2014 will be the year in which telecom will be split into two. The ones that understand iCommunication and the ones that don’t. iCommunication is about giving a personalized communication experience to consumers and enterprises. Low cost subscription models and freemium will be the main business models. Low-cost pay per use is still possible but not for messaging or voice traffic. The value proposition needs to be higher.
What will this mean?
Bit pipes will become a reality in Europe and possible in the US (mainly dependent on what Google and others do). Telecom operators massive head count reductions. Nokia & Blackberry will be joined by other one time big telco names. The end of the world for some. Especially for those that belief telecom is a dividend generator or a bottomless pit for license taxation…
For consumers and enterprises there will be a new world of communication possibilities. Communication will be fully integrated into back office systems, e.g. CRMs like Salesforce store all calls. Improvements in voice recognition will make talking to machines a natural interface. Managing contacts will become a breeze. Forget memorizing phone numbers…
Communication as a Service will be the big innovation. The Cloud, Big Data, IoT will meet IP communication. Whatsapp will have a bigger brother for voice and video. Unless Google and Apple surprise the market with joint IP-based communication over LTE and WiFi. Asia, Africa and Latam will have two more years but most of their operators will make the same mistakes as the European ones.
Bit pipes are not even a safe business because the Ryanair of telecom will be able to quickly pickup mobile licenses and networks of the third/forth player, the one that goes bankrupt.
Things will not look nice for the next three years for some but we all knew that it was going to come for the last 10-15 years. Any CxO that calls this an unforeseen disruptive technology should be fired on the spot. The next edition of the Innovators Dilemma does not have to go back to the last century for examples. This is a textbook case for MBA students for years to come…
If you read sites like highscalability.com you will have certainly read about those big name dotcoms that deploy new features to production up to tens of times a day. For most startups bringing features to production is still a manual, at best semi-manual process. You have the odd start-up that has it all automated, but unfortunately this is often a signal that they have too much time on their hands which points towards more critical problems.
What if startups would not have to worry about how to set-up hourly feature deployment? What if they could get an open source solution that delivers them flexible and highly scalable continuous deployment in minutes?
What if Startups could launch new features faster than the top DotComs and scale almost as good?
If this sounds attractive to you or you know a start-up to whom it would be, then you should visit this blog post. Ubuntu has launched a beta program and if enough startups sign up, then they will build an instant and scalable open source continuous deployment solution for them.
Traditionally manufacturers would build a product, stock their warehouses and hope they sell it. “Build it and they will come”, was the norm. A very expensive strategy. Crowd-funding websites have changed this. Start-ups are now able to create a prototype, shoot a video and see if people will love the product without investing any massive amounts of money.
Today is a special day because crowd-funding can change forever. Today Canonical announced the largest crown-funding experiment ever. Where Pebble asked for $100K, got oversubscribed 100 times and ended up getting around $10M, Canonical is aiming for $32M from the start.
So who is Canonical and how will they pull this off? Canonical is the company behind Ubuntu, the most popular open source Linux distribution that runs over 50% of the Operating Systems in public clouds like Amazon AWS.
Canonical will be presenting the Ubuntu Edge, an awesome phone that will push the limits of mobile communication as we know it. It is the first phone that is “your PC in your pocket”. A phone that you hook up to a screen and a keyboard and you can use as a laptop. With 4GB of memory it has similar specs as a laptop. The Ubuntu Edge also has an Edge in usability. Everybody that was able to use the Ubuntu phone operating system will tell you that it is one of the easiest phones out there. Swipe from the left and you have all your most used apps, not only 4. Swipe from the top and you have full control of your Wifi, network, etc. Gone are the days that you had to push: Settings, Wi-Fi, etc. Without lifting a finger you pick your wifi. Right-slide switches between your apps. Bottom-slide gives you an in-app menu that changes based on the current app.
So what about mobile apps. That is exactly the reason why crowd-funding is used. All Ubuntu enthusiasts will be able to get their hands on an Ubuntu Edge. These are the top computer experts in this world. The top Geeks. The people that recompile an operating system kernel for fun. So expect them to come up with apps that push boundaries because the Ubuntu Edge is the only phone that is completely Open: Open Source, Open Hardware and Open Funding. Find more here: igg.me/at/ubuntuedge…
Presto is Facebook´s answer to Cloudera´s Impala, Hortonworks´ Stinger and Google´s Dremel. Presto is an ANSI-SQL compatible real-time data warehouse query engine so existing data tools should be working with it unlike Hive which needed special integration. Presto is in-memory and runs simple queries in few hundred milliseconds and complex queries in a few minutes. Ideal for interactive data warehousing. Unfortunately Presto will not be open sourced until later this year [probably fall], so the Big Data community will have to be patient.
Open Source real-time massive-scale data warehousing is likely to disrupt existing players like Teradata, Oracle, etc. who until recently were able to charge $100K per tera-byte…
Update: Facebook has open source Presto. You can now download it at http://prestodb.io/
If you want to make a Juju Charm of Presto please contact me…
An MIT student recently created a new type of massively distributed database, one that runs on graphical processors instead of CPUs. Mapd, as it has been called, makes use of the immense computational power available in off-the-shelf graphics cards that can be found in any laptop or PC. Mapd is especially suitable for real-time quering, data analysis, machine learning and data visualization. Mapd is probably only one of many databases that will try new hardware configurations to cater for specific application use cases.
Alternative approaches could focus on large sets of cheap mobile processors, Parallella processors, Raspberry PIs, etc. all stitched together. The idea would be to create massive processing clouds based on cheap specialized hardware that could beat traditional CPU Clouds both in price and performance at least for some specific use cases…
Intel announced this week it’s Big Data strategy with its crown jewel their own Hadoop distribution. Many people will be surprised that a chip maker wants to be your Hadoop supplier as well. Mcafee is Intel’s most visible enterprise software offering and it was an acquisition not an offering based on organic growth.
Intel’s Hadoop distribution on the other hand was a Chinese project some years ago that turned into a product.
So how is Intel going to compete with Cloudera, Hortonworks, MapR, IBM, EMC/Greenplum, etc.?
Intel Hadoop Distribution is having real-time queries just like Cloudera’s Impala. But instead of being a separate product, they will be embedded in Hive. Intel also looked at Cloudera Manager for inspiration around how to make Hadoop management easy. This part will however only be available for enterprise customers.
One of the main selling point will be performance. intel’s Hadoop will be fully optimized for Intel’s processors and SSD. Another selling point is security. Intel is launching project Rhino that will include more fine grained security and faster encryption. Further more Intel’s Hadoop is based on Yarn, the latest Hadoop branch, that comes with extra features like support for other than map-reduce frameworks and advanced resource management.
Finally unlike Cloudera, MapR and Hortonworks, Cloudera is a blue chip company with a global footprint and big name partnerships like Cisco, SAP, Terradata, Wipro, SAS, Dell, Redhat, etc.
Will it be enough to stop people from running Hadoop on large volumes of low-cost ARM chips? Only time can tell…
Everybody is hearing Cloud Computing on the television now. Operators will store your contacts in the Cloud. Hosting companies will host your website in the Cloud. Others will store your photos in the Cloud.
However how do you make money with the Cloud?
The first thing is to forget about infrastructure and virtualization. If you are thinking that in 2013, the world needs more IaaS providers then you haven’t seen what is currently on offer (Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Rackspace, Joyent, Verizon/Terramark, IBM, HP, etc.).
So what are alternative strategies:
1) Rocket Internet SaaS Cloning
Your best hope is SaaS and PaaS. The best markets are non-English speaking markets. We have seen an explosion of SaaS in the USA but most have not made it to the rest of the world yet. Only some bigger SaaS solutions (Webex, GoToMeeting, Office 365, etc.) and PaaS platforms (Salesforce, Workday, etc.) are available outside of the US and the UK. However most SaaS and PaaS solutions are currently still English-only. So the quickest solution to make some money is to just copy, translate and paste some successful English-only SaaS product. If you do not know how to copy dotcoms, take a look at how the Rocket Internet team is doing it. Of course you should always be open for those annoying problems everybody has that could use a new innovative solution and as such create your own SaaS.
During the gold rush, be the restaurant, hotel or tool shop. While everybody is looking for the SaaS gold, offer solutions that will save gold diggers time and money. SaaSification allows others to focus on building their SaaS business, not on reinventing for the millionth time a web page, web store, email server, search, CRM, monthly subscription billing, reporting, BI, etc. Instead of a “Use Shopify to create your online store”, it should be “Use <YOUR PRODUCT> to create a SaaS Business”.
3) Mobile & Cloud
Everybody is having, or at least thinking about buying, a Smartphone. However there are very few really good mobile services that fully exploit the Cloud. Yet I can get a shopping list app but most are just glorified to-do lists. None is recommending me where to go and buy based on current promotions and comparison with other buyers. None is helping me find products inside a large supermarket. None is learning from my shopping habits and suggesting items on the list. None is allowing me to take a number at the seafood queue. These are just examples for one mobile + cloud app. Think about any other field and you are sure to find great ideas.
4) Specialized IaaS
I mentioned it before, IaaS is already overcrowded but there is one exception: specialized IaaS. You can focus on specialized hardware, e.g. virtualized GPU, DSP, mobile ARM processors. On network virtualization like SDN and Openflow. Mobile and tablet virtualization. Embedded device virtualization. Machine Learning IaaS. Car Software virtualization.
5) Disruptive Innovations + Cloud
Selling disruptive innovations and offering them as Cloud services. Examples could be 3D printing services, wireless sensor networks / M2M, Big Data, Wearable Tech, Open Source Hardware, etc. The Cloud will lower your costs and give you a global elastically scalable solution.
None of the incumbant telecom providers has put into place any Blue Ocean Strategies. Blue Ocean Strategies have made the Circus, Wine, Gaming, Airline, etc. industries exciting again, so why not apply it to the telecom market. The only telecom players, I know of, that implemented some blue ocean strategies are Free in France, GiffGaff in the UK and Freedompop in the USA. So why not do a Blue Ocean Strategy exercise in this blog post.
Here is my strategy canvas:
Traditional operators focus on charging heavily for calls and SMS although lately more and more packages with free minutes are available. International calls however are still charged extremely expensive. Mobile phones are subsidized up to 24 months and as such you need to stay with them for at least this period. Operators spend a lot of their money investing in the roll out and maintenance of their networks. They also have very complex pricing plans and as such need heavy investments in BSS.
MVNOs try to compete on price and most often do not subsidize mobiles. They do not have their own network as such they do not need to invest in it. They offer less tariff plan options. You are often free to change whenever you want. To make up for not subsidizing mobiles, you can get mobile loans which means you have some sort of permanence.
So how would Blue Ocean Mobile do it differently?
In line with Free’s example, call costs should be eliminated, including international costs. Mobiles should not be subsidized but cheap mobile loans should be offered for those that do not bring their own device [BYOD]. Blue Ocean Mobile should focus on LTE and try to win LTE licenses. However instead of doing heavy investments in installing antennas everywhere, Blue Ocean Mobile should only install antenna’s in those areas where few people live but connectivity is required, e.g. major highways. This is in line with Free’s strategy. However unlike Free, the operator’s network should not be built with unreliable WiFi hotspots. Instead specially designed “Personal Antennas” should be sold to everybody who wants one. What is a personal antenna? A personal antenna is a nanocell LTE antenna. A personal LTE antenna in your home that not only gives service to you but also to neighbours and people close to your home. The idea is that you become a sort of mini-LTE ISP to which others can connect. For every KB that gets transferred through your personal LTE antenna, you will get a revenue share. So it is in people’s interest to put the personal antenna in a place where it can service a lot of people and to have a good backbone Internet connection. People should be able to win back their investment in the Personal Antenna in a few months and make money afterwards. This should allow Blue Ocean Mobile to seriously lower their investment in rolling out an LTE network and to get free mouth-to-mouth advertising. Via a software-defined network [SDN] management system all nanocell LTE antennas are controlled by Blue Ocean Mobile.
Since Blue Ocean Mobile is focusing only on data traffic, it should work together with “over-the-top players” to offer a compelling list of services. Ideally Android Phones and the iPhone will use the data network for calling others instead of a circuit network. Customers should have a full range of BYOD management options so small and medium-sized businesses can easily manage the phones of their employees as well as push enterprise applications towards them.
Blue Ocean Mobile should also try to avoid investment in BSS. Tariff plans should be easy with the customer defining how many free megabytes they want to purchase for a fixed monthly fee and a simple extra charge for overage. So instead of operator defined tariff plans, everybody has a personalized tariff plan that they can adjust every day. Calls and SMS are charged based on data traffic not on per minute charges. VoIP solutions is the standard. Blue Ocean Mobile does not have a circuit network or SS7.
Blue Ocean Mobile is also copying the long tail support from Giff Gaff in which customers give support to other customers and are responsible for marketing. Unlike Giff Gaff not only prepaid but also subscriptions are supported. Like Giff Gaff customers get a revenue share when they participate in support or marketing.
Blue Ocean Mobile’s strategy is just very high-level and still needs in-depth analysis but it is an open invitation for innovative people to start applying Blue Ocean strategies to anything they feel in need of disruption.
Maarten Ectors is a senior executive who is an expert in applying cutting edge technologies (like Cloud, Big Data, M2M, Open Hardware, SDN, etc.) and business innovations to generate new revenues. He is currently looking for new challenges. You can contact him at maarten at telruptive dot com.