“Power to You” – Vodafone and services – Nokia and solutions

January 3, 2010

in Mobility, research

I’m reading “The Future is Calling” in print in India Today (Yes wrote most of this some weeks ago).  A quote at the top of the article caught my attention.

Ten years ago, only three in hundred Indians had a phone. That number’s up to 45 now. The next step is going from plain communications to applications.

It is my “bolded” line above that caught my attention. There are other facts and figures… 100m sold last year 15m in August 2009, 488.4m subscribers etc. I’m also becoming a little skeptical about the ongoing retelling of the same stories in the article (the fisherman and his boat, the farmer and market rates) which while true, gloss over more basic solutions and needs. Still it is these stories that are now fueling the “services” revolution in India.

While I’ve written about Nokia Life Tools before, it was a Vodafone ad that caused me to write this post. There is a proliferation of experimentation with English language learning, stock updates, agricultural quotes etc. Both handset and mobile carriers are talking and trying to sell into this space. Typically a 30 rupee per month subscription. Mobile carriers are also in a price spiral to free calling. Rates have now hit 1 paise per sec or 1paise per character for SMS. 100 paise in a rupee, 47 rupees in a dollar. Here’s one of the latest Vodafone ads on rates and the “Power to you” tagline.

Vodafone’s tagline “Power to you” is international which I like very much. It’s an empowerment strategy, adding to the “device” in your hand. Vodafone India also has an interesting campaign “the Zoo Zoo’s”. Many of these are pointing to “services” although the ads aren’t positioning them that way. The power to you line will be added in time and I’ve already seen it on the cricket ad. These include all sorts of small subscriptions and one-off charges for services. Of course we have many of these in the US too although nowhere close to these rates. Still the jury remains out. These rates remain unlikely to drive these services into the 100’s of millions.

With the drop in rates, mobile operators have a huge incentive to “sell” – “services”. Similarly the handset vendors are trying to find a way to both combat the Apple app factor and also find a way into these emerging markets for “services” or is that apps?

Still I didn’t explain myself and my interest in the “app” quote above. I believe the media has already defined the “extras” we want or how to customize the device in our hand as “apps”.  Apps are not something we will buy from the carrier. That battle has been lost by them. Apps are things we will buy from “stores” that may or may not be provided by the device manufacturer and their developer community.

The quote, for me is a symbol that “apps” has become a global term.

While ‘apps” the term appears to be going global the leading handset manufacturer (Nokia) is talking “solutions”.

Nokia – ShowPressRelease

“To succeed in this new environment, we need to offer consumers irresistible solutions that improve their lives. During 2008, we have taken many steps to ensure we maintain our strong leading position in the device business, while increasing our focus on solutions-centric business models.

It may be language, or it may be intent. Increasingly, “solutions” is not the language that users use, neither is it one that developers use. Apps can also be more broadly interpreted, while solutions by definition are more tightly defined.  The other issue that concerns me about “solutions” is it doesn’t present as a platform. App developers work with a platform. To be successful in this new world requires a platform strategy. Vodafone’s new tagline suggests they may consider going in that direction. Nokia’s words from the top don’t yet support this direction. Perhaps that will change.

In closing, “apps” also relate to occasions and are again more broadly focused and perhaps related. By customizing our phone with a set of apps we are more likely to find the “solutions” we need. In a pull world pushing “services” at me seems like something IBM would have tried years ago.

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