Research Notes

Open Standards high on the agenda on the GMS World Congress opening day

Carl Williams, Strand Consult

Monday 17th February
GSM World Congress 2003, Cannes
Today the 18th GSM World Congress opened in Cannes, where over 28000 delegates from the whole mobile world will meet during the next five days and show – and talk about – what lies ahead for the mobile industry.

For a change, the mobile operators could lean back and enjoy themselves, as no one was complaining about the operators – but were surprisingly courting them instead, with the realisation that most future mobile business will start with the relationship between the mobile customer – and the mobile operator! The focus was on ease of use for the mobile customers – and thereby helping the mobile operators make money.

Although the exhibition first opens tomorrow, today’s pre-conference seminars were packed, as industry leaders talked about how they see the coming years challenges and of course, how their respective companies can help the industry meet those challenges.

Two words cropped up again and again in most of the presentations – “Open Standards”. Nokia, Microsoft and OpenWave all want to have open standards in the Industry. The only thing is that they all want their own “Open Standard” to be the defacto standard – and then license their software and platforms to others! So Nokia were talking about their P60 platform and Symbian open standard, while Microsoft announced a number of exciting new products and solutions on their own Mobile Windows platform.

Microsoft got today’s prize for the most enjoyable and interesting presentation by Microsoft’s Corporate VP. Juha Christensen. Before showing off the capabilities of the new Windows based Smart Phones, Juha stressed that Microsoft’s mobile strategy is to ensure the success of mobile operators and hit his point home by placing the mobile operators in the middle of his first slide – with all the other players in the mobile value chain grouped in a circle encompassing the operators. While many others stuck to their Powerpoint presentations – Microsoft showed off a number of applications and services live on the Windows powered Orange SPV Smart Phone, starting off with how easy it is for a mobile customer to pre-configure the SPV and install applications while still in the retailers shop during purchase of the phone – one of the most important prerequisites for getting mobile customers to start using their new phones for data services – something Strand Consult already pointed out would be a prerequisite for the success of 2.5 and 3G mobile terminals in a press release last fall:

Juha followed up by showing location based services, email and a very nice golf game – all live, easy to use and all available today on the SPV.

There is no doubt that even though Microsoft are still just entering the mobile marketplace and still only have a very small market share, the mobile operators have understood the message Microsoft are sending and with the many announcements Juha could make about new Windows based mobile phones coming on the market, including a new Smart Phone from T-Mobile and a new Pocket PC with built in phone and swivel camera from Samsung, there is little doubt that the mobile operators are starting to like what they are hearing and seeing from Microsoft.

Along the same lines, Nokia’s Mike Saravirta was pleased to announce that there are now four other terminal manufactures, comprising of Siemens, Panasonic, Samsung and Sendo licensing the Nokia P60 platform, running on the Symbian operating system, making it easier for developers to develop services that can run on multiple makes of mobiles. Whether Sendo will take a bite of the terminal market has yet to be seen, but the other three manufactures and Nokia have together around 65% of the world mobile terminal market – setting the stage for the battle between Microsoft’s Mobile Windows and Symbian – a story we wrote about already last year in connection with the launch of Orange’s SPV:

On a maybe little sadder note came the presentation from Peter van Delft from Dutch KPN mobile – talking about mobile services on i-mode in Holland. Trying to sell i-mode using a Powerpoint presentation with few graphics and running through some of the many services without showing even a screen shot of them, did not seem to impress the audience. There was only one person in the audience who had a question for Mr. Van Delft after his presentation – “how many i-mode subscribers are there in Europe today”? and the very brief answer was “200.000” – a number that is very far from the figures that were hoped for when i-mode launched in Europe and of course already left far behind by the success of Vodafone-Live. Strand Consult already predicted that i-mode would have difficulty in Europe in a press release at the start of 2002:

So today was a day off for the mobile operators. For once, there were very few complaints about the slowness of the operators to rollout new technology and interoperability. There was very little talk about some of the items that should be very high on the agenda of the mobile operators, things like getting their act together on DRM (Digital Rights Management) and looking at differentiated pricing on GPRS traffic, so that the price for watching a video becomes more realistic – something that boosted 2.5G data traffic in South Korea:
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