I’m delighted to have my colleague David Carratt as guest columnist for a few days, reporting live from the 3GSM congress in Barcelona (lucky sod!):
First impressions from 3GSM are rather blurry having got off a plane, been hit by massive Samsung billboards at the airport advertising RAZR lookalikes, spent half an hour blagging my way into the show –- persuaded the cashier that Tuesday after 4pm is not a full day so I should get in free today –- and then spending 3 hours at a corporate drinks party.
Spectacular walk at dusk up from the show site at Fira Barcelona to the Fundación Miró in Montjuïc Park overlooking the whole of Barcelona.
This year’s main preoccupation is "what next for your phone?" Is it a TV? Is it a personal navigator? Is it a video iPod? Or is it a mobile webcam? Nokia's new phones cover all these possibilities in a way that makes you wonder whether anyone knows the answers or just wants to cover the bases.
I am convinced that consumers don't want to watch broadcast live TV simultaneously with everyone else. After all, this is the media-fragmented, post-Tivo, "audience of one"-world, right? Apparently this isn't the only view. A mobile phone at 6" is as good as a plasma at 10ft, and the Nokia N77 packs stereo speakers. In this view of the world you end up with Bluetooth rear speakers in both your ears and a subwoofer in your shoes! …for a superior personal TV experience.
Maybe these two views aren't so different – video is here to stay but my bet is on time-shifted, downloaded multicasting rather than live simulcasting. Consumers want the flexibility to watch video in a non-linear format. Operators want to carry the packets to the phone (and they don't care whether you watch them or not).
The argument will be swayed by whether Apple's iPhone and other smart video phones are more attractive to consumers at a price greater than the free terminals (dumb phone + TV) provided by your operator. Would you rather use a video iPod with a built in smartphone or a TV with a plain old voice phone? My choice is device first, operator second!
Thanks David. Your consumer dilemma is a mirror image of the increasing tension between handset manufacturers and the operators. Steve Jobs would like nothing more than to sell the iPhone directly to consumers, bypassing the operator channel. So would Nokia. The operators meanwhile want to stop subsidising high-margin smartphones, and to increase ARPU on mass market phones. This epic struggle between Nokia/Motorola and Vodafone/Verizon is likely to consume the mobile phone industry for the next few years.