Mobile services thrive on ecosystem of different players

This network should be a mesh of different skills and competencies needed to push mobile services to end-users.

SINGAPORE--For mobile services to thrive, it is important for the industry to develop an ecosystem that can support its growth. So says, Peter Vestabacka, Finland-based founder and global leader of Hewlett-Packard’s ecosystem of mobile content developers and enablers, during his presentation at the CommunicAsia conference here.

HP set up its own ecosystem, called HP Bazaar, to bring together the skills and competencies of various players in the mobile scene and deliver services to end-users, he said. These include device makers, mobile operators, content developers and media owners. Music and ringtone downloads, mobile TV streaming and imaging, are just some of the services that are already gaining widespread adoption or are primed to take off.

In fact, companies are so keen to become active players in a mobile ecosystem that some have ventured into new markets, Vestabacka said. For example, carrier SK Telekom is buying a record label and Apple has made its foray into selling music. “There is a jockeying for positions that we see in all ecosystems,” he added.

To understand the role of each player, the ecosystem must look at elements that are vital to making mobile services work, he noted.

For instance, billing is a key component of building a relationship with customers, he explained, while device makers and utility providers such as mobile operators, also play important parts in delivering the services to users.

More smartphones to ship globally
The global market for smartphones will reach 25 percent of the total mobile phone market in 2008, according to Mauri Metsaranta, Nokia's global marketing director of software platforms.
This year alone, more than 50 million smartphones are expected to ship globally, he said, during a conference track at CommunicAsia yesterday.
There are currently more than 60 different Symbian Series 60 mobile platform-based phones from several phone manufacturers, including Nokia’s latest N91 phone as well as Panasonic’s X800 and Sendo’s X2.
The cost of smartphones is falling through technology advances such as single-chip design, optimized code and integrated hardware components, Metsaranta said.
Device makers are also trying to understand users better and developing more intuitive user interfaces.
The annual Megabyte (MB) data usage of a Series 60 phone user--over GPRS ad EDGE networks--is expected to double to 2MB in 2005, from 1MB last year, he added. This figure is projected to double again next year after 3G networks and handsets hit the market.

Highlighting the example that Vodafone offers, he said content providers and media companies can run their services--under the Vodafone umbrella--by leveraging on the operator's existing mobile users.

Vestabacka also discussed the potential of "visual radio", which brings together radio and graphics to mobile phones. Highly interactive, the tool allows users to maneuver through additional visual content while the music plays, he explained.

“(It's) very visual,” he said, adding that this can help create buying impulses as users scroll through the radio station menu while the music is being played.

“There are already tens of thousands of radio station out there (in the market)," he said. So it will be a competitive advantage for providers to combine their services with interactive content to get users to purchase songs.

Contrasting it with online services, he said that users do not have to make a conscious decision to go online and buy music.

Gregory Teo is a freelance tech writer based in Singapore.