Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Plugg-Dopplr and Google to present on European innovation

Brussels-Plugg is a one-day conference on March 12th in Brussels with a clear focus on celebrating entrepreneurship and innovation in Europe and raising global awareness for those European start-ups in the Web / Mobile 2.0 field that stand out in the crop.

Plugg aims to provide a hands-on view on what's happening in Europe, what the continent's (dis)advantages are compared to other regions and what the future will hold for its digital industry.

This year, Robin Wauters has assembled a great line-up of speakers, including Mike Butcher from Techcrunch UK, Lisa Sounier from Dopplr and Anil Hansjee from Google.

There is also the Start-up Rally for web and mobile start-ups with European roots where innovative new players can showcase their wares.

The first 3 readers to register via my blog (blog code AW6TZ24U) get 10% off the ticket price-don't miss out!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Notes from Day 3 of MWC-Finding the right (monetisation) strategy for LBS

Barcelona-Day 3 of Mobile World Congress: The 'Finding the Right Strategies for Location Based Services' seminar was all about answering the one key question: 'How does the mobile ecosystem monetise location?' year on from this question having been posed at the very same venue, and still no global truth has emerged.

The fact that at this year's seminar, Kurt Lyall from Tom Tom was present is significant. Tom Tom have been one of the few consistent players in the field to successfully monetise location, though not through mobile handsets. Tom Tom's lesson is that customers are willing to pay for (turn-by-turn) navigation and seem willing in the future to pay for search and other location services.

Olivier Laury from Bouygues Telecom was in a difficult spot on the panel: as an operator, he had to defend the punitive charges from roaming when using LBS, a clear brake on further market development. His defence of 'I'll lower my tariffs if my operator counterparty lowers his' is clearly unacceptable, with EU policy likely to continue rigorously attacking operators profit skimming on subscriber roaming.

Charles Morse from Garmin discussed the case of a company they own, Digital Cyclone, that delivers weather reports on their devices in a compelling way and has been very successful. Similiar successful examples of Location-related content whose intrinsic value justfies premium charging included ViaMichelin and Lonely Planet travel content.

The overall lesson? Ultimately the customer must be allowed to choose. Great content will attract customers more than anything else and a revenue model that is likely to work will offer a free basic service supported by ads or a premium ad-free service. The two models can also be combined:in Bouygues Telecom's experience, cross-over rates from basic subscribers to premium are as high as 15%.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Mobile World Congress (MWC) First Impressions

BARCELONA-From the capital of all things mobile (at least for one week), here are my first impressions of Day 1 of the MWC.

Firstly, attendance may have dipped slightly compared to previous years, but nothing like what some observers were expecting. What seems to be the case though, is that fewer company staff are actually on the exhibition stands and more hostesses are left to explain the products on display (sometimes to good effect, see NTT DoCoMo stand and sometimes not so good, see Telefonica stand).

Secondly, emphasis has slipped away slightly from content to once again focus on technology..the insistent talk on convergence in terms of devices seems to have stimulated incumbents in the mobile space out of their lethargy and start dishing out new features or devices at a faster rate.

I was particularly impressed by the new LG Arena 3D interface (a la Linux) though its mere 8GB of inbuilt memory are disappointing.

More and more handsets being showcased come with QWERTY keyboards (no surprise) and in my view, within 2 years the majority of new devices being shipped will all come with this keyboard and/or the hasidic iPhone style one.

More later...

Monday, February 9, 2009

Mobile World Congress (MWC)-Expectations in 2009

BARCELONA-The 2009 edition will be the 3rd MWC I will be attending, but am sure that the flavour of this year's event will be quite distinguishable from that of previous editions.

Last year's MWC was undoubtedly the year with the greatest emphasis on mobile content, with the Content Zone area expanding greatly compared to earlier years. It was also the year which marked the foray of new players in the handset market, such as Asus and Garmin.

This year is seems that the organisers have made a more earnest effort to showcase innovation at the event, with greater floor space dedicated to both local and international mobile start-ups. This is absolutely fundamental, as innovation is unlikely to come from the existing incumbents, who are dragged down by declining revenues, limited credit facilities and unhappy shareholders.

But, the mobile marketplace is a complex ecosystem, and innovation will only flourish if most stakeholders make more than just a token effort to support new ideas. Key to this are the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), whose essential support role has been hankered by a blinkered approach to innovation (we want it, but won't risk anything to get it).

Some signs of change are emerging, with MNOs on the acquisition trail for new concepts they understand (view Zyb's acquisition by Vodafone for example). While this buying-in of innovation is great (it supports many an exit strategy documented in start-up business plans) it doesn't per se do much to support the launch of new, daring services (such as LBSs).

My hope for the MWC this year is to see MNOs recognising that opening up their network to innovative startups is not only commendable, but that it is the only way that they can maintain sustainable growth in the mid to long term and drive new users and greater usage to their increasingly core data package offerings.