While Mobile Operators dither, Google just goes for it

29th of November 2007 by conor

Yesterday I spoke at the ICT Ireland conference on “Marketing in a Total Access World”. The keynote was legendary Marketeer Regis McKenna who had a gem of insight for everyone in the audience. Michael Platt from Microsoft also gave a great whirlwind tour of business and technology with an MSFT twist.

My talk was a very simple personal potted history called “d’internet, Being Social 1990-2007?. My basic proposal was that we’ve been social networking since the days of Usenet, but the tools and possibilities improve with each new generation. I also made the prediction that 2008 would be the year of Mobile. It’s probably been said by someone every year since 1997 but the progress in 2007 with Twitter, Jaiku, iPhone, N95, GPS, cheaper mobile data etc has me convinced we have finally got there.

I was asked if that was realistic given the seeming inability of the mobile operators to build new sticky value-added services. As long as they are in control, is it just a pipe-dream? I replied that they are improving and those I’ve talked to in the telcos know that things have to change. I also thought that Android could be a way for Google to get apps like Jaiku onto many phones and potentially bypass the operator veto.

Michael Platt agreed wholeheartedly and clearly Microsoft sees mobile as a critical part of their strategy. I then ran into a person from one of the mobile operators who confirmed both the positive and negative aspects – yes they know they have to change; no, they don’t know how to do that. I suggested that (for example with LBS) they take the Google approach of building APIs and releasing them into the wild to see what people do with them. He admitted that such an approach would be very difficult for them with their current “target driven” organisational structure.

Today I woke up to find that Google have added “My Location” to their Mobile Maps application. Using community generated location information which relates mobile tower IDs to GPS locations, you can now get some sense of where you are using your phone even if it does not have GPS. An simple elegant solution to a problem.

Perhaps that is the future for the mobile operators? They spend their time trying to figure out what the next big thing is and everyone else just finds ways around their roadblocks.

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