Speaking Engagements & Private Workshops - Get Dean Bubley to present or chair your event

Need an experienced, provocative & influential telecoms keynote speaker, moderator/chair or workshop facilitator?
To discuss Dean Bubley's appearance at a specific event, contact information AT disruptive-analysis DOT com

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

It's a feature, not a service - so bill it once only

I went to an reception hosted by Portugese mobile data backup company MobiComp the other day. Interesting on various levels, but given that I've seen a whole host of firms that do backup / filesharing / remote access between phone & PC recently, it sparked one particular thought:

PC-to-phone connectivity is a feature, not a service, and it should be either free or sold on the basis of a one-off fee.

When you buy a phone, it typically comes bundled with a CD for sync/backup. It's usually some fairly useless piece of software that's buggy and won't be much use if you ever want to switch to a different brand of handset or operator & transfer your contacts. There are also SIM-backup devices that copy contacts etc off a SIM card. Similarly, there is a variety of backup software for PCs, typically bought in conjunction with an external hard drive or perhaps bundled into another suite of tools.

Now to be fair, none of these is usually a wonderful experience from the user's point of view, so there's definitely an argument for any technology which it improves it.

But I can't see an argument for why that technology should be sold on a "per month" basis rather than purchased outright and upfront. I also can't see many reasons why comparatively smaller amounts of data should be hosted "in the network" rather than split between your own devices. Sure, the service providers would like to lock you in to their platform - there aren't any backup-portability laws - but consumers aren't that stupid, especially where that lock-in also involves lock-in to an access network.

In fact, the phone-backup proposition makes most sense as a churn enabler rather than a churn preventer. If Orange (let's say) wanted to sign me up as a new customer, with a Nokia handset, then providing me with a software app that makes it easier to transfer all my old contacts, pictures, music from my O2-issued SonyEricsson would be well worth paying for.

A theme that I regularly discuss with clients is the difference between capabilities which are best offered as:

- service,
- application,
- feature, or
- function

To my mind, backup and related components fall towards the bottom of that stack. That doesn't mean they're not valuable - but they should be sold, not billed.

(This isn't just a shot at mobile backup either. I've been struggling with Norton's recalcitrant online backup service on my PC and quite frankly that's not something I'd be happy to be billed for on an ongoing basis either. And before anyone comments, these are obviously consumer-grade products. There are numerous remote-backup and disaster-recovery solutions for enterprises which clearly are suitable as ongoing services, especially as they usually include a substantial amount of upfront customisation and consultancy to smooth the path).


Anonymous said...

The validity of this argument really depends on the service concept. If, for example, you connect from your PC to activate its camera & microphine (e.g. like the mobile web server on Nokia N95s) and stream video and audio over the operator's cellular network, then the operator should be able to recoup the costs associated with doing that (since it is expensive for the operator). Since the time duration will be variable, it should be billed per minute. Of course, if it is on Wi-Fi, then the operator will get zilch.

Dean Bubley said...

In that scenario, in my view you actually have two components:

- Data transport, which is certainly appropriate to bill as a service as its costs are variable
- The capability of remote activation, which should be bought as a feature

The problem comes when you try to combine them. It seems wrong to try to charge for the "capability" on a recurring basis, but equally it would be rather awkward to bundle in a given amount of connectivity service upfront.

A couple of options jump out at me:

1) Sell them separately, both in appropriate form
2) Sell the connectivity upfront with a long-term recurrence period. People view annual 'renewals' differently from monthly 'subsciptions' for some reason.

Dennis Howlett said...

Apologies for polluting your blog this way.

I'm trying to reach you with a view to a short interview at Mobile World Congress.

The link to your contact area seems borked. Could you drop me an email: dahowlett [at] gmail [dot] com? This would be for my ZDNet blog. FYI. Dale Vile put me your way.