Reminiscent of the Star Wars trilogy is the latest news regarding mobile phone operators banding together to fight off threats to their empires. Following the disastrous attempt at a common m-payments platform (Simpay) and continuing anticipation of the yet to be seen Wholesale Applications Community (WAC) is news of the possible creation of a common platform for mobile devices. Yes, you heard right, another mobile phone operating system!
The story surfaced in French newspaper Le Figaro that France Telecom-Orange CEO, Stephane Richard, has invited the heads of Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom and Telefonica for a tête-à-tête to discuss the possible creation of a common platform for mobile devices. According to the article the talks are motivated by concerns that Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems have become ‘Trojan horses’ for those companies to establish their own relationships with the mobile operators’ customers.
With the phenomenal success of both Apple and Android devices, and the subsequent applications market around them, it may be that the horse has already well and truly bolted. It is still too early to determine what form this new alliance may take and talk of developing a common platform may simply be a cover for more in-depth talks about how to jointly survive diminishing voice revenues, high but unprofitable data traffic, continuous network investment as well as the marauding OTT (over the top) poachers.
Even if the big four, with a combined subscriber base of around one billion, could decide on a common platform it would either have to be developed from scratch or be based on some existing technology. Then they would either have to convince existing vendors to join them or go it alone. Any attempt at closing out competitive devices from the established players would surely be suicidal commercially and would certainly attract the ever-watchful eye of regulators ready to pounce on any restrictive trade or anti-competitive practices.
GSMA’s Mobile Business Briefing reports that as an alternative to a fully-fledged operating system, the companies may look to a common operator-focused middleware layer, which could run on top of multiple handset operating systems, based on the technologies being developed and promoted by the WAC in which all of the operators are involved. This could potentially enable the partners to regain their control of the mobile services market from the new entrants, while also reducing fragmentation from the device manufacturer and app developer communities.
Seems a shame they had not thought of this earlier as they could have snapped up Palm before HP. Nevertheless, if all the conjecture is correct, one has to ask why? Surely the combined power of these major CSPs could be better used providing customers with the things that would really make them loyal and willing to spend more money. Maybe they could start by providing seamless roaming for data between their properties worldwide for a common reasonable fee? Now that would make their smartphone (and presumably high-yield customers) really happy and very loyal. If, like me, you turn off data roaming (and avoid voice roaming) every time you travel, then this would be a godsend and generate new revenue streams. The last thing we need is another mobile OS, let alone one emanating from a ‘committee’!