VisionMobile Blog – Print Edition 2008

To celebrate another year of blogging at VisionMobile, we ‘ve just published a glossy brochure titled ‘VisionMobile Blog, Print Edition 2008’. This brochure contains eleven of the best articles that appeared on the blog in the last year.

Brochure preview

The Print Edition 2008 contains excerpts from the following eleven articles, organised along several themes:

Theme: Mobile software strategy:
Rethinking application environments (March 07)
The significance of Google’s Android (November 07)
Prague or Berlin? Behind the scenes of the SIM industry (April 07)

Theme: Mobile operator strategies:
Container projects: The next chapter in handset customisation (June 07)
Motorola’s UIQ: Diversion or U-Turn? (October 07)

Theme: OEM strategies
The headaches of being a handset OEM (April 07)

Theme: Service delivery technologies
On-device portals: Sardines in a can (February 07)
Activating the idle screen (June 07)

Theme: open source in mobile
Sun’s open source Java policy will mean very little for the mobile industry (September 07)
Bye Bye Browser (April 07)
GPLv2 vs GPLv3: Licensing dynasty or end of the road? (September 07)

You can download the PDF version of the brochure here. If you prefer the brochure in its glossy 200gsm paper glory, drop us a line with your postal address and we ‘ll send it through by snail mail (offer valid until March 7th).

Carnival of the Mobilists 111

Welcome to the 111th edition of the Carnival of the Mobilists! This week’s Carnival is hosted by VisionMobile.

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It’s been another busy week for mobile industry observers – a particularly mad week if like us you joined the Barcelona party of 50,000+ industry execs rushing across conference halls and meetings and where grand announcements of new products, partnerships and acquisitions were the norm.

So what’s new this week ? An interview with the CEO of Mobile Monday, key learnings from MWC, an insight into trends around content recommendation and a comparison of mobile markets worldwide in terms of leaders and followers. Let’s start.

Paul Ruppert at the Mobile Point View has done an excellent podcast interview with Jari Tammisto, CEO of Mobile Monday. For those unfamiliar with Mobile Mondays, this is a set of ad-hoc groups formed around local communities with a keen interest in mobile, and a very succesful one, too; over the last 3 years MoMo groups have formed in over 30 countries. From personal experience, the London MoMos are a highly informative, and the mailing list throws up a few gems once in a while. Paul’s interview features quite a few interesting historical facts recounted by Jari from his experience in building up the largest event organising circuit in the industry.

On the subject of the MWC, I wrote a detailed post on Learnings from the Mobile World Congress and 10 predictions for MWC 2009. Recommended reading if you ‘re trying to figure out what are the main trends emerging from MWC, particularly if you ‘re interested in service delivery, Ovi vs Trolltech, open source or OHA/Google.

Writer, journalist and mobile content expert Peggy Anne Salz over at mSearchGroove writes another thought-leading piece on how recommendation and viral marketing is catching on. Following an interview with JT Klepp, MoConDi President, Peggy writes about how MoConDi s one-click viral sharing gains traction lays out stats & strategy for the company and discusses the role of recommendation & reward in the scheme of things. A very worthy read for those who track where content recommendation is headed.

Dennis at WAP review talks about how Yahoo has officially opened their mobile Widget platform to developers, following on the footsteps of Nokia WidSets among others. BTW, from discussion from several widget companies at 3GSM, it seems to me that there are three Widget ‘standards’ or points of API gravity forming across mobile and web; W3C Widgets specifications, Yahoo Widgets and WebKit-based Widgets (used in Apple Dashboard and Nokia Web Runtime).

Megablogger, publisher and friend Ajit Jaokar talks about how Mobile Youth is a myth based on a presentation he gave at MWC. Ajit raises a very good point; that there are no ‘Mobile’ Youth – Just ‘Internet Youth’; the mobile data industry is arrogant enough in claiming a whole demographic. Ajit makes another enlightening observation, that Mobile is a just a medium and that the youth will adopt which ever medium will be the one which reflects their social graph.

Judy Breck of Golden Swamp and kind maintainer of the Carnival writes about how putting knowledge on mobiles is key for new generations in Middle Eastern cultures. Always with a keen interest in education and the world around us, Judy argues that “educators [in the Middle East] can help the intellectual liberation of the commons by seeing to it that a kid in any culture who has a mobile can use that device to learn reading, writing, arithmetic and the subjects once limited to academic institutions.”

C. Enrique Ortiz at the Mobility Weblog offers an accurate definition for social graphs and social networks, as a resolve to the confusing definitions in the Wikipedia entries for these terms (don’t miss the related links at the bottom of the article).

Reknown consultant, strategist and author Tomi Ahonen at Communities Dominates Brands writes a long and thoughtful post where he analyses which countries are ahead and which are behind in mobile. Tomi argues that there are primarily four ways to measure leadership in mobile telecoms – the penetration rate (i.e. the number of cellphone subscriptions); the network generation(s); how advanced the handsets are; and how advanced the services are.

This is a post that needs to be read from A to Z (ok, minus the sales pitch at the very end). It’s crammed with factoids based on Tomi’s extensive experience, his books and his telecoms background. A Must Read, both for novices and experts to the industry, which is why I ‘m nominating this as Post of the Week. Congrats Tomi and keep them keeping!

Next week tune in to Taptology for the 112th installment of the best of the mobile blogging!

– Andreas

Learnings from the Mobile World Congress: 10 predictions for MWC 2009 (part 1)

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[Trying to figure out what are the key takeways from this year’s MWC conference in Barcelona ? Research Director Andreas Constantinou reads between the lines of the MWC happenings and predicts the undercurrent of changes which will be surfacing at MWC 2009]

Mobile World Congress (3GSM for the romantics) was another year of industry partying – not just the late evening parties, but more importantly the hubbub and cheering around new products, partnerships and acquisitions.

Pretty much everyone’s chat-up line at Barcelona was ‘so what have you seen here?’ – I guess mostly because there was no big theme, no overarching hype, no glitz around the next killer app or megapipe technology. Oh, and fortunately, the industry is beginning to look at reality, not hype with the last two MWCs.

So, in developing a response to this banal question, a few recurring themes started to emerge. Themes which were mostly not about things you could see or hear at Barcelona, but the undercurrent of changes that could only be seen by reading between the lines of both announcements and non-announcements.

And so, I decided to risk a set of 10 predictions for MWC 2009, as the clearest affirmation of learnings and key-takeaways from this year’s Barcelona mega-fair. Here they are, in no particular order.

Prediction 1: A new would-be Trolltech will surface as an on-device service delivery platform
Analysis: Nokia acquired Trolltech for its Qt application execution platform, and specifically for two reasons (see our detailed analysis of the acquisition):
a) to use Qt as a service substrate, an on-device platform which wraps each one of 10s of forthcoming Ovi services across the 10s or 100s of connected device models across PCs, home & embedded appliances and mobile devices. On-device software is these days as essential to service providers as Google Gears and Android are to Google.
b) to tap into the respectable, established developer base for Qt (particularly swarmed around the KDE desktop flavour of Linux), and in this way get a helping hand for developing Ovi wrappers based on Qt.
Given that every OEM (not just mobile, but also in the embedded space) is now looking at deploying connected services, a Trolltech wannabee would be a prime acquisition target for connected device manufacturers (Sony Ericsson, Sony, Panasonic, LG come to mind).

Prediction 2: There will be 30+ companies offering widgets-in-an-app type of software solution
Analysis: ECMAscript (the standardised flavour of Javascript) allows any small software vendor to develop a key application (read: calendar, contacts, email, idle screen, album viewer or music player) that includes widgets. Widgets are an on-device service delivery platform, albeit one that is restricted to a single app and a single device model (it doesn’t port as easily). ECMAscript implementations are becoming more ubiquitous thanks to both open source efforts (Adobe’s Tamarin and Apple’s JavaScriptCore in particular) and closed source, optimised implementations (e.g. the one developed by Bling Software). However, many vendors will discover that offering widgets in any app is not a cash-cow and comes with long and painful sales cycles. Plus the porting effort across device models is non trivial, and exactly why Trolltech gives an economy-of-scale advantage to Nokia when porting services across 10s or 100s of connected device models.

Prediction 3: Qt will be relicensed under a more permissive license
Analysis: Qt is offered under a dual-licensing model; GPLv3 version as a try-before-you-buy and a commercial royalty-bearing version. Nokia wants to license Qt to other device manufacturers as a service delivery vehicle for Ovi, and so will have to sweeten the pill, as the previous take-it-as-is S60 strategy has pretty much failed (only a handful of non-Nokia S60 models are launched every year, making up a tiny percentage volume-wise to Nokia S60 devices). My prediction (and indeed a bold one) is that Nokia will change the licensing model for Qt to a more permissive one, such as an MIT, BSD or Apache 2.0 license. Naturally, the Ovi-specific parts of Qt will remain closed as with S60 WebKit, but a permissive license will allow OEMs to see Qt not as a threat, but as an opportunity to build more value on top, for a reduced cost (rather than maintaining their own platforms).

Prediction 4: Two companies offering WebKit derivative implementations will be acquired
Analysis: Without a doubt, WebKit, the core browser engine for rendering HTML and scripting, is becoming exceedingly popular. Companies like Wake3, Pleyo, Torch Mobile and SkyFire have emerged in the last six months to offer WebKit derivative implementations for OEMs and MNOs, in addition to Nokia’s S60 WebKit, Nokia’s Web Runtime and Motorola’s WebUI who are already using WebKit (more OEMs are on the way!). WebKit is also a mature, time-tested and standardised plaform for operator service delivery beyond the browser. I believe that WebKit derivative implemenations will become mandated by mobile network operators (MNOs) in 12-18 months – at least in Europe initially. The host of OEM and MNO players who want to get in the on-device service delivery business will look to rapidly develop expertise and talent in this area by acquiring solution vendors offering WebKit customisation, porting or value adds.

Prediction 5: A device model designed by Danger will be developed and launched by at least two ODMs.
Analysis: Microsoft’s acquisition of Danger is due to a rather simple reasoning; The lack of consumer-driven sales of Windows Mobile devices is because there are no fun devices based on this platform. This is because of two reasons:
a) ODMs don’t have industrial design skills, nor the cash flow to invest in risky form factors and un-brick-like materials. ODMs see Windows Mobile, as a surefire way to get into market and leverage on the marketing mussle of the Redmond giant, like debris at the tail of a comet.
b) OEMs have used Windows Mobile as a means to sell into the enterprise market. Windows Mobile offers a plug-and-play approach for enterprise admins as its security, remote management and seamless Office integration features are no-brainer purchase criteria which drive enterprise sales of Windows Mobile.

As a result, all Windows Mobile devices lack the ‘fun’ factor that Sony Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung, LG and Motorola devices sport.
In a reactionary move, Microsoft bought Danger in order to imbue its ODM projects with not just a software reference and a hardware reference platform (which it already has thanks to TI), but also industrial design references. Note that Danger is a software/hardware/industrial design house, in a sense a fabless OEM – the same design house which is behind the recognisably cool Sidekick devices. In this light, the acquisition makes a lot of sense for Microsoft. The acquisition is also particularly well timed, as the company plans to launch Windows Mobile 7 which features a highly configurable UI customisation layer – the customisable UI marks an inflexion point from Microsoft’s previous strategy of enforcing the Windows signature UI across all licensees.

In conclusion, following Microsoft’s past history of ODM launches we should see at least two ODM device models based on Danger designs launch in the next 12 months leading to 3GSM 2009.

Coming next
Next week: the remaining five predictions for 3GSM 2009, including enterprise UIs, the rise and fall of Modu, M&As amongst Linux vendors, OHA devices: cheap but ugly, the demise unstable future of UIQ and distributors as a route to market (see Synchronica, Bling) – ok, I ‘m cheating that makes for 11 trends, but stay tuned!

[update: the remaining five predictions are here]

– Andreas

(while on the topic of predictions, make sure to check out our hugely successful Mobile Megatrends 2008 series. Full presentation below.)

[slideshare id=209579&doc=mobile-megatrends-2008-vision-mobile-1198237688220186-3&w=425]

Nokia does Trolltech: preparing the ground for Ovi

[Trying to figure out the rationale behind Nokia’s acquisition of Trolltech ? Research director Andreas Constantinou dissects the facts, figures and strategic thinking behind this seminal development in the mobile industry.]

From a 10,000ft view, Nokia’s acquisition of Trolltech is about preparing the ground for Ovi; allowing Nokia to create a consistent service access platform (much like Google’s Android) that will make it fast/easier/more intuitive to access Ovi services from any connected device. Trolltech is a fundamental building block in Nokia’s transformation to an Internet services company.

Read on for facts and figures.

Deal Background
– On January 28, Nokia announced it will acquire the majority of shares at Trolltech, a maker of cross-platform tools and software for application development. The major shareholders have agreed to the acquisition, and so Nokia is expected to eventually acquire 100% of the shares.
– Nokia is paying 16NOK a share which is around 6NOK premium to the 10NOK where the share price has been hovering after Trolltech’s IPO peak.
– At 16NOK/share the acquisition values Trolltech at over EUR 100 million.
– Compare that with Trolltech’s FY2006 revenues of NOK 174M (roughly EUR 21.6M). This a 5:1 multiple over the company revenues, which is quite conservative for telecoms company valuations.
– Trolltech revenues have been growing at 40% year-on-year, but the company has been loss-making in the last two years and only managed to bring EBITDA into positive in 3Q07. Moreover, Trolltech s share price had fallen to 10NOK for most of 2007, following an offering at 16NOK at the time of the IPO in July 2006. (see Trolltech 3Q07 results).

Trolltech backgrounder
Founded in 1994, Trolltech is a vendor of software platforms and development tools for Linux, Windows, OSX and mobile Linux.
– The company has 250 employees and is headquartered in Oslo, Norway with offices in Beijing, Silicon Valley, Australia and Germany.
– Historically, the company has been VC-funded by Index Ventures, Borland and NorthZone and raised a further $22 million through its July 2006 IPO on the Oslo Stock Exchange.
– The company has more than 5,000 customers including Skype, Google, Cisco, Adobe and Industrial Light & Magic.
– The main product, Qt (pronounced cute ) is an application execution environment and user interface framework for Windows, Mac and Linux desktop environments.
– Trolltech Qtopia (previously Qt/Embedded) is a version of Qt downsized for mobile and embedded devices. Qtopia has shipped in more than 10 million devices to date and more than 40 models, primarily Motorola handsets for China and also handsets from Cellon, ZTE and Wistron.
– Qt (incl Qt/E) has also shipped in more than 130 embedded device models, such as PVRs, automotive devices, medical devices and set top boxes.
– Qt and Qtopia have been licensed under a dual licensing model; a GPL-licensed branch for non-commercial use and a proprietary licensed branch for commercial use.
– Qt has been the main money-maker for Trolltech (primarily from ISVs), while being backed by a reported 100,000-strong application developer community.
– On the contrary, Qtopia sales have not met expectations. Indeed, Trolltech s strategy with Qtopia hasn t been performing as had been hoped; the Greenphone was discontinued a year following its introduction and Qtopia had lost all of its community developers, as Trolltech had not been paying due attention to its GPL branch for over two years. Qtopia had also been sidelined by the industry, given that GTK (a graphics framework and competitor to Qtopia) had been selected by most industry Linux players (including forums LiPS, LiMo, GMAE, and OEMs NEC, Panasonic and Nokia).

The rationale behind the Nokia acquisition
– Nokia s strategy is to use Qt to establish a uniform service development, deployment and access platform across various embedded devices (set-top boxes, IPTVs, home appliances, tablets) using a single codebase with form factor specific UI on top (Qt has been ported on Desktop Linux, Windows, MacOS, embedded Linux (Qtopia Core) and Windows CE (under development). Qt supports C++ and recently Java (via Qt Jambi)
– Combined with Ovi, Qt/Qtopia is essentially the foundation layer for developing, deploying and accessing Ovi services.
– The acquisition further allows Nokia to strengthen its tools offerings. Trolltech offers a range of development tools, including RAD tools, QtDesigner, qMake a command line tool chain, a plugin for Visual Studio and internationalization utilities. Note that Nokia had also acquired the Symbian tools from Metrowerks tools in September 2004.
– The acquisition also allows Nokia to tap into the very respectable 100,000 reported developer base of Qt most of which are KDE desktop developers).
– It also gives Nokia a stronger access to a modern application execution environment for connected devices, where Nokia has to compete with Google s Android (with the Dalvik J2SE-like virtual).
– Whereas there is a high-degree of functionality redundancy between S60 and Qtopia, there are interesting synergies between S40 and Qtopia (note that for each S60 device, there are roughly eight S40 devices shipping).
– S40 has over the years managed to support modularity, most importantly operator and regional variants. Adding parts of Qtopia above S40 would create a much more customisable stack in terms of the UI and middleware components. (Qtopia Core is also known to be lighter than GTK in terms of footprint/performance).

Industry impact
– Motorola has committed to the Qtopia SDK as their development platform for external developers. Following the acquisition, Motorola will therefore have to move away from relying on Trolltech.
– In practice Motorola will need at least 18 months to migrate away from Qtopia (assuming that handset business still bares the Motorola brand name by then!). Motorola will also have to eventually write off related investments, including the 300 developer seats it purchased for Qt/Embedded.
– Trolltech joined the LiMo foundation in 7 January 2008, which is clearly synchronous to the acquisition announcement (the Nokia Trolltech discussions should have been intensified 3-6 months before the acquisition). As such it is likely that Nokia does care about a stake in the LiMo foundation and is initially using Trolltech as a vehicle to participate to the major forum competing with Google-led Open Handset Alliance.
The acquisition bares little direct impact to Symbian and Nokia s S60 strategy, but a turn away from potentially using Symbian for Nokia s S40 platform (something Symbian has been long-hoping for).
– There is an indirect, negative impact to Symbian, since now Nokia is perceived by the industry to be less and less reliant on Symbian OS. Nokia itself reinforces that perception: This acquisition will also further increase the competitiveness of S60 and Series 40. , according to Kai Öistämö , Executive Vice President, Devices, Nokia
Qt is at the heart of one of the biggest pieces of open source software: the KDE Linux Desktop (parent project of the now famous Webkit browser engine). Nokia needs to learn from the successful Maemo project on how it should treat open source developers. Ari Jaaksi should now be a very prominent figure within Nokia.

Qt/Qtopia as the foundation for Nokia’s Ovi
Zooming out, it is clear that Nokia wants to use Qt/Qtopia as the foundation for Ovi, in three ways:
– use Qt/Qtopia to support rich Ovi services across a large footprint of embedded/mobile devices. As Ovi is the evolution of S60, it also needs a foundation layer for developing rich Ovi clients (this rhymes with rich internet clients from Adobe and Google).
– use Trolltech developer tools and environments to enable richer delivery and implementation of Ovi services and future Ovi-based services.
– tap into the repored 100,000+ developers of Qt

Quick background on mobile software trends: the war of the OSes (read Symbian vs Windows Mobile) has faded, while the war of the application exec environments is the flavour du jour (see Flash Lite vs Java; Java SE vs Java ME; web programming vs C++). Nokia, as a long-term thinker is preparing for the next war: that of the service access environments for connected devices.

Much like Google’s Android, I expect that Nokia wants to turn Qt/Qtopia into a service access environment, to feature:
– an environment for connected applications and often-on connectivity which treats each application as a Web 2.0 citizen.
– which taps into the long tail of developers, not just the short head, like S60 does.
– and which is backed by established developer communities

In the meantime, Nokia should be seeing that S60 and S40 middleware is commoditising, following the fate of Symbian OS. Perhaps it could get the other OEM stakeholders at Symbian to fund an acquisition of the S60 stack, while Nokia concentrates on the UI and service access layer which is Qt/Qtopia.

Thoughts ?

– Andreas

Further reading:

For a historical (mid 2006) perspective on Trolltech s strategy, see the research paper we wrote on Mobile Operating Systems: The New Generation, which was sponsored by Trolltech.

For a strategic perspective on manufacturer strategies and the rise of the service environments, see our mobile megatrends presentation (particularly trends 4 and 10).