I'm at the Open Mobile Summit, just listening to T-Mobile's head of products talking about their view of the Mobile Internet.
He mentioned that Facebook would kill for the amount of data & web of communications generated by a typical mobile phone's address book. Basically it was another pitch about network-resident address books (provided by operators, naturally).
He also made a comment about customers being "fed up with silo services".
He ducked my question from the floor about whether a T-Mobile address book would lock a customer to a "silo" access provider, or whether it would also be accessible from another mobile operator's network.
It got me thinking about this notion that the handset's "social graph" is a better map of personal communications and relationships than an online equivalent. And I stopped to think - I've probably met about 100 new friends and acquaintances in my social life since the beginning of 2009. I've added about 80 of these to Facebook, maybe 30 via email address.... but about 15 mobile numbers. I now have a significant number of friends I *only* communicate with via Facebook. I also have 3 mobile devices with different operator SIMs, multiple email accounts, fixed line, Skype etc.
The notion that any of my mobile operators has a handle on my social network and communications behaviour is completely false. And would I trust any of them not to try to lock me in to their access network if I uploaded my contacts?
Now to be fair, I'm in a particular demographic - urban, single, socially-active. Most of my communications are with friends, not family. And I recognise that trying to "churn" my social network from Facebook could be tricky.
But while I hope they don't read this, I'd be prepared to pay for Facebook now. It's proven its worth to me, and its accessible from any device, any operator and any network.
I think mobile operators (and handset vendors) are about to face closing window of opportunity for their goal of putting themselves at the centre of personal communications. Some may be able to shoehorn themselves into this role if they're fast. One thing is certain to me though: IMS won't be the right technical architecture if they do.
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