We were invited to be on a panel last week at the Broadband World Forum conference, which was held in Paris. I’ve never been at this conference before, and was pleasantly surprised. Very well attended, with plenty of “serious” players in attendance and some pretty interesting sessions, with lots of Q&A and also networking opportunities. Despite the “Broadband” title (which initially put me off) it was really choc-tastic with Telco players both mobile, fixed and converged. Lots of topics of interest and relevance to Dial2Do, including many sessions about Web 2.x and Mobile, and also various sessions on developers and developer communities.
Our panael was called “Stimulating Service Innovation through the Application Developer Community: Open Innovation“. Alan Quayle was chairing the session. Unlike some chairs or facilitators at things like these, Alan is “into” the topics he hosts, and so brings both knowledge, research and his own passion and opinions to bear on the topic. i think this makes for a richer and more engaging panel experience for audience and panel members, as Alan helps really drive the discussion and tease out the core issues. In our case, we ran for an hour and a half and could easily have gone on twice that length!!
At the core of the discussions were the following topics:
- How should these new App Stores work?
- What can the mobile industry learn from the TV industry wrt Web 2.x standards and widgets, and vice versa?
- And of course, fragmentation of platforms, and the overshadowing presence of Apple and iPhone.
Alan has a good lowdown of the whole thing here.
A few thoughts, in no particular order, from the session:
- It’s hard to underestimate how fundamentally Apple affected the mobile and wireless industry when they launched the iPhone. In every one of these conferences I attend, it typically takes 20 seconds before someone is asking telecom panellists or luminaries to explain how they’re going to “deal” with the Apple App Store, or the iPhone, or the iPhone OS. It has the whole industry spooked (in a good way, imho). It’s taken me a while to realise how profound a kick in the gut it was for Telecom Industry that a Computer/Internet player has really set the agenda and fundamentally shifted expectations for users, developers, and most of the ecosystem.
- The operators are really struggling to balance competing pressures on them as they roll out their App Stores. Their bosses (the operator) wants revenue and hit apps. Developers want short time to market, loads of revenue share, and promotion in the store. Users want Apple-like simplicity, clear pricing and click-to-download. Guess what – it’s not possible! In Apple’s case, the store is not a revenue-earner, it’s an ecosystem driver that helps Apple sell iPods and iPhones. Operators don’t have an equivalent (maybe the nearest they have is the need to reduce churn and maintain subscriptions?). Anyway these stores look to me like they’re on a hiding to nothing. Everyone’s going to be just a “little bit” disappointed. And in to that disappointment gap will ride Apple, Google and to some extent Nokia if they make Ovi work.
- Most of the operators have to battle significant internal issues in order to get any new innovation in this area (developer APIs, tools, App Stores) out the door. Among the key issues include how to support apps, and how to authorise them for the usage (quickly). Many would be wise to consider some form of “wild west” – create a separate brand that runs on the network, and allow a “promiscuous” development of apps to be available on that brand, with zero or only developer-support available there. Use this separate entity or brand to bypass your own internal antibodies that prevent innovation.
- And lastly – on a separate note; I attended many Web 2.0 meets Telco style presentations at the event. It’s time to stop explaining what Web 2.0 is and get with the programme. Facebook has 65M monthly mobile users now and is a threat to many ingrained services that Telcos think of as being “theirs”. There is a huge potential for operators to embrace and benefit from Web 20 and mobile web 2.0 trends. Right now though there’s very little evidence of understanding how they might tap the potential here. The Social Phone is being developed largely by the internet players.
Anyway – a very interesting conference overall – I’d recommend it to anyone trying to take an industry “temperature” without wanting to slog around MWC for three days 🙂