Roundup: Top 10 blog articles for 2009

The VisionMobile website, and our blog in particular, has seen a lot of action in 2009: 59,000 unique visitors from 176 countries, with blog articles each reaching into 10s of thousands of views. We also made it into the Top 100 Analyst Blogs and are eagerly pushing towards the top-10!

What is it that makes the VisionMobile blog tick? Our blog motto is ‘Distilling market noise into market sense’; delivering high quality, informative and substantiated articles, with passion and attention to detail, that help clarify the competitive market landscape in telecoms.

10 most influential blog articles for 2009
For this end-of-year article, we‘ve analysed the top-10 most influential articles that appeared on the VisionMobile blog in 2009, based on the visitor views, tweets and comments. Here’s the top-10 finalists:

1. The 100 million club: some surprising facts about mobile software
The H2 2008 update to the watch list of software products with more than 100 million cumulative shipments (most viewed article with 13,500+ views, 16 tweets and 6 comments).

2. Why the LiMo Foundation needs to go back to the drawing board
A long, hard look into the LiMo Foundation and the need for re-positioning (10,000+ views, 11 tweets and 6 comments)

3. The Amazon Kindle: More revolutionary for the mobile telecoms industry than the iPhone ever was
The Kindle model – the shape of revenue models to come? (10,000+ views, 31 tweets and 8 comments)

4. Will Legacy Smartphone Platforms Keep-up with iPhone and Android?
How do Legacy Smartphone platforms fare against the much-hyped giants? (7,000+ views, 54 tweets, 22 comments)

5. Mobile App Stores: The Next Two Years
An overview of the app stores market, complete with profiles of major players and the two-year outlook for app stores (most tweeted with 91 tweets and most commented with 29 comments. 7,000+ views)

6. Mobile widgets: market review and commercial reality
The what, where, who and how of mobile widgets, complete with comparative research for 8 vendors (6,500+ views, 12 tweets, 13 comments)

7. Open is the New Closed
The divergence between open source licenses and governance models (6,300+ views, 48 tweets and 6 comments)

8.NaaS: Network as a Service, a new business model for network operators
An analysis of the emerging Network-as-a-Service market (5,900+ views, 10 tweets, 11 comments)

9. Mobile Megatrends 2009
The annual megatrends report looks at the overarching trends of mobile for 2009 (5,500+ views, 22 tweets, 8 comments)

10. Feature phones and the RTOS – the ignored 85% of the market
An important analysis on how feature phones and RTOSes comprise the vast majority of the market (5,300+ views, 24 tweets, 9 comments)

5 most influential guest articles in 2009
The VisionMobile blog is a space where industry insiders exchange views on the fast-changing mobile market and the trends that define the future direction of telecoms. This year we hosted articles by 11 industry insiders, who contributed their vast knowledge and experience in the mobile ecosystem.

The top 5 guest articles for 2009, rated in terms of views, comments and tweets, are presented below.

1. Stefan Constantinescu: The Amazon Kindle: More revolutionary for the mobile telecoms industry than the iPhone ever was
The Kindle model – the shape of revenue models to come? (10,000+ views, 31 tweets and 8 comments)

2. Michael Vakulenko: Will Legacy Smartphone Platforms Keep-up with iPhone and Android?
How do Legacy Smartphone platforms fare against the much-hyped giants? (7,000+ views, 54 tweets, 22 comments)

3. Ben Hookway: Feature phones and the RTOS – the ignored 85% of the market
An important analysis on how feature phones and RTOSes comprise the vast majority of the market (5,300+ views, 24 tweets, 9 comments)

4. Florent Stroppa: Socializing the mobile address book: market overview and trends
A detailed analysis of the market of social address book services (4,400+ views, 31 tweets, 10 comments)

5. Gabor Torok: Android and the threat of fragmentation
How much fragmentation is there in Android and how does it impact developers? (4,200+ views, 20 tweets, 3 comments)

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank all our guest bloggers for 2009: Andy V. O’ Lay, Antony Edwards, Ben Hookway, Elad Granot, Florent Stroppa, Gabor Torok, Michael Vakulenko, Raj Singh, Stefan Constantinescu, Thomas Menguy and Wouter Deelman.

We’ve already lined up several guest blog articles for 2010, and are open to more submissions. If you have an original thesis or analysis and wish to share it with our 2,000+ industry insider readers, drop us a line.

Most influential article for 2009
The Mobile App Stores: The Next Two Years article is clearly the most influential for 2009 with 91 tweets, 29 user comments and 6,923 views. The article examines the fast-emerging mobile app store market and profiles the five most prominent app stores today in terms of distribution model, installed base, downloads, applications and revenues. Also, those looking for insights will find within an analysis of the five key elements of an app store and their predicted evolution over the next two years.

Behind the blog scenes
We ‘ve embarked on several pioneering research projects in 2009; recommendation engines, mobile widgets, app stores evolution, open source economics and many more projects we can’t talk about 😉 We also hit the headlines with four products in 2009:

Mobile Industry Atlas (wallchart).The Industry Atlas (2nd edition) is a visual who’s who of the mobile industry covering more than 800 companies in 47 market sectors. Be sure to check the vastly expanded 3rd edition of the Atlas coming out early 2010, with more than 1,200 companies across 70 categories! (check out this video intro to the Atlas wallchart)

100 million club (watch list). 2009 saw the release of two updates to our ‘100 million club’, the watch list of all mobile software products that have been embedded in more than 100 million devices. Our latest report includes product shipments up to H1 2009 and market penetration figures for the 30 most successful software products, developed by 24 companies (download report here).

Mobile Megatrends 2009 (presentation). Our annual megatrends report looks at the overarching trends of mobile in 2009; 8 Centres of Gravity, Mass Consolidation in the Software Industry, Understanding Revenue Model Innovation, why Open is the New Closed, the recipes behind Application Stores, Network as a Service and Mobile Service Analytics. See also Cybercom’s upcoming seminar on Mobile Megatrends 2010, held in Malmö, Sweden, where VisionMobile’s Reseach Director, Andreas Constantinou, will be presenting our latest edition of Megatrends (view presentation here)

Active Idle Screen 2009-2011 (report). The active idle screen is the most premium real-estate on the handset for service delivery and promotion. In this report we review the solutions which offer zero-click access to services, information and promotion on the handset idle screen. We also examine the market trends and opportunities that will determine the billion-unit question: who will own the screen? (download report here)

What’s coming in 2010?
Lots of planning has gone into 2010 already; we ‘re working a reinvention of one of our existing products that is bound to pick your interest and prove an invaluable research tool. We are also embarking on a major benchmark project that will prove seminal for many future reports across the mobile ecosystem. But we ‘re getting ahead of ourselves 🙂

For now, and within this last post of 2009, we’d like to wish everyone a happy holiday season!

– Matos

Making Sense of Samsungs Bada

[Samsung recently perplexed the mobile world with the introduction of its “new smartphone platform” bada. Most commentators have already dismissed bada as an ill-conceived concept and moved on, but does bada actually make a lot of sense? Guest blogger Antony Edwards looks at what’s driving Samsung.]
This article is also available in Chinese.


Yet another platform to target is the last thing most mobile developers need. So when Samsung announced its new bada platform earlier this month it was met first by confusion, and then ridicule as it was further revealed that bada applications must be written in C++, the SDK will only run on Windows, and there won’t actually be any bada devices for some time.

Most of the technical press have already dismissed bada simply as an ill-conceived concept. But the creation of bada, and what it signals about how the mobile industry will evolve over the next three years, is very significant; especially what it says about the changing attitudes towards Android.

Price pointsThe current mobile phone market of around 1 billion devices per year roughly breaks down into four price-points. At the top are the iconic devices that bring new mobile experiences to the world such as the iPhone and N95, next are the less distinctive smartphones such as the Nokia 5800 and Motorola’s Droid, then the feature phones that bring last year’s new experiences to the mass market, and at the bottom are the voice phones for people who really do just want to make a phone call and maybe send an SMS.

Samsung makes most of its profit in the smartphone segment, delivering hundreds of well-designed models for operators and regions all over the world. But these are volatile times for the smartphone segment. Android is bringing more-and-more competition into smartphones, most importantly competitors such as Acer and Dell from the PC manufacturing world who are content with gross margins far below those expected (and sorely needed!) by traditional smartphone OEMs. And at the same time as competition increases, traditional OEMs are finding it more-and-more difficult to differentiate themselves in an Android world.

The inevitable result is a decline in average sales price (ASP); Samsung’s ASP decreased 3% in Q3 2009. Similarly, HTC who focuses entirely on the smartphone segment with Android and Windows Mobile saw their ASP decrease by 4.4% between Q2 and Q3 and expect a further decrease of 5% in Q4. Motorola released their Android-based Droid device in Q3, but after the initial excitement of being the first Android 2.0 device in the market, it has now been labelled a “me too” smartphone and its price is being repeatedly reduced.

2010 has already been hailed “the year of Android” with an unprecedented line-up of Android devices coming to market from 10s of manufacturers.

So, how are manufacturers like Samsung going to stand out in this crowded landscape? Margin pressure is not only coming from consumers due to a lack of device differentiation, but also from mobile network operators who have complete visibility of Android device-creation economics and are demanding cost-based prices from the OEMs. How can OEMs retain the high margins they’ve enjoyed for so long and that their shareholders have come to expect? bada may not be the right answer, but it doesn’t seem like Android is either.

All traditional mobile phone OEMs (except Nokia) are making Android devices, and they have all increased their adoption of Android through 2009. With their bottom-lines under serious threat from the economic downturn, ever increasing operating costs, and Apple’s appropriation of 30% of the profit from the market, the low cost of device-creation promised by Google has proven very tempting.

bada is the first sign that an OEM is looking a bit further ahead and realising that while cost of device-creation may be low in an Android world, there’s also little differentiation, and that means ever lower margins. The struggle to maintain margins has always driven significant changes in the mobile phone industry from cameras, to open platforms, to integrated on-line services; and as Android puts margins under increasing threat we should expect more-and-more major changes in 2010.

Samsung are right that they had to do something. Following the footsteps of Apple, and to some extent RIM, the current answer to differentiation is “own the whole stack”, and so that’s exactly what Samsung is doing.

Will bada save Samsung’s margins? Maybe. Probably not. But the core motivation for change is correct, and from that perspective bada definitely makes sense.

– Antony

[Antony Edwards has been working in mobile since he discovered how to program his Apple Newton 12 years ago. During 7 years at Symbian in a mix of engineering and marketing roles, he worked with all the major OEMs and operators, and continues to be a keen observer of the ever-changing OEM platform strategies.]

What do you think? Can bada work? Can OEMs achieve high-margins on Android devices? Does the appearance of a Google-branded phone change your opinion of bada? Comments and feedback appreciated.

Is Proprietary the new Standard in the Mobile Industry?

[With proprietary software such as Adobe’s Flash Lite or Qualcomm’s BREW having shipped on more than 500 million devices, and with the emergence of promises for successful ecosystems from giants such as Google’s Android or Apple’s App Store – there is a growing question about whether “proprietary” may be the way forward. “Is it indeed?”, asks guest blogger Elad Granot]


I have always been an early adopter of innovative services, from cellular to VoIP and advanced messaging. But more often than not, the advanced services that I want to use are restricted to a small community that uses the same type of device or shares the same network provider. Most of my contacts are not necessarily in that group, so even if I have access to these services, I have no one else to use them with. In many cases, the reason for the lack of interoperability is that these services are based on proprietary solutions, owned by only a few vendors or service providers, and this prevents mass-market reach. Contrast this with SMS, a standard service that generates a fortune for mobile operators and is nowadays considered a basic and mandatory service (would anyone today buy or sell a mobile device that doesn’t support SMS?).

It Needs Wings to Fly

What is the magic recipe that allows a service to become so widely adopted that its market reaches an audience of millions? While I can’t prescribe a full recipe, I can identify at least three of its key ingredients. It is a mix of business vision, business models and open technical standards that creates a widely adopted offering in the communications market. Take out any one of these ingredients, and your market is technically crippled — it may be perfectly sound, but commercially it can’t fly.

  • Business Vision: The first ingredient may seem pretty obvious, but not every company has a long-term vision. Not all companies can develop a long-term plan for conquering the market, non-conformist enough to try shaping the existing industry landscape or willing to invest resources for conquering the market. But even among the businesses with ambitious strategic plans, very few enjoy the execution power that can change the market. Even a compelling offering like the iPhone coming from a giant like Apple who enjoys a herd of religious followers and a glory of buzz eventually remains a niche offering, such as the (perhaps overly) hyped iPhone, which has a 4% share in the global handset market,
  • Open Technical Standards: The second key factor is having a strong technical solution that offers usability, scalability, security, manageability and most importantly, interoperability. When it comes to interoperability, relying on open standards is a highly effective way to achieve mass-market support. I ‘ll discuss this factor in depth later on.
  • Business Model: The third ingredient, which sometimes comes late into the mix, is business models that sufficiently reward all the players for their role within the value chain.
    If the business model is not well balanced to compensate all the parties involved, then stakeholders who don’t benefit sufficiently may become barriers to adoption.
    The mobile industry has seen the rise and fall of great initiatives that offered compelling use-cases leveraging feasible technology on paper. However, when it came to realisation, no one found the right formula to either generate or share the generated revenues from the offering. Finding the winning model could be a trial-and-error evolutionary process, in which a compelling offering starts without a proper business model or with a bad one and only gradually finds the golden path that allows it to prosper.
    The freemium-based Web 2.0 has been criticized and named “Bubble 2.0” due to a lack of compelling business models. Some emerging market sectors, such as mobile advertising, have yet to prove that they can scale. In the case of mobile content pre-app stores, the developer only got 20-30% of revenues and most went to the middlemen. The lack of proper compensation for the developer led to poor diversity of content and therefore poor adoption. This model has therefore evolved to App Stores that offer 70% rev share to developers, which in turn gave birth to ‘there is an app for that’.

Joining Forces Makes the Difference

In this article, I’ll focus on the second factor mentioned above: the importance of technical standards to the success of a large-scale mobile service.

With proprietary elements such as Adobe’s Flash Lite and Qualcomm’s BREW embedded on more than 500 million devices each, and with the emergence of promises for successful ecosystems from giants such as Google’s Android and Apple’s App Store, there is a shift in thinking away from standards-driven technology towards services that are based on proprietary solutions.

Yet, BREW is still having a hard time penetrating non-CDMA markets. Adobe has backtracked on Flash Lite and is now trying to re-seed the mobile market with Flash (the desktop cousin of Flash Lite).

Without ignoring their signs of growth, one should keep in mind that some of these promising services were only recently born and have yet to prove their long-term success and sustainability. Moreover, success stories can be classified as rare exceptions where giants exert their mighty market-force or cash flows to steer the whole industry (e.g. ARM has built up the ARM Connected Community around its own technology; Sun Microsystems sponsored the development and adoption of Java). But how many such giants exist? The average company is far from having such forces and so the odds for dominating the market using proprietary technology are daunting, if not impossible.

By creating an open standard, on the other hand, companies can join forces with other players across the value chain to achieve the critical mass required for leading an industry.

Standards as the Meeting Point

Standards are published by various types of organizations, typically not-for-profit, which exist purely for standardization (e.g. ISO) or other associations and consortia motivated by business, engineering, governmental and similar interests (e.g. WiMax Forum, IEEE, ITU-T). Each of these entities has membership classes, IPR and other legal policies, governing rules and membership costs that must be borne by the joining members.

Depending on the organization, members could be commercial companies, research, government agencies, educational institutions, or in some cases, like the IETF, anyone interested regardless of whether he or she represents any legal entity.

The scope addressed by the organization varies. For example, while the OMA develops service enablers independent of the underlying network technology, the NFC Forum is focused on Near-Field-Communication technology, the OMTP develops mainly use-cases and requirements (as opposed to detailed specifications), and the IMTC targets the testing and deployment phase of rich media communication standards by organizing test events. Finally, there are also organizations, such as the GCF, that test and certify products for compliance with standards.

Some of the organizations are global (like the IEC), some are regional (e.g. ETSI in Europe), and some local (such as KWISF, which developed the WIPI platform in Korea).

The collaborative development of technical documents is usually done in topic-oriented Working Groups or technical committees that are chartered to discuss proposed contributions and make decisions regarding the standard. Predefined decision-making rules, such as consensus, public or secret vote vary according to the working procedures of the committee. Once completed, the resulting standard specifications are published for free or offered for purchase. Cross-organization collaboration and exchange of information between different bodies is possible through liaison relationships, which establish the legal rapport and the scope of joint work between the liaised parties.

Develop It in the Right Way

Just because the industry invents a new standard does not mean success is guaranteed. There are different ways to measure the success of communication standards: market penetration, timing, quality, interoperability, costs and affordability, deployment simplicity, ease of use, scalability, etc. So sometimes “success” of a standard is relative to the way one defines what success means. A standard could be successful in one aspect but a failure in another.

Standards have many disadvantages, perhaps too-well known, that may lead to failure. However what’s interesting is to also look at how these drawbacks can be mitigated.

Time to market. Many argue that standards take too long to hit the market and prefer to go proprietary instead of waiting years for the standard to be ratified by the industry. But it’s like comparing a monarchy to a republic. In a monarchy the king makes a decision that everyone else follows. On the contrary, in a Republic, decision making is more complicated and lengthy. A group-decision process has advantages; more alternatives are typically considered for the solution, more critics validate the selected approach and more evaluation criteria are taken into consideration. The market pays expensive development time in order to reach a solution after any debates have already been resolved. This promotes quicker adoption of the final deliverables. Nevertheless, in order to reduce the risks of losing the market, timing should be seriously considered when developing the standard. Publishing incremental version releases, limiting scope and managing priorities are useful tools to improve time to market. They also make it hard for internal opponents to attempt to delay the standard in order to give their proprietary solutions a chance to grow market share and defeat the standard in its infancy.

The lowest common denominator. Some argue that standards end up being a poor lowest-common-denominator solution, lacking sophisticated features. While this is true in some cases, successful standards are designed with extensibility in mind. Extension can be provided by proprietary differentiating offerings, and successful ones can be considered for future versions of the standard. Complexity and advanced features can (and do) exist in standards, but standards should have them only where extremely necessary. The novelist Gustave Flaubert said that “perfection is the enemy of the good”. In general, to promote their quick and wide adoption, standards should strive to follow the Keep It Simple Stupid principle wherever possible, sometimes at the expense of engineering or feature perfection.

Design by committee. To avoid challenges notoriously known as ‘design by committee‘, attention should be given to those who officially lead the work of the committee, such as those taking chairman role. Quality of leadership can be improved by internal training on how to resolve lengthy debates, overcome cross-cultural gaps and increase the amount and quality of contributions from members.

The dark side of politics is yet another challenge to manage. When self-centered agendas and exchanges of favors overcome community considerations, an internal threat is posed to the standards from within. In these cases the decision patterns start to resemble those of independent market players, who try to steer the market for their own benefit. Policies and procedures that promote transparency can help reduce this threat, but the downside of politics is inherent in any community-based institution.

Fragmentation. Fragmentation in standardization is another well known weakness of standards – consider for example CDMA vs. GSM. While competition brings survival of the fittest, it also leads to market confusion and fragmentation, which defeat the purpose of standardization. To minimize these risks it is imperative for standards organizations to liaise with each other and agree on a clear scope of work that avoids duplication and redundancy, hence eliminating the need to compete. Considering that different parties and interest groups (including competing ones) drive different standards, it would be too naive to assume that this would kill fragmentation, but it can help reduce it significantly. If all stake holders can be convinced that there is a compelling need for a single standard, and show willingness to cooperate (i.e. not block), then fragmentation due to a competing standard is not likely to happen.

Marcoms. Too often standards don’t focus in marketing; i.e. communicating with the industry about their existence, features and advantages in a language that targets decision makers who lack the engineering background. This is a challenge for many standards organizations that focus on technical work and may lack the skills and huge resources required for extensively marketing their outputs. I believe that marketing activities should not be led by standards organizations, to avoid blurring their focus on the technical work; nevertheless, they do enjoy the critical mass that can draw media and analyst attention that will drive industry interest. Therefore they should leverage it and proactively inspire their members to engage in joint marketing and education efforts. I must admit, however, that this is easier said than done.

Another challenge is one of resources. At the end of the day, the work is driven by contributions of the delegates, and they are usually employed by their companies and not by the standards organization. These companies are focused on their balance sheet, but measuring the contribution of standards activity to its bottom line is extremely hard, so unless the company’s management believes in the standardization and understands its strategic impact on their business, it may be difficult to approve budgets for this activity, especially at times of economic uncertainty.

Having been involved with standards for the last 6 years, I do not know (and believe no one does) how to predict the success or failure of an emerging standard. The same standard can succeed in one time or market and fail in another. Success is dependent on business motivations, the regulatory environment, combined with personal leadership, market demand, timing and technical maturity to name a few factors. No single player can simultaneously control all of these factors.

When It Is Ready to Go (and hopefully fly)

The single most significant element of standards that makes them so important in the telecommunication domain is interoperability, which can be proven to exist through practical testing of products implementing the standard specifications. After developing these specifications, standards organizations (e.g. ETSI) and industry associations (e.g. the IMTC) typically organize and promote test events, which help identify bugs and issues like missing or unclear parts in the spec as well as broken implementations). Vendors also use their own labs to test their products for bilateral interoperability with other standards-compliant products made by their partners, and sometimes even by competitors. For some standards there are also authorities (such as the WiFi Alliance) that run thorough tests and certify products for standards compliance.

A vendor may be able to create a marvelous state-of-the-art handset, but if there are no other vendors that can produce inter-operable network equipment, more types of inter-operable terminals, add-on features and services, etc., then the addressable market is limited and can’t scale beyond a certain point determined by the reach of the company and its partners. Interoperability defines the limits of ecosystem reach and an ecosystem is a necessity for addressing the mass market.

When explaining my work to non-techies I often point out how surrounded we are by standards on a daily basis; even a technophobe can understand the pain of fragmentation when experiencing the frustration of looking for power adapters in a different country, or when realizing that everyone around you drive on the wrong side of the road.

There is strong link between interoperability and market growth in any domain, especially in telecommunication where end point terminals and network equipment must interwork to achieve conversation; just consider the growth of SMS or the slow adoption of MMS.

In the early days of the MMS market you never knew whether the message you sent to your friend could be received by their handset, because not all handsets supported MMS. But even when both handsets support MMS, they might support different multimedia formats (e.g. mpeg4 vs. AVI). To work around these issues, operators added transcoding servers that transparently adapt the multimedia formats sent back and forth.

Lower costs and lock-in. Cost is another major factor that drives standards for the mass market. Everyone hates lock-ins to proprietary technologies, as it increases the exit cost. With standard solutions, competition increases and prices go down. Not just because of the fact that standards put a pressure to commoditize products, but also because patent issues are of less concern. Even if royalties or patents are included in the standard, these should comply with “reasonable and non-discriminatory” policies (also known as RAND) that are typically required by the bylaws of standards organizations. From service providers that buy back-end equipment, through integrators who build a system from multiple standard parts to the end-user (a consumer or enterprise), they all enjoy lower prices. If standards didn’t exist, there would be far fewer options to choose from and they would probably be more expensive – perhaps even too expensive to afford by the majority of potential customers.

Benefits for Vendors

There are also considerable internal benefits that companies can gain from embracing the standards.

Thought Leadership. Vendors can use standards to coin new concepts that promote their business agenda; for example over-the-air software update, which has been backed by standards like OMA Device Management, FUMO and SCOMO. Topics can be raised for discussion, debate and development in the standards community, where teams of major stake-holders are present. This fosters an environment where thought leadership can be demonstrated and pushed forward. If done successfully, a concept can be accepted as a standard solution, which fast-forwards the long process of convincing an industry to realize the concept and make it happen.

The PR aura. Being associated with standards often is an affordable way to build buzz, and get analyst coverage that endorses and goes side-by-side with the marketing activities of the company.

Ease the creation of ecosystem. Standards promote the creation of ecosystems. Most single-vendor companies cannot offer an end-to-end solution on their own. It is the ecosystem (including their competition) upon which these companies rely to contribute the other pieces that complement their offering to create the end-to-end solution.

“The Same – but Different”

Standards don’t exist in a vacuum. There are plenty of proprietary excellent solutions that comprise the puzzle of the ecosystem, and it is imperative that standards leave room for those to exist. These proprietary extras enhance, innovate and leverage the standard while allowing vendors to differentiate themselves. Only few companies will be able to make sustainable profit by producing just the plain-vanilla implementation of a standard. If everyone produced exactly the same solution then they could only compete by criteria like pricing and service, which would make it hard for everybody to survive. Successful standards should therefore be designed with proprietary extensibility in mind.

Mobile software, OS, UI and the like are in the focus of these business-driven industry forums that complement the work of official standards organizations. But whether an industry forum (such as the OMTP) or an established standards body (such as the OMA), or even a partnership of such organizations (such as the 3GPP) leads the unification is not important. Even when led by a single company, if it is done in a fair (including legally) and pluralistic manner and gets to the critical point where it becomes a real joint effort with large participation across the industry, then we get a similar effect.

So even if the origin begins with proprietary roots, the essence of these associations becomes similar to those of standards, and the outcome can be categorized as such. It is the endorsement of the participants that makes the standard and not merely the signature of the organization that published it.

The Symbian Foundation or the Open Handset Alliance could serve as good examples for proprietary commercial platforms being ‘donated’ to the community for joint development.

Where to standardise

Looking at the OSI model, the lower we are in the protocol stack (i.e. towards physical, media access such as IEEE‘s Ethernet), the stricter role the standards play and the less room there is for differentiation. For example, physical components and radio protocols are more streamlined and offer less differentiation than the applications built on top. This is partly because the higher layers typically need to communicate with fewer peers, while further down in the stack there are more ‘hops’ to traverse, and each of them could be using different equipment. For this reason, a greater variety of vendors that handle the traffic at the lower layers. This could explain why we see much more consortia-driven initiatives at the higher layers, where standards organizations sometimes do not provide enough or any unification. Too many options are allowed and the result is fragmentation.

Bottom Line

Android, Symbian and Flash are examples of market growth that builds upon wide-scale proprietary solutions; yet these examples are glamorous exceptions of cash-rich companies and their partners in conspiracy. More commonly, community-owned standards (like those from the GSMA, IETF, etc.) are a key ingredient for the mass market adoption of a new technology.

Despite its overheads and drawbacks, the process of standardisation is critical for services to reach mass market. The higher we are in the protocol stack, the more room there is for differentiation (and fragmentation), and that is where the bulk of consortia activity is.

If you’re fairly convinced of the importance of technical standards to the success of telecom offerings and they will not be replaced by proprietary solutions, then the next question is which standards to embrace and follow, since competition is not a realm limited to companies and products – it is sometimes the fate of standard initiatives as well (e.g. the rivalry between WiMax and LTE). Perhaps this could be a topic for a future post.

– Elad

[Elad Granot, a Technology Strategist, has actively participated in several standards committees and industry consortia (e.g. within the OMA and the LiMo Foundation) for the past 6 years. Some of the standards he worked on have already been successfully deployed in the mobile communications market. He became involved with standardization at Vocaltec Communications, who led the first VoIP standards in the mid 90’s. Today Elad serves as Director of Technology Strategy at Comverse.]

Mobile recommendations: market overview and outlook

[We ‘ve all come to expect ‘people who bought this also bought that’ from online retailers. But the technology is increasingly being adopted in mobile, whether it’s App Stores, media storefronts or operator CRM programmes. Research Director Andreas Constantinou analyses the market of recommendation solutions, the key vendors and casts an eye on the future of recommendations in mobile.]

The market of recommendations solutions is one of the most underhyped in the mobile industry. What started as ‘people who bought this also bought that’ has found its way into 10s of operator portals, not to mention 1,000s of mobile websites – but has seen very little analysis in mainstream media.

Recommendations are also the differentiator (the cherry on the cake) for today’s App Stores – see earlier analysis of the App Store 2-year future. This has prompted several mobile operators (including Vodafone, O2 Telefonica and T-Mobile) to issue RFIs/RFQs in 2009. In parallel to the rising commercial adoption, the research interest has also surged, with the Recommender Systems 09 conference gathering 50% more paper submissions than last year from 35 countries – making this a rare case of synchronicity between commercial and academic worlds. The recommendations market is just emerging into the mainstream industry radar while so much vendor and operator activity has been going on behind the scenes.

Recommendation solutions are appearing in a number of different forms:
Mobile Portal Personalization: adaptation of navigational elements, content listed, ads served and personalised search results (e.g. Changing Worlds, Choice Stream, Media Unbound and Leiki)
– Content Discovery and Recommendations: pure content discovery and recommendations across content types (e.g. Xiam, FAST)
Subscriber segment targeting: user profiling and segmentation as part of an online marketing campaign (e.g. Coremetrics and Pontis)
Influencer targeting: profiling and identification of influential subscribers (e.g. Xtract and Strands)
Mobile advertising solutions: inventory targeting (e.g. Jumptap, Aggregate Knowledge, Velti/Ad Infuse, Medio and Wunderloop)
Web (non-mobile) Product/Content Personalization: cross-channel product and content recommendations optimised for retailers, web and media (e.g. ChoiceStream, Loomia, Aggregate Knowledge)
Business analytics: product/offer bundle recommendations based on user segmentation and real-time behaviour analysis (e.g. Olista, Oracle, ThinkAnalytics and Coremetrics)

We ‘ve spoken to several vendors of recommendation solutions, focusing on those closer to the mobile industry. What’s most interesting in comparing and contrasting solutions is the target customer, use cases addressed and unique selling points and how these differ across vendors. The next table summarises our findings from researching eight key vendors in the recommendations market: Xiam, Changing Worlds, Ericsson, Loomia, Pontis, July Systems, Olista and Choice Stream. This is only a subset of the circa 40 vendors who offer some form of recommendation solution, whether pre-integrated into a vertical form (e.g. App Store) towards operators or offered horizontally across multiple touch points (e.g. mobile, broadband, web, retail) towards media brands.


(click to enlarge)

So what’s next? In the mobile domain operators are integrating recommendations into App Stores, but will be moving to business analytics, advanced CRM and product/service recommendations during 2010-11. We don’t see recommendations as applicable to multiple touch points (e.g. mobile AND broadband) just yet, as recommendation engines need to be highly optimised and continuously tuned to the channel and content type in question.

The sophistication of recommendation engines needed firstly for live clickstream processing and secondly for content-specificity implies that the incumbent value-added service and SDP vendors will need to buy in (rather than build) technology. We expect this will lead to M&As thanks to the abundant technology startups out there. Clearly an interesting space to watch in 2010.

Comments welcome as always.

– Andreas
follow me on twitter: @andreascon

100 million insights on mobile software

[Marketing Manager Matos Kapetanakis, discusses the latest update to VisionMobile’s 100 million club, and the complex world of mobile software]

100 million club logoVisionMobile is proud to present our latest update to the 100 million club, the watchlist of mobile software products which have been embedded on more than 100M handsets. This H1 2009 update is the latest in our semi-annual publication series that started in 2007, offering a watchlist of the most widely deployed software in the mobile industry.

The finalists: 30 products from 24 companies
The latest update to the 100 million club watchlist comprises of 30 software products that have been shipped on more that 100 million handsets up to the first half of 2009. These products range from text input engines and middleware all the way to Java platforms and application suites. It’s quite interesting to note that 80% of the companies that have made it into the 100 million club companies come from the US, the Nordics and Japan.


The newcomers
One of latest additions to the club is the Mobile Office software by Quickoffice, which marks the first time that a mobile application has made it into the 100 million watchlist.

Another newcomer to our 1H09 update is WebKit, the Apple-led browser core, shipped on 170 million devices through S60, S40, iPhone and Android devices, which makes it perhaps the most widely penetrated open source software in mobile handsets.

Another up-n-coming company to note is Rococo’s Impronto TLK is a Java-to-bluetooth middleware bridge that has been shipped on more than 150M devices.

Most popular software products by category
The 100 million club spans several categories:
– Applications: the one entrant here is Mobile Office Suite from QuickOffice
Application environments, dominated by Flash Lite which has been embedded on over one billion devices (including Flash) 
– Browsers, where Myriad’s (ex Openwave) Browser is by far the most popular web browser, having shipped in a staggering 2+ billion devices.
Middleware is dominated by two products: Beatnik’s Mobile BAE audio codecs, with more than 1.2 billion shipments, followed by Myriad’s Messaging client (inherited through the Openwave and Magic4 mergers)
– The most popular
operating systems remain OSE by ENEA and Nucleus by Mentor Graphics with more than 1.5B shipments each, although S40 is not too far behind.
– Finally, the
input engines category contains two products, both developed by Nuance, with EziText being inherited from Zi Corp acquisition. Quite understandably, the T9 component is by far the most widely deployed in the 100 million club, having been shipped in more than 60% of mobile phones by the end of the first half of 2009. Moreover, T9 is one of the very few products in our 100 million club (and the wider arena of mobile software) with significant consumer brand recognition.

Market ups and downs
On the whole, the 100 million club members have seen a very small increase in software shipments, despite the worldwide decline of mobile sales.
The most notable increases in sales include Adobe’s Flash Lite (now including Flash shipments), ACCESS’ Netfront browser and Scalado’s CAPS imaging engine. Nuance’s T9 also shows a healthy increase in shipments. On the down side, SVG players in general seem to suffer a decline in shipments.


Twenty two billion
You could be holding a phone powered by S60, using the Quick Office application for viewing text documents, navigating through the Flash Lite -based menus, surfing the net with Myriad’s Browser and texting with the aid of T9. In fact, there are phones with three (yes, three) separate instances of Flash Lite, used as engines for user interfaces, for applications and a third instance exposed to developers.

So what’s 22 Billion? This is the number you can arrive at if you sum the shipments of all 100 million club products. But more often than not, these software products will co-exist – with an average of 3+ instances in a single handset on average. Yet another testament of how complex the mobile software world is.

Drop us a line
Do you have any insights of your own to share? Send us a nice Christmas card with your thoughts or at the very least add a comment! And don’t forget to check out the full 100 million club report.

– Matos