HomeEditor's CommentsThose were the days, my friend...

    Those were the days, my friend…


    Well, what a week for mobile devices that was, yes, it was certainly packed with crucial mobile device launches, forecasts and rumours. But let's ignore all that. When these device launches happen we always get dropped a line from the analysts predicting the likely consumer and market response. Now, these analysts are good and thoughtful people but predicting the likely success of devices iis, let's face it, a mug's game. So, with Apple due to launch something next week, I thought might be useful to look back at when this MP3 player manufacturer first entered the phone market.

    Let us remember, this was a land where Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, LG, and SonyEricsson held 75% market share. Where there were, at one count, 45 (FORTY-FIVE!) other vendors vying for the rest of the space. Where Apple's first handset foray had been in association with Motorola, and was thought of as the i-Tunes phone, or the iPod phone. It was a disaster, so Apple went away and built its own music-phone convergence tool. The big question was whether Apple could make its lead in music stick in mobile, and protect and defend its MP3 player business. Or whether operators, still keen to roll out their own music download and streaming services, would run a mile. So let's take a look at the contributions Mobile Europe received from analysts post the lunch of the original iPhone.

    I've retracted the names of the analysts and analyst companies, because I don't blame them at all for their comments. I think it is interesting, though, that so many of these esteemed companies failed to see that Apple had taken the pin out of the mobile data and applications grenade. In fact, they didn't even spot the grenade. They weren't alone, of course, but let's not forget that there were plenty of people out there who did see the iPhone for what it was – and by that I mean the millions that went out and bought one, even though it was only on EDGE, had a "confusing" UI and didn't work too well as an actual phone.

    So here's how a selection of analysts viewed the original iPhone. When you read analyst reports on the likely impact of iPhone 5 (or the Lumia on WP8, or new Kindles, or even the new Motorola) remember that nobody really knows aything. Apart from the customer. In fact, so little does anyone know anything, that there were plenty of blogs telling us the iPhone 4S was going to be the iPhone 5.

    iPhone analyst comments, September 2007, names withdrawn to protect the innocent.

    "operators might find an opportunity in striking agreements with Apple to share mobile music revenues."

    "consumers should not expect to receive the same variety of OSX applications that “flourished” on their Macs

    "Apple…will likely struggle to capture a significant market share in the next few years"

    "Apple's sales target of 10 million devices in 2008 is ambitious. It depends on how much operators are willing to subsidise the phone"

    "the all touch screen interface might actually confuse some users."

    "Some mobile carriers might not want to have the Apple phone in their product range as iTunes will be competing head-on with the operators' branded mobile music services"

    "We have already seen our own Music Player service grow rapidly in the last year to average 100,000 single downloads per month, with over 500,000 tracks to choose from currently. Apple's entry into the market will no doubt stimulate even further interest in mobile music services." (Operator)

    "consumers will be able to do things they previously only ever dreamt of and will be able to access all the services they need from a single provider"

    "Apple strategists would need to ensure there was a steady stream of software upgrades that keep the iPhone internet experience “as close to the full Web experience as possible"

    One thing that is a certainty, then, five years is a bloody long time ago. A quick look at the news we have reported this week shows that. I think you can make a claim that most of these items are driven by a complete change in the way we now use our moble devices, and the need for mobile broadband coverage.

    We're looking at the fact that HD Voice is now being rolled out in dozens of markets, and in 10 markets by more than one carrier. Why? Well, operators need a differentiator, but can also offer a value-add to voice-dependent businesses. We're looking at the impact of multiple radio front ends on the power output of mobile phones – as LTE bands proliferate. We're looking at the need for faster and more responsive device testing driving M&A in the test business. We're seeing the need for always-on connectivity drive LTE expansion across territories and require operators to hoover up every bit of spectrum, including unpaired bands for TD LTE.

    We're seeing carriers grapple with voice over IP: both their own with VoLTE and with the so-called "OTT" providers – witness the addition of operator billing to Skype credits. We're seeing a consolidation of optimisation and content delivery specialists, as carriers are offered means to manage and (even) monetise rich media content across their networks.

    Finally, we've seen three operators, so touched by the exploding grenade of device-based applications (see comments above) combine their efforts in areas as strategic as mobile commerce, payments, marketing and advertising, and the competition authorities think to themselves, "You know what, even if all the major operators in a market do join together, we still think there will be plenty of competition in mobile payments and mobile applications." In other words,

    Five years ago, eh? Bloody hell.

    Keith Dyer
    Mobile Europe