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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Cool and uncool in telecoms (lighthearted post...)

It is just possible that some readers of this blog are unaware of Top Gear, the car show which is without a shadow of a doubt is the world's best TV programme. Exported to countless other countries, it even has local versions being made in Germany, Australia and elsewhere, although these suffer without the wisdom of the demigod Jeremy Clarkson.

One of the most clever features on the show is the "Cool Wall", a section which plots cars on a scale of coolness. This isn't necessarily linked to performance, looks or other normal criteria. It is a separate axis which transcends these measurable characteristics and instead looks at the less tangible aspects of image and desirability. In particular, vehicles that are bought by people trying to be cool are always ironically deemed to be seriously uncool. By comparison, cars that are bought by people because they are sort-of interesting, unusual, functional or eccentric might be thought of as "sub-zero"

So for example, Audis are becoming seriously uncool, as they're being bought by people who used to want BMWs. Toyota Pious's [sic] are obviously in the same category for being sanctimonious. Conversely, Land Rovers are honest and unpretentious, and are therefore quite cool. Aston Martins are "sub-zero" unless you live in Chelsea in London, in which case you're just following the herd and you need to get a life. And so on. It's very clever, really.

So a hat-tip is definitely in order to James Enck, who has pointed me towards a telecoms industry extension of the concept.

I pretty much agree with the telecoms assessment, although I'd make a few amendments and additions.

(And before I get a zillion comments about analysts being uncool, please note that my tongue is firmly in my cheek with this. And iPhone fanboys - the lack of a sense of humour is by far the least cool thing you can imagine).

From the UK perspective, I'd probably boost 3 and Vodafone up a notch from "seriously uncool", as they're doing some fun stuff with Internet partners and so on. Orange probably deserves its own "so uncool it's almost cool again" category for its general old-school attitude to centralised control and things like IMS. The Apple iPhone (a very cool device on its own) is brought down firmly into "seriously uncool" as it's been bought & fawned over by so many geeky fanboys and wannabee-cool dullard hedge funders. Conversely, quite a lot of SonyEriccson phones are cool, which is probably why the company is on a warning from Sony over its recent lacklustre performance. All 3G dongles are cool as they aren't over-branded by the manufacturers.

The counter-intuitiveness and rampant subjectivity of the Cool Wall is its best feature.....

What else? Skype is now just merely "cool", as are most wireless VoIP companies, although geekiness is in danger of dragging them down. FaceBook is popular but useful, and doesn't have a "religious" aura, whereas Twitter is unbelievably try-hard and therefore uncool. UK regulator Ofcom is pretty cool, as is the FCC with its fairly principled stance on things like Net Neutrality.

I'd say that Qualcomm and Ericsson both qualify as "cool", as neither seems to mind an image of short-term conservatism as long as they reap long-term rewards. Nokia is a bit of a confusing mix - its hundreds of millions of self-effacing low-end phones like the 1100 are way cooler than its glossy-but-shouty E- and N-Series.

Any other suggestions?


Anonymous said...

Top Gear is way not cool. LOL.

Anonymous said...

Putting "telecoms" and "cool" in the same sentence is way way uncool.

Ctrl-F Replace "Cool" with "dork" and it all makes much more sense.