How we laughed and derided when the mobile phone network 3 launched with a walled garden. We pointed to AOL and how that didn’t work and then sat back and waited. In time of course we were proved right and the network opened up.
We’ve seen that the operators have learnt their lesson and no-one in their right mind would think of limiting services to being on-net. Interoperability is the order ofthe day.
And yet we do have walled gardens. You want BBM you have to have a Blackberry. Facetime? Your choice is Apple or Apple. Flash? Hello Android. This is the antithesis of communications. You should be able to use whatever technology you want to communicate with whoever you want. Having to know what hardware they are using is every bit as insane as having to know who they pay their bill to.
There should have been an opportunity to fix this through standards. The next generation, 4G also known as 3G LTE, is pretty much baked now and it was built with the consumer interest in mind. This means it’s only defined as a transport. Supremely flexible, forward looking and open. There is very little in the way of services which is mandated. Heck, they even forgot to stipulate a voice codec.
There is of course a lot of sense in this but given the way the handset manufacturers have built the walled gardens around their services there should have been a riposte from the standards bodies. Services which give the features and functions of BBM, Facetime and Flash – none of which need to be closed and mandated them. If a handset manufacturer wants to sell their wares into the network they will need to be compatible, not just with the radio side but with the abilities of the phones they need to talk to.
Unfortunately it seems too late. The walls have gone up and we are shut in.
Simon Rockman Simon Blogs on phones for seniors at: Fuss Free Phones