Research Notes

Virtual Machine solutions will battle in Europe

and have an important role in the success of 2.5G and 3G
Although little heard of today in Europe, Virtual Machines or VM will play a central role in the success of mobile services on 2.5G and 3G platforms in Europe – and the different existing standards will battle to become the choice of the mobile operators.

This battle has already started in Korea where all three mobile operators have VM running in their 2.5G mobile phones and all three are using different solutions – each hoping that their choice of VM platform will give them the edge on their competitors.

Why is VM important? Because it is the platform that enables mobile consumers to download services, games and applications to their mobile phones, which they then can use in principal for as long as they like or have paid for, without having to go online again. VM is a middleware platform, in between the mobile operator’s server and the consumers mobile phones. So a mobile user with a VM phone can buy and download e.g. an e-mail application that then resides on his mobile phone, where he can read and write emails. He only has to go online briefly to send and fetch new mails –
completely the opposite of a browser based WAP mail – where you had to be online the whole time you were accessing your mail.

Although reasonably similar in functionality and end-user experience, the three different VM solutions that the Korean mobile operators have chosen, come from three different companies – all of which would like to sell their VM solutions elsewhere. The second largest operator in Korea: KT Freetel is using BREW from United States based Qualcomm and although there are only three mobile operators world-wide using BREW today, BREW could become quite big in the CDMA areas of the mobile world.

In Europe we will probably see different Java (JM2E) VM solutions battle for the attention of the European mobile operators, as they start to focus on their strategies for 2.5G and 3G rollout – a rollout that will not include very many mobile services before the operators have chosen and implemented a VM platform.

A late entrant in the battle for new data services on the mobile phone, could actually be Microsoft – with their .Net (pronounced dot net) framework. The basic idea with .Net is that it allows content to be accessed on any platform – including mobile phones and hand-held devices. Microsoft’s .Net enables already existing content to easily be made available on mobile phones, both as browser based applications, but also applications that reside on the mobile phone and fetch updated data at the users convenience. Though it is still early days for .Net, it already looks like it could have quite an impact – both in general and on the mobile platforms.

So when should the European mobile operators get their VM platforms up and running?
Basically – yesterday! The latest mobile phones on the market in Europe are Java compatible and GPRS is up and runnin, so all the mobile operators are missing now, is all the content that will drive the market forward and make the transition from 2G and forward. But nobody is going to create any
content before the mobile operators have their VM platforms ready and also sound revenue sharing business models that give the incentive to the content owners to create and offer mobile content.

The battle for VM in Korea and everything else of interest going on in the Korean mobile market – which is currently 3 – 5 years ahead of the European mobile markets – is all described in Strand Consult’s latest report “The Korean Mobile market, a window to 3G”.

Strand Consult spent almost 9 months analysing the worlds most advanced mobile market. We met with all the players in the mobile value chain and been honoured to have access to information not previously disclosed. We describe what the operators, the content owners and the technology companies business case actually looks like for real. With key figures and information we give a detailed description of a mobile market with over 30 million mobile customers – of which 9 million are “3G” users and over 3 million of them have VM enabled mobile phones.
More information on the report

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