Nokia has begun its campaign to re-imagine itself at Mobile World Congress and is looking to become the most operator-friendly smartphone vendor

The news of Nokia’s partnership with Microsoft seems to be sinking in at Mobile World Congress. Nokia’s CEO Stephen Elop continues to appear throughout the event to again tell people why this move makes sense. He’s confident in his messaging and delivering it clearly but his enthusiastic explanations don’t do the scope of the announcement justice.

Elop declared at Monday’s keynote presentation: "A battle of devices is shifting to a war of ecosystems.”

This signals a move in the market that has been coming into focus in 2010 with the emergence of Android as a true force in the smartphone market. Throughout Mobile World Congress, Elop has been banging the “three-horse race” messaging hard and Windows Phone 7 with Nokia’s reach will create a third combatant in the smartphone market. This will be a definite but distant third player and one that will have to make a pretty drastic statement when they finally bring a device to market.

Jo Harlow, senior vice president marketing at Nokia Mobile Phones, has hinted that this will be within 2011 but her statement was definitely not a guarantee.

Operator Friendly

What has been interesting since the initial announcement Friday night, where Elop said he’d been on the phone with European operators reassuring them, is the operator-friendly message that Elop has been emphasizing. Elop seems to be carving the smartphone market up and putting Nokia on the side of the operator and its business model.

Operators are in a unique position and need all of the help they can get to retain revenue and take some control back in the market they brought to life. If you are an operator you see Apple taking market share in areas you’d like to excel in while Google has seen Android explode in 2010 and at the same time a revenue hog on the web. In the smartphone market these two players are in a luxurious position as operators grasp at different ways to answer the “dumb pipe” question.

Nokia and Microsoft have the opportunity to be the shoulder to cry for operators that have seen opportunities squander elsewhere. iPhone is established and Android is a force in the market as we have seen throughout Mobile World Congress with this additional platform creating, what Nokia says, will be more competition and choice for operators.

Elop explicitly addressed the operator community during the Microsoft keynote on Monday and let them know that Nokia’s new partnership will create the most operator-friendly smartphone platform in the market. He added that Nokia and Microsoft would help operators to retain and drive revenue, which aren’t likely goals for Apple.

Elop said: “We understand what it means to be friendly to operators."

This kind of messaging plays into Nokia’s history of strong partnerships with its operator partners and broadly makes sense but looking at another aspectof Nokia’s business you wonder if Nokia needs to focus on the smartphone market. The company has shown its strength around the world with feature phones and is still a force in the market even though it may not appear to be an innovator any longer.

Peters Suh, CEO of Wholesale Applications Community (WAC) noted in an application-focused keynote panel that Nokia has between 30%-40% global market share in handsets, which he then followed up by saying, “but I’m not sure that the smartphone market is a global phenomenon”. This is a fair statement as emerging markets with limited mobile coverage may struggle to take advantage of advanced features.

Feature Phones Not Its Future?

Suh was highlighting that perhaps this doesn’t play to Nokia’s overall position or strengths in the mobile market. It may not want to play the role of emerging market or feature phone vendor but that may be what it is good at. Nokia has been looking for an identity for some time and this move has not brought anymore clarity into play.

What is clear is Elop may be playing to operators now but eventually Nokia will need to attract consumers and prove to them that its Windows Phone 7 devices are not just operator friendly but customer friendly as well.

Matthew_Whalley

Edel_Telecom

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo believes the goal for Twitter is to be like water, to be immediately available and instantly useful.

Twitter has taken a mainstream role in pop culture but its CEO is striving to improve the service and have it reach more devices and engage more people.

Dick Costolo outlined Twitter’s goals, achievements and meaning at Mobile World Congress 2011 comparing the information network to the ubiquitous and usefulness of water. He said he wants Twitter to have the same functionality on every device, anywhere, adding that the Twitter experience isn’t the same on iPhone, Blackberry and Android. Costolo compared this to using a shower saying every time we use a different shower we don’t have to relearn how to use water.

 

Simple and Useful

"Our goals this year are that Twitter will be instantly useful. We want you to get a meaningful timeline right away," said Costolo. "We want the experience to be the same. I shouldn’t have to think about how to use Twitter…We want deep integrations into the platform. When you take a picture with a camera phone, you shouldn’t have to switch applications to tweet that photo."

He highlighted the importance of the mobile experience for Twitter users and noted that 40% of tweets are from mobile devices with 50% of Twitter users using multiple platforms.

Costolo continued the water analogy in explaining the meaning of Twitter and saying each tweet was like rain drop. There are billions of them but a single rain drop can hold tremendous meaning for some but nothing for others.

He said, “Some tweets are purely social and don’t have any extra meaning. This is where we’ve been criticized. What these criticisms miss is the distinctly personal connection of these tweets."

What Twitter has carved or stumbled upon is social context and how important that is for people as they sift through the mountains of data that appear in front of us everyday. As we try to make sense of all of this data, we need to shape it and contextualize it in order to evaluate it and give it meaning.

Costolo said the goal is to be simple and that is because Twitters users give order to their own universe and can constantly evolve their experience through following and unfollowing other Twitter users. Costolo sounds if he wants Twitter to be the least of the focus as its user focus on shaping their connections and interests into a service tailored to them. This ties into his ideas about deep platform integration noting that the Twitter just needs to work from smart devices to basic handsets with SMS services.

Costolo said: “With just a few social connections, a user is far more likely to become an engaged user. One of the things we have to do this year is shorten the distance between ‘awareness of Twitter’ and ‘engaged on Twitter.”

Revenue Through Engagement

This level of engagement is important to Twitter from a financial perspective as it is helping brands get in front of the right people with the right products and services but it will need to understand its users betters. Users that join Twitter and use it as a listening device are far less valuable to the company then people who are actively engaging with their community.

Costolo added that Twitter is making money. While that may be a vague statement, he certainly sounded like he understands his product and is clear on how he’d like to see the business grow.

Matthew_Whalley

Edel_Telecom

As part of our work with Orange, at a Group level, we’ve recently been involved in the launch of Mobile Exposure 2010 research and the launch of a new tool for advertisers – the Orange Mobile Targeting Monitor.

We wanted to share the research findings on the Pheasant for a couple of reasons:

  • The data is interesting from a tech point of view.  It reveals what content mobile media users in the UK, France, Poland and Spain are engaging with and when.   Of particular note is how applications are sitting alongside the mobile browser.  The research is a bit of a bench mark, so as Smartphone penetration grows it will be interesting to see how this usage evolves.
  • The advertising tool highlights the insight that is used to build advertising campaigns.  As I said in a post last week, PRs need to continue to use data to inform our thinking

Included here is a deck with the key research highlights.  If this subject is particularly of interest to you – then whiz over to the Orange micro-site to read and view more.

@LukeMackay

*just in case the above isn’t clear….  Disclaimer: Orange is a client, and I work on the account.  Our team was involved in the creation of some of the Exposure 2010 materials*

Seems like any company with a strong brand and customer base can be a hardware vendor. Hot on the heels of Amazon apparently launching its own tablet, clothing retailer Next is quietly offering a cut-price iPad wannabe.

Amazon has form with the brilliant Kindle eBook but Next has come a little out of left field. It’s all thanks to Android of course, the iPad-baiting open source OS that’s garnering millions of fans and users around the world.

Android’s modus operandi is the opposite to Apple. Android thrives on anyone and everyone playing with it whereas Apple thrives on being a closed shop,  locking users into its hardware, software, content and payment platforms.

Personally I think it’s a stroke of genius. The price point (£180) is massively undercutting the iPad as well as the sprinkling of Android tablets already announced by the bigger technology companies. Next customers get access to a global community of content as well as a (hopefully) decent device for enjoying media. Next gets the kudos of playing in the tablet market and, if it’s smart, a channel through which to pump content and hopefully generate sales. On this point, Next launched its own iPhone app back in February, and you can bet that feedback from that experience led to the development of its own tablet.

It makes you think who else could enter the tablet market. Banks, motoring organisations, football clubs, in fact any brand, company or organisation that has a decent brand, customer loyalty and a sales channel to get the product to market.

So, outside of the big tech hardware vendors, any guesses as to who will be next?

@paulwooding1973

Technology story of the decade? Possibly. Apple software engineer Gray Powell has certainly booked himself a place in geek folklore as the person who got p**sed and left a prototype new iPhone on a bar stool in California.

Had he have done the same thing in say Dudley or Walsall, he’d probably have gotten an email by the time he was home offering him his phone back for £500. Alas and alack, losing it in a bar full of technologically-curious drinkers meant that it was soon in the hands of top technology news website Gizmodo, and low, the secrets of the next generation iPhone were out.

A bad day for Apple then? I’m not so sure. Apple‘s security is notoriously tighter than a chicken-wire tourniquet, so would it really let an albeit it heavily disguised new phone out on the town?  Yes, Powell could have gone off-piste and disregarded rules about how and where you road test new products, but there’s still a slight whiff of “fit up” about this.

For one, the new specifications seem a little too obvious; camera flash with front facing video camera, higher resolution screen, bigger battery. Do you need to road test these? Secondly, the design looks like it’s taken a step backwards. It’s gone bulkier and less rounded (though of course the case could just be work in progress).

I wouldn’t be surprised if this isn’t an intentional Apple curve ball, thrown to keep the IT pack off the scent of the new handset which, let’s face it, will be launching into a market that is a lot more hostile than the one the original phone made such an impact in.

Either way, Gray Powell has made himself a quiz question for Technology PR agencies the world over, while Apple has got everyone talking about the iPhone, at a time when everyone is still talking about the iPad. Clever boys.

And should all this turn out to be true, then Apple can take solace in the fact that no matter how much this leak will damage the legendary mystique that usually  accompanies an Apple launch, it’ll be nowhere near as bad as Coca-Cola’s launch of its bottled water Dasani. Apparently early adverts carried the slogan “bottled spunk” (until they did a UK slang check) and it was soon ‘outed’ as being treated tap water, from Sidcup apparently. Then it was linked to causing cancer – and not even by the Daily Mail which usually holds the copyright to such speculation. Apple has nothing to worry about.

@paulwooding1973

I’ll admit it. I haven’t received an invitation to try out Google Wave. I’m like some social media pariah. But I’m actually quite pleased, because I’m sick of the damn thing already. And by all accounts (well, some) it’s not very good.

It did get me thinking though. In my eyes, Google Wave chatter over the past week has been massive. I’ve barely been able to move without some social media specialist begging for an invite and you can tell it’s buzzing because the spammers and scammers are all over it.

But how big is it really? If you check IceRocket for some stats, it does seem to have a nice spike, doesn’t it?

Wave

But then I thought I’d check that little spike against something else…another bit of technology that, while still of significant interest, hasn’t shoved out any big news in the last month or so. Our old mate the iPhone:

Wave and iPhone

Blimey, that puts Google Wave in some perspective, doesn’t it? The merest murmur in comparison to the iPhone’s consistent racket.

And then I thought, what about both these techie things against something of truly mainstream interest? So I called on my buddy Obama:

Wave and iPhone and Obama

Now, you have to say that against the USA’s first black president, the iPhone’s doing pretty damn well. But that’s not the most striking thing about this graph is it?

No. It’s the incredible correlation between the Obama and iPhone results. Look at them! They’re almost identical.

I think I’ve stumbled upon something here. Never seen Steve Jobs and Obama in the same place, have you? Jobs disappears for long periods due to ‘illness’ but do they happily coincide with US elections and G20 summits? I think they might.

We should be told.

The Renaissance Man understood the relationship between art and science perfectly. Music is mathematically constructed, but to pull at the heart strings it has to be infused with emotion. Da Vinci developed an unhealthy habit of digging up corpses – but the anatomic knowledge he gathered whilst elbow deep in bones was fundamental to his ability to draw the human form.

Art and Science are interlinked, so why are they so often viewed as conflicting polarities. For simplicity, snobbery, or stupidity’s sake, who knows? What interests me is that technology has always sat slightly outside both art and science; present in both yet embraced by neither.

At school, for example, we would learn about physics in the science lab, we would create electronic games in the carpentry workshop – fusing light and sound with acrylic plastic – in drama classes I learnt how to programme a lighting desk and in music we learned the fundamentals of sound recording. However, technology’s role has always been one of facilitation. It allowed us to see the actors, to balance the levels when recording; it gave my steady-hand game the satisfying buzz that announced a player’s failure.

But it stikes me that this is changing. Just as the digital revolution has seen technology warmly take residence in the sitting room, technology is finally being welcomed into the artist’s studio.

The renowned artist (and geek) David Hockney has recently discovered PhotoShop for his exhibition Drawing in a Printing Machine (read the Indy’s review here). The exhibition of “inkjet-printed computer drawings’, again uses the technology as facilitator. However, here Hockney is also celebrating the nuances of ink-jet, the possibilities of digital drawing; one of contemporary art’s greatest masters is presenting the technology as art itself.

Digital has democratised art, at least to some degree Just look at the explosion in iPhone art. Yes the iPhone is facilitating here, but you can’t ignore the potential for collaborative art if every mobile phone user has the tools in their pocket. That’s some creative commutes.

True – the fine art word will continue to protect and celebrate professional artists, as well it should. However, the tides may well be beginning to turn. In May, Tim Freeman was named Welsh Artist of the Year, which was the first time I’d noticed a digital artist beating traditional work in a competition. (As an aside check out Kozyndan’s work. They’re my favourite – combining pencil skill with epic digitial proportions). It’s probably worth noting that digital photography has facilitated the work of many photographers – both in portrait and reportage – but photoshop is still widely frowned upon in critical circles.

Video games are where perhaps the most obvious fusion of art and technology is played out. Games like Fable II have caused writers to rethink the relationship between film and game; whilst Spielberg has also got in on the act.

The Hide and Seek festival takes the principles of gaming and play and creates events which allow the public to take part in something truly unique. Sometimes theatre, sometimes playground game, sometimes living art – their initiatives are always fun. A recently developed ‘game’ is Playmakers. Again this fuses short-film making, with an element of collaborative fun to create a unique experience. (See the brains behind it, Mr Fleetwood, describing the project more eloquently here). What excites me about the project is that the camera isn’t just facilitating fun, it is bringing strangers together to create art.

So what does this mean for Tech Flacks? Well I suppose it should encourage us to really explore how art can work alongside technology to engage with consumers.

Art has the power to engage with audiences. That’s why consumer tech brands have been pouring money into sponsored events, such as the PlayStation Season programme. But we should move away from this outmoded, facilitator, approach. Gone are the days when a big budget sponsorship of an ‘arts’ event is enough to communicate with an audience. Let’s look (and encourage our clients to see) how technology can become art, let’s put the technology in the hands of artists, curators and consumers and let’s see what they can create with it. In other words let’s play…

Luke Mackay (@LukeMackay)

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