Thursday, July 26, 2007

My MoSoSo preso

Just gave this presentation on mobile social networking to the Mobile Social Networking Conference here in San Francisco.

The deck lists 6 big ideas that I think will shape the space:
- Intimacy not irrelevance
- Push not pull
- Filters
- 3D not 2D
- Marketing not advertising
- P2P = Pocket to pocket

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Business Week on Nokia

A nice piece about Nokia in Biz Week:

[Nokia] seems to be doing everything right these days. Nokia's supply-chain management may be the best of any company in the world. It has a big head start in fast-growing markets such as China and India. And it has $9.5 billion in cash and practically no debt, so it can invest far more than rivals on developing new products or conquering new markets—and thus build even more intimidating economies of scale

The guys at HQ can savour this for approximately 2 seconds, and then get back to being paranoid. Things go down as well as up, and we're not likely to forget it. My $0.02:

- The story focuses only on the "phone as the product" market, and the 40% market share that we've been chasing for a decade (and seems to be tantalising close). But I wonder if when we reach it, the concept will be meaningless. What will the definition of a "phone" be in 2-3 years? Is it because one of the multiple wireless engines (wifi, bluetooth, wimax), happens to use government regulated cellular spectrum that it counts as a phone? Despite the current iPhone boost to the concept of a product business, in the long term, margins on all such products are declining, and the key test for our future competitiveness is the extent to which we can nail the services that build on top of, and extend, the devices.

- Let's bring some of that prodigous Indian innovation back to our markets. The pieces highlights a "$45 model [that] can go more than two weeks without a recharge and has a built-in flashlight" and "[a Nokia van that provides] instruction on how to use mobile phones. Two ideas we should implement in UK asap! :)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Stop the misguided visionaries in Westminster Council before they do real damage

I thought this story must have been a joke when I first heard it. Apparently some bright sparks in London's Westminster Council are going to remove parking meters and instead rely on mobile phones for payments. The arguments, such as they are, suggest that it will be cheaper not to have to send people round to empty the meters, and it will be so much more convenient for the motorist, because they can for example add more time on by phone without going back to their car.

Unless there have been major usability improvements since I last was unfortunate enough to encounter Westminster's mobile payment parking process, I think this will be an unmitigated disaster. Clearly, saving money by axing parking attendants will be one benefit, but the real revenue will come in from fines for cars whose owners have failed to master the technology to book their slot. The usability of the scheme is so far away from acceptable that I'd be surprised if it doesn't result in a minor revolution (or the English equivalent thereof - a letter writing campaing to the Times).

Looking at the guidance material, it is clear that nothing has changed. The instructions for setting up payment are painfully complicated:

Call 0870 428 4009 and follow the touchtone prompts.
Using your phone keypad you will need to enter the following:
Your credit or debit card number
Card expiry date (2 digit expiry month, followed by 2 digit expiry year)
Card start date or issue number (debit card users only)
Vehicle registration number (VRN)*
*In order to enter your VRN, you need to press the key on your phone which displays the first character of your VRN followed by the number which represents the order it appears on that key. For example, for the letter ‘C’ you will need to press 2, followed by the number 3.

Have you got that? I had the unfortunate experience of trying out this mobile payments misery a few weeks ago, and after 5minutes of pain, gave up and went off to find a new non-mobile bay. Westminster Council helpfully provides a log-in option on their website to allow people to create accounts, and this seems to me the greatest ever folly. People who know about, and have registered in advance for the Westminster Council online membership scheme are probably locals, whereas logic suggests that the majority of those needing to pay for parking are from outside the borough, and have not the faintest idea of any of this.

I do applaud the ambition, and mobiles are wonderful things, but forcing people to use them when the technology and usability is not there, is just plain wrong. (As is assuming that everyone has them, and they haven't run out of battery or credit.)

We laugh at the futurists who expected all of us to be zooming round in our jetpacks by now; just because the technology is in place, it does not mean the experience is ready for the mainstream, be it in personal jet propulsion or mobile payments.

I do suspect that the secret agenda here is to make parking so terrifically complicated and painful, that people will leave the car at home. But if that is not actually the case, my suggestion would be to do as Oyster have been doing and trial NFC which seems a logical answer for mobile payments, and allow that to be an alternative channel, perhaps with a discounted rate to encourage adoption. Killing off cash at this stage would be premature, will unfairly penalized those with less tech savvy (am putting myself in that category) and, I predict, lead to far higher levels of pavement-rage, resulting in huge hospital bills that dwarf any short-term savings.

Westminster: Relent, before it's too late!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Finally, the truth about 2.0

This was picked up in an internal mailing list:

dsully: please describe web 2.0 to me in 2 sentences or less.
jwb: you make all the content. they keep all the revenue.

Without a mobile, you're nobody

From Bruce Sterling's Wired piece (found on A VC):

Anyway, fact is, a passport is redundant — even if it's crammed full of RFID chips that howl your ID to every passing parking meter. The US should do what the Japanese do: track every foreigner's mobile. If he does anything freaky, jump on him.

"But Mr. Feldspar, suppose this international criminal doesn't carry a mobile?" demanded representative Chuck Kingston (R-Alabama). It would have been rude to point out the obvious. So I didn't. But look, just between you and me: Anybody without a mobile is not any kind of danger to society. He's a pitiful derelict. Because he's got no phone. Duh.

He also has no email, voicemail, pager, chat client, or gaming platform. And probably no maps, guidebooks, Web browser, video player, music player, or radio. No transit tickets, payment system, biometric ID, environmental safety sensor, or Breathalyzer. No alarm clock, camera, laser scanner, navigator, pedometer, flashlight, remote control, or hi-def projector. No house key, office key, car key... Are you still with me? If you don't have a mobile, the modern world is a seething jungle crisscrossed by electric fences crowned with barbed wire. A guy without a mobile is beyond derelict. He's a nonperson.