Archive for December, 2009

Vodafone UK launches the iPhone on 14th of January – order today

December 21, 2009

Finally, Vodafone is able to announce the launch date of the iPhone. You can almost feel the relief sweeping over the company this morning. First it was Orange, waving it in their faces — then Tesco — TESCO! — and now, we’ve got a launch date of the 14th of January 2010.

But you can get stuck into the iPhone on Vodafone right now by pre-ordering today at http://ping.fm/2iLbm.

There are a few interesting points with their announcement. The iPhone 3G 8GB is free on a £35 24-month contract and each consumer will qualify for unlimited text messaging. There’s also a reward to customers who pre-registered:

As a thank you to consumer customers who have already registered interest in iPhone and choose to pre-order, Vodafone will give them free Vodafone to Vodafone phone calls, for the life of their initial contract.

Here’s the pricing table:

For anyone mad enough to want to tether their iPhone as a modem, you can do that too:

Customers wishing to use their iPhone as a modem can do so for £5 for 500MB, £10 for 1.5GB or £15 for 3GB.

(My Original Blog Post: http://ping.fm/laPRP)

o2 Buys Jajah for $200m

December 20, 2009

Congratulations to the team at Jajah who — according to Reuters — have sold out to Telefonica’s o2. I’ve always been a big fan of the telephony service and this, I suspect, represents a fairly decent exit for the Jajah team.

(My Original Blog Post: http://ping.fm/d7OQs)

True Mobile Entertainment from Tim Green

December 18, 2009

The super-talented Tim Green, editor of Mobile Entertainment Magazine, demonstrates his credentials on the floor. Nice moves Tim:

(My Original Blog Post: http://ping.fm/kIz5D)

Mother tweets whilst her son lies dying

December 17, 2009

Here’s how the London Telegraph reports the news:

As paramedics attempted to revive her son Bryson after he was found floating face down in a swimming pool, Shellie Ross sent out a message on Twitter , asking her followers: “Please pray like never before, my 2 yr old fell in the pool.”

Five hours later, when her son was pronounced dead, she again took to the Twitter site to update her 5,000 followers.

“Remembering my million dollar baby,” she wrote.

Moments later, she posted a photo of her son on the site.

Twitter is definitely, definitely mainstream…

(My Original Blog Post: http://ping.fm/yIS1y)

Do you want your app reviewed in Vogue America?

December 16, 2009

Here’s my pitch: You’re a journalist writing for some of America’s biggest and most influential consumer media publications. You’re busy doing your job and you don’t have a lot of time to focus on this new burgeoning market of mobile applications. You understand that it’s not all about the iPhone but you simply don’t have time to do any investigation beyond occasionally cutting and pasting the odd iPhone app review into your magazine. But I know the market very well. I can parse the hundreds of daily releases into a small number of jewels that your readers are going to really value. So how about I visit for an hour and show you 6 applications (10 minutes for each) and you write a piece about each?

I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. I can’t stand the fact that most ‘popular’ publications don’t cover mobile applications at all. ESPECIALLY the female publications. Times have changed. Mobile is very fashionable. Just, a lot of the journalists in the market don’t know much about it at all. So it routinely gets ignored. I’d like to change that.

I put the above pitch to a world leading PR firm a little while ago. They loved it. My key problem: I don’t know anyone at Vogue. Or FHM. Or anywhere else, for that matter.

“We do,” they said, “Let us make some calls and see what they say.”

Turns out the publications liked it. So I’m doing it. Next month. There are — predictably — some costs. I don’t know where I’m going so the PR firm in question is providing me with some support. They’re doing all the legwork. It’s going to take a few days to deliver — although I estimated an hour per publication, it looks like I’ll need to spend almost an afternoon briefing at each. So there’s some costs to cover. But we’re sharing them across 6 mobile companies.

We’ve got 4 in the bag already and I’m looking for a few more. If your mobile application is likely to appeal to the American normob (“normal mobile phone user”) — and I do mean NORMOB — then drop me an email and let’s see if we can get you involved. There are no platform restrictions — indeed while the iPhone inevitably attracts attention, we need to consider the handset population of the readers of these publications. I’m thinking BlackBerries, Sony Ericssons, Java feature phones. Not just iPhone. There is, of course, no guarantee that the publications in question will cover the applications I pitch them but — you know — I’m going to try my best.

Mail me for a chat about this: ewan@mobileindustryreview.com.

(My Original Blog Post: http://ping.fm/oH0jX)

Senior industry executive comments on our ‘Vodafone 360 Pissing War’

December 16, 2009

I got this in from one of North America’s most senior mobile industry executives. I obviously won’t identify the chap, except to say I’m looking forward to meeting up with him and his team prior to Mobile World Congress.

The traffic to Mobile Industry Review on Vodafone 360 has been nothing short of stratospheric over the past few weeks. I think I’ve had about three comments from people criticising our coverage. The other half million have, it appears, been thoroughly enjoying it.

Not so at Vodafone, if our senior industry insider is anywhere near accurate with his perspective.

Have a read what he mailed over today:

Ewan, I hear you’re in a quite a pissing war with Vodafone right now over 360. Don’t know if you heard this yet or not, but apparently, Vodafone is blocking receipt of MIR as well as blocking anyone sending email to you from a VF account.

WTF???

How on earth does the needle ever move if people take that kind of attitude?

Well I’m afraid I don’t have any information on that — aside from the fact that the always polite, well respected David Marutiak of Vodafone was at the most excellent Heroes of the Mobile Screen event last week. I didn’t have a pass to get in the door for the evening event and the security guards were beginning to growl at me. I was saved by the than life figure of David strolling over and explaining, “He’s with us!”

The growling from the guards stopped immediately. 😀

I thanked David and I got in the door and we had a good chat. Nobody grabbed David and taped up his mouth so I imagine all is ok.

I do find it fascinating that the international marketplace is bubbling away with Vodafone 360 gossip such as the quote above though.

To be clear, I’m not in a pissing war with Vodafone 360. I’m utterly dismayed by their initial offering but I’m hopeful they’ll improve. At least it’s generally OTA (“over the air”) so it can be updated easily. I’m concerned, though, by the continual reports I hear of infighting, politicking and senior executives with no clue or little interest.

There are some really, really smart folk at the company. I really must look at 360 and try and highlight some nice things.

(My Original Blog Post: http://ping.fm/vlOvO)

The Cannes Doctrine

December 15, 2009

The Cannes Doctrine…. or why the industry is still controlled by idiots.

[This editorial was originally published in the Mobile Industry Review newsletter on the 4th December 2009. Make sure you get the editorials ahead of time by subscribing here — free. View other recent newsletter editorials.]

There is a fundamental misunderstanding in the mobile industry about the future and about what consumers want. It drives me nuts.

I am consistently shocked by how much this misunderstanding is institutionalised from the top. How many more years do we have to wait before broad sections of the population are going to be able to do more than send text messages? In a few days time the Mobile Data Association has arranged a ‘free MMS’ campaign with UK Radio Station, “Radio 1”, to try and educate and encourage the population about how to use MMS. We’re past that. We’ve done that. We get it. The vast majority of normobs don’t bother using MMS because it:

a) Costs 20p a go (or similar, on most price plans)
b) The experience was sh1t last time they tried it — it never worked, it arrived as a 50×40 pixel image, and they were charged 50p for it
c) Their phones don’t have the right settings

At what point will we be able to do things with our mobile handsets? More than just send text messages, make calls and occasionally take a picture? Whilst 50 odd million are thoroughly enjoying the possibilities of applications on the iPhone, the rest of the market is left languishing with limpwristed offerings from confused, panicked and neolithic mobile operators and manufacturers. Many an industry executive that I’ve met simply doesn’t have a clue. Further more, he/she doesn’t care. Until, that is, they get a flaming rant from Mobile Industry Review slammed on their desk by their PR supremo advising that, ‘er, I think the best policy is silence’.

I know of some self-aware executives seek out opinion and perspective to widen their horizons and understand where things are going and why. This is laudable. But the vast majority are too busy approving rubbish interfaces, rubbish sub-calibre me-too services that, we all recognise, are going to go nowhere. In this age of markets-within-markets (the app stores are a good example), the mobile operator business is no longer about shifting boxes, network towers and call minutes.

It’s about ‘enablement‘. Enabling the consumer to do what they want through the medium of mobile. Enabling the market to test and refine it’s offerings to the consumer — at it’s own expense — via your platforms. Getting that right means getting the platform and infrastructure right, of course.

But the mobile operators in particular don’t stop there. If they did, we’d be ok. But no. They meddle away with committees that deliver total unmitigated arse products and services in the vain hope of at least confusing the end-consumer into not wanting an Apple product. I’m sick and tired of having to point to Apple as if no one on the planet can compete with them. The sad reality is that almost everything I’ve seen from the mobile marketplace sucks, compared. And that is a shocking state of affairs. The market has the capability to be much, much, MUCH more than just about competing with (and delivering slightly sh1tter services to) the iPhone.

But let’s move on from there — it’s very easy to get bogged down in this kind of territory when I’m talking in broad sweeps. My broad sweeps are, however, 100% correct. Here’s why.

A long time ago I posted a description of an evening and how mobile should fit within it. Long term readers will know it as The Cannes Doctrine (I was in Cannes when I wrote it). Well, here’s an updated version.

I’m in Cannes, South of France, supervising the implementation of our online networking service, Eventscope, for a very popular financial conference. The nature of the work requires me on-site ’til 4pm. I exit the building and, as I walk along the boulevard admiring the beach, I snap a few photos with my mobile device. They’re automatically distributed to my sites and services as necessary. Indeed I tag one of the photos as ‘mum’ and another and ‘gran’. Both are queued for sending as physical ‘postcards‘ for delivery in the UK tomorrow morning. The service already has addresses and credit card details registered so the transaction is as seamless as a tag. I see that — unexpectedly — I’ve got a notification top right on my device. There’s a beer icon flashing away. I select it and find out that Mike Stead of INQ is five minutes away at the Grand Hotel. He’s activated his ‘bored and up for a beer‘ status which automatically broadcasted his availability to those nearby. Turns out he’s in Cannes too!

I’m automatically shown turn-by-turn mapping to the exact location of the hotel. But I know the way. Crossing the road, my device vibrates to remind me to make that transfer to Inland Revenue. I curse. Doesn’t everyone? But it’s important to keep the taxman happy. So I click the banking app and in two taps, find the planned transaction. I click approve. I also see that another payment has arrived in – that gives me an idea! I’ve been after a radio-controlled helicopter. Another one. After I crashed a ‘beginners’ version spectacularly a few months ago.

I can see the bright lights of the Grand Hotel in the distance as I walk along the boulevard browsing helicopters from eBay. I find my favourite supplier and hit ‘buy’. Done. The delivery status is automatically added into my device consciousness. Speaking of which, I wonder if my new backpack from America has arrived. I see there’s a ‘star’ on the delivery status icon so I click. The package is marked as ‘in customs: action required’. I click on the UPS icon and scan through their update: Turns out there is £15.94 worth of import duties required. I hit the pay button and move on. I notice a confirmation mail arrive with an electronic receipt that’s automatically added into my device consciousness (like an Evernote on steroids).

I check on my wife’s status and see that — yes — she’s with her friends this evening in London. I browse through a few of the photos she’s already taken and smile at one of the comments that’s already been added by one of her friends in America. I tap on the heartbeat icon. It sends a knock to her device and lets her know I’m thinking of her — without having to specifically send any text. It also lets her know I’m OK. A few moments later, I receive a knock back from her. All is good.

As the Grand Hotel approaches, I do a quick query for an article I read in The Week that I think will make Mike chuckle. I retrieve the article and zap it over to Mike. I see he’s already opened it as I flick into my todo list. There was something on my mind. Ah yes. It’s my friend Jo’s birthday tomorrow. My device has already pre-selected some appropriate gift choices. I flip through them and eventually decide that it’s very difficult to go wrong with some flowers — especially if they’re from www.realfowers.co.uk. I choose a size option and hit send. That’s done. It’s going to be sent with the default message that I’ve defined but later on I’ll change the greeting to something more personalised.

I walk into the Hotel lobby and get a buzz from my friend Ed. Turns out he’s in Nice on business and only 30 minutes away. I check that Ed’s status is marked as ‘available to you’ so I know I can talk to him real-time. I hold up my device to my ear and press the speak button.

“Get a cab man! Come and have a drink!” I say. I wait 2 seconds and I hear Ed’s confirmation.

Ed, standing in his client’s office reception, thanks the receptionist.

“Do you need a taxi, Sir?” she asks.

“Ah no, that’s kind of you, thank you,” says Ed, thinking back to the times when this wasn’t just a polite offer, but a necessary requirement when in a foreign country — even France.

Ed tells his device to locate a cab to the Grand Hotel in Cannes. An auction immediately takes place. In near real time, Ed’s device begins to receive automatic bids from an array of taxis all <2 minutes away. He picks the one that’s marked with ‘group approval’. That is, I’ve used them and five of our collective friends have had good experiences with this chap in the last 6 months. He also selects the Mercedes Benz with Air Con and pays a slight premium for that choice. The cab arrives in 60 seconds.

Ed doesn’t need to know directions or anything else. He just swipes his device on the taxi’s RFID style reader and he’s done. The taxi driver smiles and nods as Ed sits back and relaxes.

I walk into the Grand Hotel bar and say hi to Mike.

“Got the article,” he says, “Genius! And… Ed’s joining us? Let’s get a drink?”

Brilliant.

I’m not sure what to have to drink so I consult my device. It’s picked up the fact I’ve been in the bar three times in the last four years and it’s got a note of everything I’ve ordered along with my satisfaction levels. As I peruse the menu options I see one drink has a flashing note next to it. I click and see it’s from my wife.

“If you’re having one of these, remember to ask them to put a twist of lime in.”

Ah yes. Useful. I decide to ‘go commando’ and make a choice without my device assistance as Mike peruses the wine list.

Both our devices buzz as Ed arrives — letting us know he’s in the area. We look up and there he is. I get a note from Dan, currently in San Francisco. He’s seen Ed and I are meeting and reckons we should hook up in London. I hit ‘yes’ and get the cloud to fix a good time between us all.

After drinks, I bid farewell to the chaps and walk back to my hotel. I stick in my headphones and get the latest mobile industry briefing read to me. I flick through some of the latest entertainment headlines and watch a video published 50 seconds ago by CNN showing Tiger Woods making yet another heartfelt apology.

In my hotel room I curse as I’ve completely forgotten to extend my check-out. I think about fumbling with the rubbish system on the television and then remember I can now interface directly with my hotel from my device. I select ‘extend until 5pm’ and see there’s a fee of 50 Euro. But it’s been discounted to 20 Euro because of my status as an elite member. Nice. I select it. All done in 10 seconds. Quicker than having to work out what the number is for reception on the telephone by the hotel bed.

Tired, I flip on the entertainment section on my device and watch two episodes of Dollhouse on the giant screen in my hotel room. My device obviously integrates nicely.

Then I remember I need to buy some shoelaces. Flippin’ shoe laces. The most boring things in the world to buy. I flip up Amazon and type ‘shoelaces’. Fantastic. They’re a quid! But 3 quid for delivery. Heh. I click ‘buy with one click’ and that’s another task done…

.
.
.

And let me stop there. This is just a small glint into the world that I’m looking forward to embracing. It is, of course, not all about mobile. I don’t want to use ‘mobile’ for everything. But when I’m out and about, I want it to be a central pillar supporting my existence.

We’re getting there. Indeed many of the situations or examples I’ve mentioned are actually ‘doable’ right now with some applications and services available today. That shoelaces example is one I actually used this week at about 2am on Monday morning. I’d been meaning to buy some sodding laces when I’ve been out and about, but never managed to do so. Thanks to Amazon, the laces actually arrived on Wednesday morning.

My point in outlining what I’d like from my mobile device is that… well, it’s going to be decades, isn’t it? When you look at the total rubbish being sent out the door by the likes of Vodafone 360 — the stuff doesn’t even SYNC contacts. I mean, what is the point of launching something that is sub-standard from the get-go? I *know* it can be improved… but is this the best the industry can muster? The best that Vodafone can offer it’s 280m customers?

How massively depressing.

It’s not just Vodafone of course. Don’t get me started on Nokia. Or Microsoft and their Windows Phone, guaranteed to pause, jerk and hang-up on calls randomly every day of the week.

It’s sad, very sad, that a lot of the examples I’ve mentioned can actually be done on an iPhone only. A few readers of MIR seem to think I’ve got a thing for iPhone — that I’m far too biased in favour of it. The reality is that I am pleased I can now tap-tap-tap and order boring shoelaces without having to think. That actually makes my life better. I can’t stand the inefficiency of having to go to an actual shop — you know — and actually have to invest 20 minutes acquiring something as mundane as a pair of shoelaces. I’m pleased I can do that on the iPhone. But there are a ton of issues with the iPhone — chief amongst them the fact it does one thing at a time, no background processing. At all. Very, very limiting.

I am absolutely horrified with the rest of marketplace as it stands though.

Why can I not order shoelaces in three clicks from a Nokia? I mean, can you IMAGINE the hassle you have to go through to do this on an N97? I haven’t looked to see if there’s an Amazon app — not a sh1te widget or anything — an ACTUAL app that actually works as I expect — for the Symbian or Maemo platform. I can’t bring myself to look and see. Because if the answer is no… dear me.

We’re almost in 2010.

Ten years ago I was tentatively messing around with GPRS trying to check my email and IM on-the-go.

How long is it going to be before we can all enjoy meaningful services via our mobile device? I mean to the extent that if you buy a laptop from PC World, you can do decent stuff with it.

I can’t stand bumping into really enthusiastic normob friends who want to know how to ‘buy flights on their LG Chocolate.’ Just… I feel like grabbing the Chocolate and slamming it into the wall in frustration. And then handing over my iPhone so that they can actually DO something meaningful with their technology.

Every other device requires lots of buts. “Yes, but you need to use the rubbish browser.”

“Yes but it doesn’t quite work.”

“Yes but…”

But, but, but. If you’re a total geek, you can wrap yourself around the hardware, software and systems and make things work.

Apple proved that if you provide a reasonably nice, attractive stable mobile platform, folk will innovate and very quickly, we’re all presented with an ecosystem that is bigger than the sum of its parts. The iPhone is no longer a device — it’s a (potential) gateway to a (potential) next generation lifestyle.

And you at the back — don’t scoff. Make no mistake, there are millions out there realising and recognising just how nice it is to have an iPhone. NOT because of the fancy screen, the fancy graphics or the little menu animations — because you can get stuff done. Because you can order shoelaces at 2am in the morning. Because you can sort out your car insurance claim in 10 minutes. Because you can order toilet rolls on the train. Because you can order a taxi in San Francisco with 3 taps. Because you can do stuff.

Meanwhile back in sh1tsville — back in the non-iPhone world, folk are still having to choose their price plan. And decide how many text messages they’d like. Everyone else is having to choose between a slightly rubbish and a really rubbish handset with a platform that offers nothing but a bit of Facebook and the occasional game because the people running the respective companies and service providers can’t get their act together to enable the market.

Dire.

Absolutely dire.

Until the mobile operators finally recognise and accept that they are data-pipes and transaction engines, the vast majority of us are going to be stuck in this ‘MMS messages are charged at just 20p each’ purgatory — with the only choice of exit being an iPhone. It’s good but it’s not that good.

Please, please, please let’s have some innovation.

(My Original Blog Post: http://www.mobileindustryreview.com/2009/12/the_cannes_doctrine.html)

The Nexus One won’t tempt me away from the iPhone

December 15, 2009

It’s Jonathan Mulholland here once again!

Like most mobile geeks, I’m really enjoying all the Google Nexus One news; it’s starting to sound like a very nice device, and it’s obviously a very interesting move by Google. Seeing their vision of what a modern mobile device should be — and how far Google feel they can push their services into our pockets will be fascinating to see.

I’ve already pretty much decided that I’m going to give the Nexus One / HTC Passion — or whatever it ends up being called — a miss though. Not because I’m a total Apple fanboy, or because I’m one of those crazies worried about giving Google too much access to my data – I’m a very heavy user of all of Google’s services, and have been ever since I opened my first Gmail account back in 2005.

Why the reluctance then?  Android has many positives – mobile Gmail is great, Google Maps on Android is better than on iPhone, multitasking rocks and Android’s notification system is just plain brilliant.  But at the end of the day – from my experience (G1, HTC Magic and HTC Hero) – Android is actually a pretty sucky phone.

I think Ewan hit the nail on the head yesterday:

My biggest concern with Google is their apparent inability to bring anything to market that is actually ready for consumers to use. I’m talking, of course, about the perennial ‘beta’ labels that populate their technology. This beta policy makes a ton of sense — and I think the majority of geeks like me are thoroughly delighted to see the company make frequent updates to their services. I wonder, then, how they’re reacting to delivering a physical product that can’t be changed.

To say that the Android phone experience is a bit unpolished (even when tarted up by HTC) would be a massive complement; take the iPhone away from your ear to “press option 3 to speak to an advisor” and the screen lights up ready for use – easy!  Try the same trick with an HTC Hero and the screen will have locked.  Go to press the phones usual screen unlock key and you’ll often have killed the call.   It’s this kind of thoughtfulness that I think Android phones will always lack, mainly because Android devs don’t have a maniacal Steve Jobs standing over them yelling – “not good enough, do it again.”

The iPhone might have limitations — and the App approval process does appear to make some rather perverse decisions — but Apple’s rigid control of the platform undoubtedly makes it slicker.  We had to wait far too long for ‘copy and paste’ to appear, but when it did it was perfect.  Does any other device honestly have this feature implemented as well as the iPhone?

I’m also rather dubious about one of the Nexus One’s really big selling points — availability as a carrier unlocked device.  If this is true I really applaud the move, it could be a watershed moment for the telco industry, but I’m just not sure Google will be able to pull this off.  They don’t have consumer goods distribution experience; I suppose they could rely on HTC’s sales channels, but this would be a really big ask.   Google has previously given away unlocked Android devices to developers only, could they be dong the same with the Nexus One, planning to release the device to the public via one of the carriers (my money would be on T-Mobile)?

Then there is my final nagging doubt; good as the Nexus One may be, in my mind it’s really a second generation future mobile device (1st gen = iPhone, 2nd gen = iPhone 3G/3GS).   I’m sure it will stack up well against the iPhone 3GS, Palm Pre etc, but really we’re still watching Android play catch-up.

I still predict that the really big mobile news of 2010 will be the major update Apple announces to the iPhone platform in June, so for the meantime I’m sticking with Apple.

(My Original Blog Post: http://ping.fm/cGc32)

Help: Creating and presenting RADAR (Spider) graphics on iPhone

December 15, 2009

I saw this marketplace enquiry from Jim Ward on MomoLondon’s forum and thought it might be useful for some readers. Can anyone help? If so, drop me a note and I’ll forward your enquiry directly to Jim.

Hi

Does anyone have any expertise on this? I am looking to have a Performance Management App created and want to sub-contract the work. Unsure if Server or Client app is best – as I need the server to be able to recall them.

Anyone with skills and interested, please email me,

Thanks

Jim

(My Original Blog Post: http://ping.fm/rC19L)

Vodafone’s magic quadrant belies the dire business reality

December 15, 2009

That there is a magic quadrant. I obtained it from an email from Vodafone’s PR.

I agree that, generally speaking, Vodafone does a good job in the marketplace.

I’d like to draw your attention this Vodafone managerial quote:

Commenting on the position, Vodafone Global Enterprise CEO Nick Jeffery said: “We are pleased that the strength of Vodafone’s offer to Multi-National Corporate customers has been recognised in this way.

“International companies benefit from both our fixed and mobile products and services. We help put them back in control of their costs and simplify their operations across a large geographic footprint.”

Well Nick, that’s total 100% bollocks.

This is a superb example of the misalignment between analysts and reality. Analysts think they know everything — and, in the context of sitting and examining extensive reports along with extensive executive and customer briefings, they are able to deliver some useful perspective.

The issue I have with analysts is that it’s all theoretical. In their executive briefings, they get the good news. They also get the ‘good’ bad news. That is, when you’re sitting down with an executive from a FTSE company to ask what he or she thinks of Vodafone, they’re unlikely to tell you the truth.

The real truth.

Let me tell you the real truth about the Vodafone Global Enterprise CEO’s comments: That’s what you’d like, Nick.

It’s what you’d like to think Nick.

It’s what you’re told in meetings, Nick.

It’s what the monthly management summaries for your division tell you, Nick.

But it’s not the coalface.

I know because I’ve been there many-a-time. It’s not just Vodafone though. The rest of the networks are shambolic when it comes to Europe, too.

Let me indicate an example of where the ‘back in control‘ and where the wheels come off phrases like ‘simplify their operations across a large geographic footprint‘.

I was advising the CIO of a company. They’re Fortune 500 size. They’ve about 10,000 employees across Europe. For months they’d been trying to get a handle on their mobile telephony organisation and billing. Like most companies operating across Europe, they were looking to simplify their mobile spend into one silo. Vodafone. o2. France Telecom. Somebody.

The CIO was astonished that when he’d got the chaps from [mobile operator] in, they couldn’t give him European-wide pricing.

What he was looking for was something like ‘a tenner a month per line, all inclusive’. Something like that.

He wanted to buy from one operating company.

Canny be done.

He wanted someone to give him European-wide pricing.

Canny be done.

He wanted to deal with one account manager.

Canny be done.

They say it can be done. You get the impression from press release comments from the likes of Nick that it can be done. You’d think that this is how it would work when you’re talking mobile phone bills in the millions per month.

But no.

Oh no.

With few exceptions, your European mobile companies are split into tiny little geographic fiefdoms.

Just a few months ago I sat in on a meeting with an operator — I won’t identify them — specifically discussing this issue. After weeks and weeks of backbreaking cajoling, the global account manager chap had managed to deliver a proposal for most of Europe.

“Most?” asked the CIO.

“Yeah, errr… well, we don’t have a presence in [country].”

“But we do?” prompts the CIO, “We have a presence there — we have 500 people there.”

“Yeah….” replied the account manager, head hanging.

The CIO tactfully moves on. I feel compelled to say, “But you’re meant to be European-wide??”

The CIO continues: “OK, but why is [other country] asking for such silly rates?”

The account manager wilts before explaining, “Well the General Manager of [other country division] says that since you’re only buying 25 data cards, he can’t justify the discount that we…”

“But,” interrupts the CIO, “I’m spending 1.35 million a month with you?”

And there’s the crux of the issue. You’d think that the General Manager of that country would have sucked it up and understood the larger reality. But no. Because he’s responsible for his own budget line and he can’t give stuff away when the bulk of the spend is benefiting a rival General Manager in another country.

The fact they’re the same company doesn’t matter.

Whilst the client of the operator thinks they’re doing business with ‘Vodafone’ or ‘o2’, they’re not. As many CIO and CTOs have found, they’re actually agreeing to a deal with multiple independent operating companies linked by branding and a stressed and understandably despondent account manager.

Do consider this the next time you advise your CIO to streamline their European-wide mobile telephony spend. I looked and felt like a bit of a cock after all these discussions were over. I somehow had expected the mini fiefdoms and country-country spats to have been resolved over the past five years — to have been resolved in favour of winning business for the group.

Not yet it seems.

You can read the full Gartner report here.

(My Original Blog Post: http://www.mobileindustryreview.com/2009/12/vodafones_magic_quadrant_belies_the_dire_business_reality.html)