Friday, June 27, 2008

Mobile Phones and Kids

Brandon Baker has just completed his graduation thesis about the role and potential effects that the mobile phone use in "hero" shows in Japan has on children.

While each of the major operators here have rolled out phones, and service plans geared specifically towards children, this paper suggests that children actually should not be given a fully-equipped mobile phone until they are at least 16 years old. Additionally, this paper concludes that mobile businesses must take a more vigilant role in their efforts to profit from the "youth" market, as the negative consequences that mobile phone usage has upon children seems to far outweigh the benefits.

If this latest news from Spain (thanks to Brandon for the update on this!) isn't enough to convince you of the seriousness of this issue, please read through Brandon's entire thesis for a long list of other instances in which mobile phones have led to serious threats to children.

If you agree with the conclusions of this paper then, I believe that it's time for everyone within the wireless ecosystem to begin to carefully reconsider how we are approaching the issue of children and mobile phones.

The Mobile Consumer Lab will be taking this on as one of our initiatives in the Fall 2008 semester, and are hoping that these efforts will lead to more effective rules and guidelines for how all of us approach the issue of children's usage of mobile phones.

Nokai (Symbian) vs. Google (Android/OHA)

In our report published last year about Google Android and the Wireless Ecosystem, the excitement that we felt in our Lab about this effort was the fact that Google seemed to be the only company who was in the correct position to truly spark a robust Wireless Ecosystem similar to what has already been created in Japan. The argument that was made in this report was that because Google's revenues would be derived from advertisements placed within Mobile Internet content, that it was within their best interests to have the most compelling mobile content and services developed upon Android.

On Tuesday, things have become even more interesting. Nokia has just purchased the remaining shares of Symbian, created the Symbian Foundation and will make the entire Symbian "platform" available for free for all Foundation members. Symbian will therefore be open source.

While media reports appear to be extremely positive about this move, some questions we'll be discussing in the lab next semester will be:
1) How such a move truly influences the "ecosystem" that exists for content and service developers?
2) Will end-users truly benefit from this move, or is this just a competitive move to thwart Android and the OHA?
3) Can Android truly compete now that Symbian is Open Source?

We will continue to watch how this story unfolds, irrespective of how things evolve, it is clear that Open Source holds one of the keys to the future of the Wireless Ecosystem.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Japan's iPhone - A Portal to the World?

The world continues to be "lit up" by the iPhone, and the latest news that the 3G version will soon be launching in Japan ( correctly called by Lars and the team at Wireless Watch Japan), the question that keeps being launched our way is "does this really matter?"

Japan is a market that accounts for less than 3% of the world's total mobile subscribers, but generates 19% of the world's total data revenues, and stripping data communications revenues (like SMS and mobile messaging) out of this equation, 36% of global mobile internet revenues. All of this without the iPhone.

So the prospects that the iPhone will spark further usage of mobile internet content and services in Japan seems to be a little far-fetched. But where the iPhone is likely to make it's greatest impact is bringing the Japanese market more closely in line with other markets around the world.

As Japan has spent nearly a decade separated from the rest of the world in terms of mobile internet usage and adoption, the iPhone may turn into the great equalizer. Exactly the right platform to begin to help the most successful content, services and applications gain the global attention that they deserve. And at the same time, create a platform for future innovations that may help the world catch up to Japan's levels of mobile internet usage.

So while the overall impact in terms of total sales may not impress the analysts, something more subtle, but potentially more important to the future of the mobile internet may be underway. Although I believe that Google's Android is a more blatant attempt to make Japan's overall ecosystem model relevant around the world, the iPhone may also go a very long way in bringing an entirely new level of collaborative innovation between Japan and the rest of the world.

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Path to mPayments

In this new video from TellLabs experts from Japan (including our friends Marco Koeder from CyberMedia and Christopher Billich from Infinita) discuss the importance of mPayments and mCommerce, as well as the roadmap for how such applications should be implemented.

The work of our mPayments team in the lab this year has actually identified some more fundamental issues that are outlined in this video however. While this video briefly outlines mobile banking in South Africa, actually our research team has concluded that the linkage between mobile finance and mobile payments is of fundamental importance to the future of mobile-based payment solutions.

We will be following up with a full report from our mPayments team later this month, and we are also hoping to conduct an mPayments workshop in Tokyo in July. Stay tuned for more information as it becomes available!