Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Will Vonage's wireless services strategy succeed?

Vonage is planning to offer wireless services in second quarter of 2007. Since Vonage has been facing stiff competition from cable companies in VOIP space, it is looking to diversify its service offerings, and provide a bundle of services, and essentially become an MVNO that provides mobile services along with VOIP. We all know successful MVNOs including Virgin Mobile, that just play in mobile space.

MVNOs are about brand, and a segment of the user base to which carrier does not want to market or support. Virgin Mobile plays to the young audience and offers phones targeted to that segment of the market. Vonage is going to offer services to general consumers and small businesses, and that is very price sensitive market. Vonage will compete with the likes of Comcast, that provides all the services what Vonage is thinking of providing. If Vonage can not add any other differentiators to its service, it will have hard time selling its service.

Other than bundling its VOIP software on mobile phones, Vonage will have to provide other mobile device management functions and mobile applications that make the user's life easier. I would love to see applications like easy location based content share.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

What is in Palm's future?

The pioneer of PDAs is rumored to be up for sale, according to this story on Of course what is interesting is not that Palm is up for sale, rather who the buyer will be. Lots of names doing the rounds, including usual suspects like Motorola, Microsoft and Nokia. Some even suggest HTC (the phone manufacturer itself).

Question is - what is up for sale? Ever since Palm started shipping phones using Windows Mobile, the Palm OS was dead right there. Hardware is not an issue in any case, because that is already outsourced. What is up for sale then, is Palm brand. The brand itself has taken a lot of beating in last few months and years, and certainly its value has diminished. But it is still a recognized brand.

Probably most of the above mentioned phone makers will not be interested in Palm. In this fixed-mobile convergence, enterprise mobility age, it would not surprise me if a company like HP or Dell might be interested in Palm brand. Remember HP bought BitPhone (mobile device management software vendor), and then turn around and sell complete enterprise solution.

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Are device makers gearing to compete with carriers?

Ed Sim of BeyondVC has an interesting observation about Nokia's free mapping program, that Nokia is gearing up to compete with its most valuable channel - carriers. Nokia could not just be doing this because carriers are going to Taiwan to get private-labeled phones, and thus put pressure on Nokia's device margins. There is something larger at play here. Certainly carriers have a lot of muscle, and they control the wide area wireless networks. However, municipal WiFi and mesh networks (even though very small and spotty for the moment) are disruptive technologies for Internet access and voice (VOIP) and these technologies could cause problems for carriers in the future. Subscribers will be able to buy devices like Skype phone and connect to these networks for voice and data. Carriers will have less influence on the subscribers, but device makers will still be in the business of making devices for access. Device makers will certainly be able to offer direct services through their portals, other than vocie and data. Even though there are still issues about business models around free networks, but they are still very disruptive technologies. These technologies can turn carriers into just data pipes.
Nokia's acquisitions of Intellisync, Loudeye and now free mapping program are preparations for that coming world.
Is that what Nokia and other device makers are preparing for?

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Friday, February 09, 2007

Is there a need for WiFi alliance like body for enterprise device management?

Daniel Taylor had a thought provoking post on his weblog, where he argues why a Standards Development Organization like WiFi Alliance is needed for enterprise device management standards. His argument that OMA DM is designed for carrier’s supply chain is very valid. Even though there are device makers on the OMA membership list, they also go with what makes sense for the big carriers, because carriers are the only channel and user of their devices. As long as carrier controls the device, it is going to be hard for an enterprise specific device management standard to gain momentum. If the devices are liberated from carriers (see my post about unlocked phones), and device makers are in control of how devices are brought to market (just like 802.11 devices are done today), the support for enterprise device management standard certification will be higher.

Certainly WiFi is very popular standard, and almost all client devices work with access points, in a plug-and-play manner. I think the reason for WiFi’s success is because it is a standard at access layer, where there is just a single function involved, and that is how to provide secure access to the enterprise network infrastructure. The WiFi devices do not have standardized management functions such as user authentication, device wipe, lock, reset, over the air updates. WiFi devices do not have active users trying to do things to these devices, and changes the need for management requirements of these devices.

Read all of my comments on Dan's blog.