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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Apple, Cingular, service creation and operator requirements

I've seen a few comments about Apple's new "Visual Voicemail", which enables random access to a Cingular mailbox from the new iPhone. What's not 100% clear is whether the concept comes from Apple, and they've got Cingular to adopt it, or vice versa - or even maybe it's a third party vendor's idea that they've both licenced.

Let's suppose it's Apple's idea, that they've made it a core app on the iPhone, and as Apple puts it "Cingular is the first supported carrier". In which case, isn't this going to involve a lot of work for any other carrier that wants to be "supported" by Apple? They'll have to rejig their voicemail platform as well.

But....most vendors and operators are enthusiastically pushing their next-gen "service creation" environments, whether based on IMS, Parlay, Web Services or whatever, as making it (supposedly) ultra-rapid and ultra-cheap to create & deploy new apps.

Now, the original idea was that the operator (or maybe a 3rd party developer) would be the innovator & drive the design & creation of these apps, then implement them rapidly. But this has failed - the operators (generally) aren't innovative or fast enough, while 3rd party developers haven't had the support & tools.

Now... imagine that someone like Apple comes along and TELLS the operator "Hey, we know you've got a new rapid service creation environment that you've been bragging about! So come on, let's see you develop an app that works with OUR vision & our device. We've done the innovating, and you can do development really quickly, so let's get on with it"

So if these things really DO work as advertised, and it only takes a week or a month (let's say) to develop a parallel voicemail service for Apple, then why not? And why not do a Nintendo one, or a Nokia one or whatever?

At the moment, operators put out lengthy requirements documents for the handset suppliers. Maybe this is the first instance of a handset supplier turning the tables and putting out requirements for the operator to adhere to. "Support Visual Voicemail, or we won't sell our product through you, and your customers will buy it from someone else instead & churn". Maybe Motorola should have taken that approach with the RAZR - if you have a "must have" product, the usual competitive dynamics of "power of supplier" and "power of customer" might get realigned. Of course, it helps if (like Apple) you don't have any existing carrier relationships to jeopardise by playing this type of game.


Aleksey said...

seems like maiden try ;) i think it's quite logical: nearly every service from operator needs to be supported by handheld device. hardest thing in provisioning of any service is to make an interface between customer and the greatest service of all the time you've created ;) if you know how to do it (and Apple does) - why do not propose?

Carlos said...

Excellent for spotting this aspect of the deal. Only time will tell if this actually gets deployed, however if Apple is able to pull this off then it's a potential wake up call to other operators.

See: http://www.manageability.org/blog/stuff/apple-iphone-game-changing/

Anonymous said...

Speaking from my desk at A N OtherTel:

Apple: hey nice network. Here's our new handset.
Us: looks lovely! How much is it?
Apple: $400.
Us: so lets do the commission calcualtion....
Apple:Oooh no. We control the price. You can't sell it for less that what we want.
Us: Um, okay. Well, you're Apple....
Apple: And we control the terms of the sale, so you will actually make no money at from the handset yourself.
Us: well, we'll make some money from dowloads. Would improve our data ARPU.
Apple: no, sideloading only.
Us: Ah....
Apple: And we'ld like you to reconfigure you customer service and network to our requirements...Oh and if you don't mind could you handle the customer service? our product quality is a bit rubbish you see. And we don't expect the touchscreen to last that long.
Us: How many you expecting to sell?
Apple: hey its a high end handset! EVERYONE love high end handsets! Nokia do a lot of them.

Anonymous said...

The same help desk that handles support for iPods (and some other Mac products) will apparently handle support for the iPhone as far as the support techs know. (And no they haven't got a demo yet. Usually don't get them until paying customers do or even after.)