Wireless Wonders

No news, just comment about mobile phones and services, from a veteran practitioner...3G, GPRS, WAP, Bluetooth, WiFi, etc...

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Mobile network as OS or intelligent bit-pipe? ...

In an email exchange with David Gumbrell, I was explaining how location-based services were evolving only slowly because of lack of serious support from operators to open up their location platforms. This is only part of the story. For dynamic (i.e. proximity-sensing) location to work and to get high-accuracy, almost certainly means a lot of investment.

David's comment about the whole approach to open mobile networks is worthy of reflection:

"Seems to me that the operators would make a lot more money if they followed the Microsoft model: create the eco-system and provide the tools for 3rd party development. Spot the best emerging solutions and borg-ify them. Certainly more successful than the original "we control everything, you don't get to blow your nose without permission" IBM model they are currently following. As someone has pointed out -- it's not actually about killer apps, it's about recruiting the individuals that invent killer-apps."

In particular, I like the point about recruiting the individuals to invent killer-apps, although that term is problematic (e.g. see earlier point about "compelling applications").

It isn't about recruiting them into the operator world, because, as we all know, interesting stuff in technology happens on the outskirts. Attracting developers and entrepreneurs to the "mobile network operating system" almost certainly means it needs to be highly accessible and - if we follow recent Internet trends - open source.

What is an open source "mobile network operating system"? I have ideas, as do others. But just asking the question itself is useful. The latest answer might be "IMS", but I don't agree. IMS is only a partial solution.

Wherever you go with the "opening the network" discussion, it almost always leads back to a view that operators must eventually become bit-pipe operators, which currently they aggressively resist.

With David's point about the OS model, might we slightly re-align that statement to say that eventually they must become "mobile networked OS" providers, or - more subtle - "intelligent bit-pipe providers".

The usual assumption is that the "on-ramp" model of flat-rate dumb broadband provision in the ISP world is what mobile operators want to avoid. However, this assumes that mobile and fixed access are essentially the same except for the access technology itself.

I don't buy that.

The mobile environment is different. The email versus texting "debate" highlights the difference, despite many instincts (misplaced) to view these environments as being the same, or convergent on the same end-point.

If the intelligent bit-pipe or mobile OS model has a future, then what attributes would such "platforms" have that make them sufficiently sticky that users would stick and providers would reap sizeable revenues, at least better than what is otherwise assumed for commodity bit-pipe provision?

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