industry undeniably exists in game porting .. so .. the basic principle is valid. If WORA (Write once run anywhere) were true, it should be relatively cheap to ensure that the game runs across devices and across operators – but it’s not!. In fact, companies like babel media derive a significant part of their income from ensuring that mobile games conform to standards set by publishers and operators.

Finally, it’s critical that games developers have a viable business model – without which the industry can’t survive and there can be no innovation. This is especially true of small developers who need a viable per unit cost of development , access to distribution channels and the possibility to make a decent return(i.e. margins that they can build a business with).

These factors are much more important than a pretty face(a ‘rich’ interface).

The browser model as outlined above provides the ability to overcome these issues which currently plague the gaming industry.

Currently, we have a ‘rich’ interface at the expense of a revenue model. I believe that it’s not necessary to have a rich interface to develop a successful mobile game. In fact, successful games can be developed using very basic technology such as SMS . Increasingly, casual games are becoming significant

Mobile gaming is different from console/PC gaming and applying concepts from PC/console gaming to mobile gaming(such as the necessity of a rich interface provided by native applications) – would be missing the point. It’s far more important to foster a revenue model and / or community – both of which are possible via the browser model.

WHY MOBILE AJAX WILL REPLACE BOTH J2ME AND XHTML AS THE PREFERRED PLATFORM FOR MOBILE APPLICATIONS DEVELOPMENT

This headline got considerable attention from my last article(Part One). Lets put this statement in perspective – I said ‘replace as the preferred platform for mobile applications development’ – which is not the same as ‘it will replace’ – the operative word being ‘preferred platform’.

Let me elaborate more using an example.

My first job, fresh out of college, was as a software developer. At college, we learnt ‘C’ programming and UNIX. Our project team at my first job often had lunch together and the topic of conversation was often the same. It was started by the team leader, a veteran of many years of software development. He was obsessed about ‘Is AS400 the VAX killer or is VAX the AS400 killer?’(In other words – which platform is better). I would listen fascinated as technical arguments flowed back and forth.

When someone would care to listen to me – I would ask ‘What about Unix?’. ‘Oh – those are PC systems Ajit’ was the dismissive reply I often received – and off they would go on with AS400 vs. VAX.

Just a few years on – things have changed dramatically.

Both the VAX/VMS and the AS400 are still around – but by no means are the preferred modes of application development – in the sense that if you wanted to develop a new application – you are unlikely to think of these as your first choice. However, note that they have not been ‘replaced’ by newer applications. Also, note that its not a technology issue but rather a commercial issue.

In retrospect, the whole issue was like ‘Dodo vs. Dodo’ – la Spy vs. Spy from the Mad magazine

Hopefully, this should clarify that I mean browsing/ AJAX will be the preferred mode of development and not the only mode of development.

THE RESPONSE / EVOLUTION OF JAVA ME

Enrique has pointed out that Sun/the Java community process is trying to address this problem through MSA and MIDP3 .

CONCLUSIONS

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I believe that if our industry has a patron saint – it should be Jerry Macguire (Show me the money!) . The revenue model is the key. Any technology or application that enables the players in the value chain to make money will thrive.

Ajax, mobile web 2.0 and widgets reduce time to market, encourage innovation and enable a larger target market. By potentially having the ability to develop for the web and the mobile browser at the same time, widgets offer a better value proposition to developers. If widgets can ‘call’ other widgets – powerful applications could be developed from simple components

The biggest factor in favour of Ajax today is the support of small application developers. Developers who stand to make money from widgets. Widgets which could potentially have a large target audience.

In mobile Ajax, Java ME has a credible option. While Java ME is looking to address some of these drawbacks – I believe that the momentum behind Ajax will lead to the emergence of a virtuous (and disruptive!) cycle which will cause Ajax based mobile applications be a credible alternative to Java ME.

Let me conclude with an observation.

At forumoxford (Oxford university’s next generation mobile applications panel – which I chair) , Walter Adamson asked me this question ‘And who bought the last round of “browser only” PCs? Noone, including you.’

That’s true. I didn’t buy a ‘browser only’ PC at that time.

But the point is – NOW I would.

Already, my email, calendar and other applications are on the web. Using Web 2.0 applications like the writely http://www2.writely.com, I can store all my documents on the web.

All I need is a browser. One client to rule them all!

Thus, today I would use a ‘brower only PC’ – would you?

What does that say about mobile applications ?

Image source: http://www.worldbowlsltd.co.uk/

mobile lime and NFC

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It’s not often that I disagree with Russell Buckley - but this time – I think I do.

In Mobile Lime Scores $10 million. One Question – Why?

I think they are missing the point .. I think mobile lime has got funding not for the current system but for their NFC announcement

I blogged about the significance of NFC before

In my view, mobile payments will become NFC based(as is already happening in Japan etc)

Bird Mimicry v.s. free encyclopaedias

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I heard about this CD on the radio this morning. It’s a fascinating example of how innovative content can be created and packaged.

It’s a collection of birds imitating a range of sounds including a modem and a carpenter working. To me, it shows that – on one hand content declines in value with encyclopaedias being given free with breakfast cereals – on the other hand – innovative and unique content like the bird mimicry will always have a premium

Image source and CD : British library online

How mobile phones are transforming societies

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Another interesting article from the BBC about Africa (Nigeria) about how mobile phones are transforming society

I find this bit interesting

Telephone entrepreneurs

In any big town you just have to look around and there will be a boy within hailing distance ready to sell you a top-up card.

Girls are less likely to be scampering about in traffic jams with strings of cards. But give them a picnic table, a red, yellow or green umbrella, and a “make your calls here” sign, and they are set up in the telecommunications business.

The mobile phone companies have done more to tackle youth unemployment than any government project.

Being able to make phone calls has transformed working life in Nigeria.

I blogged about this phenomenon a while ago with – The mobile Internet will do more for Africa than live 8!

An extension of this level of communication is – news can no longer be controlled by governments and the Philippines government knows this only too well!

The interesting bit is – I observed the same phenomenon with Cable TV more than twelve years ago when I last lived in India. Once people get connected, their aspirations rise, they become more informed, corrupt politicians can’t cheat them, governments can’t censor information easily

This is just the beginning ..

Rudy’s open letter to vodafone and some insights on it ..

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My good friend Rudy De Waele wrote this interesting letter to vodafone. Full text and link below. Its creating quite a stir in blogosphere .. and I hope someone at vodafone takes notice!

I have added some more insights to the letter below from forumoxford

But first, Rudy’s letter in full

Dear Vodafone Staff,

Yesterday I received another MMS advertising from you. Normally I don’t put too much attention to them because they are mostly services you promote I’m not interested in, but this one this time took my attention.

The ad went something like this: “You can now subscribe to a monthly flat fee for only 3 Euro/month to navigate Vodafone live!”

At first I thought: this is it, the first ad I receive that fits my needs for browsing the mobile web, so I decided to call your customer support. I must admit I was a bit misled by interpreting the Vodafone life! as accessing the Internet from my mobile.

I am a regular user since 2001 of your voice and SMS services and have 4 other accounts for my wife and daughters using the same services. I am not interested in browsing the Vodafone life! services to download ringtones or wallpapers or receive sports news or whatever’s there. However, I also use your 3G Mobile Connect 3G data card – with 384 kbps UMTS & up to 85.6 kbps GPRS/GSM connectivity – and I’m really happy with it, it’s great to be able to connect my laptop anytime, anywhere.

So I called Vodafone customer support and asked for the details. The flat fee rate appears to be for navigation ONLY within Vodafone life! portal and services. I explained the girl on the other side of the phone I need to surf the mobile web for my professional activities and asked if you had any plans like this. Since I also use your 3G Mobile Connect 3G data card, to me there is no difference accessing the web from the mobile or through your data card on my laptop and I have a fixed rate for the data card I use. The girl answered me that the default option to navigate outside of Vodafone on my mobile is 0,50 Euro (!) per connection and there are no other existing flat fee rate plans yet.

I think there is something completely wrong going on here… For my work and research I surf (connect) the mobile web at a minimum average rate of 10 times a day at 0,50 Euro/day, resulting in an excessive 150 Euro/month extra added to my bill just to surf the mobile web (!)

Let me ask you, do you really think this a fair price for being able to surf the web anytime anywhere?

That’s nearly 4 times the price of my high speed ADSL connection I have at home and which we share with the whole family? I am not interested in surfing Vodafone live! but I’m your customer with a need to browse the mobile web (and I’m sure I’m not the only one). You will probably consider I’m an early adopter but isn’t it about time to create plans for people like us? I cannot remember having paid such excessive pricing to acces the internet as an early adopter in 1995.

I would like to suggest it’s maybe better to start embracing the people who want to push the mobile web forward? In the end, we are all existing customers who can even bring in other ones (which of course I consequently do when I’m happy with services). In the end we will create the services and/or applications that people will acces through your networks in the near future. Or then I should just use the data card chip on my phone to surf the mobile web and have a separate account to handle my phone calls? At least this option might be more reasonable in price for me.

I really would appreciate, as a 5-year loyal customer, you will consider my request to find a better solution then what currently exists.

Yours sincerely,

Rudy De Waele, Barcelona, Spain.

The link to his blog HERE

The issue really is of flat rate charging – something I have blogged about before in context of mobile multiplayer games packet fees: boon or bane for mobile multiplayer games

There are two fantastic responses from forumoxford that add more insight to this issue

Firstly from Jonathan Crooks

I agree that none of the European opco’s are adequately addressing the charging models that end users would like to see. I believe there are some good reasons and some bad reasons for this.

I have worked in wireless (GSM and 3G) infrastructure suppliers for a long time and have some understanding of how the actual networks work.

There are some fundamental differences between how GPRS and UMTS data services are delivered over that most scarce of resources, the radio (and I include the cost of the relevant infrastructure here as well).

In short GPRS access effectively competes for voice access in the 2G network – so any attempt to offer a flat fee model has to consider the potential lost revenues from those voice calls that cannot now be made due to lack of bandwidth. In the case of VF Live! there are alternate revenue opportunities for VF other than the pure per MB charge and clearly they believe they can recoup their lost revenue this way (or at least swap it for some branding advantage).

For UMTS – this is largely unused spectrum at this time and there is plenty spare for devoting to data services – such as the 3G data card package. 3G is not a service but a network capability and at the moment the voice services on offer over 3G are not very compelling – thus there is very little take up in the consumer market. However data services (mobile web browing from a PC, corporate VPN etc) is quite compelling at up to 384KBps and this is a differentiated service – hence the offer of flat rate packages. Granted sometimes there is no 3G coverage and they use GPRS (thus getting back into that lost voice revenue issue)- this is just something VF has to live with in order to promote 3G services.

For the longer term, as 3G handsets are now almost indistinguishable from 2G handsets there will be much more uptake of 3G voice (albeit unknown to the user) and you could imagine this issue (voice vs data revenue) will raise its head again in a few years.

Fortunately from a technological basis this is not necesarily the case – fundamentally the 3G radio interface is potentially far more efficient at carrying different QoS services (voice, video streaming, intenet browsing etc.) and whilst is not at its full potential now, will be in the next year or two (for those aware of the acronyms I am talking about HSDPA, HSUPA and even LTE but I think the latter is a long way out and may not turn out to be very easy to deploy seamlessly).

[QoS - quality of service - e.g. slow but on time, fast but with delays etc]

All the same, for the near term – the opco’s could possibly still go with flat rate over GPRS – I do not know how congested the opco’s 2G spectrum and radio infrastruture really is these days and this may be a more a case of corporate inertia (one of the cad reasons referred to above !).

Fundamentally the GPRS part of 2G radio is quite similar to HSDPA in so far as it is a shared bearer – a bit like ethernet in the sky ! It is however a lot less efficient and a lot less responsive.

One final point – with the advent of Skype and its peers (!) – a flat rate package presents some risk to opco’s revenue streams – I personally believe they have a right to claim revenue for voice calls on their network made regardless of the way it is done – though there are many who do not. I don’t believe that GPRS is sufficient a bearer to support Skype services to any acceptable level but 3G may be a different matter – if not today then when HSDPA arrives. Ultimately I am not yet convinced that Skype’s voice codec’s are as good as the 3GPP defined ones (EFR, AMR etc.) at handling efficient voice transmission over a radio interface)

[Codec - a software that converts voice to and from a digitial stream, including compressing the volume of data generated and handling errors and delays in the digital tranmission.]

[3GPP - the standards organisation that created the GSM and UMTS specification and EFR and AMR are codecs used by those standards.]

On a slightly different topic one thing I’d like to see happen is a move towards making an ‘always-on’ service available to users, perhaps at a premium. This is where the handset/device makes a permanent connection to the network instead of establishing a connection whenever the user is browsing and taking it down when they have finished (or having it taken down at the network level after a period of inactivity or just after a period of time). This would enormously improve the response time for those quick “I’ll just check the sports results” accesses – though not so much for long browsing/downloads type activities (which really require a better radio interface – EDGE for 2G or HSDPA for 3G).

regards

Jon Crooks

and secondly from Tony Fish

An interesting topic.

The operator dilemma

The current situation is that the mobile operators in mature voice and text markets are pricing to win customers and increase volume on built infrastructure with a net effect causing ARPU to decline.

The shareholders still perceive mobile as a growth area and therefore provide through market forces a premium on a p/e based share value.

However with no more new users (>100% penetration) and declining income, the story moves to data, the great vision.

To increase data traffic the end user cost of data needs to fall, however there is not the same scalability as in voice. Therefore need to balance traffic and value, but with the pressure that they must grow to maintain the premium. Rock and hard place.

Scenario 1.

Operator provides unfettered wholesale data terms. VoIP services enter the market, compete with operator GSM Voice, operator marginalized to bit pipe. Not good

Scenario 2.

Operator provides controlled access to content company for wholesale data terms. Content companies not longer need Premium rate text to pay, can move to subscription basis. Operator losses out on high margin (25%) PSMS business. Decline in RPU and customers move to 100% off portal. Not good

Scenario 3.

Operator tries to be innovative, but cannot get head round it and people blog as annoyed. Current

Scenario 4.

Customer realizes that some tariff bundles give 1Mb down load for £0.30p. Operators realize they have wrong bundles in market, but flood gates open. Whilst no wholesale model, therefore operator maintain improved margin, a good solution for them as some growth in KPI’. Most likely

Scenario 5.

Operators given route to maintain control and increase data traffic (my new venture !)

Do I think they are wrong – no

Do I think they are right – no

Do I think they are confused – yes

Do I think that they are very worried about change – yes

Tony F

This week’s carnival at enrique’s blog

Enruqie has hosted this week’s carnival.

See it HERE

Great stuff as usual

web 2.0 and the revival of browser only PCs

onering1.JPG

Is it time to revisit browser only PCs? Would web 2.0 cause a fundamental change in hardware architecture(both PC and mobile) by facilitating a move towards the network computer architecture?

In the PC/Internet world, the browser is fast becoming the universal client. However, there is a crucial difference between the PC world and the browser world.

In the PC world, we need one type of program to run a specific type of application (‘word’ to view word documents, ‘excel’ to view spreadsheets and so on). In contrast, we can use the browser to view any type of application(i.e. one client for many applications).

or as Gandalf would say – One ring to rule them all!

This makes application development much more optimal and less susceptible to software running on the client(in this case the PC).

An extension of the ‘one client’ i.e. browser based paradigm is the ‘browser only PC’ .

Recently, Walter Adamson asked me this question on forumoxford – ‘And who bought the last round of “browser only” PCs? Noone, including you.’

That’s true. I didn’t buy a ‘browser only’ PC at that time.

But the point is – NOW I would.

Already, my email, calendar and other applications are on the web. Using Web 2.0 applications like the writely , I can store all my documents on the web.

All I need is a browser. One client to rule them all!

Thus, today I would use a ‘brower only PC’ – would you?

What does that say about mobile applications ?

Image source: http://members.lycos.nl/lotr1en2en3/de_ring.htm