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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Mobile isn't much more open then cable Internet

People point to the hacked iPhone as an example of how "we're making mobile open." I do applaud it and I think it's great that we can now run our own apps on the iPhone. However, what do you get at the carrier level. Yay, you now can chose Vodaphone or Sprint instead of AT&T. This doesn't solve the basic problem that at the carrier level, we're still closed.

In the short term, MVNOs like e-mobile will help drive prices down, but they are still built on an architecture that isn't really open to competition and the prices will only go down so far. What we need in the long run is open spectrum and alternatives to 3G.

In Japan, services like Mixi have announced that their web usage is decreasing, their mobile usage is increasing and that more of their users are using their services from mobile and than the web. I don't think mobile monetizes as well (for the company) as the web. I think that if we move over to mobile too quickly we're risking moving our game to a platform where the DNA is not what we're used to on the Internet and most importantly, putting money in the pockets of people who do not redistribute it to startups, but instead feed giant vendor ecologies instead.

Maybe those smart companies in the mobile space like Vodaphone and Nokia who see the future should create a fund to invest in open innovation on mobile. We definitely could make the argument that in the long run, a healthy ecology on mobile is better for at least the strong companies involved in the ecology, just like the Internet increase the telecom economy as a whole. It reminds me of the big oil states investing in alternative energy. If this could happen, this could be a good thing and I'd be happy to help. ;-)

From David Farber
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