The battle between the closed MNO-controlled vs. the open PC-like Mobile Economy:

Recently I identified the mobile meta-competition between the 2 major strategies of making money in our beloved Mobile Economy. It will be fascinating to see if the closed or open Mobile Economy is going to win.

The mobile meta-competition actually is the battle between the closed MNO-controlled vs. the open PC-like Mobile Economy.

Vodafone by now globally adopted NTTDoCoMo's strategy of tight MNO-control by giving 100%-specifications to handset makers regarding device features and dos and don'ts of content distribution to those devices.

On the other hand, Nokia pushes Symbian and the vision of the open mobile online computer on which the user can run any application while moving any data to the PC or between handsets (e.g. Face2Face file sharing over Bluetooth or SD cards).

To remain in control of mobile content and application distribution, NTTDoCoMo has trimmed some key data exchange functionality of the Symbian OS version on their 2 Fujitsu FOMA handsets. Although Symbian is THE open OS for mobile devices, NTTDoCoMo does not allow to write protected data to the SD card or read from it. Of course, this is to prevent alternative distribution channels and mobile file sharing activities.

So here are some scenarios of the ultimate outcome of the mobile meta-competition between the open vs. closed Mobile Economy:

  • Nokia first becomes an MVNO and/or later buys a number of available MNOs. The MNOs to be bought by Nokia may even be new players that bring Mobile Broadband to the market, such as German Airdata that is based on wireless Mobile Broadband high-tech from IPWireless.
  • Microsoft develops and sells (almost open) devices and becomes an MVNO and/or buys MNOs, too. As pointed out above, the control over mobile data distribution is the key success factor and Microsoft has got lots of fixed Internet experience through MSN.
  • NTTDoCoMo and Vodafone relax their tight control due to market pressure from Nokia and Microsoft.
  • The closed MNOs win the battle while Nokia and Microsoft just have to adapt to such an unfortunate reality. But before they would accept the defeat they will have spent many billions to change the rules of the game.
I am sure that ultimately the mass market demand represented by smart users will decide the outcome of this mobile meta-competition of control vs. openness in the Mobile Economy. People just want to have control THEMSELVES over their mobile online computing devices, in the same way they enjoy running any software on their online PCs today. And I believe that in North America and Europe this open attitude is (still) more widely spread in consumers' minds than in the Asian region.

Somewhere, Q4 2003
Jan Michael Hess, CEO, Mobile Economy GmbH
 
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