Does a mobile phone manufacturer have a shot at Web 2.0?

Posted on: Web 2.0 Asia

My day job (well, sometime I work till evenings and nights) is to plan and implement new internet (fixed + mobile) services for the buyers of our mobile phones.

I’m a web guy – I have always been in the internet business (strategy and service planning) ever since I started work (circa 1997). Naturally, I’ve been following the Web 2.0 since its early days. To this day, I rarely miss reading feeds on web 2.0 — about 50 of them (I try to keep the max # of feeds at under 50).

Of course this kind of practice makes me smarter, but as a professional, you don’t just study; You gotta contribute and deliver, based on what you learned. So how do I align my personal interest with my professional one to create maximum synergy? The answer would be to apply my knowledge on Web 2.0 to our services.

Then the question becomes, does a mobile phone manufacturer (ie. Nokias and Motorolas) have any shot at becoming a significant player in Web 2.0? I think so, for some reasons.

First, a very important ingredient of Web 2.0 is edge content production (aka user generated content), and mobile phones are increasingly well-suited for creating and sharing media content.

  • First, the “edge” part: Everyone has a phone, and he carries the phone everywhere with him. Some people jokingly say that mobile phones are the first electronic device in human history that the majority of people carry with them when they go to men’s room (or women’s).
  • Second, the “content” part: Mobile phones are not only great multimedia consumption devices (Nokia being #1 maker of digital camera and MP3players), but also great multimedia producing devices. One example: mobile phones can be the best device to podcast on. You talk into the phone, as you do all the time, do some editing (like putting in background music), send it – and there you have your podcast, nice and easy.

Also, besides the content, moblie phones can leverage on other C’s of internet business quite effectively as well:

  • Communication: Phones are by nature communication devices. SMS, MMS, email, chat all supported.
  • Community: The address book in your mobile phone = your buddy list
  • Context: Phones can do smart tagging (geo / time stamp and other auto tagging)
  • Commerce: While users expect whatever service on the fixed web will come free, they are less reluctant to pay for things on mobile. Also mobile services have well established billing methods in short codes, monthly phone bills, micropayments, etc.

Mobile internet service has been largely regarded as the domain of carriers, but the carriers have not been successful at bringing forth compelling services.

In the past, they could exert their buying power to hold off innovations being created outside of their walled gardens. In the US, Sprint is rumored to have told Nokia to shut down their content service, otherwise no business with them. In Italy, the top carrier TIM doesn’t allow its subscribers to purchase any content from 3rd parties directly from their phones.



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