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Jeff Kagan

Technology Industry Analyst

Industry Analyst  Tech Analyst Wireless Analyst   Telecom Analyst

Columns ~ 2013 till today through 2014

Columns 2012- click here

Columns 2011- click here

Columns 2010 - click here



E-Commerce Times       




Jeff Kagan is a Tech Analyst, Consultant and Columnist.

He writes a column for both E-Commerce Times with ECT News with 6 million readers and is carried on thousands of web sites, and for..., a Global Financial Community magazine and now web site started in the 1950's.

Pick of the Week, is part of most columns and highlight a company or technology or something new, interesting and exciting that Jeff Kagan discovered and wants to share with you. 


As a nationally and internationally recognized industry analyst Jeff Kagan is also a highly sought commentator, columnist, speaker, author, professional agitator, opinion-ator and provocateur.


"Jeff Kagan became the single most widely quoted analyst in the telecommunications industry"

Dick Martin, Executive Vice President of Public Relations at AT&T (retired) said this in his book "Tough Calls: AT&T and the Hard Lessons Learned from the Telecom Wars"


 Analysis of high tech products and trends and the changes that are reshaping the industry


To learn more about Jeff Kagan visit


COLUMN TITLES (columns below)


Jeff Kagan: AT&T, Verizon, Sprint Connected Car Opportunity

Jeff Kagan: Why Did Google Disappoint and Whatís Next?

The Ultra High-Speed Internet Race Is On

Which Wireless Network Is Best for You?

Jeff Kagan: Microsoft, Yahoo, Sony Follow Netflix Into TV

BlackBerry's Coca-Cola Moment

Jeff Kagan: Status Report on Vonage VoIP

HTC Needs to Turn Up the Heat

Jeff Kagan: Every Company Rides Growth Wave Up and Down

Jeff Kagan: Cloud Based Computing Winners and Losers

Why Didn't Fliers on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 Call or Text?

Jeff Kagan: Sprint Chairman on Ultra Fast Internet and T-Mobile Merger

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: False Hope in the Sound of Ringing Phones

Jeff Kagan: Can Radio Shack Recover Before Itís Too Late?

Sprint Softbank's Jockeying for the Inside Track

Comcast-Netflix Deal: Watershed Moment for Web Content

Jeff Kagan: Will Facebook WhatsApp Voice Calling be a Winner?

Comcast-TWC Merger Is All About Investors  

Cable TV's Chilly Customer Relationships

Jeff Kagan: Sprint, T-Mobile Deal Fading - Whatís Next?

The New Wireless Wave: Prices Falling, Cloud Rising

Jeff Kagan: Why Does Lenovo Want Motorola?

AT&T's Gently Simmering Vodafone Ambitions

Jeff Kagan: When Will Apple Start to Grow Again?

Wireless in Autos: The Delicate Balance Between Change and Choice

Jeff Kagan: Will Aereo Win at Supreme Court?

T-Mobile, the Rip Van Winkle of Wireless

Jeff Kagan: Is Cable TV Winning Again?

CES 2014: Wireless Digs Deeper Into Our Lives

- - - 2014 - - - 

- - - 2013 - - - 

Jeff Kagan: Getting Most from CES 2014

Jeff Kagan: What to Expect in 2014 in Wireless, Wireline and Tech (Part I) (Part II) (Part III)

The Wireless Industry's Transformational Ripple Effect

What Does AT&T Have That Verizon Doesn't?

Jeff Kagan: Who Will Win the 1 GigaBit Ultra High-Speed Internet Race?  

Jeff Kagan: Wireless Spectrum Crisis Needs Solving

Sprint and T-Mobile Are Gunning for 2014 Recovery

Jeff Kagan: What Will AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile Look Like in 2014?

AT&T and Verizon May Start to Sweat in 2014

Jeff Kagan: Will SmartWatch Do Well in 2014?

Ericsson (ERIC) Predicts Rapid Wireless Data Growth

The Mystery of the Inscrutably Curved Smartphone Screen

Can T-Mobile Keep Hitting it Out of the Park?

Get Ready for World War TV

AT&T's Riding Shotgun as Tesla Drives Into the Future

Microsoft Should Read Customers' Lips on Windows 8

T-Mobile's Dangerous Game

Sprint's Deafening Silence

Carmakers Are Careening Down the Wrong Wireless Path

Which Road Will BlackBerry Travel?

Aio Wireless Hits the Ground Running

The Moto X Is Functional, Fun and Fashion-Forward

Who Needs a Samsung Smartwatch Anyway?

Microsoft, Nokia, Verizon, Vodafone: Who's Next?

Microsoft's Post-Ballmer Comeback

Wireless Industry Opportunities are Changing

Can Apple Recapture the Wow?

Do Your Homework Before Choosing an Unlimited Wireless Data Plan

Lenovo's Thoughtless ThinkPad Brand Strategy

Microsoft's Rip Van Winkle Syndrome

Can the Wireless Industry Change Its Mindset Before It's Too Late?

BlackBerry's 15-Percent Solution

BlackBerry Q10 Is a Hit and a Miss

A Search Service That Learns What You Want

Is Verizon's Uncomfortable Silence Savvy PR?

The Race for 3rd Place in the Smartphone Space

Lenovo's Shot at the Smartphone Market

When Customers Get the Shaft, Companies Are the Biggest Losers

Connecting With Key Influencers in the Industry Analyst Community

Tech Offers Web of Support for Stroke Survivors

Forgetting Today's Users May Be BlackBerry's Folly

CTIA's Eye-Opening Competition

Wireless: Fertile Ground for Wheeling and Dealing

The Wild and Wonderful Future of Wireless

It's Time for Aereo to Soar

BlackBerry Z10: All Sizzle, No Steak

Samsung's Galaxy S4 Dims Apple's Glow

What's Eating Microsoft?

The Tooth-and-Nails Scrap for the No. 3 Smartphone Spot

GM Switches Partners for OnStar's Next Big Dance

Elevating Customer Service to the Next Level

BlackBerry's Do-or-Die Marketing Challenge

Small Cells Could Solve AT&T's Data Problem

Why Apple is Losing its Shine

TV Industry Disruption: Aereo's Threat and Promise

Can BB10 Rescue RIM?

The Perils of Cloud Computing

The Skeletons in the Cable Companies' Closets




Jeff Kagan: AT&T, Verizon, Sprint Connected Car Opportunity

Jeff Kagan 

April 22, 2014 3:55PM   

Tickers Mentioned: VZ  S  T

We have watched the wireless space grow and change over the years, and change other industries as well. Healthcare, for instance, and especially automotive. AT&T ($T), Verizon ($VZ), and Sprint ($S) see this as a huge, new opportunity. The next question is when will other wireless carriers stick their toes in this water? Now is the time.

The AT&T Drive Studio is under their Emerging Device Organization. At Verizon itís called Verizon Telematics after they acquired Hughes Telematics, a competitor to OnStar. Sprint Velocity is handling their connected vehicle platform under the Sprint Enterprise Solutions business.

AT&Tís looks like they are in the lead with a current lineup for connected cars including Volvo, GM, Audi, Tesla, BMW and the Ford Focus Electric. They also have SiriusXM for their mobile connectivity with Nissan and Audiovox for their Car Connection Elite telematics device.

Verizon currently works with carmakers such as Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz. They provide assorted services like emergency services, navigation and remote vehicle diagnostics.

Sprint says they provide a solution for auto OEMís including the telematics platform, development and integration of complex components. They currently partner with Chrysler supporting their Uconnect Access service.

This is such an exciting new space, and we are still in the very early stages. The connected car is one of the greatest growth opportunities for the wireless carriers.

Glenn Lurie, President of Emerging Devices at AT&T Mobility says, once you add high speed broadband, wirelessly to cars, the car becomes a smartphone on four wheels.

And that says it all when it comes to this brand new, enormous opportunity for both the wireless and automotive space.

Cars will be able to automatically send data and download updates to its software. That means the car will always run better and the customer doesnít have to take the time to drive to the dealer. Customers love this. So do the automakers.

The connected car also provides all sorts of user features like live traffic, weather, email, text messaging, finding destinations, surfing the web, watching live television or downloaded movies and so much more.

The mobile Internet in the connected car is the birth of an entirely new growth segment. By the end of this decade we are expecting to see 65 to 75 percent of all new vehicles to be connected. It will start as an add-on feature with some carmakers for higher end vehicles, and then over time become standard for most.

Itís about automotive performance and communicating with the factory. Itís about next gen infotainment. Itís about working together with smartphones. Itís about automotive apps. This is the exciting new world that lies ahead.

This is all an enormous opportunity for the wireless industry and for the automotive industry.

Expect to see marketing and advertising in the auto sector start to change. While we are used to seeing them talk about safety, power or gas mileage, they will start to talk about being connected and how that will change our lives.

It will create a desire in the marketplace for the connected car. Something the average user has no idea about yet. However it will hit them right between the eyes in coming quarters.

However along with this opportunity there is also a risk. This connected car is one more area where the automakers must continue to hit the nail on the head. They must connect with the customer and give the customer what they want and need, even before they know it.

They must improve their conversations with the customer. There will be lots of home runs and lots of strikeouts. Live traffic reports and weather on the dash are winners. Self-parking cars, not so much.

Remember however that this is a brand new sector. We are still in the crawling stages. Just wait for this kid to get up and start to walk and run. Watch out. We still have to build the entire industry segment. It will take time. Yet it will be rapid growth.

Either way I think itís important to keep your eyes on this space. We will see enormous growth in this space for both the wireless carriers, and the auto industry. It will start with the high end cars then move into the mass market.

This is a long-term growth opportunity that will continue to change over time. And this is the kind of change that we can see the wireless carriers like AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and all sorts of smaller companies really sink their teeth into going forward

Jeff Kagan    +Follow          April 22, 2014 3:55PM 

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Jeff Kagan: Why Did Google Disappoint and Whatís Next?

By Jeff Kagan   

April 17, 2014 2:35PM   

Tickers Mentioned: GOOG  AMZN  FB  T  VZ

We knew it had to happen. Google Inc. ($GOOG), one of the tech industryís largest and fastest growing companies, missed Wall Street expectations. So what went wrong? And should we expect more disappointments, or is this just an occasional blip on the long-term radar? These are important questions whether you are an investor, worker, or partner with Google.

You notice I didnít mention customers. Thatís because customers continue to be blown away by the tech giant. Users and customers still love Google. However, this miss could make others queasy.

To answer the question quickly, let me start by saying I donít worry about Google. Not yet anyway. I simply see nothing wrong that hasnít been there for a long time. They are still a rapidly growing company that is changing industry after industry.

Google is not like other companies. Google does not just have one target product or one target audience. They may have started out as a search engine, but Google is so much more than that today. They ride multiple waves.

They are into so many different industries and business that is can make your head spin. Think of Google as a special kind of company who throws lots of ideas against the wall, quarter after quarter. Whatever falls away they forget about.

Whatever sticks they build into a powerful business. And the successes are typically new sectors with little in the way of real competition, at least in the beginning.

Google ideas are not typically in traditional sectors. They like to play on the edge. They like to build new sectors. They like to change things. Create new growth paths. And they are not alone. ($AMZN) and Facebook ($FB) do the same thing. If you recall started selling books online in the 1990ís and Facebook was a social messaging service until a year or two ago.

Today however Google, and Facebook lead the transformation of the entire tech sector. They all keep acquiring other companies and adding to their power base.

One important thing to know is all these companies continue to throw stuff against the wall. Itís a messy practice, but it works. Whatever sticks they build into new business segments and they lead.

They seem to be transforming the every slice of the tech sector, one by one. How long can they continue? Thatís the question that no one has an answer to. Eventually they will reach their peak, but that does not seem in sight yet.

Slowdowns do happen to every leading company. Just look at all of yesterdayís leaders who are struggling or even dying today. New competitors, new technologies and more change the space and take over the leadership.

Today that is Google, but for how long?

Sure, there are other companies as well who fit into that mold. Many started out doing the same thing then fell aside. Plus many other leaders of tomorrow arenít on the list yet. This is part of a very robust business economy in the tech sector.

Thatís what makes this so exciting to be part of. In that world, we canít be concerned with any particular quarter. We canít really think like day traders. Google, and Facebook are three examples of hot tech companies, which will continue to grow for many years to come.

Remember, Google is into not only search engines, but different search engines in different businesses or sectors. Some work and continue and others fail, but they keep growing as a company.

Example, I remember Google Health, which was a health care search engine. It made so much sense, but it is now gone. It didnít stick to the wall. So Google closed it down. Not everything works.

However plenty does work. Google is also in the smartphone and tablet business with their Android operating system. Not only do they make their own handsets, but they also are the operating system on a variety of competitors devices like the Samsung Galaxy.

Google is also many other businesses like Google Glass, smartwatches, apps like Google Maps, Gmail and countless other businesses.

In fact Google Fiber is also building one-gigabit high-speed data networks in what looks to be a growing number of cities competing with companies in this sector like AT&T ($T), Verizon ($VZ), CenturyLink ($CTL), Comcast ($CMCST), Time Warner Cable ($TWC) and Cox ($COX). This is another brand new sector for them.

AT&T (T) , Verizon (VZ) , CenturyLink (CTL) , Comcast (CCS) , Time Warner Cable (TWC) - See more at:

AT&T (T) , Verizon (VZ) , CenturyLink (CTL) , Comcast (CCS) , Time Warner Cable (TWC) - See more at: This is another brand new sector for themWith all these growth opportunities, I see Google still on the solid growth track, even though quarters can vary.

So Google is not slowing down. Instead they are accelerating. And I expect to see this continue for many years to come based on what I see so far. No matter what happens in any particular quarter.

That is until the time comes when, like Apple, they change from a growth company to just a very large and successful non-growth company. Unfortunately that does happen, but I donít think Google is anywhere close to that yet.

By    Jeff Kagan   +Follow          April 17, 2014 2:35PM 

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The Ultra High-Speed Internet Race Is On

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

04/17/14 12:07 PM PT

We are in the very early stages of an ultra high-speed Internet revolution that will benefit everyone: carriers, cities, companies and customers. Cities want it because they see it as a way to attract companies. That means they increase their tax base and have a strong growth economy. Companies want it because they see this as a competitive advantage, at least for a while, until everyone has it.


Want to watch a new tech race? Keep your eyes on the new 1 Gbps ultra high-speed Internet race. Over the next few years, this will continue to grow and become one of the hottest races around. So who will the leaders be? Today, entrants like Google, AT&T, C Spire and CenturyLink already have started their race for the gold.

First, it's important to understand this race, so let's pull back the camera. We can see that this race actually has been running for quite a long while. It is not new. Every year, local telephone companies like AT&T, Verizon and CenturyLink continue to increase Internet speeds. So do cable television companies like Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cox.

However, as fast as these speeds are -- and they are extremely fast -- Google wanted more. Google pointed to other countries where Internet speeds were even faster. Google wanted to speed up the process. So in typical Google fashion, it entered the race in Kansas City with its 1 Gbps service and challenged the existing providers.

Trend in the Making

Google did not do anything the others weren't already moving toward. It just turned up the competitive heat. Remember, the other competitors have huge national infrastructures to maintain. They each spend many billions of dollars upgrading their networks and increasing their speeds. All of that takes much more time than rolling out service to just one city, like Google did.

Kansas City was a success. Customers loved it. The media loved to write about it. Kansas City gained a competitive advantage, and suddenly many other cities wanted to be next on the list.

Over the last few quarters, we have seen a handful of other big-time companies jump into ultra high-speed race:

ēAT&T announced it would bring GigaPower to its first ultra high-speed city, Austin Texas;

ēCenturyLink announced its first ultra high-speed service in the Las Vegas area; and

ēC Spire jumped into the race by offering its Fiber to the Home ultra-fast Internet service in several Mississippi cities to start.

However, many competitors -- including Verizon, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox and others -- havea been silent. Will they eventually join the ultra high-speed race? I would hope so, since this is the future.

However some companies are leaders and others are followers. In this case, the leaders are Google, AT&T, CenturyLink and C spire. The others fall into the follower category -- hopefully, anyway.

The excitement is far from over. A few weeks ago, Google announced expansion of its Google Fiber to a few other cities. That news started getting lots more cities interested. Last week, AT&T announced its moves in North Carolina. It will roll out its ultra high speed U-verse Internet service with GigaPower to six communities in the Research Triangle and Piedmont Triad regions of North Carolina. It will begin as soon as it gets final approval.

What's next? AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said they would roll out this service to markets around the country. What this says to me is stay tuned, there is much more to come from AT&T. I would say AT&T looks like it is about ready to put the pedal to the metal on growth in this area.

So today it looks like AT&T and Google are the two largest and most aggressive players in this new race.

Here is a nagging Google question. Will it stay in this game as a player? I don't know. Initially I thought it wanted to use Kansas City as a showpiece to help jump-start the industry to a much faster speed. However it is now expanding.

Will Google Fiber stay in the competitive game to keep others building faster, or will it jump out at some point? We'll have to wait and see.

I also watched how Mississippi cities did their research, wrote their proposals, and created compelling arguments to win the first cities in the C Spire region for ultra high-speed service.

What this says to me is ultra high speed, 1 Gigabit Internet service is going to be one of the strong growth engines going forward.

Which Companies Will Catch the Wave?

Cities want it because they see it as a way to attract companies. That means they increase their tax base and have a strong growth economy. Companies want it because they see this as a competitive advantage, at least for a while, until everyone has it -- that will take years. Consumers want it, because they will be attracted to ultra high-speed cities for work and as great places to live and raise their families.

The first stage of this new growth opportunity looks like it will be individual companies moving into individual market areas. I don't yet see multiple operators competing in the same space yet. It will likely be this way for several years, until at least the first wave of cities have one ultra high-speed provider. As the future unfolds, we will see more companies moving into each market space.

That could mean prices for this service will start out higher. However, we can't blame companies for trying to recover their very high build-out expenses. This is the way it has always worked over time. Eventually, as competition grows, prices will come down.

Do you remember how expensive cellular phone service was 20 years ago? I predict the same thing here.

It looks like we are in the very early stages of an ultra high-speed Internet revolution that will benefit everyone: carriers, cities, companies and customers. It seems like everyone will win in this new environment.

Everyone who is a player will win, anyway. That's why sooner or later I see every service provider moving into this ultra high-speed race. It will be interesting to watch other companies jump in and join the fray -- and it also will be interesting to watch the companies that don't.   

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


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Which Wireless Network Is Best for You?

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

04/10/14 6:28 AM PT


The top two carriers today are very different from the bottom two. Each is different -- that's why choosing the right carrier for you is so important. Whichever you choose, make sure it offers a strong signal, fast speed, and good-quality voice connections where you spend time. If it doesn't, don't wait. It may be time to ask for a refund and try the next network on your list.


Every couple of years, it's time to buy a new wireless phone -- and every couple of years, we go through the same decision-making process. What should be the most important part of that process? The answer is not in the advertising. It's not about choosing a phone. Rather, it's choosing the right network -- and there is a difference between major carriers.

The four largest U.S. wireless carriers are AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile. Which is best for you? When it comes to quality, strength of signal and network footprint, you may be surprised. They are not all the same. There is quite a bit to consider.

Top Dogs

AT&T Mobility and Verizon Wireless are at the top. They are not the least expensive, but they do have the most customers. That fact alone speaks volumes. They have the widest national coverage and fastest networks in more locations. So, is either AT&T or Verizon right for you?

Remember, a wireless handset is nothing more than a paperweight unless it's connected to a network. So having network connection where you spend time is first and most important on the list of things to consider when choosing a carrier. While AT&T and Verizon are not perfect, they do offer the largest network footprints in the U.S.

There is also a difference in the quality of connections. You want a strong connection with four or five bars of network coverage. Having only one or two bars of coverage can cause quality and speed problems.

Generally speaking, both AT&T Mobility and Verizon Wireless have the broadest network coverage for voice and high-speed data in more locations. However, they have different hot spots. They don't offer exactly the same strength in all locations.

There are plenty of locations where one has much stronger coverage than the other. Make sure you choose the strongest connection where you spend most of your time. AT&T is better for some and Verizon is better for others.

In addition, AT&T and Verizon use different network technologies. They both have strengths and weaknesses, but one of the most important that I hear about is AT&T lets you talk and surf the Web and use wireless data services all at the same time. Verizon does not. With Verizon, you have to hang up a call to use the Internet, and so on.

On the innovation side of the coin, AT&T is strongest. It tends to try new things first. There is a reason its leads the change in the industry. One example is that it was the only carrier to offer Apple's iPhone for several years.

Let's say several networks offer you strong, high-quality connections. Lucky you. What is the next step in choosing the best network for you?

Fast Speed, Wide Coverage

Based on their television commercials, they all seem to offer the best quality with the most coverage and highest speeds, right? What each is saying may be accurate based on the words they carefully use. However, that's not the way to choose which is best for you.

Generally speaking, all networks offer good quality and high speeds today. However, some offer more than others. One test is how many of their customers would admit to having great wireless service. That's the real question.

The answer depends on where customers spend time. Network coverage is key to this part of the decision. Generally speaking, both AT&T and Verizon offer the fastest speeds in the widest coverage areas. Sprint and T-Mobile are fast too, but in fewer locations.

If you are in the middle of a city, that may not be an issue. Many carriers will do just fine. However, if you are located in the suburbs or travel between cities, this often becomes more of an issue.

AT&T and Verizon have the most-extensive network coverage. That means they offer the best quality calls and highest-speed wireless Internet in more areas.

While Sprint is not up to that point yet, it has been acquired by Softbank and is undertaking a multiyear upgrade that will transform its network.

When Sprint is done, it will have the newest network in the industry offering all sorts of new services. This is great news for Sprint customers. While it sounds very exciting, it's still down the road over the next couple of years.

Until about a year ago T-Mobile was struggling for its life, but it has been turning things around during the last year and actually is seeing growth. That's the good news. It has a new CEO and is marketing differently. It offers lower cost plans and markets directly to the youth of America.

While T-Mobile does have a few great spots in its network, its coverage and speed are not yet equal to competitors, generally speaking -- not yet, anyway. It is building and working to improve.

So, today AT&T and Verizon offer the widest network coverage, fastest service and best quality. They also impose higher costs, but based on their success in the marketplace, that does not get in their way.

In addition, they both continue to invest billions of dollars, year after year in their networks. Things are always getting faster and better.

But Wait, There's More

Wireless is only part of what AT&T and Verizon offer. They also offer telephone, high-speed Internet and television services, with their IPTV-like Uverse and FiOS. They are both heavily into other areas, too -- like healthcare and automotive, for example. They are strong competitors to cable television companies like Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox and others.

So, the very large AT&T and Verizon are in a completely different league than standalone wireless carriers Sprint and T-Mobile.

Over the last several years, both Sprint and T-Mobile were struggling in third and fourth place. However, both have started repairing during the last year. If that continues, I expect to see both growing as meaningful wireless competitors over the next few years.

The top two today are very different from the bottom two. Each carrier is different -- that's why choosing the right carrier for you is so important. Whichever carrier you choose, make sure it offers a strong signal, fast speed, and good-quality voice connections where you spend time.

If it doesn't, don't wait. It may be time to ask for a refund and try the next network on your list. Just remember, you only have a few weeks to return a phone. Make sure you ask about return policies before you walk out of the store.

I wish there were an easy way to choose the best carrier for you. Sorry -- it's not about watching a television commercial. It's all about where you spend time -- that's the secret sauce that really matters. 


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


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Jeff Kagan: Microsoft, Yahoo, Sony Follow Netflix Into TV

By Jeff Kagan

April 9, 2014 6:00AM   

Tickers Mentioned: AMZN   MSFT   YHOO   NFLX

Television seems to be turning into the new competitive playing field. Iím talking about the kind of TV that you suddenly find offered by Netflix (NFLX) , (AMZN)  and HULU. Companies like Microsoft (MFST) , Yahoo (YHOO)  and Sony seem to be next in line. Television is changing. What can we expect?

Iím not talking about cable TV, satellite TV or even IPTV from the phone companies, but Internet based television. This is either a brand new sector or a reinventing of the entire television space. This will either threaten or work with traditional television leaders.

We are still in the very early innings of this new ballgame so there is no way we can say who the winners and losers will be long-term. All we can do is stare with awe at the changes that are sweeping across the screen. And those changes will continue. We are still in the very early stages of a very different television industry looking forward.

First we have to understand this new industry. What the sectors are and who is playing in which. We have to ask whether these new companies are in the delivery business like cable television and IPTV companies. Or if they are more like the networks who create programming. Or perhaps like independent producers.

At this early stage itís hard to tell. Consider Netflix as an example. They are changing.

Netflix has been in the more simple delivery business for most of their lives. First they mailed DVDís to customers. Now they stream movies over the Internet. That means they are in the delivery business.

They are not cable television or telephone companies with IPTV, but they still deliver programming over the Internet connection most customers buy from these other companies. So will they eventually be a competitor or compliment existing services?

However today Netflix is expanding and creating new programming. I am talking about the highly successful ďHouse of CardsĒ series. This is not released on a more traditional model like we are familiar with on traditional TV.

This is a big first step for Netflix, which seems to be successful. So what is Netflix? Do they deliver movies to customers over the Internet? Yes they do. Do they create their own programming? Yes they do.

And they do all this without the traditional television model. Thatís the change agent.

While I cannot tell you exactly what the marketplace will look like ten years from now, I can say this. It will be different. Very different. It changes on a regular basis and will continue to do so.

That could mean more traditional companies will acquire or partner with some new companies. Or it could mean the more traditional model will have a larger competitive challenge.

Which companies will continue to lead and which will fail is the big question.

So while no one knows what the future will look like, it is advisable to buckle your seatbelts because the road ahead is not paved. Like when we created the commercial Internet in the 1990ís, the bumpy road will cause many companies to fail for every one that succeeds.

As excited as we can get over this new space, and the companies that are paving the new road, we must be careful choosing the right companies to invest in and work for and partner with. They wonít all be successful, but the ones who are could become very successful indeed.

By    Jeff Kagan   +Follow          April 9, 2014 6:00AM 

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BlackBerry's Coca-Cola Moment

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

04/03/14 9:41 AM PT

Coca-Cola did something very unusual for a corporate giant. Its executives said they were wrong. They admitted the customer knew best. They apologized for screwing around with the brand, and they brought back the good, old-fashioned Coca-Cola recipe. Those executives gave in to mounting customer pressure. If they hadn't, that may have been the end of the company.


BlackBerry CEO John Chen is trying to turn the company's fortunes around, and something it has in common with Coca-Cola could help. This is something very important, if BlackBerry realizes it. It's something that if done correctly could help the company succeed once again.

I have followed BlackBerry for many years, watching its ups and predicting its downs. I believe that if its leaders are alert -- and if they can learn -- the company can recover.

Coca-Cola has been around forever. It has been one of America's best-known and most loved brands for more years than most of us have been alive. It inspires a special emotional connection with customers, sort of like Apple does.

However, in spite of all its success -- which took decades to build -- Coca-Cola execs almost flushed it all down the drain overnight. A company's path can change directions, from success to failure, in a heartbeat.

Eve of Destruction

Remember several years ago, when Coca-Cola executives thought they knew the product better than the customer? They changed the recipe. They thought they were making a big move -- and it was indeed very big. It was one big punch in the nose.

Coca-Cola had been around forever. It had been on many consumers' taste buds since they were kids who walked to the corner store for a bottle of pop. It was part of America.

Many adults knew and loved the classic taste of Coke. It brought back memories of childhood, and they wanted to extend that relationship to their children. That nostalgia was something that benefited both the family and the Coca-Cola brand.

The customer feedback on the recipe change was immediate, negative and intense. Customers did not like anyone messing around with the Coca-Cola they loved. Customers wanted to know who those executives thought they were.

The bottom line was that Coca-Cola owned the secret recipe and could do anything it chose. However, that didn't mean customers would buy the new Coke. The change was a disaster.

That was the colossal mistake Coca-Cola's execs made. The feedback it generated may have been the worst any company has ever received -- to date. The executives were stunned. They didn't know what to do. They were like deer frozen in the headlights as traffic approached. If they stayed rooted to that spot, they would have been mowed over, and that might have been the end of Coca-Cola.

However Coca-Cola did something very unusual for a corporate giant. Its executives said they were wrong. They admitted the customer knew best. They apologized for screwing around with the brand, and they brought back the good, old-fashioned Coca-Cola recipe.

Those executives gave in to mounting customer pressure. If they hadn't, that may have been the end of the company. That move not only saved it, but also propelled it forward once again.

Coca-Cola's customer relationships were very close and special lifelong bonds. They took years to build, but they were almost destroyed overnight.

So how does this fit in with BlackBerry?

Batter Up

BlackBerry's story is so similar it is scary. Initially, customers loved the company, and it grew. It had a very strong brand and a special relationship with the customer. BlackBerry led the smartphone sector for years.

Then the marketplace suddenly changed. Apple debuted the iPhone, Google introduced the Android operating system, and Samsung took over leadership almost overnight, neck-and-neck with Apple. It happened so quickly BlackBerry didn't see ut coming.

BlackBerry was not the only company struggling to survive this change. Palm died. Nokia was pummeled. The entire industry changed over the last few years.

The call for new leadership and new vision came. Long-time BlackBerry CEOs who founded the company were forced to resign. A new CEO came in with radical ideas that looked as though they could be successful. However, when BlackBerry 10 launched, it was a dismal failure.

BlackBerry changed leadership once again, and now John Chen is at the helm. So far, I like what I see. However, there are still many questions. Will he take the company in the right direction?

Chen didn't immediately steer away from BlackBerry 10. To my way of looking at this situation, BB10 was a disaster. I have been saying since the beginning that the company should pull the new devices and go back to the old, faithful and successful design of BlackBerry 7.

It would have to update the software and operating system and speed of the devices, of course, but if it did, I believe it could continue to win and grow.

So my recommendation to BlackBerry is to do what Coca-Cola did. Say you are sorry. Say you now understand BB10 is a disaster. Say you will go back to BlackBerry 7 and keep improving that operating system and the devices that run it -- just like Apple, Google and Samsung do every year.

Is this what John Chen is finally starting to do? It's not clear, but I sure hope so.

Coca-Cola won in the end. So can BlackBerry, if John Chen understands and takes the right next steps.

BlackBerry, turn this into a big marketing and public relations event. Say you were wrong, and that you are listening to your customers and going back to BlackBerry 7, the software your customers really liked, modernizing it to keep it fresh. Then, maybe, just like Coca-Cola, you can hit a home run.


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


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Jeff Kagan: Status Report on Vonage VoIP

By    Jeff Kagan   +Follow          April 2, 2014 5:00AM   

Tickers Mentioned: GOOG   TWC    VZ   VG

Vonage (VG)  is one of the older VoIP companies that entered the scene more than a decade ago. At the time we didnít know whether or not they would become a long lasting option. Now a decade later they are bigger than ever on the consumer side and making aggressive moves into the business side of the market. So what can we expect Vonage going forward? You may be surprised.

When Vonage started about a decade ago they were, well, an annoying little company buzzing around the faces of the major Baby Bells, offering a new-fangled ďvoice over the InternetĒ service. Quality was so-so. Customers signed up for the service to cut their phone bills a bit, but it was a trade-off.

I met CEO Jeffrey Citron at a trade show and we spoke about the future of the industry and the future of Vonage. He saw Vonage as a glowing success story, which it was as an investment, but at the time it also had loads of quality issues and problems. I liked his spirit, but thought it would be a while before Vonage would ever grow into a meaningful competitor.

However as VoIP improved over the years, so did Vonage. Sure they still have problems, which I will discuss, but as years passed the problems had less to do with Vonage and more to do with limited bandwidth of some customers.

The question back then was simple, was it worth the savings if you didnít have a good quality call? Today I still get many calls from reporters using a VoIP service. Sometimes the quality is good. Sometimes it is terrible. None are ever as good as a local phone line.

I learned VoIP quality issues came from two areas. One was the VoIP provider and the technology they use, and two with the slower Internet connections many customers use. This Internet connection does not come from Vonage.

Some customers have a very fast, very high quality Internet service. Others have a much slower and less expensive service. The more expensive and faster service is better for VoIP. Slower, less expensive service can cause real quality problems with VoIP.

In recent years as Internet connections sped up from all the phone companies and cable television companies, things did get better. And as speeds continue to increase, things should continue to get better.

Certain VoIP services that had better quality began to stand out. Vonage was one of them. Not all competitors are. Today Vonage continues to grow. Perfect? Of course not. But they are better than ever and improving every year.

So VoIP, while not perfect, is going to continue to be a growing part of the market. Not every VoIP carrier has the same quality problems.

Cable television companies like Comcast ($CMCST), Time Warner Cable (TWC)  and Cox offer great quality VoIP services. So do the telephone companies like AT&T (T)  Uverse, Verizon (VZ)  FiOS and CenturyLink Prism who also sell VoIP services in addition to their regular telephone lines. They also combine television, Internet and phone.

These big competitors offer excellent quality VoIP telephone service because they offer their own high-quality and high-speed Internet lines. That can make the different between a poor or good quality call.

Vonage is not a cable television company. Vonage is not a telephone company. So Vonage does not offer high-speed Internet lines. Yet they require high-speed lines to operate with good quality.

Where do you get this high-speed connection? Thatís up to the customer. Customers with good quality and fast connections have better quality VoIP calls. Customers with poor quality or slower connections often have worse quality calls.

So when you complain about a lousy connection, first try and decide if itís the VoIP service, or the high-speed connection. 

Vonage has worked to improve their quality over the years and has had success. Not perfect, but better every year. If a customer has a fast and good quality Internet connection, then Vonage can be a good choice.

And as Internet speeds continue to increase, things should continue to get better for companies like Vonage.

Today we are starting to see companies offering ultra high-speed Internet connections like Google (GOOG) , AT&T, CenturyLink, C Spire and more. This will make a big difference as well.

Now Vonage is getting into the business side of the marketplace. This is helpful to them because most businesses do have a more expensive, better quality and faster connection than most consumers. They do this because quality and speed are a reflection on their business. They also have multiple people who use the service.

So when Vonage business service is hooked up to a business, the majority of their customers are still small and mid size businesses. Thatís good.

So having enough bandwidth is still key to a good quality call for consumers or business customers. Thatís where this ultra-fast Internet will be very helpful as it begins to roll out.

With all that said, Vonage Holdings Corp. acquired a company called Vocalocity in the Atlanta area last year for $130 million. Now Vonage is also a business services company.

Vonage is growing. Their new Business Solutions (Vocalocity) is staying put in Atlanta. They are hiring and rapidly growing. Atlanta has a powerful high tech business community.

The opportunity is huge in the business market on a nationwide basis if they do things right going forward.

Marc Lefar is Vonage CEO now. I knew him back in the Cingular days. Cingular today is called AT&T Mobility. He still lives in Atlanta and commutes to the New Jersey HQ of Vonage. Now Lefar has a reason to spend more time in Atlanta. They are rapidly building out this business solutions segment.

They must continue to work to improve and solve the VoIP problems, the need for high-speed network connections, and build their brand both on the consumer side and the business side of the fence.

VoIP is a large and growing business segment. It is full of large companies and small companies. So if Vonage can continue to build its brand, there is an opportunity. Of course this same opportunity is there for all Vonage competitors as well. There are many, small companies in the same space like RingCentral, 8X8, Jive,, Magic Jack and more.

So in this space full of small companies competing with each other and bigger competitors like the baby bells and cable television companies, building a competitive service and well known brand name and relationship with the marketplace is key.

This means VoIP is in flux, as always. However Vonage seems to remain on the growth track. Weíll keep our eyes on them and see how well they all do going forward.

By Jeff Kagan   +Follow          April 2, 2014 5:00AM 

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HTC Needs to Turn Up the Heat

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

03/27/14 5:58 AM PT

There are two key ingredients to success in the wireless space -- the steak and the sizzle. Both have to be perfect. The steak is the actual technology, and I think HTC has a great steak. The sizzle comes from the marketing, advertising, public relations and brand. This is HTC's weak area. I hope the company has learned some from last year and is more successful this time around.

HTC this week announced the HTC One M8, a new model of its flagship smartphone. When the HTC One made its debut last year, AT&T Mobility sent me one to test drive. I thought it was very well designed. However, what it had in substance, the HTC One lacked in brand recognition, marketing, advertising and public relations. Let's face it, HTC is not a well known and loved brand that customers walk in and ask for. Will it be different this year?

HTC is trying once again. Will it be more successful this time, or will it continue to be invisible in the marketplace? Just think about what HTC has done during the course of the last year to build its brand and name recognition... . OK, I can't think of much either. That could be a problem. Sure, it's a correctable problem, but it's still a problem.

HTC makes good Android smartphones. In fact, the HTC One -- both last year and this year -- is a solid device capable of doing anything an Android user wants.

So why didn't it succeed last year? Simple. It could not make a dent against the marketing and branding power of Apple's iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy. That is one hell of a wall to climb. So what will HTC do differently this time, and will it matter?

Where's the Brand?

The HTC One is now available at AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless and Sprint. T-Mobile and others will get it over the next several months.

This could give its marketing, advertising and PR more focus. Lack of focus was a problem last year, since the phone was introduced at different times by different carriers without a big coming out party.

The HTC One's marketing was weak last year. Advertising, marketing and public relations are all key to success in the wireless business. I have not seen much on the M8 front yet.

HTC makes very good devices, but it has struggled with building its brand, marketing and advertising. I am not quite sure the company really understands the importance of this part of the business.

Brand-building is key to success, and branding is something that HTC simply does not yet have. It could remedy this, by spending enough time, money and energy to build the brand. It needs to create a special halo over its head, which it could do very quickly if it does it right.

Not Sizzling Yet

HTC is up against two heavy hitters -- Apple and Samsung. These two capture most of the attention and soak up most of the oxygen in any room.

In addition, there are other companies that are trying very hard this year to make a dent in the marketplace and raise their own brand recognition: Microsoft, with its Nokia Lumia; Google, with the Nexus 5; Sony, with its latest Xperia; Motorola; LG; BlackBerry; and many more.

I hope HTC understands the marketplace and the importance of marketing and building its brand. I would like to see it succeed going forward. Meeting that challenge is up to the company.

There are two key ingredients to success in the wireless space -- the steak and the sizzle. Both have to be perfect. The steak is the actual technology, and I think HTC has a great steak. The sizzle comes from the marketing, advertising, public relations and brand. This is HTC's weak area.

I hope the company has learned some from last year and is more successful this time around. Let's hope it really can make some progress this year. One thing that's good is that it launched the HTC One M8 prior to the Samsung Galaxy S5 hitting the streets. Stay tuned. 

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


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Jeff Kagan: Every Company Rides Growth Wave Up and Down

By Jeff Kagan  

March 27, 2014 5:00AM   

Tickers Mentioned: AAPL    NOK   GOOG

Growth companies are always the place to be. However it depends where they are on the growth wave. Companies ride the wave up, then it crests, then it falls. Every company is somewhere on the growth wave. The only question is, are they on the way up, or the way down? Knowing this makes all the difference whether you are a worker, partner or investor.

To make my point let me share some examples.

Apple (AAPL) is the first. In the 1990ís Apple was not a rapidly growing success story. They had computers like the Mac, but their growth was not stellar. Then in the late 90ís they came up with their first growth wave, the iPod. The iPod changed the direction of the entire company.

Then before that growth wave crested and fell, they created the next growth wave, the iPhone, and then the next, the iPad. So Apple was growth company through the 2000ís.

However we havenít seen anything new in the last few years from Apple. That means the growth company has slowed. It wonít start its growth engines again until it creates new products or new categories.

So Apple is a great illustration of the course of a company on the growth wave. They created several and they continued to grow. Until they stopped creating the next wave, then they stopped being a growth company.

AT&T (T) is another great example of a company transforming and creating the next several growth waves. However, they are a bit more complex than Apple.

AT&T was a growth company through the 1990ís. It rode the growth wave and looked very strong. Then it lost its way, crested on the wave, and started a rapid drop.

It eventually spun off the AT&T Wireless business. It sold off the cable television business to Comcast ($CMCST). Then it lost its consumers to the ďBaby Bells.Ē What was left after a few short years was a much smaller and weaker and dying business services companies.

Thatís when SBC, the Baby Bell from San Antonio Texas acquired AT&T and took the name. At the same time SBC also acquired BellSouth and Cingular. That changed everything.

SBC executives now ran AT&T. Over the next several years they did a great job of integrating all these companies into the new AT&T. They updated the image and shined up the tired old brand.

Today AT&T is one of the fastest growing industry giants. This is a huge success story. Sure there were bumps in the road, but after the acquisitions they started a new growth wave which they are still riding today.

The local phone business and the long distance business days were numbered. Sure they are still around, but they are not the growth parts of the business.

Today the growth parts of AT&T business are wireless with AT&T Mobility (previously Cingular), broadband, television with IPTV and new services like wireless security and home automation, wireless healthcare, wireless automotive, and helping other industries use wireless to meet the future.

So AT&T is a company who continues to ride wave after wave. They donít wait for the first wave to crest and fall. Instead they continue to introduce new waves to the mix. AT&T continues to grow.

Motorola is another example. Motorola was the first, best and biggest in the handset business, for generations. Then they missed the move from analog network to digital. Nokia (NOK)  took over the lead for the next decade.

Motorola, which had been riding their multi-decade long wave up, had crested and was now on the downside of the wave. Finally after years they came up with the Razr. This should have been the beginning of their recovery.

Instead the Razr was a one hit wonder. It was a wave they rode up, then when they had nothing to replace it with, Motorola started to fall once again. Then the company was a mess for years to come.

Finally Motorola got together with Verizon and marketed the Droid wireless phone. This kept them alive. Then the company split up. They were eventually acquired by Google (GOOG)  not long ago. Now Lenovo wants them.

I hope they can ride the growth wave once again, but who knows what the future of Motorola is at this point.

Apple, AT&T and Motorola are just three examples of the wave. Itís important when choosing a company to work with, partner with or invest in, to find one that is on the growth side of the wave.

Unfortunately most people just look at the brand name and the products in the market today and that is simply not enough. Sometimes it takes a bit of time for reality to catch up and bite you in the rear end.

Choosing the right company on the growth side of the wave is always a much better place to be, hands down.

By Jeff Kagan     March 27, 2014 5:00AM 

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Jeff Kagan: Cloud Based Computing Winners and Losers

By Jeff Kagan

March 20, 2014 7:30PM   

Tickers Mentioned: T







Cloud based computing is getting lots of attention lately. It is one of those brand new technologies that is very chaotic. There are winners and losers and they will continue to change. However it is not really new. What we see now is new thinking, new ideas, new technology and expansion in new areas. Today, only some companies seem to be doing well in this space.

Cloud computing itself is not new. Companies have been using it for many years letting their workers log on to the network. Data and software are stored on the network. Users simply log on and work.

The cloud is also not new in the open consumer marketplace. There are countless examples, but just think of (AMZN)  and Carbonite (CARB)  to understand. These are e-commerce and automatic backup services. And there are many more.

The cloud has been with us for a while, but now it is growing and changing and expanding. As an example, think of the smartphone side of the wireless business. Smartphones have been around for a couple decades already. Think Blackberry and Palm. However the smartphone segment changed and expanded rapidly a few short years ago when Apple iPhone (AAPL) , Google Android (GOOG)  and Samsung Galaxy hit the streets.

The entire smartphone segment rapidly changed. Carriers now focus on providing fast access to data and apps. And the app market has exploded from a few hundred to nearly a million in just a few short years. So smartphones may have been with us for a while, but this new expanded smartphone market changed everything.

Thatís what is happening with cloud computing. There are well-known, older companies and technologies that are trying to ride this wave and continue to lead. At the same time there are brand new ideas and companies whose technologies are dramatically changing the world.

Not every company in this space does well. During the last few years, anything having to do with cloud computing seemed to be a hit. However now it seems things are shifting. Many older and more established companies and ideas are having a tougher time staying in the sweet spot.

The real hits seem to be the new ideas and companies and technologies. Some of these come from new companies who want to change the world. Others still come from existing players.

Today some existing brand name players seem to continue hitting home runs, while others are struggling.

So what is the cloud? Itís actually many different things depending on the company, the technology and the marketplace they serve.

The cloud can be software as a service. Rather than buying software at a store on a disk, you just log on and use it. It is always updated automatically.

Or the cloud can be a platform as a service. Think of the Apple iCloud where users store all their data on the iCloud rather than on their devices.

Or it can be infrastructure as a service. This is a wide-ranging offering.

And that is just today. The cloud continues to expand. What will the cloud be in the next few years as it continues to grow and change and expand?

Today there are private cloud and public cloud services customers can use, plus there are hybrid cloud offerings as well.

Some of the bigger names in the cloud space are, Google, Oracle Cloud (ORCL) , Microsoft Azure (MFST) , Salesforce (CRM) , Zoho and many others.

There are also service providers who I believe will be important players in this cloud space like AT&T (T) , Verizon (VZ) , CenturyLink (CTL) , Sprint (S) and C Spire on both the wireless and wire line side. This is also an opportunity for companies like Windstream (WIN)  who are service providers and already have the kind of corporate customer that can use the cloud.

Thursday a company called Q2 went public. CEO Matthew Flake said in an interview on CNBC that Q2 is a smaller and newer company breaking into the rapidly growing and changing cloud space. They seem to see a very bright future.

At the same time consider Oracle Cloud. Oracle is a well-known, long time brand name yet it seems to be struggling in this cloud sector currently. Can they recover? Yes of course. ďWill they?Ē is the real question.

What this means is there are no guarantees. Some well-known brand name companies will do well while others will struggle. And many newcomers have the chance to rattle the cages and really breakout in this new and fast growing space.

So who will lead? Will it be smaller and newer technologies who are the nimble ones? Or will it be existing brand name leaders who either continue to grow or successfully regroup and recapture their growth waves?

Good questions. The answer is some companies from both groups. All I can tell you right now is the cloud is the future. There will be public and private and hybrid clouds that will touch every aspect of our business and personal lives.

The cloud is one of those spaces that is young and developing and changing. Often it takes small and nimble companies to make sharp turns and continue to open markets. Then again look at how well established companies like AT&T Mobility and Verizon Wireless have done with their cloud offerings supporting the new smartphone world.

By Jeff Kagan   +Follow          March 20, 2014 7:30PM 

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Why Didn't Fliers on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 Call or Text?

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

03/20/14 5:00 AM PT

If there were no messages received, does it mean the plane experienced a sudden catastrophe? Based on the latest news accounts, the answer seems to be no. The plane flew off course for several hours. So why didn't anyone send messages? Were they unable to? Were they unconscious? There's speculation that a sudden elevation change could have knocked everyone out quickly. Is that what happened?

There has been quite a bit of media speculation on the loss of Malaysia Flight 370. However, many important questions simply are not being answered yet. One that many people are wondering about is this: Why didn't anyone on board that plane call or text message anyone?

During the last week I have appeared on many news shows -- NBC, CNN with Wolf Blitzer, FOX News with Megyn Kelly, and an assortment of other shows on national networks. The same questions repeatedly come up, but there are no answers.

One I've been pondering is this: Why didn't the passengers on Malaysia Flight 370 call, email or text any messages?

Deceptive Ringing

Some family members have been upset because when they called the cellphones of their loved ones on the flight they would hear several rings before the call attempt would fail. Unfortunately, that means nothing. If you're calling a landline, when you hear it ring, it is ringing.

However, cellular calls don't work that way. When you dial and press send, you start to hear ringing -- but that does not mean it's ringing on the other end. It simply signifies the network is searching for the phone you are dialing.

If both phones are on the same network in the same country, the connection can be made on the first ring. If there are two different networks involved, it can take another ring or two. If the two networks are from different countries, the number of rings can stretch out longer.

To give you an example, my wife and I use two different wireless networks. When she calls my wireless phone from her wireless phone, she often hears several rings before I hear it ring once. Hearing the sound of a phone ringing on the other end means nothing, unfortunately.

If a plane is flying high, or over the ocean or a non-populated area, there are likely no cell towers to log onto. If a wireless phone is not logged on to a cell tower, it's not connected. If it's not connected, then it's no better than a paperweight. It simply won't work.

There are other ways to message, however.

Sat Phones and WiFi

There are phones in many planes today. These are not traditional cellphones. Instead, they connect to the airplane, then to a satellite, and then to the ground. These are expensive, but a great way to call from the air.

Were phones like these on the Malaysia Airlines plane? If so, were they used? Why has there been no answer to this question as yet?

What about WiFi? Many U.S. domestic flights offer Internet access through Gogo In-flight and other services, allowing users to send email and chat messages.

Was WiFi available on Flight 370? Were any messages received? Why no answer to this question yet?

If there were no messages received, does it mean the plane experienced a sudden catastrophe? If you believe the latest news accounts, the answer seems to be no. The plane flew off course several hours. So why were the passengers not sending messages? Were they unable to? Were they unconscious?

There's speculation that a sudden elevation change could have knocked everyone out quickly. Is that what happened?

Then there is cellphone jamming technology. Sure, it's illegal, but so is hijacking a plane. It could have rendered every phone and computer on the plane unable to communicate.

I'm raising questions, not suggesting answers. I have no answers. I am not an aviation expert, but I have been following wireless technology for decades. Someone must have at least some of these answers, right?

Malaysia Airlines should answer these questions. Did this plane have wireless phones or WiFi for fliers to use? Families and international searchers need answers.

Sat Tracking Overdue

For the future, we can learn many lessons. One thing we must do going forward is make sure every plane that flies has every bit of technology help available.

For one thing, it should not be possible for pilots or anyone on a plane to turn off its tracking technology.

Every plane should be equipped with satellite tracking technology. U.S. planes will have it -- but possibly not until as late as 2020. The timetables for other countries to adopt this tech is unknown.

We need Malaysia to be more open with the world so we can fill in the blanks. Let's start with whether this flight was equipped with satellite phones or WiFi service. 

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


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Jeff Kagan: Sprint Chairman on Ultra Fast Internet and T-Mobile Merger

By  Jeff Kagan 

March 12, 2014 6:00AM  

Tickers Mentioned: S




Masayoshi Son was not on anyoneís radar a year ago, but he is punching his way onto the US wireless map these days.

He is the new Chairman of wireless carrier Sprint (S) . Son was on CNBC the morning of March 11 talking with reporter David Faber, and had some very eye opening and industry reshaping things to say.

Son says wireless Internet speeds are too slow and too expensive. He says he wants to change that in the USA. He says other countries are faster and less expensive and wonders why this is not the case here as well. He has a plan to remedy this situation.

Son is head of Softbank, a very large and successful wireless and technology company in Japan. Softbank acquired 80 percent of Sprint last summer. Now he is Sprint chairman and Dan Hesse is Sprint CEO. Son flies to the US on a regular basis and meets with Hesse and other execs and plan their strategy.

First Hesse says they are ripping out every last piece of equipment on the Sprint wireless network and replacing it with brand new technology that can handle much faster speeds and much more innovation. This will take a few more years to compete, but they are moving very rapidly.

Next, Son wants to merge with T-Mobile (TMUS) . US regulators are not so excited about this idea. They already said no to AT&T (T)  a few years ago. What will they say to Sprint?

The question is simple. Will the US marketplace remain with four top competitors, AT&T, Verizon (VZ) ,Sprint and T-Mobile, or will he make his case and we will have three major competitors?

There are good points on both sides. I guess itís a matter of which way the US regulators want the wireless industry to develop going forward. And even if the answer is no today, Softbank could still win T-Mobile under another government administration a few years from now. So either way this is not a short story.

This is the case Masayoshi Son is making to the American people. Of course the American people donít vote one way or the other. Thatís the job of regulators like the DoJ and the FCC. However Son wants T Mobile and is willing to take his story to the people of this country and try and win support.

The more I see Masayoshi Son, the more I like him. He may be the wealthiest man in Japan, but he also has what it takes to shake things up in the US wireless industry. Whether he can persuade US regulators is another question. Weíll see.

One example he discussed on March 11 was how in other countries the wireless Internet speeds are getting faster and price is falling. This is the typical technology path by the way. The longer something is in the market, the better and faster and cheaper it typically gets.

Son says it does not work that way with wireless Internet in the USA. Here our Internet speeds are still slow and prices continue to rise compared with the rest of the world. He says in the US market the price keeps going up.

When we say Internet, itís important to realize there is more than one kind. There is the wire line Internet from the phone company or cable television company, and there is the wireless Internet provided by wireless carriers. Son is talking about the wireless Internet where speeds are slower and more expensive than wire line.

However, with or without Son I would say that this whole space is beginning to change. Example, ultra high-speed wire line Internet is starting to expand around the country. We see large and small companies stepping into this new space.

Wireless carrier C Spire is building and will roll out ultra fast, wire line Internet in cities throughout Mississippi. This is very interesting, a wireless carrier moving into a wire line space.

Ultra high-speed moves from a growing list of companies like AT&T and Google is very exciting. And we are still on the very early steps of this very fast new world.

Masayoshi Son and Sprint want to be part of this world. They want to drive it. They want to bring this ultra fast Internet to the wireless world as well. He says in the USA, wireless Internet speeds are in the 5 Ė 10 megabits per second. Landline broadband is 20 Ė 30 mbps.

He then says they would like to provide up to 200 mbps speeds. Thatís the target they have. He did not mention price, but either way thatís pretty impressive.

He says in Japan they already have 20 Ė 60 mbps and they are testing in Tokyo a speed of 700 mbps on the street. He says nationwide coverage at this speed will take several years.

So one way or another, tomorrow will be very fast indeed because as I mentioned above, we already see competitors jumping into this same area on the wire line side.

Son says he is throwing a stone into the pond. The wake-up call. Will he be successful? Who knows. Weíll just have to wait and see. But tomorrow seems very exciting indeed. Stay tuned.

 By  Jeff Kagan   +Follow        March 12, 2014 6:00AM 

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Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: False Hope in the Sound of Ringing Phones

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

03/11/14 9:13 AM PT  

If the calling phone and the receiving phone are on the same network, the call can connect more quickly. If they are on two different networks, it can take a bit longer. If the two networks are in different countries, it often takes even longer to connect. When you hear the sound of a phone ringing several times, that does not mean it is ringing at the other end.


I received a call from NBC News on Monday about an interesting angle on the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 mystery.

Relatives of passengers on the missing aircraft apparently said they had dialed the cellphone numbers of loved ones on the flight and reported that the phones rang -- several times in fact. Then the calls were terminated. What could this mean?

Nineteen family representatives signed a statement affirming that when they dialed their loved ones, their phones rang rather than immediately going to voice mail, according to a report published in That has raised quite a few questions.

Many Variations

We all know that sometimes a call goes directly to voice mail. Other times, the network says the party you are calling is unavailable. There are all sorts of possible responses or messages, depending on the network and the circumstances. There is no common way every network handles every different attempted call.

This has caused confusion among friends, family and others following this event. I am sorry to say that when you hear ringing, it means nothing.

The way the wireless industry works is that each cellphone carrier simply chooses what happens when a call is placed. It is often different depending whether the calling party and receiving party are on the same network, on two different networks, in the same town or in different countries.

The missing Malaysia Airlines plane was flying over open water, far from any towers transmitting cellular signals. Smartphone batteries typically don't last several days -- however, the batteries in ordinary cellphones can last up to a week or so.

Many cellphone carriers worldwide have set up their systems to start the ringing sound immediately after the caller dials the last number and presses send. The idea is to signal that the call is being connected.

What happens next is that the network tries to find the phone being called in order to complete the connection. This lasts several seconds, during which the phone may ring several times. If the party you are dialing is found, the call is completed. If not, the call is disconnected.

No Connection

When my wife calls me, she says it rings several times before I answer. However, when my phone starts ringing, I pick it up on the first ring. That difference is the time is takes the two different networks to talk together and connect the call.

If the calling phone and the receiving phone are on the same network, the call can connect more quickly. If they are on two different networks, it can take a bit longer. If the two networks are in different countries, it often takes even longer to connect.

The reason I'm writing this is just to provide clarification about what can be a very confusing process. When you hear the sound of a phone ringing several times, that does not mean it is ringing at the other end.

This missing Malaysia flight is one of the biggest mysteries we have ever seen. How does an airplane simply vanish? My prayers are with the travelers and their families who are anxiously waiting to learn what happened and what happens next. 

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


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Jeff Kagan: Can Radio Shack Recover Before Itís Too Late?

By  Jeff Kagan   +Follow        March 7, 2014 6:00AM  

Tickers Mentioned: RSH   EBAY   BBY    S

Radio Shack (RSH)  said on Tuesday they will close roughly 20 percent of their stores. What does the future hold for this long time electronics giant? Weíve seen this story before. Best Buy (BBY)  is just one of many examples as they struggle to recover. Circuit City wasnít so lucky. So what is the future of Radio Shack?

We all know how the Internet has changed everything. Companies like (AMZN)  and eBay (EBAY)  grow like crazy, eating everyoneís lunch, while it seems more traditional retail stores struggle and even disappear one after the other.

This has been a story we have been discussing for 20 years. The Internet started its mainstream push to reinvent the entire retail establishment, worldwide around that time. There were plenty of Internet failures, but there were also plenty of successes and they are changing the way people compare and shop.

We continually watch big name retailers lose, one by one to the Internet giants. However not all lose. There are also plenty of traditional retailers who are still growing like crazy and doing strong business. These come from every corner of the marketplace serving both the high and low end.

So what is the problem at the companies like Radio Shack who struggle? And what can they do in order to recover?

Thatís the million dollar question and the answer is not all that complicated. Find the right leadership who understands the new challenges and opportunities, and who is willing to change the company thinking and update the brand image in the marketplace.

Let me give you one clear example. AT&T (T)  and the Baby Bells were the leaders in the telephone business for well over 100 years. AT&T handled long distance nationwide and the baby bells, local phone service in regions. Of course they had no competition so it wasnít as difficult to maintain that position.

Then the world changed. Competition came. First it was companies like MCI and Sprint (S)  on the long distance side. They were tiny competitors aimed at AT&T. The baby bells saw this and in the early 1990ís decided to prepare. So they focused on improving their relationship with their customers and freshening their brand and offerings. It worked. Today they enjoy a much stronger customer relationship.

AT&T decided since it was going to go into competition with the baby bells they had to change as well. However they changed by modernizing their offerings. They didnít focus on repairing their relationship with customers and refreshing the brand. That was the mistake.

Through the 1990ís, AT&T was under attack, yet it still got into other businesses and continued to grow. They got a new CEO, became the largest wireless company and the largest cable television provider when they acquired TCI out of Denver. This helped them compete with the brand new Americast television service from the Baby Bells.

We thought things looked good. Then the Telecom Act of 1996 set up the rules for competition moving forward. It said both AT&T and the baby bells would be able to sell the same local and long distance services and compete with each other.

That was the world we thought was coming. That was before anyone knew the Internet and wireless revolution were about to transform the entire industry virtually overnight.

We all thought everything was looking good at AT&T until we suddenly realized it wasnít. AT&T was failing. Losing to the Baby Bells. So over the next few years they spun off their wireless business, which then became Cingular. They sold their cable television business to a small cable TV company called Comcast. They lost consumers to the baby bells as well.

So all that was left at AT&T was a small, business services company. The company had failed, had shrunk, and was now lying on its deathbed. It was a sad and depressing time.

Actually it was sort of like the Radio Shack story today. What happens next to Radio Shack is what is most important.

In AT&Tís case, one of the small Baby Bells, SBC out of San Antonio Texas decided to make a play. They acquired the failing AT&T, but they didnít stop there. They also acquired BellSouth and Cingular over a couple short years. They seemed to transform from the smallest to the largest of the Baby Bells.

What happened next was a stroke of genius. SBC changed its name to AT&T. It changed the Cingular name to AT&T Mobility and kept the headquarters in Atlanta. It moved the San Antonio HQ to Dallas for more good workers, more growth potential, and then it started to rapidly grow.

AT&T CEO Ed Whitacker retired and was replaced by another SBC fire starter Randall Stephenson who has grown the company to incredible heights during the last decade. He updated and refreshed the brand and the entire experience with the customer. The two of them transformed AT&T from dying on the vine to one of the two largest and most powerful companies in the United States.

So a weakened company lying on the deathbed does not mean itís over. It just means itís time for some major changes. Itís time to transform the company to compete and win going forward before itís too late.

Look at Best Buy as an example. Best Buy has too many very large stores. They must shrink their store footprint and increase sales. Something they do indeed seem to be making progress at. It takes too long, but they are heading in the right direction.

The same solution could work at Radio Shack. Except they have small stores. So they have to increase their tiny store sizes. Which means they may have to close more, smaller stores and replace them with fewer, larger stores. And reinvent their Internet and online presence. Then they can grow from there.

Is Radio Shack finished? No they are not. Not as long as they believe they are not finished. Not yet at least.

It all depends on what they do going forward. They still have one of the oldest and best-known brands in the business. Just like AT&T did. However it needs to be updated and refreshed, just like AT&T did.

Radio Shack tried to become the number one retail environment in the wireless space. It didnít work. Customers didnít know that. Customers follow their marketing noses. And Radio Shack simply never busted out above the ambient noise of the industry.

They can do it. It takes new and fresh thinking. New ideas. They must modernize the brand. They must become important to the customer for some strategic reasons. That means they have to spend to reinvent. And they must be bigger and bolder and louder than the industry noise so they can be noticed.

So can they do it? Of course. The real question is ďWill they?Ē

By  Jeff Kagan   +Follow        March 7, 2014 6:00AM 

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Sprint Softbank's Jockeying for the Inside Track

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

03/06/14 6:15 AM PT

A Sprint T-Mobile merger may appear almost impossible because of early regulator pushback, but I expect Softbank's Masayoshi Son to pull out all the stops as he continues to work with regulators. I am not saying the deal will absolutely get done. However, Son has demonstrated that he is willing to bend until he wins approval. I think that's exactly what's happening behind the scenes right now.


What is going on with Sprint Softbank? What will the company look like when it finally emerges from its cocoon? Who else will it merge with? Where will it be based? There has been quite a bit of transformational work going on.

Sprint and Softbank won U.S. government approval after months of vigorous debate and got together last summer. It once seemed doubtful the merger would happen, yet it did. Then Sprint Softbank went quiet. It started rebuilding the Sprint network. It said that it would emerge as one of the industry's leaders.

In addition to rebuilding Sprint's existing network, Softbank seems very interested in making other acquisitions in the U.S. marketplace. T-Mobile may be a target, although no official offer has been made. So far, it appears T-Mobile would be a willing participant in such a deal. U.S. regulators, though, are another story.

Give In Until You Win

Today, U.S. regulators seem opposed to a Sprint, T-Mobile merger. That typically would be enough to convince most companies to drop the idea and move on. However, that's not what I think will happen here.

The same kind of negative talk surrounded the Sprint, Softbank merger. No one thought it stood much of a chance -- yet it did happen. Why? Masayoshi Son, CEO of Softbank.

Faced with regulator push back once again, Masayoshi Son, the man who doesn't know the meaning of the word "no," is about to make his case directly to the American people, business community and regulators. His mission: to convince everyone that further consolidation would improve the wireless industry.

Son has met with pushback before and has won. He painted such a rosy picture of the future of the wireless industry that it became very persuasive. Although he has not been shy in painting Softbank as the leader of that new world, Son understands the importance of getting the deal done. He is willing to bend in ways most CEOs aren't. The bottom line is that often surprisingly, he gets deals done.

The T-Mobile deal may appear almost impossible because of early regulator pushback, but I expect Son to pull out all the stops as he continues to work with regulators. I am not saying the deal will absolutely get done. No one knows what the future holds. However, I have watched Son in the past, and he is willing to bend until he wins approval. I think that's exactly what's happening behind the scenes right now.

With or without a T-Mobile win, Softbank will be on the hunt for the next acquisition. Son's success in closing the deal with Sprint set Softbank on a new course in the U.S., targeting the No. 1 position. Son wants to reinvent the entire wireless industry in the U.S., and he wants to win.

Expect Softbank to be an important player in the U.S. market going forward.

Out of the Gates

Son takes a very long-term view of the industry. By "long term," I don't mean quarters or even years, but decades -- many decades.

Today, Sprint is a million miles away from AT&T and Verizon; however, Softbank wants the new Sprint to lead the next wave of wireless growth. Softbank is investing billions to update the Sprint network. It is working hard behind the scenes right now to reinvent the company.

Sprint is going through a complete reinvention, said Sprint CEO Dan Hesse, during an appearance last week CNBC's Mad Money with Jim Cramer. It is ripping out every component of its existing network and replacing it with brand new technology. This is very costly and takes time, but what Sprint ultimately will have is a very fast, very reliable and very competitive wireless offering.

Over time, I have learned not to dismiss what Dan Hesse says.

Like AT&T and Verizon, Sprint is moving rapidly into new areas of wireless -- areas like mHealth, automotive, retail and many others. There are plenty of growth opportunities in the wireless industry, and Sprint Softbank wants to take advantage of all of them.

Ultimately, the deal depends what regulators have in mind. Sprint has argued the deal would transform the industry into one with a three top competitors. That may be the only reason I think it has a chance -- and with Masayoshi Son and Dan Hesse leading the charge, this deal may indeed stand a chance.

The question then boils down to the regulators' vision of the industry. Is it one with three big competitors, or do they see two big ones and two smaller, yet rapidly growing players, possibly leading to a big four?

There's a lot of speculation about whether Sprint will move to California's Silicon Valley. Sprint and Softbank have been meeting in Silicon Valley on a regular basis to report and plan. That will continue.

However, I don't believe Sprint will leave Kansas City. Moving the headquarters to California and going through the massive chaos dealing with people is just not likely to happen. I have followed Sprint forever, and I can almost guarantee it will stay put.

I can't tell you who will lead the wireless industry five or 10 years from today. No one can. No one can say what the industry will look like that far out. Remember, the iPhone -- which transformed the entire industry -- is only a few years old. However, a real horse race has begun.

The exciting part of this story is that this is just the beginning. Stay tuned. 

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


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Comcast-Netflix Deal: Watershed Moment for Web Content

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

02/27/14 5:00 AM PT

The average customer may not notice a difference resulting from the Comcast-Netflix deal. However, the companies that are involved in providing services to those customers surely will notice. The entire economic model of the industry is being rewritten, to a certain extent. The opportunities are incredible. This deal may even have an impact on the Net Neutrality tug-of-war.


The Comcast Netflix deal represents a completely new and refreshing direction for the industry. It clears away much confusion and illuminates a clearer path for growth for all companies in the battle. This deal represents a watershed moment for Web content providers.

Congratulations to both Comcast and Netflix on reaching this agreement. It may indeed play an important role in jump-starting the next wave of change and growth in the industry, setting new standards and perhaps helping to resolve the Net neutrality debate that has been raging for years.

Netflix has grown rapidly over the last few years. It started out as a competitor to companies like Blockbuster renting video DVDs. It mailed them to customers, sending the next rental in the queue whenever the one outstanding was returned. It was an interesting model early on.

Today Netflix is an entirely different company. Growth in recent years has come from its direct online connection to customers. For a monthly fee, Netflix makes its movies and TV shows available through a direct streaming connection over the Internet. Those shows can then be watched on a Web-connected TV like regular television shows, or on a computer, tablet or even smartphone.

Begin the Beguine

However, Netflix's rapid growth caused some problems. Along with success came far greater bandwidth requirements. In fact, Netflix is responsible for roughly one-third of all U.S. Internet traffic every evening. That's incredible for any one company.

Netflix never paid a toll to ride on the information superhighway. As it continued to grow, it must have known this deal would not last forever. When the Net neutrality decision recently fell on the service provider side, that gave Comcast some room to make a point.

Netflix couldn't afford to have its streaming content delivered slowly. That was something it wanted to avoid at all costs. The party was over. The need for high-quality performance brought Netflix to the table.

Comcast was just the first. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings likely is having conversations with every other major Internet service provider as well.

Netflix currently does business with other companies that put their stuff up on the Web. This deal with Comcast means it can work directly rather than through a middleman of sorts.

Of course, that will still be the rule in markets other than Comcast's, but new deals likely will change things in the next few quarters.

I see Netflix striking similar deals with every Comcast competitor, including other cable television firms, satellite-TV providers and telephone companies. Time Warner Cable, Cox, AT&T, Verizon, CenturyLink and many smaller companies are likely to be next.

Netflix won't be the only one paying for high performance -- other companies with high bandwidth requirements will be jumping into the fray as well.

Change Is the Only Constant

Remember, this whole Internet world is brand new. It was only 20 years ago, around 1994, when consumers started sending email and surfing the Web in droves. Service at the time was very slow, and video was sparse. That was back in the days when AOL and Prodigy were the two big ISPs.

Two decades is just the blink of an eye for a major industry, but even in that short time, the structure of the Internet has undergone radical changes. It's always changing. Who deals with whom is changing. At this early stage, the very heavy hitters are running the show, but over time the industry will expand to envelop everyone.

The average customer may not notice a difference. However, the companies that are involved in providing services to those customers surely will notice. The entire economic model of the industry is being rewritten, to a certain extent.

The opportunities are incredible, as industry after industry adopts the Internet and it changes their basic operations. We are just in the very early stages of this new world -- and this will encourage more change. It may even have an impact on the Net Neutrality arguments and help to settle the issue one way or the other.

So expect this new agreement Netflix struck with Comcast to be the first of many similar agreements -- and expect other content providers to jump in to forge deals as well. Expect the world to keep changing. 

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


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Jeff Kagan: Will Facebook WhatsApp Voice Calling be a Winner?

By  Jeff Kagan   +Follow        February 27, 2014 6:00AM  

Tickers Mentioned: FB   VZ   TMUS   S    TWC

Last week Facebook (FB)  made news with their announced acquisition of WhatsApp. Then at the Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona a few days ago they announced WhatsApp would start offering a voice service. What impact will this have on the telephone industry?

As an industry analyst I have followed this space for decades. I have watched consolidation, changing regulation, new technology and new competitors change the space, time and time again.

This industry has changed and continues to change both rapidly and dramatically over the years. So can WhatsApp make a dent in this robust industry?

Bottom line, while Facebook may see WhatsApp as some sort of Holy Grail, and while it may have a positive impact for them, I donít see this changing the direction or leadership of the industry.

Telephone was a growth engine until around the year 2000. Then with new regulation, new competition and new technology from things like wireless and VoIP, plain old telephone service or POTS started to decline from all the major providers.

This was simply innovation at work. We see providers like AT&T (T) , Verizon (VZ) , CenturyLink and many other smaller telephone companies losing traditional market share. So they started expanding and growing into other areas. Today they are the leaders in wireless, Internet and more recently television with their IPTV offerings called Uverse, FiOS and Prism. They are also moving into other segments as well like home security.

Over the last ten to fifteen years, other companies have entered this voice space as well. Companies like Comcast ($CMCST), Time Warner Cable (TWC) , Cox and other cable television providers sell their VoIP telephone service over the Internet. Other VoIP providers as well like RingCentral, Skype, Vonage and others. Plus the wireless industry is exploding with many competitors to choose from like AT&T, Verizon, Sprint (S) , T-Mobile (TMUS) , US Cellular, C Spire and many others.

Facebook has been interested in entering and reinventing the wireless space for a while. Their first attempt a year or so ago was a complete flop. They introduced their first Facebook phone, which only lasted a few months before it was pulled.

Facebook sees mobile as important for their future so expect to see more movement. Their Apps are successful, and now with WhatsApp they should be more successful in theory.

However where does WhatsApp fit into this new voice world? They are not a phone company. They have no experience with telephone or VoIP service. They will be competing with many companies who have plenty of brand recognition. So what kind of opportunity will they really have?

The plan is during the second quarter of this year, they will add a free voice-calling feature to its text-messaging app for both the iPhone and Android. Next will come Blackberry and Windows Phone if all works well.

They say this voice feature will be free and let people talk all over the USA and in fact the world. They see this as the next step.

While it is impossible to say what the world will look like five or ten years from now, and while this all sounds good and may indeed be a growth platform for WhatsApp and Facebook, I donít see it having any kind of major impact on the telecom market.

Today there are many competitors in this space. Some are doing very strong business while others are not, but the marketplace is bustling with competition. In that space what kind of impact can a new competitor have on the industry?

While this is a growth opportunity, it wonít impact the industry.

So I would like to congratulate Facebook on doing this deal, which they think is important for their growth going forward. And I would like to congratulate WhatsApp on the deal of a lifetime. And I would also like to congratulate both on adventuring into the wild world of voice communications.

While this may be a growth opportunity for Facebook and WhatsApp, I donít think it will impact the competitive lineup of the telecom industry. If it is successful it will just be one of many players.

By  Jeff Kagan   +Follow        February 27, 2014 6:00AM 

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Comcast-TWC Merger Is All About Investors  

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

02/20/14 5:00 AM PT

In order to be successful going forward, cable-TV companies must become customer-focused. Any company that is unloved by its customers will surely die. So, is the cable television industry becoming lovable to its customers? Not yet. At this point, the Comcast, Time Warner Cable story is less about the customer than the investor. It's about making Comcast larger and stronger.


What's most unexpected about the acquisition of Time Warner Cable is that the buyer is Comcast. Will the regulators give their blessing or block the deal? If approved, what changes can we expect as investors, customers and workers? If it is not approved, then what comes next?

The cable television industry is completely different today from 10 years ago. This business model originally was set up with one company offering service in each market. There was no competition -- the same way the local phone business was operated.

Over time, several serious problems developed. One was that customer care was terrible. Without the risk of losing customers, cable television companies didn't take good care of them, and service was terrible.

Do you remember the old TV comedy Laugh-In, with Lily Tomlin playing Ernestine -- a telephone operator with a sour attitude? She would sit in front of a terminal and dial up customers -- "one ringy dingy, two ringy dingys."

Most phone customers could relate -- they'd had their own unfortunate experiences with phone company employees like Ernestine. The Baby Bells had a lousy reputation -- and did we ever complain about phone service. Back then, they faced no competition, though, so they didn't care.

In fact, one of Ernestine's favorite lines was "we don't have to care -- we're the phone company." Well, that's the line cable television employees could be using today.

Merger Madness

Then change came. In the early 1990s, the telephone companies woke up. They saw competition coming, and over the years, they transformed themselves. Today's phone companies take great care of their customers. Are they perfect? No -- but customers today are very happy with most telephone companies' service.

The cable television industry is following the same path. Cable companies are beginning to recognize there is a customer care problem. They are improving their relationships with customers, but they have a long way to go.

Companies like Comcast, Time Warner Cable and others are losing customers and market share to the new competitors like AT&T U-verse, Verizon FiOS, CenturyLink Prism, and satellite-TV players DirecTV and DISH Network.

As the cable television industry tries to deal with this new competitive pressure, merger mania has begun. Ten or 15 years ago, the cable-TV industry was full of small competitors. Then Comcast acquired AT&T Broadband, the largest cable TV company in the United States.

Today there are fewer and larger cable television competitors. However, they are still losing business and market share -- and the merger wave continues.

The Comcast, Time Warner Cable deal is attracting a great deal of attention because these companies are No. 1 and 2, and the deal affects so many customers and investors.

Regulators still have to weigh in. One line of thought was that Comcast never would be allowed to acquire Time Warner Cable. No. 1 acquiring No. 2 is never allowed. On the other hand, these two companies are not really competitors. They operate in different markets.

So a merger may not change the competitive landscape. It could, however, change the power structure going forward.

Perhaps regulators will approve this merger. However, Comcast would have to agree to concessions -- and that's the sticky part.

Investors Rule, Customers Drool

Among those conditions might be a requirement to take better care of all customers -- not just the top-of-the-line customers who buy all the new services, but all customers -- even basic service customers. The company would have to increase lower-cost options and let the customer choose.

The cable television customer pie has many slices, and each slice wants something different. Some want everything and are willing to pay for it, while others want a basic package and want to pay less. Some simply can't afford to pay much each month for cable television.

I don't know if senior management at Comcast understands how unhappy many of its customers really are. Then again, it may not care.

Comcast does not focus on the customer -- it focuses on the investor. So, investors are happy, while many customers are not. That's the reason so many leave and go to competitors like the local phone company's IPTV television service.

The cable television companies either can react by becoming more customer-focused or by trying to shut down the competition. Unfortunately, they are trying to shut down new competitors like Aereo.

In order to be successful going forward, however, they must focus on the customer. Any company that is unloved by its customers will surely die. So, is the cable television industry becoming lovable to its customers? Not yet.

At this point, the Comcast, Time Warner Cable story is less about the customer than the investor. It's about making Comcast larger and stronger.

Time Warner Cable customers already use the same services as Comcast customers. The services just have different names. After the merger, they all will be called "Xfinity," but very little will change for the customer.

Prices have been rising steadily in this industry, year after year. Every 10 years, we pay roughly twice as much. That won't change. I don't necessarily see this merger causing prices to rise faster -- but Comcast is not shy about increasing prices as fast as it can.

What will Time Warner Cable customers get that they don't already get today? Not much. As the industry continues to grow and change, all competitors move in the same direction.

Does Comcast need to acquire Time Warner Cable? Well, since it is the largest cable company and also the owner of other channels and networks, like NBC, the answer is no.

Perhaps it would make more sense for Time Warner Cable to merge with and strengthen another cable television competitor.

Many expected Liberty Media CEO John Malone to jump in and acquire Time Warner Cable. If Comcast does not win regulator approval, Malone may be waiting in the wings. This story is not over. 


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


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Cable TV's Chilly Customer Relationships

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

02/13/14 5:00 AM PT

Many customers cannot fire their cable television company and move to the competition yet. Too many can't get AT&T U-verse, Verizon FiOS or CenturyLink Prism in their homes. That is one of the reasons cable TV does not really care about the customer relationship. Whether the cable television industry does well or fails tomorrow depends on how it takes care of customers today.

Quality and reliability problems have been increasing with the new digital services from the cable television industry. I am a customer of both Comcast and Time Warner Cable and have noticed the issues, and it's safe to assume other cable-TV providers are having similar problems. This may cause further harm to the cable TV industry. Can it fix what is broken in time?

First, it's important to separate the investor and the customer. My focus here is on the customer -- and generally speaking, the customers I have talked with are not happy with cable television since the switch from analog to digital.

As an industry analyst, it's interesting for me to watch cable-TV challenges. For example, Comcast acquired the service a decade ago from AT&T broadband, which years earlier acquired it from TCI out of Denver. At that time, service was analog, not digital, but it was good quality. That was before digital cable, and before phone company services like AT&T U-verse, Verizon FiOS and CenturyLink Prism started competing with IPTV.

After Comcast took over from AT&T, its service was actually pretty good as well. Now things are changing. It recently upgraded from analog to digital, and since then quality and reliability have suffered.

The upgrade from analog to digital is a problem not only for Comcast, but for Time Warner Cable as well -- and in fact, many other cable TV companies.

Competitors Gaining Traction

Having made the digital conversion, Comcast has stopped the analog signal in the Atlanta suburb where I live, so I have no alternative there. At another home location, though, Time Warner Cable has not yet turned off the analog network. All I had to do there was pull the digital boxes out and plug the TV back into the wall to restore good service -- for now, anyway.

Why do companies put their customers through such pain? If a company cares about its customers, it gives them options. In this case, based on what I have seen and experienced, Time Warner Cable is offering a choice, but Comcast is not.

There is a disconnect with how the cable companies interact with their customers. Sure, they are better than before. They do try. However, the bottom line is that problems do not go away. Old service is cut off, and that leaves customers high and dry -- and that hurts the brand.

Today, growing competition from the telephone companies with IPTV, satellite television like DirecTV and DISH Network -- as well as others like Aereo, Netflix and Amazon -- have caused cable television to lose market share. In order to better compete, the cable television industry has been trying to improve the way customers see it.

That's one reason it is upgrading its analog customers to digital. While that sounds great in theory, the reality is it causes quality and reliability problems. In addition, it increases the price customers have to pay.

In recent years, IPTV services from the phone companies have been rapidly growing. Suddenly, AT&T U-verse, Verizon FiOS and CenturyLink Prism are in direct competition with cable television providers like Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox, Charter and so on.

At a recent analyst meeting, AT&T gave an example of how its U-verse service in Dallas had already won roughly 50 percent market share competing with cable TV. That's incredible -- and it speaks to the problem customers have with their cable television services and the threat to the cable-TV industry in general.

Failure to Communicate

Another problem the cable TV industry has is in communicating with the customer. For example, even after I've scheduled an in-person appointment to fix a problem, I never know if anyone will show up. The company may fix the problem a few blocks away but not get around to filling me in until a few days later.

That means I must stay at home, even though no one shows up. That is a lack of care and courtesy toward the customer. That means the company doesn't respect my time. That further hurts the brand.

Cable television companies also warn customers they will be charged to fix problems under certain instances. That's an uneasy feeling for a customer, since the company controls everything.

If that's the case, then customers should be able to charge the cable-TV company for wasting their time and not showing up, don't you think? After all, courtesy is a two-way street.

Another problem: When I call Comcast for service, the appointment typically is more than a week out. Enduring for that length of time with a service problem is unacceptable.

These are some of the reasons cable TV companies are losing business to new competitors. Their customers are screaming for someone to take better care of them. That's why competitors like telephone companies actually are doing strong new business selling IPTV.

Unfortunately, competition is not everywhere yet. Even though customers I've talked with sound happier, too many customers still cannot get AT&T U-verse, Verizon FiOS or CenturyLink Prism in their homes.

Many customers cannot fire their cable television company and move to the competition yet. That is one of the reasons cable TV does not really care about the customer relationship.

Whether the cable television industry does well or fails tomorrow depends on how it takes care of customers today. Companies that focus on keeping their customers happy would never force those customers to a digital option, then cancel the analog escape hatch.

These problems are souring the cable-TV brand relationship and causing customers to leave in droves. This is countering the benefit the cable television companies were trying to achieve with this digital conversion.

Disaster is what the cable television industry is experiencing right now with lost market share. This problem will continue to grow until the cable television industry starts focusing on the customer and delivering great quality service and customer service -- something I hope it can do before it's too late. 

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


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Jeff Kagan: Sprint, T-Mobile Deal Fading - Whatís Next?

By Jeff Kagan

February 12, 2014 6:00AM   

Tickers Mentioned: VZ   TMUS   S

As the last few weeks have passed it appears the stars are not lining up for the potential Sprint (S)  Softbank merger with T-Mobile (TMUS) . And it hasnít even been officially proposed yet. We have heard from several US government regulators, and not one sounds like they would give it thumbs up. So whatís next for these three companies if this deal does not happen?

Let me start by saying the deal is not dead. It could still be approved. After all the same anti-acquisition talk was happening before Softbank eventually acquired Sprint and that deal still happened. So it is still possible for this deal to be done.

I have learned not to underestimate Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son and Sprint CEO Dan Hesse. All that has to happen is for US regulators to explain what the problems are, and for them to agree to terms that would satisfy everyone.

However a similar merger between AT&T (T)  and T-Mobile was denied because regulators wanted to keep four major competitors in the space rather than three.

And since regulators donít see the need for this more sizeable competitor, I donít think they will bend and agree to this deal either for the same reason. However, things have changed in the past so we should be aware it could happen.

If the deal does not go through, then what can we expect next?

Sprint (with Softbank behind them) wants to create a new kind of wireless company. Sure, they want to be a successful wireless competitor with smartphones and tablets. But they also want to transform the entire wireless space. They want to provide a variety of innovations that the wireless industry does not yet do.

To do this, they will need to first transform their company from the inside and out. Softbank sees an enormous opportunity in the United States market. I think the Sprint acquisition was just the first step of several.

As of right now, Dan Hesse is the CEO of Sprint. I think Masayoshi Son, CEO of Softbank will use Hesse as he builds a new kind of company, with Sprint as their main wireless network component.

Donít think that we understand wireless. We donít. We only understand where wireless has come from and where it is today, but we have no idea what wireless will turn into over the next few years. Itís a rapidly and constantly changing industry.

I hear this same story from AT&T and Verizon (VZ) as well. Expect industry wide reinvention.

As far as T-Mobile, I am convinced their CEO John Legere is positioning the company to be acquired. That does not mean it will happen. So as a fall back he is also strengthening T-Mobile as a stand-alone competitor.

In fact, if T-Mobile is not acquired, they may be on the hunt for smaller carriers themselves. This is one way to strengthen and grow the company.

Whatever happens and whoever Sprint, Softbank and T-Mobile decide to merge with, donít forget the US regulator has to agree and that can be the tough part. Regulators agree to more mergers when there is a republican President.

However I think a US regulator would more readily approve an acquisition involving Sprint or T-Mobile with a smaller competitor.

I think Sprint and Softbank want to remain in the driverís seat. However, I think T-Mobile would be just as happy being acquired and having their senior executives stepping aside.

So what can we expect next? The first option of Sprint acquiring T-Mobile isnít even on the table yet. That has to play itself out one-way or the other.

If not approved, donít expect any of them to sit quietly. I would expect to see them all make another move pretty quickly. With whom is the next question.

Either way, consolidation in wireless will continue for years to come. And more than that, transformation of the wireless industry will continue among all the players including AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless and all the networks, handset makers and other industries like automotive, healthcare, retail and more.

The writing is on the wall. We expect to see growth from AT&T and Verizon. Until very recently we didnít expect to see growth from Sprint and T-Mobile. However that may be changing.

The next few years will be defined by change and transformation. Who will lead going forward is the next question. It just depends who will get together. So letís keep our eyes open.

By Jeff Kagan   February 12, 2014 6:00AM 

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The New Wireless Wave: Prices Falling, Cloud Rising

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

02/06/14 5:00 AM PT

The wireless industry is going through another transformation. Last time it was the smartphone revolution. This time it's about prices coming down and data from multiple devices going to the cloud. AT&T jumps on industry changes more quickly than either Verizon or Sprint. That does not mean it will have the edge forever, though -- just for a while, until everyone else decides to get on board.

I get a kick out of reading the media coverage of news events in the wireless sector. Sometimes reporters understand what is happening -- sometimes they don't. AT&T Mobility just reduced the price of its Mobile Share Value Plan. Many wrote about it, but few really understood the issues involved.

This is more about a broad industry shift than a single company's strategy. Every five to 10 years, there is a major transformation in the wireless industry. The last major change occurred around six or seven years ago when Apple unveiled the iPhone and Google launched the Android operating system. They changed the smartphone sector -- and in fact, the entire wireless industry.

Now after several years and much heated competition, almost everyone who wants a smartphone has a smartphone. So what comes next?

The wireless industry is shifting once again. It started a couple of years ago and now is picking up steam. It's not being driven by any one company. Rather, as always, it is a natural reaction to a changing environment.

AT&T Leads the Way

Price is one thing that is changing. As technologies age, prices come down -- and that is what is happening in wireless. Both smartphones and monthly plans are more affordable.

Yesterday customers were interested primarily in postpaid plans, but now they're increasingly attracted to prepaid options for a number of reasons, not the least of which is to save money.

T-Mobile was struggling until the last few quarters, so it decided to change things up. It dropped the contract model and ramped up its prepaid offerings. This strategy seems to be successful, as it's now in a long-awaited growth cycle. It is still No. 4 among U.S. carriers, but it is attracting a lot of attention.

The top three -- Verizon, AT&T and Sprint -- are increasingly courting the prepaid market as well. Walk into any of their stores and you will see plenty of postpaid and prepaid choices. This is all good. The marketplace wants something different.

Typically the two largest carriers, Verizon and AT&T, charge the most. Smaller competitors including Sprint and T-Mobile must charge less to be competitive.

Smaller companies are often the ones to initiate sweeping market changes, but it's the top guns that have the greatest impact.

AT&T senses the industry is ready to change, and it cut the prices of its Mobile Share Value Plan in response to those signals. I expect Verizon and others eventually will follow. They always do.

This shift is a win-win for customers and for the companies.

Everyone Goes to the Cloud

The transition to the cloud is another big change for the wireless space.

Apple has its iCloud. It encourages customers to sync all of their devices -- iPhone, iPad, Mac -- and save all of their information in the iCloud rather than on their hardware. That way they can easily access their information no matter what device they happen to be using.

The cloud is the next big revolution in wireless.

Google is making it easy for Android users to store their data in the cloud. Samsung offers cloud services for its customers as well.

Microsoft is heading in the same direction. It's in the process of acquiring Nokia and eventually wants to connect its Lumia line of smartphones with Surface tablets and other devices running versions of the Windows OS. Users of any of these products can store their information in Microsoft's cloud.

More and more companies are jumping into this space.

Lenovo last week said it wanted to acquire Motorola Mobility from Google. It wants to have a brand-name wireless phone to offer alongside its laptops, tablets and smartphones. Lenovo wants its users to store their stuff in the cloud as well.

The cloud is also available through carriers like AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless and Sprint.

Further, there are plenty of third-party cloud services customers can sign up for -- or you can store your information in your own company's cloud.

The cloud is not going to attract every wireless player. Verizon and AT&T will offer a wide variety of services for customers to pool together, but smaller carriers like Sprint and T-Mobile likely will limit their offerings.

First-Mover Advantage

However you look at it, wireless is changing. Prices are coming down, bundles are being promoted, and the cloud is conecting devices and information.

Carriers love this, because a customer who uses multiple devices and services under one account is less likely to switch to a competitor.

The future looks very good both for consumers and business customers.

There's more, of course, but you get the point. The wireless industry is going through another transformation, just like it does every five to 10 years. Last time it was the smartphone revolution. This time it's about prices coming down and data from multiple devices going to the cloud.

AT&T jumps on industry changes more quickly than either Verizon or Sprint. That does not mean it will have the edge forever, though -- just for a while, until everyone else decides to get on board. This does give AT&T a first mover advantage, though, which the company seems to like.

Going forward, expect more focus on the cloud, on reduced pricing, and on bundling services into one account. These approaches are good for both customers and companies. This is a good wave of wireless industry change. 

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


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Jeff Kagan: Why Does Lenovo Want Motorola?

By Jeff Kagan 

February 4, 2014 6:00AM   

Tickers Mentioned: MSFT   GOOG    AAPL    NOK

I think Lenovo wants to get their hands on Motorola because it fits their model for the future of their company and the industry. What do I mean? Itís all about the cloud. Itís what the wireless and computing industry will look like going forward. Letís pull the camera back and take a close look at this industry and how it is reshaping itself. You may be surprised.

The last major transformation of wireless happened roughly seven years ago with the Apple (AAPL) iPhone. Now the iCloud letís users store all their information on the iCloud and access it on any Apple device like the iPhone, iPad, Mac and so on. Apple is one of the leaders redefining this new cloud space.

Google (GOOG) Android is doing this same thing. Google makes the Android operating system that many phone makers like Samsung use. Look at what Samsung is doing with their Galaxy S4 phones and Galaxy Note tablets. They let users buy multiple devices and store information on the cloud as well. Google does not seem to have as much success with hardware as they do with Android.

Now Microsoft Corporation (MSFT)  is heading in the same direction. They are acquiring Nokia (NOK) phones and are offering their bundle of laptops, wireless Lumia smartphones and Surface tablets with information stored on the cloud.

Getting a clue to what the marketplace is going to look like going forward? All about a variety of handsets, which share information and store it on the cloud. This is an opportunity for both networks and equipment makers.

Lenovo sees this as well and wants to be a player in this space going forward. They want to sell computers and laptops, tablets, smartphones and store all the information on the cloud. And they want to be a leader in this new space.

This is the same direction many other companies are thinking about right now. A few I mentioned above. Others will be announced going forward.

Wireless as an industry transforms every five to ten years. The last major transformation was when the super smartphone revolution started with the Apple iPhone and Google Android, roughly seven years ago.

This next transformation started last year and is picking up steam now. Itís all about having a variety of devices, which work together and store information on the cloud, not on the device itself.

Thatís the world that Lenovo wants to be a power player in. Every time the industry shifts, new leaders rise to the top. This time is it about the networks and about the handset makers. The networks offer their cloud based service and putting all devices under one account for better management and other important features.

Itís also a new opportunity for handset makers and computer makers trying to lead in this new space. What links all these devices together? The wireless cloud. Storing online instead of on the device.

Customers are not all familiar with the cloud and those who are, still are not comfortable with it yet. However this will pass and the companies getting an early start could be the early winners.

Thatís what Lenovo wants with Motorola. Motorola is an older and tired brand, but it is also the oldest and best-known brand in the business. If they can refresh their brand they could indeed be one of the success stories in this next wave of wireless innovation.

So I think Lenovo wants to create hot new smartphones with the Motorola brand, and link it together with the Lenovo computers and tablets, and store all the information on the cloud. The cloud will either be sold by Lenovo to the customer, or it will be sold by the wireless network, or perhaps a third party cloud service used by the company.

However, first this merger must be approved. Will it? Thatís the million-dollar question. The US Government has issued strong warnings to American wireless companies in recent years about security threats posed by Chinese owned companies which make handsets. Will this be an issue?

On the other hand Lenovo is already one of the biggest and strongest brands in the computer space. And Lenovo is already all over America. If that is the case, adding wireless phones should be no big deal right?

However I canít say which way the winds will blow so weíll just have to wait and see. But Lenovo wants Motorola because of the well-known brand. That will mean a lot to them as they grow in this new area.

Either way, this is the new direction the wireless and computer industry is moving in. We already see several heavy hitters moving in this direction. I expect to see many more. Who will lead in this new space?

The current leaders are obvious front-runners. However we also see leadership change at times like this. Remember when Motorola led in the 1990ís? Remember when Nokia and Blackberry led since then until the Apple iPhone and Google Android were born roughly seven years ago?

So what will happen next? That is the big question. But this move illustrates the playing field the game will be played on.

By Jeff Kagan   February 4, 2014 6:00AM 

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AT&T's Gently Simmering Vodafone Ambitions

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

01/30/14 5:00 AM PT

Will AT&T eventually acquire Vodafone? I would think if we can read the leaves correctly, the desire is there -- however the timing is not right now. Just because the answer is no today, don't think AT&T is not interested. I think AT&T is interested in doing business in other countries. Whether AT&T will make a move on Vodafone after six months is unknown today, but we should keep our eyes open.


AT&T just said it would not bid for Vodafone -- at least not within the next six months. Over the years, we have seen the wireless and telecom sectors change dramatically in wave after wave of mergers and acquisitions. As U.S. carriers look for new areas of growth, will they start looking to expand overseas? I think so -- and not just AT&T, but Verizon as well, and then others. So what will this mean?

First of all it is important to recognize that change is good. Growth is good. Change creates a playing field that encourages growth. Growth helps companies, investors and workers. It boosts employment, taxes, and pretty much everything else.

Telephone, wireless, cable television and other carriers in the U.S. have not yet moved aggressively into outside markets. That's largely because until recently, it provided an enormous growth opportunity. However, investors demand ongoing growth, so as it slows inside the U.S. because of a maturing marketplace, companies will look to new areas.

It's a Small World

Investment in other countries happens all the time. Many companies headquartered outside the U.S. already do business across their borders, including in the U.S.

A few examples:

ēJust look at the recent merger between Sprint and Softbank from Japan. Softbank is not done yet, either. Expect more mergers.

ēLook at Vodafone, a British company that owned almost half of Verizon Wireless until Verizon recently acquired its share, as another example.

ēOr look at T-Mobile USA, which is owned by Deutsche Telekom from Germany, as another.

So countless companies are already doing multinational business. Many U.S. companies already have an international presence, but now more U.S. companies appear to be getting very close to jumping into the global marketplace as well.

There are huge international opportunities they want to take advantage of. If they are competing with foreign companies in the U.S., they of course want to compete with them in a larger playing field.

Right now, they may walk through a global orchard full of ripe, red apples yet they're able to pick only from certain trees marked "U.S." Today, American companies are waking up to the huge opportunity to pick from the entire global orchard.

Global expansion may not have made sense yesterday, when these companies were regional, but now it no longer makes sense to wait. Today these companies are national players, and there is no reason they shouldn't be on the global playing field.

I think rather than just jumping in, American companies that never really did this before want to make sure everyone is on board and supportive in the idea of global expansion. They want everyone -- from investors and regulators to workers, customers and everyone else -- to buy into this growth plan. That's why we are hearing more talk about this next big move.

Going Global to Grow

So, who will be successful right out of the gate? In the early years, companies like AT&T and Verizon will start to compete in other countries and make acquisitions. They likely will hit the ball out of the park in some instances and struggle more in others -- but it is all one big learning experience, and that's the important part.

Will AT&T eventually acquire Vodafone? Perhaps. I would think if we can read the leaves correctly, the desire is there -- however the timing is not right now. Just because the answer is no today, don't think AT&T is not interested. I think AT&T is interested in acquisitions and doing business in other countries.

Whether AT&T will make a move on Vodafone after six months is unknown today, but we should keep our eyes open. Other interested companies, both in the U.S. and abroad, could make a similar move.

Vodafone will be one target, but many other companies in other countries will be sought after as well. It won't just be AT&T -- Verizon will on the move as well. Perhaps as they succeed, we'll see smaller competitors jump into the global marketplace. There are plenty of others: Sprint, T-Mobile, CenturyLink and Windstream to name a few.

Don't forget the cable television industry, either. Companies like Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cox may be players as well, as the global marketplace grows and changes over the next several years.

This kind of expansion could make a great deal of sense for U.S. companies. The U.S. market is becoming much more competitive, and that is why carriers like AT&T and Verizon are looking for new ways to grow.

In fact, I see the U.S. industry being split into two sides. One side is the global players, and the other side is domestic-only competitors. That list will change over time.

Many other countries have wireless voice and data; however, the data portion is generally not as fast. While U.S. residents have 4G in most markets, most other countries still use 2G and 3G. This is another source of growth opportunity for U.S. firms.

Growth is on everyone's mind -- especially as growth in the smartphone sector starts to slow. Just look at the iPhone results in Apple's earnings report earlier this week. If a slowdown is threatening Apple, I think we can assume it will threaten other handset makers as well.

That's why wireless carriers like AT&T Mobility and Verizon Wireless are helping other industries -- like healthcare, automotive, retail and more. That's the same kind of hunger that will drive global expansion.

The wild growth curve that wireless has seen in recent years may be tapering, but that does not mean growth will slow. I don't see growth slowing at all -- just changing. Growth will come from other areas, like helping other industries go wireless, from international and global expansion, and much more. So keep your eyes open for AT&T's Vodafone interest to increase over time -- and expect other deals as well.  

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


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Jeff Kagan: When Will Apple Start to Grow Again?

By Jeff Kagan   

January 29, 2014 6:00AM   

Understanding Apple Inc. (AAPL)  used to be easy. Customers upgraded to the newest iPhone every two years and Apple remained a growth company. That meant each quarter they sold more than expected and the stock price kept rising. This world made sense, in an Apple sort of way. Suddenly things have changed. So what can we expect moving forward?

Apple is still a winner, but it is becoming a different kind of company. It used to be a growth-oriented company. They innovated and created new categories, which grew like wildfire and which they led in for years. Think iPod, iPhone and iPad.

Apple will compete with Google (GOOG) Android the same way Apple competed with Microsoft (MSFT) over recent decades. Microsoft had a larger market share, but Apple customers loved them. Microsoft was for the thinker and Apple was for the more creative type. I think we will see this same competitive nature unfold going forward as well.

Today Apple is transitioning. They are now becoming less of an innovator and more of a product replacement firm. What does that mean? For one that means they are no longer introducing breakthrough new products and creating new categories.

Product replacement firms can also be very popular and successful, but their day is spent making the next better version of existing technologies and keeping customers happy. Think SONY WalkMan from the 1990ís. Itís more about getting happy customers to buy the newest version every year or two rather than creating an entirely new category. With Apple that means a solid, but not a growth-oriented company.

That could change once again, of course. Apple could become a growth-oriented company again, and likely will at some point. However we have not really seen any sign of anything new lately.

So I think for now, the Apple investor will change from a more rapid growth oriented investor to a slower growth replacement oriented investor. Slower growth and less risk.

With all that said, understanding Apple going forward is key. However that is not easy. That is never easy with Apple. There are changed that are reshaping the wireless space in general, the smartphone space, Apple and maybe other handset makers as well.

Let me give you a few examples. Apple has changed from a company that focuses on innovation and change, to one that focuses on product replacement.

This quarter that meant sales of iPhones were weaker than expected. So what does that mean?

The average customer buys a new iPhone every two years. If that remained true deciding next steps would be easier. Of course that is not remaining true.

On one hand that could mean if product replacement was weak this year, next year should be strong, right?

On the other hand, customers did not all buy their first iPhoneís during the same year. So the two-year upgrade wave should be more consistent year-to-year, right? Also, after customers realized the really new and innovative iPhone only comes every two years may have upgraded to the new version one year and then upgrade every two years, right?

That would mean every other year would be a bigger year. But that has not been the case, has it?

Just as we are struggling to understand the new spin on this Apple investment, carriers like AT&T ($T), Verizon (VZ) , Sprint (S)  and T-Mobile (TMUS)  have recently introduced their new early upgrade plans.

This means customers no longer have to wait two years to upgrade. Some may upgrade after a year or six months.

So if thatís the case, how the hell are we supposed to have any idea what is going on?

Oh, one more question.

Is this new problem just an Apple iPhone problem or is it a larger industry-wide smartphone problem? Is this going to be limited to Apple or will others like Google Android, Samsung Galaxy, Microsoft Nokia and others join in?

These questions are what we must answer before deciding the best next steps. The days of Apple as a growth company are over, for now anyway. That means a different type of return and a different type of investor.

Apple in my opinion is still a winner, however it is a very different stock and company now compared with a few short years ago when they were the leader and innovator.

By Jeff Kagan  January 29, 2014 6:00AM 

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Wireless in Autos: The Delicate Balance Between Change and Choice

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

01/23/14 12:05 PM PT

When you're in an automotive showroom looking at the different vehicles and the wireless and technology packages, you don't have choices. You select the car you like, but you don't have a choice of technology. Your choice is either yes or no -- not one from column A or two from column B. Letting customers choose between the new smartphone model or the existing satellite radio model makes sense.

We used to choose our next car based on brand, previous experience or recommendations. However, the automotive industry is reinventing itself -- and new reasons to buy have little to do with the car itself. Now decision making revolves around new technologies and innovations, especially wireless. While this could indeed strengthen automakers' relationships with many customers, it also could weaken them with many others if the auto industry is not careful.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month, we could see how the wireless industry was helping the automotive industry transform. A similar transformation is occurring in several other industries as well, like healthcare and retail, but for this piece I'll focus on automotive. The auto industry has an incredible opportunity ahead of it, but there is also risk.

The opportunity is real -- and it's huge, if the industry gets it right. Automakers are now introducing new features that will both wow customers and provide a competitive advantage. They are all rushing into the marketplace with the next big new idea. That's the good part. The bad part is the risk having to do with meeting customer expectations and personal preferences.

Double-Edged Sword

Look at how quickly the wireless industry continues to grow and change. That is good. There's something for everyone. Some people love Apple's iPhone, while others prefer an Android like Samsung's Galaxy. However, that's also the crux of the problem I am getting at here.

It is not a problem for the wireless industry in general, since you have a choice of devices when you walk into a wireless store. No matter which you choose, companies like AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and C Spire will win.

However, the automotive industry is handling this same issue very differently. Automakers are not offering customers any choice. They either take the single tech package or they don't. Period.

Some customers will like the package offered and will take it. However, many others will want a different tech package -- and they are not given that choice.

So, those customers may now be tempted by competitor's offerings. The auto brand that has been built and crafted over the years is simply being cut to shreds for many customers, and I don't think the automakers even realize it yet. Brands that customers have loved for many years simply may not cut it any longer.

This is the double-edged sword of the technology and wireless revolution. On one hand it's a very innovative and fast-growing area , which should attract customers. On the other hand, if customers can't get the new tech want, automakers risk losing a segment of their currently loyal customer base.

Opportunity and Risk

When you are in an automotive showroom looking at the different vehicles and the wireless and technology packages, you don't have choices. You select the car you like, but then you don't have a choice of technology. Your choice is either yes or no -- not one from column A or two from column B.

Names like "Ford Sync," "Toyota Entune" and "Lexus Enform" are just a few examples of these automotive technology packages. Mercedes, Honda, Acura, GM brands and many more offer other packages.

At the Consumer Electronics Show, AT&T Drive was announced by AT&T Mobility. It lets carmakers use the AT&T 4G LTE network to connect wirelessly. AT&T also announced that it won a contract with GM -- beating out Verizon Wireless -- to provide 10 Chevrolet cars by this summer.

AT&T cut similar deals with Audi of America and Tesla.

Verizon Wireless was also at the show and is also an important player in this space, but it was not as high-profile this year. It took a quieter approach.

As you can see, this area is rapidly growing and changing -- and that means both huge opportunity and risk. Leadership can change quickly, both among wireless carriers and among carmakers, for different reasons.

This is all very exciting and positive. However, for the industry to be as successful as possible, it is important to give customers what they want. Think about the choice between iPhone and Android.

I recently stopped into a Lexus, Toyota and Ford dealership to look around, and I was surprised. Going forward, autos will require the driver to use a smartphone to operate traffic, weather and other features. XM Radio is no longer available.

Let the Customer Choose

The idea of using my smartphone works for me, but it's an issue many car buyers don't yet want to confront.

Today, roughly 60 percent of potential buyers have a smartphone -- but that means 40 percent don't. They would not be able to use this new technology. Are automakers really willing to turn their backs on 40 percent of their customers?

Further, customers who have smartphones must have a heavy-duty wireless data plan so they don't incur extra usage charges from their wireless carrier. This can increase costs.

Another problem is having to take your phone off your belt or out of your purse and connect it to the car so it doesn't suck the life out of the phone battery. It's easy to forget the phone when you exit the car.

So even though I'm aware of the advanced technology this new system offers, there are still plenty of people who would prefer the older system -- at least for now. This group of roughly 40 percent of the market is being totally ignored.

Why are carmakers turning their back on this entire segment? That's what it looks like. That is a big mistake for both their own market share and for the customers who love their brand but are being forced out.

That's why giving customers choice makes sense. Let them choose between the new smartphone model or the existing satellite radio model. The best solution for each customer can only be determined by the customer.

Letting customers choose what they want will build strength into the brand. Taking the decision away from customers will chase them away. That will cost the carmaker sales and weaken the brand.

This problem seems clear as day. Either way, wireless will be a very big winner in the auto industry going forward. It's just a matter of taking care of all customers and giving them the choice of the technologies they want in their car, since different people want different things. Change is good -- but don't cut off your customers to innovate. 


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


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Jeff Kagan: Will Aereo Win at Supreme Court?

By Jeff Kagan 

January 22, 2014 6:00AM   


Aereo is a startup bringing television to customers for a very low monthly rate of $8 - $12 per month. However not everyone is cheering them on. Networks like ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX are suing Aereo for simply taking their programming. There have been lower courts, which have given Aereo the green light. Now the Supreme Court will weigh in with this interesting case. So what happens next?

First of all letís set the record straight. Aereo would not be here if the traditional television industry was not broken. Networks charge cable networks like Comcast (CMCSA) , Time Warner Cable (TWC)  and Cox more every year. Then the cable TV companies pass this increase along year after year to the customer.

So after ten years the customer pays roughly double. Things have gone so far out of control and costs are going so high that new competitors and new technology have a fertile growing field. Fertile because the traditional networks and cable television industry didnít know how to control themselves and kept charging more and more, year after year.

The funny thing is the average user still watches their same favorite five, ten or fifteen channels. They are just paying more each year.

In fact the cable television marketplace has more competition now then ever. Just look at the phone companies with their Internet based IPTV offerings. AT&T Uverse (T) , Verizon FiOS (VZ)  and CenturyLink Prism (CTL)  are doing strong business. In fact AT&T says they have roughly 50 percent market share in Dallas, as an example. That shows customers are looking for an alternative.

Now we hear that if the networks lose to Aereo with the Supreme Court, they will pull their signal off the air and only run it over cable TV lines. Does this sound rational? Or does this sound like a child on a playground grabbing his ball and going home when he doesnít get his way?

Is this what the horse and buggy industry said last century when the automobiles were invented? Or the railroad when the airline industry was created? Or what Borders or Barnes & Noble (BKS)  said when keeps taking their business year after year?

Things change. Industry after industry is regularly upset and reinvented and things change. The marketplace thinks this is a good thing. Otherwise there would still be saddle stores, horseshoe repair and spittoons lining the streets instead of parking lots, tire stores and fast food restaurants.

So TV networks and traditional cable television companies look like they are in the same place as the horse and buggy makers from a century ago, or Barnes & Noble today.

They have a choice. They can either go to court to try and keep innovation from happening, or they can change and innovate and fight to hang on to their position in the market.

One way looks ridiculous while the other way looks like a strong and intelligent business facing challenges of a changing industry and meeting it with creative ideas that customers love.

Sure itís a pain in the neck to have to first buy records, then big tapes, then small cassette tapes, all the way to today with music files that can be stored on our smartphones and played in a variety of devices. Sure that put many previous companies out of business, but it also created many new companies, which are even bigger today.

Thatís the way America works. So what should the cable television industry do in order to survive and thrive?

The first solution would be to stop raising prices to customers. That means the networks should stop raising prices to the cable television industry, and let them stop raising prices to customers. Even offer less expensive options like a la carte makes perfect sense. That way they can offer a high priced and low priced offering to the market. That would make customers happy and help secure their position.

The second solution is what Comcast is doing right now. All the cable television companies have been losing customers for years. Comcast just reported their numbers and for the first time they show a gain of customers. The first gain in years.

They see the challenge and are trying to make themselves more attractive to the customers. More competitive. Thatís good. Thatís the benefit of a competitive market. Now you can watch Comcast Xfinity on your television, laptop, tablet and cellphone. And you can watch either in your home or actually anywhere else you travel to.

Weíll have to keep our eyes on Comcast, and Time Warner Cable, Cox and the rest to see if this continues and spreads. But any way you look at it, this is the way to compete. Not having the court block innovation. Innovation which threatens your business and forces you to turn the heat up on your own innovation.

If networks and the cable television industry would straighten up their act they might start to innovate again, they will start to grow again. If they donít, well theyíll go the way of the bookstore industry.

If they would realize competition will always come from innovative ideas, companies and technologies. If they fight it out in the marketplace with ideas to win customers, rather than in court to kill competition and innovation.

Doing business the right way would create a much healthier growing climate for them. That would let them start to grow once again. That alone would take the much of the air out of the sails of many of these new and innovative technologies and companies who find a very fertile growing season and are creating both the threat and the promise.

By Jeff Kagan  January 22, 2014 6:00AM   

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T-Mobile, the Rip Van Winkle of Wireless

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

01/16/14 5:00 AM PT

T-Mobile has had a good couple of quarters, actually adding customers for the first time in years. An interesting question is whether its recent success should be attributed to the network or to the show put on by its CEO. I would say it has more to do with the CEO than anything else, at this stage. Its customers seem to be younger. They love this kind of interaction and gravitate toward him.


What's up with T-Mobile? It reminds me of that old Rip Van Winkle tale. Rip fell asleep for 20 years, somewhere in the Catskill Mountains, and then woke up with a long, white beard. Except for the facial hair and the length of time, his story sounds a lot like T-Mobile USA's, right? It too has awakened from its long nap and has come out swinging. So what can we expect next?

To understand where it is going, we have to first pull back the camera and see where it has come from and where it is today. Looking back, the picture is not all that pretty.

It seems T-Mobile has always been the No. 4 competitor in wireless. It was doing a decent job in voice until network speeds jumped from 2G to 3G a few years ago. It didn't see the need, so it sat that one out. Big mistake. Not preparing for the future left T-Mobile far behind. It started to lose, and it's decline continued until the last couple of quarters.

Over the last decade, T-Mobile has been crashing and burning. Its speeds were too slow, its phones were pitiful, and it was losing customers right and left to AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless and just about everyone else.

Then, a little over a year ago, when it was scraping along at rock bottom, T-Mobile hired a new CEO -- and that began its turnaround. New CEO John Legere, who came from Global Crossing, took some time and looked both at T-Mobile's pitiful position in the market and at the growing and changing wireless industry.

Legere then developed a plan, rolled up his sleeves, and got to work. T-Mobile had two challenges: First was improving the quality and speed and reach of its network; second was improving its PR image in the marketplace. Both needed plenty of work.

Song and Dance

T-Mobile started working on improving its network -- a process that still is in the very early innings. At the same time, Legere suddenly burst onto the marketplace with a very different stance from the typical CEO -- or even his previous stance at Global Crossing.

I don't know whether this was part of the original plan, but Legere is turning into a lovable wireless lunatic with a mouth that would make my mother cringe.

He started taking shots at AT&T Mobility, started to swear every other word, started to speak about the broken wireless industry, and spouted off on how T-Mobile was going to change it.

Earlier in 2013, no one took him seriously -- but he continued. Bit by bit, he started to get some traction. Today, he gets plenty of media attention.

Today, T-Mobile is spending time and money improving its network, increasing speeds and attracting customers. That's good.

It has increased the speed of the network in many locations, although it still has a long way to go to be up to AT&T and Verizon standards. It has changed its business model to attract new customers, moving from postpaid to prepaid, and a few other things as well.

As for Legere, he is still swearing to beat the band. Just look at his recent CES presentation as an example. There were more expletives than in The Wolf of Wall Street -- the movie starring Leo Dicaprio, which I expect you've heard about by now.

Nonetheless, T-Mobile seems to be in the early stages of a recovery. Imagine that. The next question is, can it keep it up? We'll see -- but so far, so good.

Smoke and Mirrors

Traditionally, AT&T and Verizon offer the best quality and the most innovation, but they come with the highest prices. Sprint, T-Mobile and others offer lower rates, but their networks, speed and images are not top tier.

So, T-Mobile has decided to start competing for a different slice of the consumer pie then it used to. It used to compete head-to-head with AT&T, Verizon and Sprint. Now it seems to be attracting the antiestablishment crowd -- and it seems to be working.

I hope T-Mobile continues to heal and grow. That's good for the industry. However, it's important to realize that T-Mobile -- while it is helping itself -- has little to do with industry changes.

The wireless industry changes all the time -- on its own. It always has, and it always will. T-Mobile has just recognized the next shift, and talks as if it were responsible for it. Remember, AT&T and Verizon have roughly 70 percent market share. T-Mobile is a very tiny competitor that does not have the power to change the industry.

What it does have is the ability to discuss the changes that are occurring. That educates the marketplace, and that is a good thing. So I have no problem with T-Mobile shouting from the tallest mountaintops about the changes the industry is going through.

Just realize that these changes actually have little to do with any one company. They would happen in the industry on their own. This is a long-term industry change -- just as the industry has been changing time and time again over the last several decades.

It looks as though T-Mobile has finally awakened and is starting to be creative and compete successfully again. That's good for its workers, customers, shareholders and partners.

So congratulations, T-Mobile. Oh yeah -- one more thing. Could you try and keep the swear words under control? Thanks. 

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E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


Jeff Kagan: Is Cable TV Winning Again?

By    Jeff Kagan   January 15, 2014 6:00AM   

As the cable television industry has faced increased competition in recent years, they have been losing customers. AT&T (T)  Uverse, Verizon (VZ)  FiOS and CenturyLink (CTL)  Prism TV and many other alternatives have been growing market share at the expense of Comcast ($CMCST), Time Warner (TWX)  and Cox ($COX). However Comcast Xfinity has just shown growth for the first time in years. So is this just a short-term gain, or a sign of the recovering cable TV industry?

First, I think itís important to pull the camera back and take a long-term view of the changing television industry, and see why the cable television industry has been under such competitive threat. See if they have fixed their longer-term and larger industry problems. See why Comcast suddenly had a positive quarter. See whether this could be long-term growth or just a short-term. And see whether we can expect the same from Time Warner Cable, Cox and other companies as well.

The cable television industry has been with us for several decades. It started with loads of small players who have merged over the years. Today there are a very few, very larger players and plenty of small time players as well. In fact cable television looks a lot like the telephone and wireless industries.

However the problem with cable television is prices continue to rise, year after year. In fact over ten years the price basically doubles. Of course the cable television companies keep giving us more channels as well. However the average customers continue to watch their favorite five, ten or fifteen channels. The rest of the channels are, well, often a waste of money.

There are two types of cable television customers. One wants all the new technology and is willing to pay for it. The other wants basic cable television and wants to pay less. The cable television industry continues to focus on one, and pays not attention to the other. And I think that will hurt them long-term. It causes customers to flee looking for other options.

As cable TV prices continue to rise, customers look for an escape hatch. Thatís why new competitors like the phone companies offering IPTV have been so successful. I was at AT&Tís analyst meeting last month and they said their Uverse TV service has won roughly 50 percent market share in Dallas Texas. Numbers like that are a threat to the cable television industry.

So competitors are growing while the cable television industry is declining. The problem is telephone companies do not offer their IPTV services everywhere Ė only in selected markets. So while this is a great growth engine for them, it does not solve the problem nationwide that many customers have with high priced cable TV.

In the meantime, with all these new competitive threats the cable television industry has been trying to reinvent themselves. Trying to grow once again. Thatís why Comcast came up with the Xfinity name a few years ago.

It took several years for Comcast to have an interesting product mix, but they seem to be there now. Comcast Xfinity service can now be received on a variety of devices, from your television to your laptop, tablet and smartphone. In fact you can watch your home cable television service while you are away from your home on your devices.

So because of this innovation, and because most customers still donít have much choice of competitors yet, Comcast had their first good quarter in years. That was good to see once again.

The next question is, will that continue? Itís impossible to say at this early stage. We have to see if this has long legs. I think Comcast will continue to show growth in the next few quarters. The question is what happens when all their customers who want this new Xfinity service, get it? Will growth slow? It may.

If so, what does Comcast have planned next? What is their next growth wave? We have no signal on that yet, but that is one of the very important questions that any investor would want to know. What are their plans for long-term growth?

The next question is as new competitors continue to grow through the marketplace, how will that impact growth for the cable television industry going forward?

Then the next question is will that same thing happen to other cable television companies like Time Warner Cable and Cox?

So there are still plenty of questions and this growth, while a surprise, is still good. However investors are still interesting in the other questions of whether this is short or long term, and what comes next. They are still unanswered.

So congratulations to Comcast. For now they have done a great job this quarter. Letís hope they can continue. And letís hope others like Time Warner Cable and Cox can duplicate the same success. Weíll see.

By    Jeff Kagan   +Follow          January 15, 2014 6:00AM 

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CES 2014: Wireless Digs Deeper Into Our Lives

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

01/09/14 5:00 AM PT

AT&T Mobility has made several big announcements so far at CES, and several of them have to do with the company's new AT&T Drive program, which aims to connect cars using AT&T 4G LTE. For example, AT&T on Monday announced Drive and the Drive Studio connected-car center in Atlanta. It also announced that it had won a contract with GM previously held by Verizon Wireless.


International CES 2014 in under way in Las Vegas this week, surprising and delighting us with all the innovation on display.

CES is a great place to see how wireless fundamentally changes and works its way deeper into the consumer electronics industry. That's been true year after year, and this one is no exception.

I use CES as a barometer. It helps me see where we've been, where we are today and where we are heading tomorrow. Some companies introduce new products; others talk about the future. Both are great aids in helping us think about what tomorrow will look like.

One Smartphone to Rule It All

Looking back 10 years, the wireless industry was always at CES. However, I often wondered why it was there. That was before the iPhone and Android smartphone revolution that have since changed the industry.

Things are different today. Today it's all about the smartphone being the remote control for our lives.

AT&T seems to be all over CES this year with loads of announcements, and T-Mobile is trying to be seen this year as well. Where Verizon and Sprint are in all this is anyone's guess.

In any case, it looks like we are once again in the early years of the next major smartphone revolution, and that is what's on display all over CES this year.

Today we don't leave the house without grabbing our smartphone, keys and wallet. Tomorrow we'll just have to remember the smartphone. Everything we need and use will be inside that device.

We'll be able to control everything from it, whether we are home or a thousand miles away. We'll use it to start the car, turn on the home alarm or open the front door. It will have our digital driver's license, auto insurance card, money and credit cards, photos and everything else we cram into our wallets today. It will even keep track of fitness and health and finances.

Automotive Opportunities

The automotive industry is already knee-deep into the wireless transformation. Most major carmakers are rapidly innovating and want to bite into this opportunity.

AT&T Mobility has made several big announcements so far at CES, and several of them have to do with the company's new AT&T Drive program, which aims to connect cars using AT&T 4G LTE.

For example, AT&T on Monday announced Drive and the Drive Studio connected-car center in Atlanta. It also announced that it had won a contract with GM previously held by Verizon Wireless. AT&T will provide 4G LTE connectivity to 10 Chevrolet cars by this summer.

On Tuesday morning, AT&T announced a similar deal with Audi of America. Later that day, it made another announcement with Tesla.

It seems AT&T is innovating quickly in this new automotive area. This is a new branding and growth opportunity and challenge for the auto industry, and in fact for many other industries as well.

A Transformative Force

Healthcare and retail are two other industries racing to transform with wireless. They were also at the show with very innovative ideas.

The exciting part is that companies, industries and in fact the entire economy will go through a major transformation over the next several years and beyond. So whether you are a worker or an investor, there is both a great opportunity and great risk, depending on the choices you make.

Wireless as an industry continues to grow and to change, including becoming a key component of many other consumer electronics industry segments. Wireless will of course continue to be about smartphones and apps going forward, but it's going to be about helping industry after industry transform themselves as well.

We are just at the very starting point for this new opportunity. The road will not be smooth -- we'll see many winners and losers -- but there's no doubt the transformation will continue.

That, of course, is what CES is all about. Enjoy! 

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at

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E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


Jeff Kagan: Getting Most from CES 2014

By Jeff Kagan   January 7, 2014 6:00AM   


CES 2014 has begun and once again itís a zoo. I have been attending the Consumer Electronics Show off and on for more years than I can remember. It gets bigger and noisier every year, but still only a very few companies do a really good job with this once a year opportunity. Let me share a few thoughts from my perspective as an industry analyst on what companies are doing right and wrong.

As usual, I have heard from hundreds of companies who want to meet with me at this yearís show. Sounds amazing, however, as usual itís an impossible task. I typically do most one-on-one briefings at the company headquarters, privately, where itís quiet and I can focus.

What I use CES for is as a barometer of whatís hot, whatís not and what to expect this year. CES is full of dreams, but only some of those dreams will come true this year. The rest serve as a map of things to come, someday. However, both are a good indication of the direction of the industry over the next few years.

As you know CES is full of tens of thousands of analysts, investors, media, customers and so on, wandering the aisles and trying to get to the next briefing on time. An impossible task, trust me. As you also know, companies try to line up as many interviews and meetings with key people in each category.

They do this because they think it will be helpful to them going forward. And if they give a great presentation to every visitor, CES can be worth its weight in gold. Unfortunately thatís not the case. Only a very small number of companies do a good job. Why?

Think about it. As each person from each group visits, they have different questions on their mind. They look for different things meeting with each company. Industry analysts often look for different things than investors who look for different things from the media.

Even if you look at a single group, like industry analysts as an example, each analyst often has a different focus. Some look at a small group of competitors and dig deeper, while others look at a wider group. Some are more technical while others focus more on advertising and marketing.

So if you see ten different analysts, you will find they may focus on ten different areas and you will have to put together ten different presentations. And this is just for the industry analyst group. I understand the impossible challenge each company faces.

So how can you make the most of each opportunity?

Trade shows like CES or CTIA are an environment where there should be several different presentations tailored for several different groups. Most companies donít do this.

Itís exhausting for those who listen, and for those who present. Hey, weíre all only human. However there is still a way to squeeze more value out of all those briefings. You are always better off spending this first brief meeting getting to know the analyst and seeing whether or not you two are a good match.

This is different from the typical presentation when you visit with a company on their turf. Those are always very personal and interactive and much more valuable to both the visitor and the company. In fact spending time together can generate a more friendly environment which is always more helpful.

So with all that said, you can see that CES is a zoo.

Exhibitors give so many presentations. Itís tough to really understand whom they are talking to and what to say of interest to each. And that is why so many companies blow their first briefing opportunity.

Let me make a suggestion.

Rather than blowing your chance to make a good first impression with a poor presentation, why not take a different route.

Instead of a presentation, spend a few minutes getting to know the people who are there for a first meeting. Remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. So make the first impression a good one.

Learn about them and let them learn about you and your company. Both of you can size each other up pretty quickly and decide whether it makes sense to take the relationship to the next level, a private get together and presentation.

This first step can be quite valuable to starting a quality relationship. Then you can follow up after the show. You can make sure you are a good match and then arrange a more in-depth and personal briefing either over the phone or in person or both.

This way you take better control of the process and have more success wining the hearts of others who are so important to the bigger picture.

This makes your eventual first briefing much more effective.

Both sides can better prepare for each meeting. You both have the time to relax and talk and answer questions can give you the opportunity to make sure the analyst or investor truly understands. Something there simply is not time for at noisy and chaotic trade shows.

So donít swim upstream at CES. Go with the flow. Donít think about giving formal presentations. Rather think about taking the first steps and making friends. Seeing who makes sense to get to the next level with.

If you do this, you will be delighted with your success from this show. Rather than giving dozens of confusing and less effective briefings, you can group visitors up as perfect, maybe or no go and then start working that list right after the show.

Now doesnít that make more sense? So enjoy yourself at CES or any other trade show you have scheduled down the road. Let your efforts become more effective and you will be both surprised and delighted.

By    Jeff Kagan   +Follow          January 7, 2014 6:00AM   

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Jeff Kagan: What to Expect in 2014 in Wireless, Wireline and Tech (Part I)

By Jeff Kagan

December 20, 2013 6:00AM   


What a tech company needs to be able to do in order to grow is simple: predict the future. Why? Because all the amazing technology we buy and use today was on the drawing board, being planned and debated and being built many quarters, even years in advance.

Some companies lead while others follow. Apple (APPL)  has done a great job of thinking ahead of the game. They create new market sectors that were outside the curve, and which others jump into.

Thatís why they had such a head start with devices like the iPhone and iPad. Companies who partner with Apple have also done exceptionally well. Example, AT&T Mobility (T) was the first iPhone network for years.

Google (GOOG) is another example of a forward-looking company with Android. When they launched, they offered both their own phone and the more generic Android made by a separate phone maker. Their first network was T-Mobile (TMUS) .

Google didnít have such a great first year, but they learned quickly and are now selling more Android devices than Apple sells iPhones. They pulled their own smartphone handset off the market the first year. Now the Nexus has recently made a comeback and is now in the marketplace again.

So you see, sometimes companies hit the target, and other times they miss. Sometimes they do well with one area and not so well with another similar area. This is the thrill, the risk and the reward of thinking a few years ahead.

It seems timing is everything, and more change is in the air.

So what can we expect in 2014? Leadership in the marketplace will be under threat and going through changes. The following are a list of a few ups and downs and what we can expect to see.


The cloud will be increasingly important going forward. Yesterday we stored information on our devices, laptops and smartphones. Tomorrow we have too many different devices and all our information must be available on everything we have.

So weíll store all our info on the cloud, and have access to it from all our devices including our laptops, smartphones, tabletís smartwatches and more.

The cloud will play a larger and more important and growing place in the industry going forward. It is currently available from companies like Apple, AT&T and Verizon. Expect much more in the way of the cloud in 2014.


This is the next area phone makers are focused on after smartphones and tablets. There have been quite a few smartwatches in the market, but now companies like Qualcomm and Samsung are moving in and expanding the segment.

Yesterdayís smartwatches counted our steps and helped with things like a workout. Todayís smartwatches are an extension of our smartphones to our wrists. Now we donít have to pull out our phone any longer. Instead we check our watch

Will this be successful? Donít know yet. Weíll see. But everyone is getting very busy in this new area.

Curved Screen

The curved screen leaves many puzzled. Why? We have not really started to see why yet. We are still in the early days of this curved screen revolution, as the industry likes to say. We are paving the roads. Next weíll see if the cars will jump on and race around the track. Weíll see. Crazier things have happened before.

Super High Speed Internet

We are seeing the very early signs of the super high speed Internet revolution. Google started in Kansas City, then AT&T in Austin, CenturyLink in Las Vegas and C Spire in several Mississippi cities.

This is an exciting new wave that has many cities licking their chops trying to be on the early list of faster cities.


Apple started this whole new smartphone segment with the iPhone six years ago. Itís still on fire. That was followed by their iPad a few short years ago. While Apple took a hit a year ago on their stock price, customers still love them. I believe Apple will remain a strong leader going forward.

Apple has always shown the forward thinking and innovation the industry needs. They are no longer the only ones in the market and that means they must compete differently going forward, but they will.

Apple is still a very strong company and still has a unique relationship with customers who love them.

They have not been as active to change and introduce new technologies like Samsung and Microsoft (MSFT) . However their customers are just fine with that. After all not everyone wants earthshaking change to deal with.


Google is a newer, rapidly growing and very different company. They are a growth engine in so many different categories. Each must be measured on its own ability to compete and to win.

I see Google continuing to growth their Android handset business, like Apple with smartphones, tablets and smartwatches.

While this is only one slice of the Google pie, they should continue to see growth going forward.


Samsung is one of the handset makers who have taken the lead partnering with Google on their Android technology. Samsung is a strong and large and rapidly growing company.

They not only are a leader in smartphones, but the new smartwatches as well. As I check with various stores, these devices seem to be selling well at this early stage.

Samsung is also a company with many different segments like big screen televisions to washers and driers and so on. So this giant is harder to read, but should continue to be successful and innovative in 2014.


Nokia (NOK) was the leader in wireless handsets until they lost the lead in the smartphone revolution started by Apple and Google several years ago. After several years of trying they finally seem to be on a slow growth track. At least itís heading in the right direction.

Expect big changes at Nokia starting in 2014. Nokia merged with Microsoft and stands the chance to grow rapidly if Microsoft can get settled in with the right new CEO.

So expect change and potential growth, but only after Microsoft gets a new CEO and starts on their growth path.


Blackberry (BBRY) is in transition. Like Nokia they once led the smartphone segment until they started to fall after the Apple iPhone and Google Android jumped in.

What will Blackberry look like and how well will they do going forward? They will be a private company and it will be interesting to see whether they can transform and grow once again.

They still have a strong core of satisfied customers, although that is a smaller group than ever before. Letís hope they can start to grow again.

Check back in on Dec. 26 to see the second round of Jeff Kaganís 2014 tech and telecom predictions.

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Jeff Kagan: What to Expect in 2014 in Wireless, Wire Line and Internet (Part II)

By Jeff Kagan +Follow December 26, 2013 9:00AM

Tickers Mentioned: T





(On Dec. 20 published the first installment of renowned tech/telecom analyst Jeff Kaganís Predictions for 2013. This is the second installment in the series.)


Qualcomm is always a strong performer, but there are questions that are popping up now. Questions like how both their new CEO and their new Toq smartwatch will perform.

Also: are they getting into the hardware business again? Will the new CEO take them in new directions?

Qualcomm used to be in the handset business, but then left that segment and moved into chips and the insides of smartphones. Today Qualcomm is a very successful company in this space.

However with this new move into smartwatches and a new CEO there are always questions. Are they getting back into the hardware business or are they just showing the world what a Toq smartwatch with their technology can do?

I am not thinking anything is wrong there, but there is confusion so I am keeping my eyes open.


Microsoft ($MSFT)is a large and successful company in the middle of a major transformation. The past decade has simply not shown the type of growth they need.

They want to be a leader in the smartphone sector. Thatís where the Nokia acquisition comes into play.

They can be successful of course, but right now Microsoft is in flux. They will hire a new CEO shortly and letís hope they can successfully transform their business and succeed and grow going forward.

I would not say there is any worry about Microsoft survival, but there is a question about what they will look like and whether they will lead going forward as the industry continues to change.

AT&T Mobility

AT&T Mobility ($T) was always the leader charging into new business sectors like smartphones years ago. They successfully focused on smartphones even before the first iPhone hit the market.

Then they struggled with the heavy wireless data demand of the iPhone, but have solved the problem and are doing very well these days. In fact they are winning award after award from companies like JD Power and Nielsen for quality and customer satisfaction.

After attending the AT&T Industry Analyst meeting in early December I can see the various different directions they are heading in. Example, video is growing rapidly. So much of their business is video today and that is growing.

This is a company that will likely remain a leader as the entire wireless space changes. Their image in the marketplace will continue to improve based on what I am seeing with these awards.

AT&T and Verizon have won roughly 70 percent of the wireless market. And growth while changing is continuing.

Verizon Wireless

Verizon Wireless ($VZ) was not as focused on change and innovation, but had always provided a good quality service. They came late to the iPhone game, but always had good quality.

However things have been changing lately. Their CEO and COO have given separate speeches in the last few weeks discussing the growing demand of video and wireless data, and their struggle to keep up.

Video is growing on Verizon as well and this seems to have taken them by surprise. They are embarrassed by their inability to keep up with the rapidly rising demand.

Verizon troubles started a couple years ago when they had a change in senior management. The new leaders are good people, but they have missed several key areas.

Can they recover? Yes of course. "Will they?" is the more important question. I bet yes, but today they are still struggling. Expect to see a more of these kinds of Verizon troubles, at least for a while.


Sprint ($S)is currently transforming itself thanks to the Softbank acquisition. They have more spectrum than any wireless carrier and when they start rolling out high-speed services they can start to grow again.

Softbank and Sprint say we can expect to see them challenge and change the industry. The guess is in areas like cost and speed. We have seen nothing like that yet, but itís still early. The Softbank acquisition happened during the summer and they are in the early stages of upgrading the network now.

To add this mystery, Softbank is a Japanese company that wants to make a big impact in the USA. So donít think they are done. I expect them to be involved with other acquisitions going forward.

Sprint has struggled for years, but perhaps they are on the cusp of a recovery. Itís too early to tell today, but thatís the direction they want to head. So stay tuned.

T-Mobile USA

T Mobile ($TMUS)is another wireless carrier like Sprint that is in the early stages of a recovery. They were struggling for survival over the last several years. About a year ago they brought in a new CEO, John Legere, who has been really shaking things up.

T-Mobile has launched several major transformations from the iPhone, to going pre-paid to updating the network to faster speeds, and so on.

The T Mobile service is better today than it has been in years. They are winning new customers once again. They have seen growth during the last two quarters.

So while T Mobile seems like they are on the right track, itís still too early to say whether it will continue. I hope it does, but letís keep our eyes on it.

The word on the street today is Sprint and T-Mobile may merge. Will they? Who knows? The regulators said no to an AT&T T-Mobile merger. Will a Sprint T-Mobile merger be approved? Stay tuned.

(be sure to check back in for the last installment of Jeff Kaganís tech predictions on New Yearís Day.)

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Jeff Kagan: What to Expect in 2014 in Wireless, Wire Line and Internet (Part III)

By Jeff Kagan

January 1, 2014 9:00AM   

Tickers Mentioned: TWC




(On Dec. 20 analyst Jeff Kagan gave his first round of predictions for what tech and telecom would look like in 2014. He followed with another round on Dec. 26, detailing what he saw in store for Microsoft, Qualcomm, Sprint, and others. This is the third and last round of predictions for the nascent year.)

C Spire Wireless

C Spire is a smaller wireless carrier in the southeast United States and they have really been making some very interesting moves this year.

 They are expanding beyond traditional wireless. They started Vu Digital which helps web surfers find the stories and news they search for. And they do this over the wire line and wireless Internet.

They also stirred up excitement in 2013 by announcing they would roll out super high speed Internet in a city in Mississippi. They ended up selecting several cities and that is generating lots of excitement.

This it the same kind of very high speed Internet like Google in Kansas City, AT&T in Austin and CenturyLink in Las Vegas.

This company has punched its way onto the marketplace and is definitely worth keeping an eye on.


CenturyLink (CTL) is the number three ďBaby Bell.Ē If you recall, they acquired Qwest and Embarq and several other companies in recent years. They are now a stronger player who is trying to see growth in new areas like wireless and television. 

While this is what AT&T and Verizon are both doing very well, CenturyLink is still struggling for a successful foothold in these areas.

They operate like a young and energetic company who is trying time and time again and you have to give them a lot of credit for that.

I like the company and the management and think they can see growth in these and other areas going forward. Letís hope they begin to do so in 2014.


Windstream (WIN) is another interesting wireline company. They have spent the last few years acquiring other smaller companies and growing their business. They are larger today and that is the good part. The bad part is the wireline phone business is not growing. Just ask AT&T, Verizon and CenturyLink. Itís shrinking.

Since Windstream is not a wireless company or television provider, my concern is for future growth. They continue to focus on business services and they continue to do strong business today.

So while I donít see any red flags, I also donít see any enormous or rapid growth opportunities either. Things could change of course, and I hope they do.

I have met their CEO Jeff Gardner and several of the key executives, and think they are good people, doing a good job. However I sure would not mind seeing them in a faster growing segment of the business.

tw telecom

tw telecom (TWTC) originally came from Time Warner and is now an independent company. They focus on the business community and have been doing a great job.

Similar to Windstream, they deliver wireline services to the business community and are part of the backbone used by other telecoms. They are positioned well, even though they donít deliver wireless or television.

This is a relatively quiet company. There is never a lot of news from tw telecom, and their growth is never stellar, but they are consistent. I see that continuing.


Comcast (CMCSA) is the largest cable television company after acquiring the cable business from AT&T. If you recall AT&T acquired TCI from Denver in the late 1990ís.

Comcast is involved with delivering not only cable television, but telephone and high speed Internet. In recent years Comcast also acquired NBC properties and have multiple growth opportunities.

However the traditional cable television business is under threat. They grew for many years when there was limited competition from satellite TV. Today things are changing.

During the last few years we have seen both AT&T Uverse and Verizon FiOS jump in and compete. Comcast still has the majority of market share on a nationwide basis.

However in the cities where they compete against AT&T Uverse and Verizon FiOS, Comcast is losing customers. One example, in the Dallas area, where they compete against AT&T Uverse, the market share is roughly a 50 / 50 split between Comcast and AT&T.

That means Comcast is losing while AT&T is winning. Thatís the problem for Comcast.

They tried to offer a wireless service and unfortunately it did not work. Today they are partnered with Verizon and Verizon Wireless in a confusing business relationship.

And we are just in the very early stages of this transformation that is changing the cable television industry. New technologies and new competitors are threatening to change the space.

Comcast must transition and continue to grow. However they may be the best positioned to do so among the cable television industry today.

Time Warner Cable

Time Warner Cable (TWC)  is the second largest cable television company, but is rumored to be in play. Will it be acquired? Maybe. By who is the question? We have heard about Charter and Comcast, maybe others.

Why is Time Warner Cable getting out of the cable television business? If they are, the pressure to change and the threat of new and innovative competitors and technology may be one reason.

The cable television space has many new competitors and technologies that are changing the business.

They tried to offer a wireless service and unfortunately it did not work.

Time Warner Cable has provided a good quality service over the years. The cable television industry has never had a good relationship with customers. However Time Warner Cable has done pretty well in this marketplace.


Cox is a company in a lot of different businesses, from the media like radio, television and newspapers, to being a cable television competitor in markets around the country as well.

Cox is a well run and consistent company. They are however facing the same industry reshaping changes and challenges as Comcast and Time Warner Telecom.

The company will likely continue to do well going forward, however their growth in cable has not been what I expected.

They tried to offer a wireless service and unfortunately it did not work.

This is a company, which customers really like. Thatís in the plus column. However they still must be in a good position to transform because their entire industry is starting to do so.

Final Thoughts

There are many more companies and these are just a few that are changing as their segments change

We have seen the industry go through these kinds of fits and starts before, and I think 2014 will be yet another big year of transformation.

Expect change in the types of services that will be hot and the types of services each company will offer.

Expect more mergers and acquisitions.

Expect companies to compete outside their core areas with other competitors. Some who they have competed against before, and others who they havenít.

Who will lead going forward, who will follow and who will struggle? Some of todayís leaders will get stronger. Some will weaken. Some of the companies who have struggled over the last several years will now grow.

2014 will be a year of rapid growth, change in technology, competitors and leadership. Nothing stays the same. They key question is who will lead going forward in the communications space, wireless, wire line and Internet.

It will be very interesting to keep our eyes on todayís leaders, and see who wins and loses going in 2014. You know there will be surprises going forward. Letís just keep our eyes open and see what happens next

By    Jeff Kagan   +Follow          January 1, 2014 9:00AM 

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The Wireless Industry's Transformational Ripple Effect

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

12/19/13 5:00 AM PT

There's little doubt that wireless technologies are poised to change entire industries next year, but customers will have varying -- and often conflicting -- reactions. It will be a mixture of outrage at the invasion of privacy and delight over personalized service and offers. Each industry must work hard to make sure it stays on the right side of that line.


It looks like 2014 will be a very exciting year as the wireless industry continues to transform not only itself, but other industries as well. Have you noticed how things are changing, thanks to the wireless industry, smartphones and all those apps? Not only is wireless transforming itself, but it is doing the same for other industries too.

We will see wave after wave of change. Over the next few years we will see industries like healthcare, automotive and retail change and benefit from this early transformation. That will whet the appetite for a few other industries to jump in as well. Then, over the next decade virtually every other industry will be connected to the wireless industry.

This is an enormous early opportunity not only for the early adopters in these industries, but for the wireless industry as well. Networks like AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and C Spire have enormous opportunities in front of them. Handset makers like Apple, Google, Samsung and many others also see big opportunities.

Meanwhile, assorted other companies in the networking space -- like Cisco -- will allow these giants to win. I think Cisco will play a larger role in 2014; I'll be following them much more closely.

3 Industries in Transformation

It's not just the typical wire-line and wireless giants that will win, though. Early adopters in other industries will also be in a great position to win these early battles.

The first companies in any segment to jump in are the early adopters. They take the arrows, but they also set the shape and direction of the industry going forward. They get the early adopter advantage.

Then, after a while, when the dust settles, every other competitor in their space jumps in because if they don't, they are at a competitive disadvantage. Suddenly, it seems the entire industry is rushing in this new direction -- a rush that actually started years earlier, but is just now popping up on the radar.

Which industries will be first -- and which companies within them? Three big industries currently in transformation are the healthcare, automotive and retail industries.

The Healthcare Transformation Begins

Call it mHealth or eHealth or whatever you want, but the ability to use your smartphone to keep better tabs on your own health and healthcare continues to grow and will get bigger, stronger and more important in 2014.

In fact, everything about the healthcare industry is going online and wireless. Doctors' offices and insurance companies are struggling to put all their patients records online.

So what will our health world look like going forward? There are so many examples. The future possibilities look incredibly bright. Imagine not having to fill out a new patient form in every doctor's office. Imagine each of your doctors knowing what other doctors have done for you. Imagine not having to go to the doctor's office as often. Instead, your diabetes or blood pressure readings will be updated at the doctor's office through your app.

All these things and more will result in better treatment for you with less hassle. That's after we get through this multiyear transformation, however -- we're still just in the very early stages.

Barry Green, a healthcare technology consultant from the Atlanta area, told me something interesting. Specifically, medical and healthcare apps don't really do well with those over 60 years old, he said; rather, such people would rather talk live and in person. This is something that has taken the healthcare industry by surprise.

So don't go into this thinking there is no risk. There is plenty of new opportunity, but also plenty of risk. That's why it's important to go in with your eyes wide open.

Automotive Jumps In

The automotive industry is now jumping in with both legs after dipping its toes in the water over the past few years. Imagine connecting your smartphone to your dashboard and getting live traffic and weather through the automakers app, or listening to your favorite radio show using another app.

What started out as just a couple of major automakers is turning into a vast number. They each offer similar services that work differently. Believe it or not, people will start to choose their favorite car based on the type of wireless connectivity and automation offered. This is a big risk and opportunity for early adopters and aggressive automakers.

Increasingly, video plays a key role -- your kids will be able to watch their television programming or movies on screens in the back seat while you listen to CNBC, Fox News or CNN up front. Service providers like OnStar can test and communicate with you letting you know of anything that is wrong. We're still just at the very early stages, too.

Retail: Just Like Magic

Retail is another industry that is really exploring how wireless can change its world and give early adopters a leg up on the competition. Imagine walking into a store and having your smartphone recognized by their system; you get a text greeting and can ask any question you like.

You will be guided to the place in the store you are looking for. You will be offered specials based on what you are looking for or past purchases or behavior. Remember last time you visited, you stopped at the electric shavers? Maybe that's why you get a coupon for a discount on the very shaver you looked at. Just like magic.

In fact, that's a good way to describe the way customers will react to this. It will be a mixture of outrage at the invasion of privacy and delight over personalized service and offers. Each industry must work hard to make sure it stays on the right side of that line.

The Video Explosion

One more surprising thing to think about: Video is becoming the major growth driver on the wireless side. That was discussed at the AT&T Industry Analyst meeting last week; at the same time, Verizon Wireless is reportedly dealing with its own black eye in the form of video demand issues.

So, video is one of the key areas we need to stay focused on during 2014.

Bottom line: 2014 will be a very exciting year, so buckle up and get ready. Happy New Year! 

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at

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E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at



What Does AT&T Have That Verizon Doesn't?

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

12/12/13 5:00 AM PT

Why is Verizon struggling lately? There are several reasons, but I would say one key reason is people and attitude. Verizon is not the same company it was a few short years ago. There was a very significant management shakeup at both Verizon and Verizon Wireless. They both have new CEOs, and they both have new media and public relations executives. This has given Verizon a very different position in the marketplace.


Lately I have been reading several very interesting stories in the media about both Verizon and AT&T. It looks like things are starting to change. AT&T quality and reliability reportedly are getting better. At the same time, Verizon seems to be losing its grip in those same areas. So what's up?

Over the last decade or two, Verizon and AT&T have been competing on both the wireline and wireless sides. Years ago, they were both considered high quality and reliable providers of service. Then the industry changed when Apple's iPhone and Google's Android OS entered the picture.

The iPhone Gamble

Verizon Wireless was afraid the unknown iPhone would upset its applecart, so it declined to carry the device, which, as we know, was destined to become iconic. However, AT&T jumped right in and took the opposite position. It sank its teeth into a huge opportunity and got exclusive rights to sell the iPhone for years.

AT&T had a great growth period because of the iPhone. However, its reputation for quality and reliability took some hits. What's interesting is that the problems were caused by the incredible demand for the iPhone. It was a good problem for AT&T to have -- but it was still a problem.

So while AT&T Mobility grew rapidly, it also had to wrestle with iPhone demand. Verizon Wireless did not have to deal with any demand problems -- but its growth was not as strong, either.

This illustrates the core difference between AT&T and Verizon. This is the tradeoff. AT&T is bolder and more willing to lead, for better or for worse. Verizon is taking a slower growth path -- as long as it can control everything.

There are differences on the wireline side as well. Both AT&T and Verizon charged into the television provider space. Now, however, Verizon has slowed its FiOS expansion, while AT&T keeps charging ahead with U-verse.

If I am reading the media coverage of the wireless industry correctly, it seems that when it comes to quality and reliability, Verizon is getting some chinks in its armor, while AT&T seems to be getting stronger.

Verizon's Problems

Verizon has been facing wireless network pressure in big cities, CFO Fran Shammo recently said.

The company has been strengthening its wireless network in New York and addressing coverage problems, according to Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam.

After hearing this conflicting information, it seems customers are confused. So the story is there is a problem in New York City, and other cities as well. This is a scuff mark on an otherwise high-quality company.

As for AT&T, it now seems to be doing a much better job maintaining quality and reliability. What a difference a few years make. AT&T ranked highest in the latest J.D. Power smartphone satisfaction study. It ranked highest in wireless purchase experience satisfaction in another J. D. Power study.

AT&T Mobility customers are more likely to be satisfied with their smartphone experience than competitors, according to Nielsen.

I have been following the ups and downs of both Verizon and AT&T -- and in fact, all the wireless industry players -- for many years. There have been many ups and downs. Different companies lead at different times.

Things are changing once again. This time, Verizon and Verizon Wireless are scrambling to strengthen their quality and reliability. They are also fighting a slowdown in services like FiOS. At the same, time it looks as though AT&T and AT&T Mobility are getting stronger in these same areas.

AT&T's Pluses

I just attended the AT&T industry analyst meeting, and it was very impressive. I can't discuss what I heard, but this is a company that has its eyes firmly trained on growth for many years to come -- not just in wireless, but in many areas, like wireline, automotive, retail, mHealth, digital life and much more.

So why is Verizon struggling lately? There are several reasons, but I would say one key reason is people and attitude. Verizon is not the same company it was a few short years ago. Let me explain.

There was a very significant management shakeup at both Verizon and Verizon Wireless. They both have new CEOs, and they both have new media and public relations executives. This has given Verizon a very different position in the marketplace. Now it seems Verizon is starting to see some problems.

I like Verizon. I like its executives. I want them to continue to do well. However, I have written about this several times over the last year or two out of concern. You see, I write every day about different companies, different technologies, and the changing industry. Some changes are good and strong, while others are not.

I write about them because I want all companies to be winners. That is healthier for the industry, and it rewards the companies, the customers, the workers, the investors, the partners -- everyone.

When a company seems to be getting back on track, like AT&T, I like to reward it with a pat on the back for a good job. In fact, both T-Mobile and even Sprint may be showing signs of life once again.

When a company seems to be going off track, like Verizon over the last couple years, I think it's important to slap it in the face -- lovingly, of course -- and tell it to wake up.

So Verizon and Verizon Wireless, it's your turn. Slap! Instead of self-inflicted wounds, take this slap in the face as a loving nudge to set you back in the right direction. Get your ability to talk with the marketplace working again. Trust me -- it's the right thing to do. 

 E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at

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E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


Jeff Kagan: Who Will Win the 1 GigaBit Ultra High-Speed Internet Race?

By  Jeff Kagan   +Follow          December 12, 2013 12:06AM   

While the United States is a leader in Internet technology, and while the majority of citizens have access to the Internet, providing ultra-high speed access has not been on anyoneís radar. However, all of a sudden the overwhelming focus is on speed. So where are we in the rollout of this service and who will the winners and losers be going forward?

Who needs this much speed? Neither carriers nor customers were screaming for ultra-high speed Internet connections. Everyone seemed happy and satisfied. Most customers got their high-speed Internet access from their local phone company or their cable television company.

However others like Google (GOOG)  wanted more. They didnít see carriers upping the speed so a few quarters ago they decided to get into the service provider business. They built and rolled out a full, one Gigabit service in the Kansas City area.

This move turned out to be a big success. Out of the blue customers and companies loved it and cities wanted to be the next in line for this competitive advantage

So does this put Google in competition with traditional high-speed Internet providers like AT&T (T) , Verizon (VZ) , CenturyLink (CTL) , Comcast (CCS) , Time Warner Cable (TWC)  and Cox. Or were they just trying to make a point? So now that the point is made, we will see whether Google backs away.

So what has been happening since? Plenty. A few carriers are jumping on this opportunity and leading in this new area.

AT&T just introduced their first U-verse GigaPower market in Austin Texas. CenturyLink just introduced their first one gigabit fiber Internet service in Las Vegas. C Spire is in the process of building their Fiber to the Home ultra-fast Internet service in multiple cities in Mississippi.

These companies are the early adopters. These companies could indeed be among the big winners in this new high-speed race. If all works out well, I can see this very fast Internet service rolling out quickly from coast to coast over the next few years.

Early adopters will have the advantage as always. They will be looked at as the industry innovators. However after some time, ultra-fast service will become normal and then demanded by customers. Thatís when all other service providers will have to jump in to stay competitive.

Just look at the reaction among Mississippi cities to be the first to win this new C Spire service is incredible. City governments see this as a great way to be on the cutting edge and attract citizens and businesses. People and businesses see this is a very attractive service as well.

I would say 2013 was the gunshot to start this new wave, but 2014 this revolution will explode with growth. Suddenly everyone will be screaming for this ultra-high speed service.

So Who Will the Winners Be?

The first mover advantage will be in play.

Winners will be companies like AT&T, CenturyLink and C Spire. Google too if they stay a service provider. The early players in this new space.

Winners will be early adopter cities who will have an advantage very few others cities have.

Winners will be users who have access to the newest and fastest service in the market.

What About the Losers?

Losers will be the companies, cities and users who donít jump in early. Who wonít have access to this new cutting edge technology advantage.

If we look five years out, I would say there will be two types of markets. Ultra-high speed markets, and the rest, meaning ordinary speeds.

These ultra-high speed markets will be the big winners. Along with the companies that provide that service and the customers who use it and cities who offer it.

The next several years will be very interesting to follow. One nagging question is, will Google stop or are they now into the service provider business? This is an entirely different model, but then again, so are all their new businesses as well.

By    Jeff Kagan   +Follow          December 12, 2013 12:06AM 

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Jeff Kagan: Wireless Spectrum Crisis Needs Solving

By Jeff Kagan  December 6, 2013 6:00AM   

The wireless industry has seen incredible growth in recent years. However, limited wireless spectrum may start to slow that growth if we donít come up with a real, fair and long-term solution for large and small competitors. We keep dodging the bullet, but sooner or later it could hit us right between the eyes. Now is the time to come up with a real solution.

First off: what is wireless spectrum? Think of it like the roads that the data networks use to deliver services and apps. Wireless spectrum is the equivalent to all that fiber that carry data on the wire line network.

There is no limit to the amount of capacity on the wire line side. If we need more, we simply lay more wire. However on the wireless side we have restrictions and limitations.

Spectrum is wireless and is divided into many separate bands. These bands are used in a variety of industries. Some bands are used for airlines, police, emergency workers or taxi drivers to communicate. These spectrum bands are the data highways that wireless customers use. They are what carriers depend upon for their customers to use wireless data.

Ever since the Apple (AAPL)  iPhone and Google (GOOG)  Android phones like the Samsung Galaxy S4 hit the market in the last few years, spectrum is being used up faster and faster.

If we donít do anything, carriers and their customers will start to feel the pinch of limited spectrum. AT&T (T)  Mobility and Verizon Wireless (VZ)  have seen great growth in recent years. You would think they had plenty of spectrum. Really?

Spectrum is why AT&T Mobility tried to acquire T-Mobile several years ago. Itís why they are trying to acquire Leap (LEAP)  now. Itís why Verizon Wireless acquired the cable television spectrum when they acquired SpectrumCo.

So who has the most spectrum today? Sprint (S) , believe it or not. Sprint is swimming in spectrum after the merger with Clearwire and Softbank several months ago.

What will Sprint do with all that spectrum? How will AT&T and Verizon get more? And what about all the smaller wireless providers who also need access to spectrum in order to remain competitive? There are plenty like T-Mobile, US Cellular, C Spire Wireless and many more.

This is a real and growing problem. Itís not at the crisis stage yet, but why do we have to wait till we reach that point before we act anyway?

Bottom line: if you donít own or have access to spectrum, you canít deliver the services customers want, and you might just as well close up shop.

If we donít solve this spectrum shortage problem, the wireless industry will look very different going forward. There are many different providers today, but tomorrow many smaller competitors may close the doors. Thatís not good.

Competition is what we need as an industry moving forward. And that is what we could lose if we donít fix this.

So if limited spectrum is the problem, what is the solution?

There are several.

One new idea that I like is carriers sharing their spectrum with other carriers. Example: a reporter asked me about AT&T Mobility sharing spectrum with C Spire Wireless. He asked, can expect the same from Verizon Wireless and Sprint?

I told him I hope so. This is a good solution to a growing problem. True, carriers donít want to share spectrum. However, itís better than being forced to do things they really donít want to do. So yes I hope every carrier shares. That would go a long way to solving the problem.

I have discussed another solution which carriers would obviously rather avoid. Change the way we treat spectrum. To date we let carriers bid on and acquire the use of spectrum bands. If we reach a real problem without solution like sharing, the government can step in force carriers to share.

Getting the government involved is always much worse than doing it yourself. So the solution would be much better for competitors if they handle this themselves. If they share spectrum with others even though the really would rather not.

If the government gets involved, they could demand that all spectrum be pooled together and managed by a new government authority. Every company could have access to all of the spectrum, but must pay to use it. This solution would also cost money to operate. And the carriers would lose control of their spectrum.

That way networks would still be compensated, but the control would be out of their hands. Instead it would be in the government hands.

Going forward, innovation will also play a role. We will be able to do much more with what we already have. Example: weíll be able to split each band into sub-bands. That would let us have many more bands than we use today. That could increase capacity on an ongoing basis.

So you see there are solutions to this growing problem. One thing we can count on, this is not a problem that will go away or solve itself if we donít pay attention. Rather it will jump up and bite us all in the rear end, customers and carriers, and that wonít be pretty.

Remember the capacity problemís we all had with America Online or AOL (AOL) back in the early days of the Internet during the 1990ís? Slow speeds and problems connecting. We could start to experience that same pain on the wireless network with all the data we use.

Wireless data and apps are exploding and that is not slowing down. Thatís the good part of this opportunity. However every opportunity has two sides. The other side is this capacity problem is getting bigger. It is something we need to solve, sooner rather than later. Will we? Letís hope so.

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Sprint and T-Mobile Are Gunning for 2014 Recovery

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

12/05/13 5:00 AM PT


Why do some companies succeed while others struggle? And what can those who struggle do to reignite their growth? We see attempts being made both on the wireless network side and on the handset side. Looking at the network service provider side, it looks like we may see some real fireworks in 2014 from both Sprint and T-Mobile. Both companies want to shake things up.


Sprint and T-Mobile have had the roughest time during the last several years. At the same time, both AT&T Mobility and Verizon Wireless have been hitting home runs, year after year. Now it looks like both Sprint and T-Mobile are gearing up for a recovery in 2014. Three questions: Will they be successful? Will they impact the industry? Which companies will they take business from?

Wireless is one of the fastest-growing and most often-changing industries we have seen. However, not every company has done well. Within the industry, some companies have really made the right call, year after year, and seen dramatic growth and success. At the same time, other companies have struggled.

This has happened on both the network side and the handset side of the equation. On the network side, compare AT&T and Verizon to Sprint and T-Mobile. On the handset side, compare Apple's iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy line to almost any other handset on the market.

Industry Impact

Most of Sprint was acquired by Softbank several months ago. The company was not doing well prior to the acquisition. Since then, it has been relatively quiet, but it looks like it is investing in and will roll out a very high-speed wireless data network sometime in 2014. It will be faster than both AT&T and Verizon, Sprint has claimed.

In addition, Sprint has more spectrum than any other wireless carrier. What that means is if it can indeed reinvent its network and its entire wireless experience while keeping prices lower, it could indeed begin to win customers back. We have yet to see anything real, but buzz is building.

T-Mobile seems to have awakened from its several-year nap as well. With a new CEO and a new strategy, T-Mobile has shown limited growth during the last quarter or two. The question is, can it continue to recover?

T-Mobile seems to believe not only that it will reinvent its own company, but also that it will change the entire industry. That's a big order.

The next the question is, will improvements just help Sprint and T-Mobile with respect to their own performance, or will it raise the bar and cause other changes in the industry? Will it impact larger competitors? Which will they win new business from -- larger or smaller competitors? Will there be changes in services and billing and in the way people think about wireless?

The Next Burst

I don't think AT&T and Verizon are shaking in their boots. They are the two strongest, largest and fastest-growing companies in the space. Recovery will come in stages, but I am sure their larger competitors think both Sprint and T-Mobile are worth keeping an eye on.

Remember, the wireless industry grows in bursts. Six years ago, there was a burst with the iPhone and Android. Then a few years ago, there was another burst with tablets like the iPad and Galaxy Tab.

So what is the next burst going to focus on? Will it be another product like the smartwatch, or will it be helping other industries go wireless? There are plenty of potential next steps.

Which companies will lead? What will the market share of each player look like one, two or three years from today? It sure looks like 2014 will be a year of loud clamor in the industry. Stay tuned. 

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at

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E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


Jeff Kagan: What Will AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile Look Like in 2014?

By Jeff Kagan  

November 26, 2013 6:00AM   


2014 will be all about change and transformation in the wireless space. AT&T Mobility (T)  and Verizon Wireless (VZ)  have been doing very well over the years. However Sprint (S)  and T-Mobile (TMUS)  seem to have fallen off the growth track years ago. But will things change next year?


AT&T and Verizon have been riding a pretty long winning streak in wireless. They have won roughly 70 percent market share at the same time Sprint and T-Mobile have been losing business.

I believe 2014 will be full of new opportunity and change. However if you listen to the carriers, they say growth will come from different areas.

AT&T and Verizon: Growth from New Areas

As current leaders, AT&T and Verizon are not only growing their smartphone business through traditional ways, but I also see growth coming from other areas. One of those areas is helping other industries like automotive, healthcare and retail embrace the wireless world and reinvent themselves.

There are also other unexplored areas like the smartwatch world. If that segment becomes as successful as smartphones and tablets, this could represent another solid growth track for AT&T and Verizon.

Then of course there is plenty of talk about curved screens. I am not sure yet what value curved screens will bring. Perhaps itís a case of building the roads first. Weíll see.

What About Sprint and T-Mobile?

This could be one of the more surprising areas of growth and change, with revived competition coming from number three and four.

These are two companies who have not really been vibrant competitors over recent years. However both seem to be getting ready for a strong 2014.

Sprint Rebounding After Softbank Acquisition

Sprint has been trying to get their act together and T-Mobile has been trying to reinvent itself with pre-paid type services and other new ideas.

They have one distinct advantage. Sprint has more spectrum than any other wireless carrier. This is a big advantage if they learn how to use it. Sprint was recently acquired by Softbank and is presently in the process of also reinventing itself.

If they are successful in their reinvention, it will give them an advantage in the competitive playing field. However it is important to recognize that other competitors are not just sitting around. They are speeding up their connections as well.

So it will be interesting to see whether Sprint has a competitive advantage when they roll this out or not. I hope they can start doing well once again. The industry can really use several strong competitors.

T-Mobile Can Eventually Compete, But Needs to Recover First

Besides Sprint, T-Mobile is the other wireless carrier to watch. They were crashing and burning for years. They missed the move from 2G to 3G and fell way behind. Crashing and burning, T-Mobile hired a new CEO one year ago. He has already made some very interesting moves and T-Mobile seems to be benefiting.

They just reported the second quarter in a row of growth. That was the first time in a long time. The question is can that continue? The next question is, if so, where will these customers come from, larger or smaller competitors?

T-Mobile wants to challenge and change the wireless space. They want to change the way we pay for wireless services. Will they be successful? First things first. Let them start to recover first. As good as they are doing, they are still a smaller and weaker competitor.

Wireless remains one of the fastest growing sectors. It is also one of the fastest changing sectors. That however does not mean every competitor wins. Some win and others struggle.

Winners and losers can be found on both the network side and the handset side. Just compare Apple (AAPL) , Google (GOOG)  and Samsung to everyone else and youíll see what I mean.

Choosing the Winners is the Name of the Game

Which carriers and handset makers will be in the winnerís circle in 2014? That is the real question. While there is no way to tell yet, I would expect change to occur. Then again, in wireless, change always occurs.

Existing leaders have the edge. Itís theirs to lose. Other competitors want to win business from them. So the big winners have a target on their back.

Five years ago Blackberry (BBRY)  and Nokia (NOK)  were the leaders and smartphones were a smaller segment. Today those companies are struggling, and Apple, Google and Samsung are the leaders and the market is all about smartphones.

Next came the tablets, like the Apple iPad and Samsung Galaxy. Now the smartwatch is being launched with several new companies like Samsung, Qualcomm (QCOM)  and many others as well.

So the real question is, what will this wireless marketplace look like in the next few years? That innovation will lead? What should we keep alert for? All I can tell you is that it will be defined by change, and the reinvention of the wireless marketplace. And next year will look very different than this year.

By    Jeff Kagan   +Follow          November 26, 2013 6:00AM 

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AT&T and Verizon May Start to Sweat in 2014

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

11/21/13 5:00 AM PT

Both AT&T and Verizon have done well until now in their different business sectors. Now they are preparing for 2014. What will 2014 look like? What new technology will we be talking about during the course of the coming year? What new ideas will begin to take hold? What companies, large or small, will start making a dent? We'll just have to buckle up for one helluva ride.


AT&T and Verizon, the leading telecom service providers in the U.S., are growing in several different sectors. They offer the widest variety of services, including wireless, landline telephone, Internet protocol television and high-speed Internet access. They are also the biggest targets. If 2014 will see lots of change, how will that impact AT&T, Verizon -- and you?

In the 1990s it was a lot easier to discuss these companies, because they were simple local phone companies. This century, they have changed and grown into many different areas. They are competing with different companies in different ways than before.

In fact, the entire industry is preparing for new waves of growth. Will AT&T and Verizon continue to lead? Yes, but things may look different. Some sectors will continue growing, while others will crest, as local phone lines did. They were in growth mode until about 10 years ago. Since then, they have been declining.

Compare companies like AT&T and Verizon to companies like Sprint and T-Mobile. Two rapidly grew, and two struggled. However, both Sprint and T-Mobile now are preparing for growth. That is a threat to the current leaders.

Competition Shifting

It's important to pull back the camera and look at all the sectors AT&T and Verizon compete in and gauge how well they are doing in each. They currently have about 70 percent of the marketplace. Going forward, they will remain strong, growth companies.

However, they will see strong growth in some sectors and weakness in others -- and they will face different competitors and challenges in each segment.

Only one segment is actually declining, though -- local phone service. Its growth crested around the year 2000, and it has been falling ever since.

AT&T and Verizon have started new growth waves over the years, which accounts for their solid growth today. When you look at these companies you still may want to call them "local phone companies," but they are growing beyond phone into television, wireless, Internet and other sectors.

Where they sell IPTV services, they compete with Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cox.

In the wireless industry, they compete with each other as well as Sprint, T-Mobile, US Cellular, C-Spire and others.

In providing local phone and IP services, they compete with companies like CenturyLink, Windstream and TW telecom.

Each sector has its own group of competitors and technologies -- and each requires a different competitive strategy.

Both AT&T and Verizon are rapidly growing in their newer business sectors. In fact, in the markets where AT&T U-verse and Verizon FiOS compete against cable television competitors like Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cox, the telephone companies have just reached the 50 percent market share mark.

That's an incredible accomplishment. However, that's only in the markets where they compete. Cable television still has a much larger footprint, so overall the cable television companies still are in the lead.

New Waves Building

More change is coming. AT&T and Verizon are shaking up the cable television industry with their IPTV services, but the entire TV space is about to be shaken up by new technology and competitors.

Just look at what Aereo has started to do. This is a tiny company with an innovative idea at a lower cost -- and there are plenty more competitors that are potential change agents as well.

So AT&T and Verizon both compete with Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cox on the television and Internet side.

They compete with Sprint and T-Mobile on the wireless side, and they compete with every new and innovative idea that comes down the pike, of which there are plenty on all sides.

Sprint and T-Mobile may be getting ready to move. T-Mobile is repairing its bad network under a new CEO and is starting to grow again.

Sprint has been acquired by Softbank and is in the process of building its wireless capabilities once again. In fact, Sprint is building out the ability to offer very high-speed wireless data services. Add to that the fact that Sprint has more wireless data spectrum than both AT&T and Verizon, and you can see the potential threat that is building in the wireless industry.

What else? There's another new wave called "super high-speed Internet." Google started this in Kansas City and is succeeding. Recently AT&T revealed its plans to do the same in Austin, Texas, and C-Spire is gearing up to do the same in Mississippi. These are the very early days in what may become a rapidly growing and competitive segment.

As the Internet gets faster, customers will change from being excited about this new innovation to expecting it from all providers. When that happens, I expect to see companies like Verizon and Comcast enter the competition in market after market, which will change this new segment as well.

It's too early to tell who will eventually emerge as the industry leaders.

AT&T and Verizon are working with other industries like automotive, healthcare and retail, helping them transform themselves for an increasingly wireless future. This is another huge new opportunity and growth wave for the industry.

There is more, but you get the point. Both AT&T and Verizon have done well until now in their different business sectors. Now they are preparing for 2014. What will 2014 look like? What new technology will we be talking about during the course of the coming year? What new ideas will begin to take hold? What companies, large or small, will start making a dent?

We'll just have to buckle up for one helluva ride. This industry keeps reinventing itself. It seems to be a different place every few years. I wonder what we'll be talking about in 2014 that isn't on the radar yet. 

 E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at

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E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


Jeff Kagan: Will SmartWatch Do Well in 2014?

By Jeff Kagan

November 21, 2013 6:00AM   

Tickers Mentioned: AAPL  QCOM

The SmartWatch is the newest innovation in the tech industry and it was just launched a few short months ago by Samsung. Qualcomm (QCOM) is getting ready for their launch in early December. Many other companies are getting ready to enter the fray as well. Will the smartwatch be as successful as tablet computers? Samsung just announced their initial sales numbers, so letís take a closer look.

Since these smartwatches require them to be hooked up to a smartphone, we can safely assume sales numbers will not exceed smartphone numbers. With that said, how many smartphone users want a smartwatch?

This is a new industry segment. Sure there are other watches that call themselves smartwatches, but they are not the same type device. They track your steps or heartbeat while exercising, but they donít let you check your email, surf the web or make phone calls.

We have just entered the first wave of customer sales. There is no history. The numbers will change as other competitorís jump in, technology is compared, and customers decide whether they need these new devices. So smartwatches will either be a big success long term, or not. Itís too early to tell at this point.

The first few months of sales reported by Samsung looks promising. Samsung Electronics said its Galaxy Gear has become the worldís most popular smartwatch. They said sales were 800,000 since its launch just two months ago. This sounds good so far. Nothing to blow the doors off, but solid.

However, itís important to take this with a grain of salt. Yes, there are other smartwatches in the marketplace, but they are not connected to the smartphone and do not deliver what the Galaxy Gear does.

So for that reason, itís important to realize we are starting a new wave of consumer product. With that said, Samsung is the first and no other company has launched their smartwatches yet.

So when Samsung says its Galaxy Gear has become the worldís most popular smartwatch, well, of course they are. They are the only company in that space today.

Samsung is in the marketplace for the holiday shopping season, which is important. They should do well with these devices this season. Then we get to see what customers think about them. We still want to know whether these will be a hit or not.

Are these devices really industry changing, life changing, or not? Remember, tablet computers like the Apple (AAPL)  iPad are successful. However the previous version, the Netbook, which was a smaller laptop, was not. So we have to wait and see.

Qualcomm is preparing to enter this fray with their Toq smartwatch on Cyber Monday. These devices obviously have no sales numbers yet, but it will be interesting to see how well they do in coming months.

The real question here is does Qualcomm want to re-enter the product arena or are they just launching this Toq as a showpiece of what they can do? This could be a great sales tool for other smartwatch makers. Of course they would have to sell well to make it all work.

Plus over the next year or two, we will see other companies jumping into the space as well. This will look very similar to the Netbook wars, and the tablet wars after that. Who will win early is no guarantee of who will win long term.

There will be several different steps over several years. The first step is this introduction. Customers love the sound of a smartwatch, but most will not buy first thing. The early adopters will jump right in.

Early adopters know they have to deal with devices that donít work perfectly yet, but then again they have a helluva talking piece on their wrist to show off.

Then over the coming months, weíll see the next wave jump in and try the devices, as smartwatches get stronger and better. Weíll see other companies jump into the space as well. The marketplace will change several times over the next several years. Who will lead?

One thing we will all be looking for is continued customer interest. Will this be an ongoing success like the tablet seems to be, or will it come and go like the Netbooks?

With all that said, there are still loads of questions. Weíll just have to keep our eyes on this segment to see whether it is a big success or not. Early on I would expect there to be lots of excitement and interest. The question is, will it be long term or not? Weíll just have to wait and see.

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Ericsson (ERIC) Predicts Rapid Wireless Data Growth

By Jeff Kagan

November 14, 2013 12:35PM   

Ericsson  (ERIC) says we should expect rapid changes in wireless, and that smartphone subscriptions will reach 5.6 billion by 2019. Today we are at 1.9 billion. That will mean different handsets and new areas of growth. So what will the wireless world look like tomorrow? You may be surprised.

First of all itís important to recognize that Ericsson is in the business. So when they issue a report that traffic will grow tenfold by the year 2019, and the device market will explode with growth, we must take that with a grain of salt.

On the other hand, I must agree with Ericsson on their prediction. However I would go further. The future is not just about smartphones. Itís also about transforming the entire business community to use wireless data to compete in new ways.

So wireless growth will look very different by 2019. We can expect a vibrant marketplace, with incredible growth, but things will look very different. Then again, it has also changed dramatically over the last five years as well.

Many of the companies that lead the wireless space today wonít in 2019. Many new companies and technologies that will lead may not even exist yet.

Just look at the last five years as an example. The Apple  (AAPL)  iPhone and Google (GOOG)  Android started just six years ago and changed the entire smartphone segment. Before that Blackberry (BBRY)  and Nokia  (NOK)  led.

What that says is it can be impossible to predict what the marketplace will look like five or ten years out. During the last five years we have seen the entire wireless space transform both technologies and companies.

So what will the industry look like in another five years? We can make predictions, but we must also be aware that surprises happen all the time. I never assume anyone knows what the marketplace will look like more than a few years out. Thatís the nature of wireless innovation.

Wireless is one of the fastest growing segments in business today. In fact it is also one of the most often and fastest changing industries we have ever seen, both here in the US and worldwide.

In many areas of the world, the costs and limits of a wired world mean the wireless network is the only way to communicate. In fact the same may be true right here in the United States. Just look at how Verizon (VZ)  is not rebuilding in many areas after last yearís Hurricane Sandy.

Itís pretty safe to say some of the wireless carriers will likely continue to be winners. Look at AT&T Mobility  (T)  and Verizon Wireless as an example. Today they account for roughly 70 percent of the marketplace.

Will they continue this lead? Impossible to say today, but they are both ahead of the curve so I expect they will at this point.

Sprint  (S) and T-Mobile  (TMUS)  are number three and four. One year ago they were both failing, but things change. Today they are trying to reinvent themselves.

Sprint was acquired by Softbank and is building a very fast wireless Internet. T-Mobileís new CEO seems to be breathing new life into their lungs. So over the next year or two these companies may start to win an increasing amount of business.

We know how the smartphone world and network speeds are rapidly growing. That wonít stop. But where else will wireless growth come from?

Growth will come from unexpected places. Consider how the wireless industry is helping industry after industry move forward.

Look at the automotive industry. It is rapidly moving forward, and itís not just Tesla, Lexus, Mercedes and Cadillac. Itís also Ford, Chevy, Toyota and Honda. Actually, one by one all the carmakers are jumping into this wireless data space. This competitive threat in automotive, is also an enormous opportunity for the wireless industry going forward.

Look at healthcare. Wireless data is changing that space as well, both for doctors and for patients. New devices are transforming the entire space. Not only do doctors and hospitals use it, but increasingly patients are as well. Smartphone apps that are real healthcare tools used to link patients to doctors for better care.

Look at retail. Walk into a store and you get a welcome text message. It also knows you, what you purchased before, asks what you are looking for today, and not only directs you to the place in the store you are looking for, but also sends you a personalized coupon.

In area after area, and industry after industry, this is going to be one of the big growth areas in wireless in coming years. And we are really just in the very early days of this new revolution.

So what else will we be talking about in coming years as the wireless industry continues to grow and change everything?

Ericsson seems to think there is plenty of opportunity going forward. They see lower priced smartphones enticing new waves of customers, in country after country.

They expect mobile subscribers to reach 9.3 billion by 2019. They expect to see the number of mobile broadband subscribers grow to four times the size of todayís market, growing to 8 billion, from 2 billion today. They see smartphone subscribers growing to 5.6 billion, from 1.9 billion today.

Ericsson also expects the amount of data used by each smartphone to grow to four times todayís market. Ericsson also expects 90 percent of the worldís population to be using WSDMA/HSPA technology, and 65 percent to be covered by LTE or Long Term Evolution by 2019.

So we have quite a long way to go to reach those numbers, but growth in wireless continues. Now that growth with expensive gear is slowing, the less expensive handsets are starting to sell. This welcomes in new waves of users, worldwide and they all get hooked on wireless data.

In this changing marketplace, itís important to recognize that some companies and ideas will succeed, while others will not. Some of todayís leaders will give way to tomorrowís leaders. Choosing the right companies and technologies to invest in is always the challenge.

With that said, while this Ericsson study is very interesting and sounds exciting, take it with a grain of salt. They could be right. Then again, the industry could go down an entirely different path that we are not even aware of today. Remember Apple and Google? It happens all the time.

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The Mystery of the Inscrutably Curved Smartphone Screen

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

11/14/13 5:00 AM PT

Privately held businesses don't have to continually rush to do something new so they can sell more this year than last. Public companies need to sell more, year after year, to keep investors happy and stock prices up. If they've maxed out on sales, they had better come up with something else or they are in trouble. Perhaps that's the starting point for interest in these curved screens.


Don't you wish someone had the courage to tell the Emperor he's naked? What am I talking about? Curved smartphone screens. Think about it -- over the last few months, there's been a lot of chatter about Apple, Samsung, LG and others getting ready to launch smartphones with curved screens. Sounds cool, but what the heck is the point?

Before writing this I asked several executives in the wireless industry for their opinion. I thought that I must be missing something. After all, companies are all excited about offering this, and the media seems excited to write about it. The problem is they're all saying the same thing: They don't get it either.

Handset makers are lousy at PR. They should do a much better job of explaining what the heck this is all about. After all, if customers don't get it, and executives don't get it, and investors don't get it, what's the point?

Where Are the Curved Apps?

Even if the handset makers like Apple, Samsung and LG put a curved screen smartphone in every customer's hands, what will that do? Will it change the experience? Will the customer be able to do anything different or new? What apps are screaming for a curved screen?

The simple answer is none of them.

Perhaps the point is coming down the road. The best I can figure is this has something to do with the future. It's about paving the roads before the cars that need them are built. You know -- a build it and they will come scenario. That's what the industry did with the entire smartphone revolution. One step at a time.

With smartphones and apps, they explained till they were blue in the face. No one cared -- not until the first iPhone rolled into the marketplace six years ago, anyway.

Is that why they are still keeping mum about curved screens? Who knows? Curved screens are not a big deal today, but perhaps this is about preparing for tomorrow.

Keeping Up With the Competition

OK, I'll bite. So what's the world going to look like tomorrow? What kind of world requires curved screens? Anyone? Anyone? Oh no. Now I'm starting to sound like Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller.

What's clear is that handset makers are moving rapidly in the same direction, so there must be a there, there, right? None of them want to be left behind in the dust. None of them want to occupy a marketplace where competitors with curved handsets are speeding ahead.

Wait, I know. Perhaps it's like the big curved-screen TVs we've been hearing so much about. If so, perhaps we can look at those and see what is the point and compare. So... what's the point of these big curved-screen TVs? Back to square one.

Perhaps this is a problem with business in the public marketplace. Privately held businesses don't have to continually rush to do something new so they can sell more this year than last. Public companies need to sell more, year after year, to keep investors happy and stock prices up. If they've maxed out on sales, they had better come up with something else or they are in trouble.

Perhaps that's the starting point for interest in these curved screens. That was the point with the entire smartphone revolution right? Everyone had a cellphone. So how can we earn more? Smartphones and apps, that's how. Is this more of the same thing?

The Next New Must-Have Thing

It will be interesting ito see how the industry finally starts marketing these curved screens and how it turns them into something everyone needs. I'll bet that's exactly what the manufacturers have in mind.

So we'll have to keep our eyes open. Let's see who introduces one next and consider how they could change our lives -- what new features they might bring to the marketplace.

When will the manufacturers finally start telling us about the benefits they will bring? If they have some secret plan in store for these curved screens, they should spend some time and money to educate the marketplace -- don't you think?

Just in case you're waiting for someone to say it, allow me. Hey, Emperor! Put your shorts on!  


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


Can T-Mobile Keep Hitting it Out of the Park?

By Jeff Kagan

November 7, 2013 9:00AM   

T-Mobile USA (TMUS) has been earning attention over this last year. Now they are earning respect with two quarters of growth. This turnaround is in the very early stages, and has been quite the surprise this year. Why are they suddenly doing better? One answer is the direction and thinking of their new CEO John Legere. But can it continue?

First letís take a look back at where T-Mobile comes from. T-Mobile was the number four competitor until they lost their way several years ago.

Six years ago the first Apple Inc. (AAPL)  iPhone and Google Android-runningphones hit the streets and suddenly changed the wireless industry.

The iPhone success often overwhelmed AT&T Mobility in those early days. They were running as fast as they could to keep up with the avalanche of sudden demand. They were the first carrier to offer the device and ushered in the new smartphone revolution all carriers now enjoy.

The sudden and immense success of the iPhone was the red flare fired to warn all networks they needed to upgrade their wireless data networks. A wireless data storm was coming. That wake up call to the industry said the future was all about smartphones.

Some carriers understood the opportunity. Some did not. Those who didnít would suffer for years to come.

Before that point, smartphones were growing slowly. The leaders were Palm, which started the revolution in the 1990ís. Then Blackberry (BBRY)  joined in. In the beginning neither of these companies were wireless phones; the first Blackberry was a pager introduced in 1999, andtThe first Palm was a personal calendar and organizer launched in the mid 1990ís.

In fact it was 2003 before they added a wireless phone to their devices. There were only a few hundred apps and growth was slow, but steady. Now, there are nearly a million.

The demand for wireless data on the networks in that time rose very quickly. Thatís when we saw AT&T (T)  and Verizon Communications (VZ)  invest in bringing their networks up to speed. Today they both have very fast wireless data networks that can carry enormous amounts of data.

They use different technologies to bring speed to market, and their customers are very happy with both - AT&T uses HSPA+ and LTE, while Verizon uses LTE.

Sprint (S)  and T-Mobile did not adapt so well. They did not invest in and deliver a faster signal. That meant neither really offered the kind of speed customers suddenly wanted.

Over the last few years since both AT&T and Verizon had the lead in speed, they won most of the customers. In fact these two carriers account for roughly 70 percent of the market share.

Today both Sprint and T-Mobile are in the very early stages of a recovery. Sprint was recently acquired by Softbank and they are busily updating the network. They have enormous wireless data spectrum at hand. More than any other carrier.

T-Mobile is going through a more immediate transformation ushered in by a new CEO John Legere, formerly of Global Crossing. Legere joined T-Mobile roughly one year ago, in late 2012.

Legere is larger than life and letís his mouth spout off four letter words which really separates him from other CEOís. Whatever you think if his approach, he has punched his way into the spotlight and given T-Mobile a second chance.

Taking a closer look at the last year you can see quite a bit of activity from T-Mobile. Activity, which has led to a rapid turnaround from the company who was failing. Now they are starting to stabilize and even show some growth.

What has John Legere done for T-Mobile during the last year? Plenty. He stuck his flag in the ground and changed the direction of the company.

Going forward T-Mobile is known as the Ďuncarrierí. Legere took a look at the industry, and even though it has shown rapid growth, there were still areas he says customers donít like. He wanted to lower costs. He wanted to transform first T-Mobile then the entire industry.

T-Mobile changed from a regular post-paid carrier like AT&T, Verizon and Sprint, and looks more like a pre-paid carrier. He says this is one way for customers to cut costs.

Customers pay for their phone separate from their monthly service. They pay more for the device then from other carriers, but they are not under contract for two years. So bottom line they donít pay more, they just pay differently. There were quite a few other changes like acquiring MetroPCS and offering the iPhone.

Remember, AT&T and T-Mobile tried to merge a few short years ago, but regulators said no. They were both too large. At the time, many said T-Mobile was a shadow of its former self. At the time they were right.

But much has changed over the last year. They transformed themselves from a company who was dying on the vine, to a company with a second chance at life. Suddenly they are up and running and competing once again.

CEO John Legere jumped in and started pounding on T-Mobileís chest. They have been responding. Not bad for just a few months. What will come next? Will T-Mobile continue its recovery and growth?

The T-Mobile network is not as vast or as fast as that of AT&T or Verizon. When Sprint recovers in the next year or two they may have a spectrum advantage as well. Yet T-Mobile is still popping up on the radar. They are winning new customers.

They just announced their quarterly earnings and showed growth. Thatís two quarters in a row of growth. That is very different. That is very encouraging.

The question is will that continue? Is this move up good for the long-term?

That depends on whatís next. If they keep growing and keep changing themselves and the entire industry then the answer could be yes. The next question is, will they have an impact on the entire industry? Itís too early to tell.

Remember however that T-Mobile, even though they are showing promise, it is still only a little squirt in an industry of giants. Will they really have an impact on AT&T and Verizon?

To do so, this story would have to look like David vs. Goliath. So for now, letís just see whether Legere and T-Mobile can continue their growth and repair their company. Then we can look out to see if they will change the industry.


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at



Get Ready for World War TV

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

11/07/13 5:00 AM PT

AT&T and Verizon are now the fifth and sixth largest pay-TV providers in the United States. They are after Comcast, Time Warner Cable, DirecTV and Dish Network. Generally speaking, in markets where they compete, the phone companies are winning. However, they don't compete in all markets. That's why cable television companies still have the overall lead.


AT&T and Verizon have quietly been building a strong TV business. In fact, I read last week that where they offer service, they have almost the same market share as the cable television company leaders like Comcast, Time Warner and Cox. That's an incredible accomplishment.

Telecom is changing. If you pull the camera back, the entire communications industry -- telephone, wireless, television and the Internet -- is changing. The economics are changing. New technology and new competitors continue to jump in and change everything.

Who will lead in tomorrow's marketplace? That's the question.

Will today's leaders continue to dominate, or will something upset the apple cart? Before you assume anything, remember that this has happened before -- many times, in fact. Over the last five years, Apple and Google changed the wireless space with the iPhone and the Android operating system. Before they arrived on the scene, BlackBerry and Nokia led -- and before them it was Palm. You remember Palm, don't you?

Things can change quickly.

The Television Side of the Industry

Several years ago, cable television was rapidly growing. There were basically two choices: cable television or one of two satellite television services.

Then the Internet got faster and technology got better and cable television companies started offering a VoIP telephone service. That's voice communications over the Internet. They also tried to offer wireless plans, but that failed. Today, they offer three services: cable television, VoIP telephone and high-speed Internet.

The local phone companies were just entering the television space with IPTV -- basically, television over the Internet. Today phone companies offer four services: telephone, wireless, television and Internet access.

In the cities where they compete with cable television companies, phone companies have won so much new business they are almost their equals. Why? Do customers dislike their cable television companies? Or do they really like their phone companies? Whatever the reason, the market is speaking.

Within the IPTV world, the big two local phone companies offer AT&T U-verse and Verizon FiOS. They have both won more than 5 million new television customers so far. AT&T has 5.3 million, and Verizon has 5.2 million. AT&T is growing faster than Verizon right now, but both are strong.

AT&T and Verizon are the largest competitors to the cable television industry, and companies like Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cox are currently losing market share.

AT&T and Verizon are both upgrading their customers from traditional DSL to new hybrid fiber copper, using U-verse and FiOS. AT&T today has roughly 9.7 million U-verse Internet subscribers, an increase of 37 percent over the last year. Verizon also has grown, now claiming 5.9 million FiOS Internet subscribers.

It looks like AT&T has 14.7 million high-speed residential data customers, which is more than every other player in the U.S. except Comcast. Business services are also showing strong television and Internet growth.

Why is Verizon not growing as fast as AT&T? Let me know if you have any thoughts on this one.

Threats and Opportunities

The television industry looks very different today than it did a handful of years ago. Back then, it was a strong business with few competitors. Today there are many more competitors, and there are new technologies.

This shift is a threat to both the cable television companies and the telephone companies that have the vast majority of customers and lead today. However, along with the very real threats, there are real opportunities going forward. Some companies will continue to do strong business and lead. Others will wither under the pressure.

Not every leader understands how to continue leading. There are plenty of examples. Just look at companies like Kodak and BlackBerry.

We saw something similar in the late 1990s when Apple transformed the music industry. Its iPod with music files changed the entire industry, providing an alternative to the discs we used to buy. The same thing happened in the last decade with movies. Today we see companies like Netflix, Amazon and Apple growing their movie businesses with files customers can download. At the same time we see Blockbuster and Hollywood Video stores shrivel and die.

That same wave of change will pressure today's television industry. That means the pressure is on both the telephone companies and cable television companies to maintain their lead. Will today's leaders continue to lead? Or will a new wave of companies sweep in and transform the television space?

AT&T and Verizon are now the fifth and sixth largest pay-TV providers in the United States. They are after Comcast, Time Warner Cable, DirecTV and Dish Network. Generally speaking, in markets where they compete, the phone companies are winning. However, they don't compete in all markets. That's why cable television companies still have the overall lead.

How will that change over the next several years? Who else will enter and change the marketplace? There is one thing I can say for sure: Change is coming. Change always comes. It redefines. So let's keep our eyes open for the wave of change that will redefine the industry going forward. Things will get very interesting from here on out. 


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at



AT&T's Riding Shotgun as Tesla Drives Into the Future

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

10/31/13 5:00 AM PT

AT&T will benefit by being Tesla's first wireless partner. It will gain a very high-profile stage to roll out its innovations in the automobile sector. Anything a Tesla can do will get tons more ink than anything similar that a GM or Ford can do. Tesla has the spotlight for innovation right now. So AT&T is starting to position itself for the next wave of growth.


Why do AT&T, Tesla and iPhone work so well together? They don't play it safe. They all have the guts to drag us kicking and screaming into the future. AT&T was first to work with Apple on the iPhone, and it is first to work with Tesla. So what's next?

Look at all the wireless carriers. AT&T and Verizon are the two largest in the United States. They account for roughly 70 percent of the market. Although these two companies are similar in size, they are miles apart in what makes them what they are.

Verizon is more timid. It is never first to market. It is a fast follower. True, it makes fewer mistakes that way, but it never leads the industry in a new direction. It does not have its hands on the steering wheel. It is not captain of the ship. When others create a new market segment, Verizon eventually comes kicking and screaming to the opportunity.

AT&T is the company that had the guts to say yes and lead the wireless industry into the new world of wireless smartphone devices, apps and services. Sure, it took plenty of arrows, but leaders often do. With true Texas entrepreneurial spirit, AT&T paved the way for the rest of the industry. True, AT&T had no way of knowing the kind of future that was coming, but that's the point. It went ahead anyway.

Catching the Wave

Look back a little more than six years ago, when Apple was getting into the smartphone business with the iPhone. Since Verizon could not control every aspect of the Apple universe, it said no. Imagine that. That meant it lost out on a huge opportunity for growth over the years, as well as a chance to steer the industry. Who led? AT&T did.

Now AT&T is taking another step into the unknown with the car maker Tesla. Electric cars are popping up everywhere from coast to coast and are attracting quite a bit of attention from buyers, investors and the media.

For that reason alone, AT&T will benefit by being Tesla's first wireless partner -- but wait, there's more.

This gives AT&T a very high-profile stage to roll out its innovations in the automobile sector. Anything a Tesla can do will get tons more ink than anything similar that a GM or Ford can do. Tesla has the spotlight for innovation right now.

So AT&T is starting to position itself for the next wave of growth -- just as it rapidly moved into the smartphone space 10 years ago, well before anyone else, and just as it embraced the iPhone revolution six years ago. Now AT&T is entering the next wave of growth, partnering with other companies to revolutionize entire industries. This is happening in healthcare, retail and automotive.

Automotive has been embracing the high-tech wireless smartphone world in the last few years, and the trend is growing. Toyota and Lexus let you connect your smartphone to their cars with the Entune and Enform systems. This lets you get live traffic on your navigation system, live weather and other Web-based features directly from your smartphone. The same thing is happening with most other car makers like GM, Ford, Mercedes, BMW and so on.

Out on a Limb

We still have a lot to learn about this new segment. The good news is you get all sorts of wireless magic available in your car. The bad news is you use wireless minutes from your smartphone data plan. We'll figure it out. After all, we are just in the very early days.

There's going to be lots of noise in the auto space, so it's going to be harder than ever to be heard. What's the solution? Partnering with a hot new company that everyone follows -- like Tesla -- sounds like a great idea. That's exactly where AT&T has planted itself -- just as it did with Apple years ago.

That said, don't think this race is over. It is just the beginning. I fully expect other carriers to jump in and take advantage of other PR opportunities like this one in industry after industry.

I am very excited to see what will be coming next. Automotive is really being dragged into the wireless future. It is doing plenty right and wrong, but it is moving ahead. There are plenty of lessons to learn, but these are just the early years.

Even though I have taken plenty of swings at AT&T, along with every other major competitor in the space over time, I have to admit it is the largest and most successful risk taker. It is an important player that is successfully ushering innovative ideas into the smartphone universe.

The good news is that AT&T is still very Cingular in its focus. So thanks, AT&T and Tesla. After all, somebody has to have the guts to drag us into tomorrow. We're always waiting to see what's coming next -- and there is always something coming next. 


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at



Microsoft Should Read Customers' Lips on Windows 8

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

10/24/13 5:00 AM PT

Forcing Windows 8 down everyone's throat will hurt the Microsoft brand, and Nokia smartphones and tablets won't solve this problem. The Windows 8.1 fix doesn't make it any better. For the few customers who like Windows 8, 8.1 makes it a little easier to use. However, for those who don't like Windows 8, there's no improvement. Most customers are not used to and simply don't like tiles.

Executives tasked with deciding which technologies their companies should buy said a year ago that they didn't think Windows 8 would work for them. Consumers didn't like it either. It doesn't appear that any of them have changed their minds. The vast majority of companies and consumers are staying as far away from Windows 8 as they can. It is too different and confusing in their view. So what's going to happen next? Can Nokia help?

Many companies actually would have preferred to stay with Windows XP, but Microsoft did not give them that option. It put an expiration date on XP, forcing users to upgrade. The choice is whether to upgrade to the more familiar Windows 7 or the new and completely different Windows 8?

Some will choose Windows 8; however, the vast majority will go to Windows 7. That means the Windows 8 path that Microsoft wants to lead everyone down is just not agreeable. Will that matter to Microsoft? Of course it should -- but based on their past behavior, who really knows?

Microsoft will be changing CEOs soon. Will the new CEO head down the Windows 8 path? If so, Microsoft will have to pay a steep price.

I think Microsoft should focus on both Windows 7 and 8 and let customers choose which OS they want. To many, Windows 8 is too far out there. Customers can still get 7, but it's much more difficult to find. It should be as easy as clicking an icon.

Nokia will soon be acquired by Microsoft. Will that help? It depends on the direction the new CEO wants to take.

Worlds Apart

The real problem here is that Microsoft and its customers are not on the same page. Microsoft wants to change and grow, so it figured the best way would be to totally reinvent its operating system and tie it in with its tablets and smartphones. However, customers don't want to have to go through another learning curve.

Average users have no interest in investing time and aggravation in trying to understand the new Windows 8 operating system. They are just fine with Windows 7.

These customers, whether business or consumers, have their own lives to live and businesses to run. They don't have the time to spend getting warmed up to a new operating system. This would benefit Microsoft -- but it does not the company's customers.

There's the rub, Microsoft! You are not thinking about your customers -- only yourself.

It is up to Microsoft to develop something its customers really want -- something that will offer new features and functionality; something that will work with computers, tablets and smartphones; most importantly, something they can use without any help.

In fact, Microsoft should develop a new front end that makes Windows 8 work like Windows 7. That would be a perfect solution. Let the customer choose which way they want to use the OS. It would solve the problem altogether.

So why the hell doesn't Microsoft just do that?

Consumers are confused by Windows 8. Business customers are responsible for training their workers and keeping them operational. That means their support people will be overloaded. They see Windows 8 as a train wreck.

Companies have a business to run, and consumers have a life to live. Tthey wonder how Microsoft has the nerve to put them out like this, once again -- especially when today there is serious competition trying to win Microsoft customers. Companies like Google, Apple, and many others have Microsoft in their sights.

Message to Microsoft

So, message to Microsoft: Wake up and listen to your customers before it's too late. Give them what they want. Sure, you can create a new operating system if you want to. However, don't force existing and otherwise happy customers into the uncomfortable space of having to learn a completely new and different OS.

You've done a great job over the last few decades. Customers are used to Microsoft operating systems. Most customers have no desire to change. It's part of the brand relationship with users.

So Microsoft, it's up to you to make each change transparent -- to take care of your customers; to keep the value of your brand strong. Otherwise, your customers will have no reason to stay put.

Forcing Windows 8 down everyone's throat will hurt the Microsoft brand, and Nokia smartphones and tablets won't solve this problem.

The Windows 8.1 fix doesn't make it any better. For the few customers who like Windows 8, 8.1 makes it a little easier to use. However, for those who don't like Windows 8, there's no improvement. Most customers are not used to and simply don't like tiles. It's not the brand relationship they have with Microsoft.

It's time for a Coca-Cola New Coke re-do. Admit you screwed up and give customers what they really want. That's the only real solution. That will make customers much closer with you on an emotional level.

At the very least, let users choose whether they want to use Windows 7 or 8. If you force them into the Windows 8 box, it will be a very big mistake and could cause significant customer loss.

At the very, very least, put a front end on Windows 8 that works like Windows 7 to keep your customers happy. 


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at



T-Mobile's Dangerous Game

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

10/17/13 5:00 AM PT

T-Mobile has not only been highlighting how it wants to fill the industry potholes, but it is also poking AT&T Mobility in the ribs at every opportunity. Why would it do this? I think it's because it wants to attract the attention of the media and the marketplace. Yet T-Mobile is now starting to cross over the line of good taste. If it continues, this could harm it.

T-Mobile USA is really trying to shake things up. Now it is offering free, unlimited, international, wireless data and texts -- something other carriers charge for. Feature after feature, T-Mobile seems like it is really trying to start on its recovery path. So is it recovering? Let's take a look.

T-Mobile has been the No. 4 wireless competitor for many years. It still is. However, after years of holding its own, the company's growth fell off the tracks several years ago. It missed the jump to smartphones and didn't upgrade to 3G in the network along with Sprint, AT&T Mobility and Verizon Wireless.

After losing tons of customers and revenues, T-Mobile finally realized it made a big mistake. It woke up. It started investing in upgrading the network to 3G, though by that time all the competitors were already planning to start their 4G build-out.

Seeing 4G as a golden marketing opportunity, a few years ago T-Mobile jumped on the PR bandwagon after completely missing the 3G upgrade. It stuck its flag in the ground and claimed it was the first to start the 4G race. It hoped no one would remember the truth.

This sounded good, but it was heavy on the frosting and light on the cake. Over the last few years both Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility kept growing and upgrading and today have roughly 70 percent of the market. Sprint fell off the growth track, but is now rebuilding with the help of Softbank. And T-Mobile, with all its spit and vinegar, is still struggling for survival.

Short-Term Gains, Long-Term Pain?

Fast forward to today. T-Mobile has a new CEO and marketing executives. It has been busy rebuilding and updating the network and offerings. It has also been busy reinventing what T-Mobile is in the marketplace. In fact, it says it wants to update the entire industry, not just itself. This sounds great, because as good as the U.S. wireless marketplace is, there is plenty of room for improvement.

The numbers say both AT&T and Verizon plan on reaching 300 million people with their LTE services. Sprint is planning on reaching 200 million by the end of 2013, with more to come. T-Mobile is planning on reaching 225 million when it is finally complete. There's no denying that 225 million is a far cry from 300 million. So that's a big weakness for T-Mobile. The weakness is outside of city centers.

Quite often customers want coverage, even if they won't ever use it. While T-Mobile is fast, its coverage is not as vast. This could get in the way of its growth.

In any case, T-Mobile's "uncarrier" position seems to have struck a nerve with a slice of the consumer pie. It is doing a good job at reinventing itself, and it is growing once again. I am pleased to finally see this.

At the same time, however, while I think what T-Mobile is doing will help it grow short-term, it is also playing a dangerous game that could bite it in the rear end down the road.

Picking on AT&T

T-Mobile has not only been highlighting how it wants to fill the industry potholes, but it is also poking AT&T Mobility in the ribs at every opportunity. Why would it do this?

I think it's because it wants to attract the attention of the media and the marketplace. Yet T-Mobile is now starting to cross over the line of good taste. If it continues, this could harm it.

Why AT&T? T-Mobile thinks AT&T has more unhappy customers. Maybe this came from five years ago, when AT&T was the only carrier offering the Apple iPhone and was totally overwhelmed with customer usage demands. No carrier at that time could have handled the pressure any better, but AT&T caught the brunt of that storm. However, it's important to remember that even though there were complaints, customers stayed with AT&T.

Today AT&T is an excellent quality carrier and does not have to take a back seat to any other carrier. It has even been winning national awards for customer satisfaction and quality, placing it at the top of the wireless heap -- even better than Verizon Wireless in many areas.

Accentuate the Positive

Rather than trying to attract media attention at AT&T's expense, T-Mobile should be focusing on what it is doing to reinvent itself and the entire industry.

It should be focused on big ideas like reducing costs and offering innovative services at no additional charge. It should be putting focus on all the industry-reshaping things it started to talk about months ago. That would help it going forward.

While I love the wireless industry, there is still plenty that needs to be fixed from the customer perspective. That's what T-Mobile should focus on. That's what will get it the good kind of attention it really needs and wants.

The future of T-Mobile is in its hands. Everyone hopes it wins, including customers, workers, investors and partners, but only if it has the right attitude and lifts the industry up.

Let's hope it gets the message in time.  


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at



Sprint's Deafening Silence

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

10/10/13 9:12 AM PT

Quietly regrouping behind the scenes isn't enough. Sprint should regularly be talking to the marketplace. If it doesn't want to tell the whole story due to corporate or competitive secrets, fine -- but it must feed the flames. It must show how it is changing and how it will reinvent itself and perhaps the industry. It's tough to restart a fire after it goes out.

Sprint has been holding its breath while under water for a painfully long time. Several months ago, it surfaced for a gulp of air on news it would be acquired by Softbank. Since then, I've been listening for the buzz about the new Sprint -- but so far, I'm just hearing crickets.

This is a mistake. Investors, customers, workers and competitors know Sprint will change, but they are uncomfortable not knowing how. They are all anxiously waiting for some kind of signal.

Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son said last week that Sprint investors need patience -- perhaps up to two years of patience. This is the first signal of things to come. At least, we know how long we'll have to wait -- but we need more. We need a road map, of sorts.

In today's media-centric world, keeping up the excitement is key to success, but Sprint has had trouble with this. When the excitement started to build over the Softbank deal, I hoped the company had learned to build on the sizzle and not just count on the steak.

Where There's No Smoke

I would hate to see the spark that Sprint and Softbank created die, but the early signs aren't good. It's not too late, though. After creating the spark, the companies should fan it till it becomes a small flame, then continually feed the fire to make sure it continues. This is necessary for success in the marketplace in 2013.

Sprint should regularly be talking to the marketplace. If it doesn't want to tell the whole story due to corporate or competitive secrets, fine -- but it must feed the flames. It must show how it is changing and how it will reinvent itself and perhaps the industry. It's tough to restart a fire after it goes out.

Masayoshi Son has answered some key questions. He has asked for patience. It will take at least six months for any signs of change to appear, he said. It will take a year or two for real change to be apparent. For better or worse, Son has created a time frame that Sprint will now be held to.

We're resetting our alarms, but we still don't know if there's a there, there. Either the new Sprint will successfully transform the company -- and perhaps the entire industry -- or it won't.

As for keeping the spark that was created by the merger alive, that's critical from a public relations and marketing perspective. You are either growing or shrinking -- and it's important to keep growing.

There have been several key executive departures recently. It's good to see Dan Hesse remain as CEO. However, he has a hell of a job ahead of him -- transforming Sprint, and keeping the marketing and public relations pumping during the rebuild.

There's No Fire

There's a lot of enthusiasm for Sprint to succeed. To do that, however, it needs to be a player. Quietly regrouping behind the scenes isn't enough.

These are just the first few pages of the first chapter in the new novel called The Sprint of Tomorrow! There is still plenty of time. However, it is very important for Sprint to stir the embers and start smoking before the spark goes out once again.

Hey Sprint, it would be a shame to blow all the goodwill you've built up over the last year during merger mania. Just share with us -- what will Sprint look like going forward?  


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at



Carmakers Are Careening Down the Wrong Wireless Path

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

10/03/13 5:00 AM PT

Automakers are reaching out to attract the early adopters in the wireless industry rather than appeal to the majority of customers. Not everyone wants the same thing. Early adopters want new tech even though it's harder to understand and comes with some problems. Others want technology that's familiar. The problem is that automakers are courting only early adopters. This is a costly mistake.


The automotive industry has begun to fully embrace wireless technology in recent years, bringing more to the driver than ever before. However, automotive companies don't fully understand wireless, and many are making a serious mistake that could harm their brand and future sales.

I made an important discovery this past week. I'd had my 2011 Toyota Highlander for a couple years, but I had started to get the itch again. However, I really loved that SUV and especially the navigation system. These days, even if I love a car, I must also love the navigation system in order to buy.

I was looking to get a newer Highlander with the same, great Nav system. A 2013 Highlander was available, but the Nav system was different, and I didn't like it. That was the first sign of trouble. The earth started to shake under my brand satisfaction with Toyota.

40 Percent Snubbed

The newer Highlander models have a smaller -- and in my opinion more complicated and less enjoyable -- navigation system. It does more if you want more, but you need to have a smartphone connected all the time, and it draws on the data plan. It no longer gets live traffic from XM Satellite Radio. Instead, it comes via your smartphone.

Having a smartphone to use is not a problem for me, since at any point in time I have countless smartphones that I'm testing. Since the smartphone market is rapidly growing, it seems logical from the carmakers' perspective to integrate them, right?

The problem with that theory is that today only around 60 percent of us use smartphones. As with cable television, we may never get to the point where 100 percent use them.

That means people who don't use smartphones are left out. Otherwise happy and loyal Toyota customers who simply don't own a smartphone are ignored. They cannot get live traffic, weather, news or any other apps they like to use.

Automakers like Toyota, which should be competing in an entire marketplace. may really only be competing for roughly 60 percent of the market -- those who own a smartphone. Does that make sense?

Toyota is ignoring 40 percent of the marketplace -- and to make matters worse, not everyone who has a smartphone uses an unlimited plan. Those who don't may not link their phones to the car out of fear of large monthly wireless bills -- bills that didn't exist under the previous plan.

Today, neither AT&T Mobility nor Verizon Wireless offers unlimited data. Would their customers feel comfortable hooking up and using a ton of minutes and getting an extra bill at the end of every month? These two carriers cover roughly 80 percent of the market.

The other 20 percent is split between companies like Sprint, T-Mobile and C Spire, which do offer unlimited plans. While unlimited is good, is 20 percent of the marketplace really all that companies like Toyota want to pursue?

My question is this: Does Toyota understand it is cutting off its nose to spite its face? It's not just Toyota, either. This is true of every automaker. Does it make sense to compete in a much smaller marketplace because of this mistake? This should be an obvious pothole to avoid, so why is Toyota driving right into it?

Don't get me wrong. I like Toyota. In fact we have three Toyotas right now. I want to keep buying Toyota, except it is burning its brand bridge with me and with others. It is running away, since it is ignoring the navigation quandary. Give customers what they want -- or lose them.

Choices Make Sales

Disappointed, I decided to hold onto my existing Highlander because of the navigation issue. Toyota missed a new car sale. Plus, I started to think about what other brands I would consider. There are plenty of other brands -- like Ford, GM, Chevy, Honda -- plus the luxury brands like Lexus, Mercedes, Cadillac, Acura, Infinity and many more. This could be disastrous for Toyota -- wait, not just for Toyota, but for every carmaker trying to build a brand and hang onto customers.

As I looked around, it became obvious that many other auto manufacturers were heading in the same misguided direction. Will they get it before it's too late?

I hope this column will be a wakeup call to the automotive industry. You found this new terrific technology you can use to build your brand. Great. However, you must continue to give customers what they want to keep them loyal to you. You cannot market like you did in the past. You must look at how wireless is marketed. It's very different.

Now that you are building your brand in this direction and getting drivers more interested in this kind of technology, you must market differently. One choice may not be enough any longer. You will lose business unless you can crack this code.

That's when I stumbled across the answer. I was getting an oil change and noticed the Toyota 4Runner SUV in the showroom. This is a similar SUV in size -- and the good news is the 2013 models offer a choice of two different navigation systems. One is the traditional Toyota system that I am used to, and the other is the new Entune system, which requires a smartphone.

These two options are very different. The point is some customers want one while others want the other. Isn't that why computer manufacturers and smartphone makers create different versions to choose from? Isn't that the same as some customers wanting cloth and others wanting leather seats and all the other choices in the automotive industry? Of course it is.

Bottom line, this past weekend I traded in the Highlander, which I really loved, and got a new 4Runner. Hey Toyota, isn't that good news? Of course it is. You sold another brand new car, which you almost missed out on. You kept me in your brand. If you want to keep me and all your customers there, you had better wake up -- and quickly.

This is the important lesson to be learned by every carmaker. Give customers choice and give them what they want, and you'll keep building your brand loyalty. Don't, and you'll lose.

Giving customers the choices they prefer will let you increase sales. Period.

This makes sense to me. The only question is whether this choice will continue or whether Toyota will go down the single focus path like every other automaker does.

Whether I and everyone else who buys new cars will buy another new Toyota in the next couple years will depend on what the company does -- and remember, it's not just about Toyota, but every carmaker.

This is a lesson using Toyota as the example, but every other carmaker should learn the same lesson. Give customers what they want, and you'll continue building your brand loyalty with them. Do not, and you'll lose them. Period. 


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at



Which Road Will BlackBerry Travel?

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

09/26/13 5:00 AM PT

So BlackBerry is going private. The earth may not be shaking under your boots, but for BlackBerry this is huge news. This is one of many different choices the ailing company had, but believe it or not, going private may be the best scenario for BlackBerry at this time. Before it goes this route, though, it is looking for better offers. Shopping around comes with some peril.


I write quite a few columns every week and every once in a while something changes and I have to rewrite. That happened Monday.

The BlackBerry news of last Friday was bleak, with a billion-dollar loss and the cutting of 40 percent of its workforce. It looked as though BlackBerry was crashing and burning. Even though this was terrible news, I knew it had several different options. It was up to the company to decide which direction it wanted to go next.

Then news surfaced that Fairfax Financial Holdings wanted to acquire BlackBerry and take it private.

My column was already written, outlining the choices ahead for the ailing smartphone maker -- but when BlackBerry indicated the direction it wanted to go, I obviously had to revise.

The deal is not yet done, though, so BlackBerry is still shopping around. It's sort of like watching the TV show Shark Tank. The guest has one offer on the table, but wants to shop it around to the other sharks to get a better deal, while not losing the first offer. Sometimes it works -- but sometimes all is lost. What will it be with BlackBerry?

Out of Sight

BlackBerry has been trying to reinvent itself over the last few years. It just has not been successful at it in the public eye. Perhaps if it could do its work hidden from public scrutiny, things would be better. Perhaps. That would mean it would really have to understand what the market and its customers really want.

Either way, BlackBerry will be a much smaller company. So the BlackBerry that we have grown to know over the last decade or two is simply gone. Its next job is to try and reinvent itself.

This sounds quite a bit like Motorola, doesn't it? Motorola led the handset business for decades until the late 1990s. Since then, it struggled for more than a decade. Sure, it had one hit, the Razr, but that was it.

Once it was a smaller company, it struck a deal with Google and Verizon Wireless and created the Droid. That was successful, but only for a small segment of the marketplace. However, it was enough to keep the company in business. Then Google acquired Motorola, and its future is now as secure as a company can hope for.

Perhaps we are looking at the early stages of the same kind of transformation with BlackBerry. Reinventing is always a messy and time-consuming process, best not done in the glare of the spotlight.

You never want to see how the salami is made -- it's a messy process. That's why reinventing a company should be private. Just ask Michael Dell. This is exactly what Dell Computer is trying to do.

What Customers Want

After going private, BlackBerry can spend 100 percent of its time, attention and energy reinventing itself. After losing a billion dollars and cutting 40 percent of its workforce, the company will be much smaller and less important.

Could success still be in the cards for BlackBerry? Perhaps -- if it understands the marketplace.

It will take much more than downsizing and going private. It will take understanding the changing opportunities of the marketplace. It will require giving customers what they really want -- existing BlackBerry fans and new customers as well.

Who will lead in the race of handset makers and operating systems going forward? Obviously Apple, Google and Samsung. They currently control the market -- but the market is huge and always open to something different. BlackBerry and Microsoft Nokia have tiny slices of the pie, and they're hungry for more.

If BlackBerry sees going private as an opportunity, it could do well. It has so far not excited the marketplace. I have so many ideas to make its existing customers happy and win new customers -- many industry observers do. Why does BlackBerry not listen to the market?

Whether BlackBerry will be able to reinvent itself and become a growth company once again or whether it will just remain a small time competitor going forward is still unknown.

Either way, going private and becoming a smaller company is a good place to start and will ensure that BlackBerry will stick around for a while longer. 


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at



Aio Wireless Hits the Ground Running

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

09/19/13 5:00 AM PT

Aio's launch was one of the most rapid, entrepreneurial rollouts I have seen in the wireless space. While you would have thought anything tied to an industry giant like AT&T would take longer and be slower moving, Aio appears to move at light speed, and that's exactly what a startup needs. This bootstrapping entrepreneurial company seems to have some unique strengths indeed.


Last week, I met with Aio Wireless, a subsidiary of AT&T. As an industry analyst for almost 30 years, I have met with my share of companies -- new and old, growing and struggling. They all want to put on a good front so I'll say nice things about them. Each has its own special set of opportunities and challenges, and that's the case with Aio Wireless. However, Aio seems to have four key strengths.

Aio Wireless is among the rare set of startups that seem to have their ducks in a row. It just started doing business a few months ago, so it's a brand spanking new company.

Whenever you look at a new company, chaos is always in the air -- and Aio was no exception. When I stopped by, it was rapidly expanding into the office building next door. Young, energetic growth was bubbling in the air.

Aio just went national within the last few weeks. Previously, it had services in a select group of cities. That was smart, since it could iron out the rough edges before the national rollout. As it begins its nationwide expansion, it is offering services to any customer in any state in the U.S. Customers can order a phone and service online or at new stores in a growing number of cities.

A rapid rollout can present it's own set of challenges. I always see hiccups during this period. So far, Aio seems to be handling this pressure well.

4 Strengths

Aio is a prepaid wireless carrier. The prepaid market is a rapidly growing force in the marketplace, with several competitors vying for dominance. T-Mobile USA offers a prepaid option, as do Tracfone, Straight Talk and others. Major carriers like AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and others also offer a variety of prepaid plans at their own stores under different brand names.

Typically, prepaid carriers don't offer top-of-the-line handsets. However, Aio Wireless seems to break that mold. One of its key strengths is that it sells a variety of top devices from four manufacturers -- Apple, Samsung, Nokia and ZTE -- and it offers some of the newest and hottest from each. However, Aio is not overloaded with choices. There are roughly a dozen different devices, mostly smartphones.

Another key strength is that Aio offers three simple plans to choose from. The only difference is the amount of wireless data. Talk about simple. The average customer's needs will be met by the lower- or middle-priced plan, both of which include taxes in their pricing. So the price you see is the price you pay. Period. I like that.

The third key has to do with the quality and reliability of the Aio network. Because it uses AT&T's network, that base is covered as well. Aio Wireless is a completely entrepreneurial firm that just happens to be a wholly owned subsidiary of AT&T. Imagine that.

Aio's fourth key is its president, Jennifer Van Buskirk. She was a 12-year AT&T veteran with an idea and a vision. She brought it to AT&T, and they got behind it.

Nimble and Quick

So Aio Wireless is owned and supported by one of the largest and most successful companies in the wireless space -- and in fact, the world -- while at the same time it's a hot new entrepreneurial startup. Not too shabby, right?

That said, the whole company is completely under the direction and control of Van Buskirk, who has herself transformed from a corporate type to an entrepreneur.

Aio's launch was one of the most rapid, entrepreneurial rollouts I have seen in the wireless space. While you would have thought anything tied to an industry giant like AT&T would take longer and be slower moving, Aio appears to move at light speed, and that's exactly what a startup needs.

With Van Buskirk leading the company, AT&T as a network and financial partner, and a great handset lineup, this bootstrapping entrepreneurial company seems to have some unique strengths indeed.

The prepaid market and wireless in general continue to grow and change. Aio Wireless has a unique opportunity to capture a slice of that pie.

I'm looking forward to following this new company as it faces successes and challenges in the prepaid sector. The wireless industry grows and changes, and new companies, ideas and technologies take the place of older ones. It will be interesting to watch what happens next. Stay tuned. 


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at



The Moto X Is Functional, Fun and Fashion-Forward

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

09/12/13 5:00 AM PT

The Moto X is a solid, high-quality device with a few new and interesting features, thanks to Google. One of the best and most unique features, from my perspective, is that it's made in the USA. The return of some wireless device manufacturing is a good sign. Perhaps if the Moto X is a hit, it will entice other phone makers to manufacture in the U.S., spurring jobs and growth.


Moto X, Motorola's first new handset since being acquired by Google, a true tech-fashion-forward move. In the past, a new handset offered by Motorola would get me as excited as watching paint dry, but something is different this time around.

The Motorola Droids sold by Verizon Wireless are fine, but they are available only for one network, which seriously limits their ability to compete.

A Real Contender

Android runs on smartphones and tablets from many manufacturers. The best and the worst can have Android. That makes it tough to buy the best quality based on the Android brand. So users shouldn't pay attention to the Android brand when considering quality. Instead they should pay attention to the manufacturer and the device itself.

The Moto X is a strong entry into the Google Android ecosystem. It currently is available from AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular. More carriers will likely join this group.

Motorola is a high-quality phone maker. The Moto X has some new features but nothing ultra-innovative that would blow the doors off expectations. It works well. It is reliable and dependable. However, it is not really that different from other top-quality Android devices like the Samsung Galaxy S4.

The Moto X has a long-lasting battery. However, it does not have the most modern, top-of-the-line processors or the best screen. The iPhone 5 and Galaxy S4 are superior in those respects. I think of the Moto X as a Galaxy lite. However, this should matter only to the heavy-duty power user. It really won't matter to the average user.

The build of the Moto X feels strong and sturdy -- better than the Samsung Galaxy S4, which is a great device but feels light and thin.

The Moto X is a good size. It's smaller than the S4 -- roughly the same size as the Apple iPhone 5 but with a larger screen.

It has a curved back designed to make it more comfortable in the hand.

Make It So

AT&T has an exclusive arrangement with Motorola to let its customers build their own devices, choosing all the features like color and design to personalize them. This is a good indication that tech fashion is going to play a larger role going forward.

For me, choosing all the design features was a cool part of the ordering process. My custom phone was delivered in just a few days.

There is no one perfect phone for everyone. Different shapes and sizes make phones easier or more difficult to hold and use. Some do well with just one hand, while others require two hands. Some have a flat back and others a rounded back.

The Moto X's curved back is not as stable in my hand as the iPhone 5. The Galaxy S4 is the largest device and hardest to hold. You need two hands to work the device, but then the large screen is nice. The problem is it is not as easy to hang on to, and when it drops, it can break.

The marriage of Google and Motorola has produced a few new and unique features. For example, you can call out to your phone if you can't find it, and it signals its whereabouts by making a sound.

You can simply twist the phone to engage the camera mode. That way you don't have to miss a shot just getting the camera started.

The Moto X responds to your voice. All you have to say is, "OK Google Now." It then asks what you want to search for. No typing information into the keyboard. It's similar to the iPhone's Siri. However, Google Now just searches Google, while Siri does more. Still, this is a great first step.

One of the best and most unique features of the new Moto X, from my perspective, is that it's made in the USA. The return of some wireless device manufacturing is a good sign. Perhaps if the Moto X is a hit, it will entice other phone makers to manufacture in the U.S., spurring jobs and growth.

The Moto X is a solid, high-quality device with a few new and interesting features, thanks to Google. It's customizable, and it's made in the USA. So even though the Moto X is not a revolutionary new smartphone, it is new enough.

It makes a tech-fashion statement, and it represents a very good effort by both Motorola and Google. It's worth a look.  


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


CNNJeff Kagan Op Ed on

Who needs a Samsung smartwatch anyway?  

By Jeff Kagan, Special to CNN  

September 4, 2013 -- Updated 1803 GMT (0203 HKT)

Microsoft, Nokia, Verizon, Vodafone: Who's Next?

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

09/05/13 5:00 AM PT

We can expect many more deals in the wireless space going forward. Some will make sense -- like deals between wireless handset companies -- but others may be a surprise. One possibility could be a company like Microsoft -- which really wants to punch its way into the wireless world in a big way -- getting interested in the acquisition of a wireless network. Stranger things have happened.

We've seen it happen before. The wave of companies rushing to merge is building once again. On Monday it was Verizon and Vodafone. Tuesday was Microsoft and Nokia. Two questions: What will merging do for these companies, and which are next?

The reason for companies merging is clear. The wireless world continues to change. Growth over the next few years will look much different from the last few years. The most recent wave of growth started six years ago with Apple's iPhone. Then came Google's Android operating system. Apple and Google transformed the entire wireless space, convincing consumers to switch from feature phones to super smartphones.

The next wave of growth, which is beginning now, will transform the industry once again.

The Sleeping Giant

BlackBerry led the smartphone space and Nokia was the leader of the feature phone pack until six years ago. Since then, both companies have lost their dominance.

BlackBerry has not been successful to date. Under CEO Stephen Elop, Nokia managed to stop its fall, partnering with Microsoft on the Lumia line of smartphones running the Windows Phone operating system.

Lumia may not be growing at the same rate as the iPhone or Android smartphones, but it is growing -- just slowly. Was it partnering with Microsoft that helped Nokia stop falling, or was it Elop?

The next question is simple: Will the Microsoft-Nokia merger really crank up the growth engines of the Windows Phone OS, or will it continue to struggle at a very slow growth rate?

The wireless industry looks a lot like the hamburger business with McDonald's, Burger King and Wendy's slugging it out in the marketplace. In this case, Microsoft-Nokia is in a distant third for now.

Roughly 90 percent of the marketplace is owned by Android smartphones and Apple's iPhones. Microsoft-Nokia accounts for roughly 4 percent. As you can see, there is quite a big difference. There's a great opportunity for anyone who knows how to wake up the sleeping giant that is Microsoft.

The Nokia deal is one of Steve Ballmer's last big moves as CEO of Microsoft, and it could put Nokia CEO Stephen Elop at the top of the list of his potential successors. That may have been another reason for the acquisition.

Verizon's Victory

The other big news this week is Verizon's acquisition of Vodafone's stake in Verizon Wireless. This means Verizon will now be the sole owner of the company. While this is good news for Verizon, I don't think it will really make a lot of difference to customers.

That said, one thing that I really don't understand is what took Verizon so long? Waiting has cost it b-b-billions. The two companies formed their partnership a decade or more ago. Wireless was not as dominant as it is today. Back then, it was a wireline world.

Wireless is now the fastest-growing sector, and regular phone lines are vanishing. Every year that passes, Verizon Wireless is worth more. It would have cost Verizon much less if it had done this deal, say, five years ago.

One key reason for doing it now is interest rates are starting to rise. A low-interest rate costs Verizon much less -- so now is the time.

This is a good deal for Verizon. The next question is what will it do with complete ownership? It will be interesting to see if anything new or innovative comes from this deal that will benefit customers, or whether it will simply make no impact on the marketplace at all.

What's next? We can expect many more deals in the wireless space going forward. Some deals will make sense -- like deals between wireless handset companies -- but other deals may be a surprise.

One possibility could be a company like Microsoft -- which really wants to punch its way into the wireless world in a big way -- getting interested in the acquisition of a wireless network. One company in all these businesses? Stranger things have happened.

Let's keep our eyes on both Verizon Wireless and Microsoft-Nokia -- and in fact, the rest of the wireless industry -- to see what's coming next. 


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at



Microsoft's Post-Ballmer Comeback

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

08/29/13 5:00 AM PT

Microsoft has lost many key executives over the last several years, which is not good. Its current executives have been trained in Microsoft thinking: investors first. This needs to change. It isn't enough for the new CEO alone to understand this -- the entire organization must change. The genetics of Microsoft must change. Is that possible? Yes. Whether it will it happen is the question.

Windows 8 is the torpedo that sunk Steve Ballmer, the headlines have been screaming. The news we were all expecting finally arrived last Friday with the announcement that Steve Ballmer would step down as Microsoft's CEO. Now the question is who will replace Ballmer -- and will that person be the right choice? I have an important recommendation for Microsoft in this process.

If the company gets this right, it can return to a successful growth track. If not, it will continue to struggle and flounder as it is doing today.

First a word about Ballmer. I have been reading too many complaints. The truth is Ballmer was one of the keys to growing Microsoft into the giant it is today. He was hired by Bill Gates in 1980 and became Microsoft's 30th employee. No one can lead forever. New blood and new thinking are needed -- it's as simple as that.

So what's the solution?

Workers First

I think Microsoft and its new CEO should follow the lead of Herb Kelleher, former CEO of Southwest Airlines. Kelleher always said workers come first. Happy workers take great care of customers, and that makes shareholders happy. It all starts with focusing on the worker, which benefits the customer and then the investor. Period.

If Microsoft can understand this and can transform its thinking, it can quickly become a winner in today's marketplace. If it doesn't, well, expect more of the same. It all depends on whom it chooses for the top spot and whether this Kelleher idea is embraced.

This would be a complete reversal of the way Microsoft has always operated -- the way it thinks. It has always focused on the investor first. Workers and customers were lower on the totem pole. That is one key reason for the company's failure to grow during the last decade. The marketplace has changed -- Microsoft can no longer dictate terms.

Can the company change? Can it both choose the right new CEO for the next decade and change its focus to workers, customers and investors? Yes it can. Will it? That is the million-dollar question. Does Microsoft understand what I am saying here? I believe this is the key to whether it succeeds and grows going forward -- or not.

Will Microsoft find the right next CEO? That is an important question. Not every CEO is right or successful. We have seen many who have not turned around their troubled ships during the last decade or two.

Blackberry is still struggling under a new CEO. Sprint Nextel has replaced its CEO twice. Motorola struggled with various CEOs for many years, and Yahoo struggled with CEO after CEO trying to find a successful path once again.

The good news is there are plenty of winning leaders at hot companies like Apple and Google. Just look at how suddenly Yahoo's Marissa Mayer is winning so far. A winner like that is what Microsoft needs to find.

Time for Transformation

Microsoft's new CEO should be very different from Gates or Ballmer, who represent another era. In today's marketplace, there is growing competition and new technology, and the marketplace changes on a regular basis. You need to find someone who understands and lives life at that pace and who understands workers and the customer.

Microsoft can no longer expect to dictate terms to the marketplace. Look at AT&T, for example. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, long-distance giant AT&T was dying until it was acquired by San Antonio, Texas-based SBC. That was the beginning of the turnaround. After it acquired Cingular and Bellsouth, the company started to win once again. Now it leads. That's the kind of change Microsoft needs to go through right now.

Will the new CEO be found inside Microsoft or come from the outside? Microsoft has lost many key executives over the last several years, which is not good. Its current executives have been trained in Microsoft thinking: investors first. This needs to change.

It isn't enough for the new CEO alone to understand this -- the entire organization must change. The genetics of Microsoft must change. Is that possible? Yes. Whether it will it happen is the question.

Based on what we have seen from Microsoft up to now, I would say its chances are not good -- not at first, anyway. It may need to fail for a while and go through several CEOs and get kicked around enough to finally understand.

Of course, it would be nice if it could understand what I am saying now, and get to work now. Then it could recover quickly, start to win, and lead the industry once again.

High Stakes

Even though Apple is a huge and rapidly growing company over the last decade or two, it still focuses on the worker and the customer first. Remember when Apple customers would line up around the block to get their hands on the next updated iPhone?

That can happen with Microsoft if it takes advantage of this opportunity -- not only to change the leadership, but also to change the focus of the company, and to innovate like crazy.

Will it see what I am saying and seize the opportunity? If so, Microsoft could transform itself overnight. Wouldn't it be nice to see Microsoft succeed and grow like Google once again?

The future is at stake for Microsoft. Let's hope it makes the right choices going forward. 


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


Wireless Industry Opportunities are Changing

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

08/22/13 5:00 AM PT

The smartphone is going to turn into the remote control for everything you do. Today we don't leave the house without three things: our keys, our wallet and our smartphone. Tomorrow, it will just be the smartphone. Everything in your wallet will be in the smartphone, and that device will also open every door and start every car we own.


The wireless industry has grown and changed over time. In fact, there seems to be a major transformation every few years, and change is starting to occur once again.

So what will wireless look like tomorrow, and how will it grow? Where should workers, companies and investors look for new opportunities?

The second smartphone revolution started six years ago with Apple iPhone and Google Android. While that segment is still robust, it is also changing. Each year these devices do more and become more necessary in our lives. The smartphone is going to turn into the remote control for everything you do.

Today we don't leave the house without three things: our keys, our wallet and our smartphone. Tomorrow, it will just be the smartphone. Everything in your wallet will be in the smartphone, and that device will also open every door and start every car we own.

Good News for Customers

This second chapter in the smartphone revolution is only 6 years old. Before that time, Blackberry led and the smartphone industry accounted for roughly 15 percent of the market. Today, the leaders are Apple, Google and Samsung, with well over 50 percent of the market, and growth is still occurring.

Things are changing, however. So many of us own smartphones that new sales to new users are slowing. That means we can expect to see the marketing strategies of the carriers and handset makers change. Winning business from each other is going to be more important going forward.

That's good news for wireless customers. For a carrier or handset maker to win, they must be good. So expect to see quality and service continually improve. Advertising and marketing will also move in this direction.

Industrial Transformation

For illustration, look at two recent examples: the new Verizon Wireless ad campaign saying they have better coverage, and AT&T Mobility saying they are winning many first-place awards from companies like JD Power for customer satisfaction and quality.

This is the future.

The truth is, most carriers offer great service today; who is the best for you depends on where you are standing when you make the call.

Tomorrow, however, is very different -- and it's worth a look. Wireless carriers like AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, C Spire and US Cellular will not only grow their own smartphone business, but they will help transform other industries as well.

Want a few examples?

The Automotive Example

Automotive is a real driver, using wireless as a key to its future. For example, Toyota is expanding its wireless capability with Entune, letting users hook up their smartphones to get live traffic, weather and Internet access.

That means users can get updated information like traffic and weather all the time; the kids can surf the Web; and Toyota can stay in touch with the driver.

This is happening with an increasing number of automotive brands across the board, including companies like the Ford, GM and Honda brands -- and many others. Also, the services keep expanding.

Medical and health care is also getting a checkup. Imagine apps on your smartphone to make an appointment at your doctor's office, get questions answered or to report daily results on your diabetes blood sugar levels in order to get more timely recommendations.

There are countless ways the health care industry is starting to use wireless to improve what they do. This is exciting because it will let our doctors be able to treat us more effectively and share information with other medical personnel.

Transforming Retail

Retail is another big area. You walk into a store and you are greeted on your smartphone with a message. "Welcome back, what are you looking for today?" Then, "Oh, you want to see the television sets? Straight back and to the right. Any questions?"

Retailers can also send wireless coupons to users in or out of the store. This can start new avenues of electronic dialogue. In fact, you can use other apps to scan the codes of the items you are considering and check pricing at other nearby stores as well as on the Web. This can save you time and money.

Along with this change in retail, however, come some wireless challenges. To wit: I was shopping in a store for a water filter for my fridge. After finding it I walked around the store a bit and got the idea to use one of the apps on my smartphone.

I scanned the code from the filter box in my hand and was immediately informed that it was the best price in the area. That was good -- but if I ordered through, it would cost less.

A few short clicks later, still standing in the store, I was done. It was delivered in two days at a discount. Amazing. Wireless is changing the retail environment. Ease of use, innovation and cost savings will continue to put pressure on existing retail and will continue to change things.

Wireless Opportunities

So, as exciting as this is, retail must change to survive this transformation.

If you are an investor, there are many existing companies -- like the wireless networks and smartphone makers who will continue to experience rapid growth.

Growth, of course, will look different than it did in the past few years. Instead, it will focus on winning business from each other in the wireless industry. The next few years will reward the early adopters of wireless technology -- until eventually it becomes a standard cost of doing business, when everybody does the same thing.

If you are a worker, there are new opportunities being created right now from carriers and handset makers. There are also wireless opportunities in every other industry as well, however.

Remember: As other industries move into wireless, they realize they don't have a clue about this new segment, so they need help to become successful.

Countless Opportunities

So, we are in the very early stages of another wireless revolution that is changing the way we do everything. Wireless will change not only itself, but countless other industries as well.

So, continually ask yourself: If we are in the very early stages of change, how can you take advantage of this? There are countless opportunities for investors, workers, wireless companies and every other industry breaking into the field.

Expand your vision to be able to focus on and see them all. As you can see, there is a great opportunity in wireless, beyond just the smartphone. Some companies will be successful. Others won't. Picking the winners in advance is always the biggest challenge.

However, at this point, the opportunity is there for traditional wireless companies, and for helping other industries use wireless to transform themselves.

Of course, we are also still just in the very early innings of this new game. So batter up! 


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at



Can Apple Recapture the Wow?

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

08/15/13 5:00 AM PT

A WOW moment -- if there is one -- will launch Apple's next wave of growth. So it is a very important part of what we are expecting in September. If there is no truly new product -- if this is all about new versions of existing wares -- it will still be good, just not great. What hard-core Apple enthusiasts are hoping for is a reason to line up outside an Apple Store for the next new iThing.

The question I have for Apple, from my perspective as an industry analyst, is simple: What's your next move? We have watched the company transform the music space with the iPod, the smartphone space with the iPhone, and the tablet space with the iPad. However it has not had a breakthrough industry-changing product in the last few years.

So what can we expect from Apple on Sept. 10? Will it hold an industry-reshaping event, or just present a few tweaks here and there? That's the question on the minds of millions of technology watchers and Apple fans.

First things first. Samsung and Google can make their own noise, and they may take some of the headline space away from Apple. That looks like their plan, but it won't affect Apple sales. Apple customers are Apple customers, period. They are not the type of consumers who would quickly or easily defect from Apple to Google.

That said, what can we expect from Apple?

What's Cooking

First, expect Apple to introduce an update to iOS. This will be the familiar operating system yet different at the same time. It will be a mix of the old interface with new features. Apple seems to do this well.

This new OS will be on the new iPhone and anything else Apple may introduce. It will also update existing iPhones and iPads -- for the most part. To get some new features to work, you'll need a new device.

Second, expect Apple to introduce a new size iPhone. It will offer one with a larger-screen alongside one with the regular-size screen, and the two will sit side by side on store shelves. The choice will be up to the customers.

Apple may also introduce a lower-cost version of the iPhone, although this is not certain since customers can always buy last year's version at a discount.

While the new iOS will deliver new and exciting features, this is not the WOW moment we are all hoping for. That's what Apple really needs to get its growth engine cranked up again.

So what will that moment look like? Remember when the first iPhone was introduced? Remember the first iPad? That's the kind of exciting moment I am talking about.

Apple needs to present something to get the user base excited again and lining up around the block the night before to be among the first to get this innovation into their hands.

The X factor! That will be the focus of Apple's next growth wave.

September Harvest

What will it be? There's been speculation about an iWatch or an iTV or iGoggles. The truth is, we don't know yet. Looking back at the Apple of the past, it's always been something we never thought of. It's always been a surprise!

So who knows? This WOW moment -- if there is one -- will launch Apple's next wave of growth. So it is a very important part of what we are expecting from the September event.

If there is no truly new product -- if this is all about a new version of iOS and new sizes of the existing iPhone and the introduction of lower-price models -- it will still be good, just not great.

So the question is simply, will this upcoming Apple announcement on Sept. 10 just be good, or will it be great? Will it cause the marketplace to gasp and cause lines to form outside Apple stores the night before the next product is released -- or not?

Is it even possible for Apple to once again have lines form outside its stores the night before a new product hits the shelves? I believe the answer is yes, of course, but only if Apple plays its cards right. There are plenty of hard-core Apple enthusiasts, and more young people are joining their ranks every day.

So Apple needs to recapture the magic of the past. Can it? Can Apple create the same kind of excitement and sales it had a few short years ago? Either way, I expect the coming announcement to be good. We'll just have to wait and see if it is great.  


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at



Do Your Homework Before Choosing an Unlimited Wireless Data Plan

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

08/08/13 5:00 AM PT

It's back-to-school time, and that means wireless stores will be packed with customers buying smartphones and tablets. AT&T and Verizon both base their charges on usage. As far as I can see, only three major carriers still offer unlimited wireless data plans: Sprint, T-Mobile and C Spire. There have been lots of changes in these unlimited plans this year. So which is best for you?


Six years ago when Apple's iPhone and smartphones running Google's Android first hit the streets, it seemed that lots of carriers jumped into the unlimited space. They did this to let customers test drive the wireless data app world and get hooked -- and customers loved it.

Since then, both AT&T Mobility and Verizon Wireless have dropped their unlimited plans; they now charge based on usage levels. Still, they remain the two largest carriers in the U.S. market.

Here's a look at the three major carriers that offer unlimited plans.

Unlimited Opportunities

C Spire Wireless, a regional player in the Southeast, may have started the whole unlimited craze. It has been offering unlimited plans for many years. If you are in the C Spire Wireless marketing area, it is definitely worth considering.

C Spire has been offering unlimited plans for years -- it started long before other carriers jumped into the space. That has given it a competitive advantage. Now, after many carriers have exited the space, C Spire is still going strong.

It offers excellent quality, lots of choice, fast 4G speeds in its major markets, deep coverage -- and it is affordable.

T-Mobile USA has been struggling for years, but under its new CEO, it has been reinventing itself over the last several quarters. New CEO John Legere from Global Crossing is starting to shake things up. T-Mobile was always the quiet company, but it is going through the early stages of what may be a very interesting reinvention.

T-Mobile recently entered the unlimited space. It is trying to create a new segment in wireless -- trying to change the economics of the industry.

For one thing, it no longer subsidizes phones. So you either pay a few hundred up front for a new handset, or you can finance the phones and pay monthly. The monthly service fee is separate. This is a new way of doing business in wireless, and it's refreshing.

Sprint also offers unlimited data, and it is changing. It is reinventing itself now that it has been acquired by Softbank. We don't yet know what it will look like in the coming years, but it is taking some steps now to hang on to customers -- like lowering its unlimited plan prices.

This may be attractive to you. Just remember, although Sprint is updating its networks and may look very different in the next few years, today it is still mostly 3G in a 4G world.

Mixed Signals

So, the industry seems to be changing. Carriers are drawing a line down the center and either offering unlimited plans or not. Don't be fooled into thinking one side is winning and the other is losing. Rather, they both appear to be winning; however, each focuses on the needs of different groups of customers -- different slices of the pie.

That's the beautiful thing about competition -- it brings choice. This is a clear differentiator. There are plenty of customers who want one carrier or another. Then there are other customers who look for certain features, like unlimited plans.

Depending on the locations where you spend time, one carrier often has a stronger signal than another. The one that is best for you depends on where you spend time -- only you can tell that. Check out a carrier's signal strength wherever you spend a significant amount of time before you decide to use its service.

One more thing: Don't assume the phone that works perfectly at home will work just as well at your new school, office or location. Remember, it's not likely you'll find the same signal quality in every place.

I suggest buying a phone just before you travel, and when you get to your destination, check out all of the locations where you'll likely spend time. Make sure you have a good quality connection. All of the major carriers are good companies, but that single point can make the difference between a happy or a frustrated customer, no matter which carrier you choose.  


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at



Lenovo's Thoughtless ThinkPad Brand Strategy

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

08/01/13 5:00 AM PT

I could always count on the ThinkPad T series brand -- until now, that is. Last week, I purchased a new T430u, and found to my dismay that it's very different from the traditional T430 -- not what I expected. Neither is bad -- they're just different. Lenovo's mistake was calling them both "T430." That causes confusion. That is hurting the ThinkPad brand value.


ThinkPad is a solid brand. So why is Lenovo suddenly screwing up its brand relationship with customers? We all have our favorites. That's the power of successfully building a brand. However, in an effort to grow, Lenovo is making a costly mistake. Rather than creating a distinct new sub-brand category, it is spreading the existing ThinkPad brand too thin, confusing the customer. That's a recipe for disaster.

A strong brand relationship between the company, the product and the customer is key to long-term success and growth. In fact, that has been the hallmark of the successful ThinkPad brand all along. However, Lenovo is now weakening that brand with its current activity.

Don't get me wrong, I like and have used the ThinkPad line of laptops for decades. However my brand relationship is weakening as a result of what Lenovo is doing, and I have heard the same thing from countless others.

When IBM owned ThinkPad, it stuck to building a simple and solid brand. If customers stuck with a particular line of ThinkPads, they always knew what they were getting, and they loved that. Now they must waste time getting to know a new system.

Lenovo seems to be taking the ThinkPad on a different path. This will hurt its relationships with its customers. So now is the time to correct this issue before it becomes a problem.

Shattered Expectations

Customers loved simply buying a new ThinkPad and having a zero learning curve. New ThinkPads were as familiar as previous ones in the same line. Customers stick to a particular brand because they want to get straight to work. Now, though, that's changing. Today only some of the T series are the same, while others are very different. It's getting confusing even sticking with the same model.

Example: I currently own a T430i, which is a more traditional T Series laptop. I have been buying ThinkPad's T Series for two decades. Sure, there were always changes -- like a new port here or taking away an old jack there -- but the keyboard, the light and everything else were familiar. Because I could get right to work, that comfort level kept me buying the T Series for 20 years.

That's much of what building a brand identity means. Customers don't want to waste time learning a new keyboard and feature list. Learning the new version of Windows is annoying enough, and that is Microsoft's fault. Customers simply want the next computer to work, so they can get back to work.

Last week, I purchased a new T430u, which is Lenovo's Ultrabook. Since the model number was T430, and the Windows version was the same on both machines, I expected the experience to be exactly the same. I expected both computers to look and work exactly the same. After all, this was the ThinkPad T430 brand. That's why I bought the same unit.

However, it turns out they're two completely different laptops with the same name. Neither is bad -- they're just different. Lenovo's mistake was calling them both "T430." That causes confusion. That is hurting the ThinkPad brand value.

Wanted: Same Old

These two laptops, while both terrific, should have been called two different model names and branded differently. The reason is they are different. Had I known the differences, I would have chosen something else. That's the first time I've had that impression in all the years I have been a ThinkPad customer.

The new Ultrabook is very different from the traditional T430 -- not what I expected. I have heard this from many others who were looking for a familiar unit. They had expectations, just like every customer has. They thought buying a familiar T Series computer would be the same as always. Suddenly it was not.

One, there is no light at the top of the screen to illuminate the keyboard in the dark, so you have to have a light overhead to see what you are doing.

Two, the keyboard has a different layout. There are different and fewer buttons and keys in the T430u. If you want to turn up the volume or the screen backlight, it is easy on the T430i. There are extra buttons that are easy to find and use. However, on the T430u there are no such buttons. Instead you must find and press multiple Function keys. They are very difficult to see in low light.

Three, the keys are in different locations on the keyboard. That means you will regularly delete something and then have to try and find and restore it.

I have struggled with all this and more and have only owned the computer for a few days. That wastes time and creates aggravation. That's why I purchased the same model number. I wanted to avoid all this.

I could always count on the ThinkPad T series brand -- until now, that is.

Idea: Lenovo has more than one Ultrabook on the market. So why doesn't it group them under a new Ultrabook brand, rather than diluting the value of the existing T Series brand?

Lenovo, we still love you, so don't blow it. It takes years to build a strong brand relationship, but only a moment to destroy it. This is your moment. Do the right thing. It would be a shame to lose happy customers worldwide due to a self-inflicted injury. 


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at



Microsoft's Rip Van Winkle Syndrome

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

07/25/13 5:00 AM PT

Microsoft seems to have been asleep for years. It still thinks customers will stay even though they have a lot more choices today. The company needs to wake up. My recommendation is simple: Offer the new, innovative Windows 8 for touchscreen computers and tablets; and offer updated versions of 7 and XP. Let users choose what they want. Then simply charge them an annual fee after a period of time.


What the heck is wrong at Microsoft? It may be an important company, but it's an older company that has definitely lost its way. It can recover but doesn't see how. The solution seems so obvious from the outside. However, there is a sense that arrogance is getting in the way of clear thinking. It is keeping Microsoft from becoming great once again. So what's wrong, and what can it do to recover?

The world is continually changing. That means companies and products must change as well. Unfortunately, Microsoft's thinking has not changed, and that is the reason for its sour Windows 8 and Surface tablet sales.

Some companies change well over time. One example is IBM, which led many sectors over many decades. It understood the changing marketplace and transformed itself several times. That has kept it at the top, ready to jump on the next wave. Over the last several decades, its focus evolved from the Selectric typewriter to the Thinkpad computer to consulting and more. It is still growing and healthy today.

Others don't change well. Microsoft has never understood that simple winning concept. Of course it never had to worry about winning over customers in the past. It didn't have to. There was no real competitor in the past, so it just grew in spite of itself. Things are different today.

Microsoft prefers to steer. It thinks that everyone will always follow its lead, because they did in the past. However the real reason customers followed was simple -- there was no alternative. Things change over time. Today that old thinking no longer works. Today there is choice, and it is expanding. However, Microsoft still thinks and operates the same old way. Today that's a recipe for disaster -- as we are witnessing.

Microsoft may have had the market share and sheer drive to steer its own path a few decades ago, but today there is much more competition and choice from companies and technologies like Apple, Google, Linux, Mozilla and others.

Innovation and Choice

Another factor is that Microsoft doesn't get better with each update. Think about it. Customers loved Windows XP. They hated Vista. They liked Windows 7, but today they really don't like Windows 8. So what does Microsoft do right and wrong? Simple. It rewrites the entire operating system, creating a new version rather than just updating it. Sometimes it's a hit -- other times a miss. That's a mistake, and it has been for a long time.

What Microsoft doesn't recognize is that the marketplace has changed, and it is no longer in the driver's seat. With choice, the customer is in the driver's seat. While Windows 8 may delight some customers, it turns many off as well.

Microsoft seems interested only in moving forward -- not in taking care of existing customers, and that is the mistake. Today customers need to be cultivated continuously. Otherwise they will start looking to a competitor.

Microsoft can and should do both. Today many users like Windows 8, but many others would like to continue using Windows 7 and even XP. That means Microsoft is in a beautiful position to take care of every kind of customer. Instead, it's shutting down support of XP next year even though so many customers still prefer it.

Microsoft is in a unique and valuable position -- yet it is blowing it. If Microsoft doesn't earn new income from XP or from 7, why doesn't it simply charge an annual user fee after a few years of use for customers who want support?

That way, it could earn income from multiple operating systems and keep them alive for users. That would keep customers happy and Microsoft investors happy as well.

Why can't Microsoft keep several operating systems current? Its current path is burning customer relationships.

Granted, innovation is important, and I salute Microsoft for thinking outside the box with Windows 8, which is a new way to use the computer and the tablet. Customers who want this do actually like it. This is good.

However, Microsoft has told the rest of its customers who still like and use XP that they are out of luck. Sorry, folks -- that's it. That is the big mistake. Many customers don't want to change -- not yet anyway.

That puts customers off, and that is the last thing Microsoft should be doing. It is not coming at this from a position of strength. It is coming at this from a weak position and forcing customers to change. Doing things this way will just continue to make things worse for the company.

Build Bridges, Don't Burn Them

While many have used and liked Microsoft Windows for decades, and while they would have continued to do so going forward if Microsoft continued to meet their needs, this change to Windows 8 is pushing many away from the Microsoft camp -- and that's the last thing Microsoft needs.

WAKE UP, MICROSOFT! Think! Remember, you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Make it easier -- not harder -- to stick with you.

Individuals and companies don't have unlimited time to learn new operating systems and get their people to understand. They would prefer to stay put and simply do their own business -- not take a how-to-use-the-new-Windows-8 seminar.

So, my Microsoft recommendation is simple: Offer the new, innovative Windows 8 for touchscreen computers and tablets; and offer updated versions of 7 and XP. Let users choose what they want. Then simply charge them an annual fee after a period of time.

That would solve the Microsoft growth problem, and it would solve the customer acceptance problem. That would put Microsoft back on the growth path with happy and loyal customers. Doesn't that sound better than the path it is currently on? Focus on the customer. Get customers to fall in love with you. Give customers what they want. After all, without customers, where would you be?  


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at



Can the Wireless Industry Change Its Mindset Before It's Too Late?

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

07/18/13 5:00 AM PT

I know, I know, carriers prefer to own bands of spectrum rather than share. Tough. That desire is understandable; however, because we have a shortage of spectrum and a growing demand, that solution simply will no longer work. Get over it. To keep competition alive, every carrier, large and small, needs the same access to spectrum. We must be responsible and do the right thing.

We have a problem. We don't have enough wireless spectrum to satisfy America's rapidly growing appetite. That means we'll increasingly have problems connecting with our smartphones and tablets. This spectrum shortage means we must decide the best way to use what we do have. So now is the time to draw a line in the sand and do what we must do -- prepare to share spectrum.

Wireless carriers like AT&T and Verizon know about the growing problem. That's why they have spent years trying to acquire as much spectrum as they can get their hands on, but they still don't have enough. However, they are better prepared than smaller carriers like Sprint, T-Mobile, C Spire, U.S. Cellular and many others.

On one hand, the AT&T and Verizon approach makes sense, since they cover roughly 70 percent of the market. On the other hand, this is not fair to smaller carriers who also need the same access to grow and compete. After all, we don't want the marketplace to consist of just two players.

Even if AT&T and Verizon controlled 100 percent of spectrum, there still would not be enough for the long term. It's got to do with how many users want access and how much they use -- not how many carriers provide it. So it seems to me that auctioning off the remaining spectrum no longer works for this industry.

All for One and One for All

Sharing spectrum would allow each competitor to have equal access. That means all customers and all carriers would be satisfied. That means competition would thrive. That would keep innovation high and prices low. Shouldn't that be part of what we are working toward?

Today smartphone users are not paying attention to this growing problem, but limited wireless spectrum is threatening to clog our wireless Internet.

Carriers spent years acquiring as much spectrum as they could from wherever they could find it. That's why AT&T wanted to merge with T-Mobile. That's why Verizon acquired the cable television industry spectrum.

The U.S. government has always auctioned off spectrum bands to the highest bidder. However, the process of auctions no longer works for the industry since there is simply not enough spectrum to go around. So what's the solution?

As more users buy smartphones like the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy, and use more wireless data, we are getting closer to clogging the networks. Once we start to reach that point, customers will start to have problems with speed and connections. So must we wait till there is a real problem to wrestle with -- or can we handle the problem beforehand?

The Easy Way or the Hard Way?

I know, I know, carriers prefer to own bands of spectrum rather than share. Tough. That desire is understandable; however, because we have a shortage of spectrum and a growing demand, that solution simply will no longer work. Get over it.

To keep competition alive, every carrier, large and small, needs the same access to spectrum. We must be responsible and do the right thing -- meaning make sure there is sufficient spectrum available to every competitor for every customer.

Sharing spectrum is not even in the vocabulary of carriers today, but it should be. Otherwise, we may watch small carriers wither away, and that would not be good for a competitive industry. If that happened, regulation would increase -- and carriers don't want that.

That's why now is the time to come up with a long-term solution to this real and growing problem.

The simple idea to pool all wireless data spectrum into one place seems to be the best long-term solution to the growing problem. Then let every competitor pay for access to whatever it needs. This would mean all competitors would have the same access to the same spectrum. That way the winners would be chosen based on brand, performance and price. Doesn't that make good sense?

Carriers would be compensated for the spectrum they added to the mix. That way it wouldn't cost them anything -- it could actually be profitable.

As much sense as this solution makes, carriers today would still rather own spectrum. We just have to get past that sticking point in the argument. It would be great if we could get there BEFORE we start running out of capacity and customers and carriers start experiencing problems.

With all that said, I have watched this industry over nearly 30 years, and my guess is we will likely wait until the problems begin and the pain is excruciating before making this move. The big question is will the industry do this on it's own -- or will the government have to step in to make it happen? It's always better without the government, but at this point, who knows? 


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at



BlackBerry's 15-Percent Solution

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

07/12/13 4:45 AM PT

The smartphone marketplace is changing. Apple and Samsung have seen their growth slow. That means the newness wave of this smartphone explosion is ending, and traditional offerings can play a stronger role again. BlackBerry must focus on its slice of the pie. Period. It's as simple as that. BlackBerry can be No.1 on the business and government side of the smartphone space.


There is a simple answer to the BlackBerry problem: Rather than trying to become a new company and address a new market and compete with new competitors, it should focus on its bread and butter, the business and government communities that still use its products. If it does this, I believe its recovery will begin quickly.

Alicia Keys may be a great singer, and she may work as part of the brand identity of another company, but not for BlackBerry. I believe BlackBerry customers would relate more to business legends like retired GE CEO Jack Welch or Berkshire Hathaway's Warren Buffet -- serious people for serious customers.

I have always liked BlackBerry. I think it's a great company with a great device and a great brand, but it is lost right now. It led the smartphone space for more than a decade without much thought about its image. The brand is just tired. It needs to be refreshed, like AT&T did last decade.

Bold Trajectory

Remember in the early 2000s when AT&T was shrinking and dying on the vine? It had lost long-distance customers to the Baby Bells, had spun off its wireless business, and had sold its cable television business to Comcast. What was left was a much smaller and weaker business services company.

That's when San Antonio, Texas-based SBC, under the leadership of CEO Ed Whitacre, acquired AT&T. After gathering opinions about next steps with the brand, SBC decided to keep the AT&T name, which was still the strongest in the industry but had become old and tired. It reinvigorated and youth-enized it.

Then it acquired Bellsouth and Cingular. Bit by bit, the company grew and expanded to become a real industry powerhouse. The new AT&T was not only stronger with better offerings, but also more inclined to talk with customers and give them what they wanted.

Ever since, AT&T has kept expanding -- updating and refreshing its brand along the way. AT&T keeps following the same steps today. That's the reason for its success.

That's what BlackBerry needs to do. It has improved much with BB10, but it has lost much as well. Customers tell me they are excited to buy the new device, but too many quickly return them because they are so different.

There is much more work to do to repair the company, and there's not a lot of time.

3-Prong Plan

One, BlackBerry must focus its brand on its core business and government customers. It should re-think its brand identity and shift away from Alicia Keys and the youth market toward more traditional business brand names that resonate with its customers.

The old RIM didn't have to think about things like marketing, branding and advertising. BlackBerry's new BB10 looks great, but it goes far beyond what BlackBerry really is in the minds of its core customer Try Start Your Free Trial Today. Click Here. group.

Two, BlackBerry must talk to its customers again -- and this time, listen better. Give customers what they want. Business and government customers don't want the same things that other smartphone users want. They don't need all those consumer apps that Apple and Google offer. Instead, they simply want a solid business device that meets and exceeds their needs. They want useful apps and features.

That means every BB10 device should do everything the previous versions did. Today that isn't the case. They should also do new things in new ways -- but that shouldn't require the company to turn its back on existing customers.

Three, BlackBerry should introduce two different kinds of new devices. One could be the Q10 and Z10 with their completely new and different user interface and operating system. Two should be more familiar to existing users of the Bold and Torch.

Many customers still love those BlackBerry devices. They just want them refreshed with new features. They don't want to give up existing features they count on. BB10 has eliminated or changed some of those features, and that is a mistake. Many users don't want to learn an entire new operating system.

So, if BlackBerry can simply focus on these key points, it can once again be successful.

Dominate a Niche

BlackBerry should remember that when it was popular and growing, the smartphone marketplace was only 15 percent of the cellphone market. Today it's around 50 percent. The number of apps has increased from a few hundred to millions. However, most of those new users will never be BlackBerry customers. The BlackBerry brand does nothing for them.

If BlackBerry will start by simply focusing on the same 15 percent of the market it used to, I believe it can be successful once again. If it will listen to its customers and give them what they want, it can be successful once again.

BlackBerry customers don't want an Apple or Google experience. If they did, they would go Apple or Google. BlackBerry users want the BlackBerry experience, just a newer and updated BlackBerry experience.

If BlackBerry can understand that simple concept, it can recover very quickly. The smartphone marketplace is changing. Apple and Samsung have seen their growth slow. That means the newness wave of this smartphone explosion is ending, and traditional offerings can play a stronger role again.

BlackBerry must focus on its slice of the pie. Period. It's as simple as that. It shouldn't try to grab a bigger slice -- not yet. It should simply focus, and it can own that space once again.

BlackBerry can be No.1 on the business and government side of the smartphone space. Isn't that much better than being just a tiny and distant player in the larger smartphone space?


Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week






Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week - Nokia Lumia 1020

My Pick of the Week is the just-introduced Nokia Lumia 1020. This is the next-generation Lumia smartphone that features a 41 megapixel sensor with PureView camera technology.

Available exclusively from AT&T Mobility, it features a 4.5 inch AMOLED PureMotion HD+ display made with Gorilla Glass 3 and, which is said to be super sensitive to touch. It is available in matte black, matte white and matte yellow.

Congratulations to Nokia for focusing on what may be the best camera in the smartphone world.

Whether this will be enough to save the company is another question. Nokia partnered with Microsoft, and Windows Phone is a different operating system from Apple's iOS, Google's Android, BlackBerry and others.

What will truly save Nokia is to reinvent and recreate its brand. It had the strongest brand name in the regular handset business, but when everything went smartphone six years ago, it lost its position. It has tried many times to reinvent itself with little success.

I know Nokia. I like Nokia. I want Nokia to succeed. However, the company must understand the importance, the force and the power of the brand. It needs to focus on reinvigorating the brand.

However, this new Lumia 1020 looks like an excellent device that will make a slice of the consumer pie very happy.  


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at



BlackBerry Q10 Is a Hit and a Miss

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

06/28/13 5:00 AM PT

BlackBerry used to lead. Today it is struggling to remain relevant. Its current user group is comprised of very loyal customers who love everything about BlackBerry. If that is the case, why would BlackBerry ignore them? If BlackBerry would have kept all the features that customers loved, plus added more, then I think the new BB10 operating system and handsets would be a much bigger success.


In recent months I have been asked many times whether the brand new BlackBerry 10 operating system Unified Server Monitoring: Free Trial. Click here. and new handsets like the Z10 and Q10 are hits or misses. The answer is simple: It depends. It's a matter of what you want and expect. The new BlackBerry handsets do satisfy a segment of the user base, while they leave others disappointed -- but there's a solution for that.

My Pick of the Week is the brand new Nokia Asha 501 smartphone, which is starting to roll out this week.

The Market Needs BlackBerry

AT&T Mobility sent me a new Q10 to try out. The device is tight, and it looks and feels great in the hand. It's a little wide, making it a bit difficult to operate with one hand, but generally I like it. Email is secure. It does not freeze like the Z10 did.

The new features and apps work great -- much better than the Z10 at launch. The operating system update may have a lot to do with that. I also think the keyboard is a big plus. That makes it a BlackBerry.

Bottom line -- this Q10 at launch is much better than the Z10 at launch. However, today both are running on an updated OS and could be the same device, except for a few things like size of the screen and keyboard.

There is a problem, however -- one that is easily remedied if BlackBerry listens to its customers.

First of all, I want to set the record straight. I like BlackBerry and want the company to succeed. The industry needs more choices besides iOS vs. Android or the iPhone vs. the Galaxy. BlackBerry has an incredibly strong brand name, but it is older and needs refreshing.

That said, BlackBerry has to play ball. I have talked with numerous BlackBerry users and have found a mixed bag of responses. Some love the new BlackBerry and others wonder what the company is thinking.

Some users absolutely love the new operating system and devices. If these were the only customers, I would say BlackBerry is on a solid road to recovery. However, other longtime BlackBerry users say the new operating system and devices are missing the mark in a few areas. They like it, but they cannot use it yet.

They say it's like there is an entirely new group of engineers who put this new OS together. They have added lots of new and valuable features and apps, but they have deleted others that users of older BlackBerry models like and still use -- and this is the mistake.

Out With the Bathwater

If BlackBerry would have kept all the features that customers loved, plus added more, then I think the new operating system and handsets would be a much bigger success. The problem is they didn't do that. They deleted and changed features many users love and need, and then added many new ones.

So if you are a BlackBerry user who doesn't want anything from the past, and simply wants lots of new bells and whistles, then you will love this new technology.

However, if you really liked and used some of the older BlackBerry features and want to keep them, plus get all the new ones, you will have to take a very close look to make sure BB10 still does what you want.

This new BB10 may be disappointing to many users for this reason, but this problem can be quickly corrected -- that is, if BlackBerry is listening to the customer Try Start Your Free Trial Today. Click Here..

For example, one feature BlackBerry calls "MemoPad" is not in the new BB10 operating system. Many users need this feature -- so why did BlackBerry leave it out? Users grumble about this in discussion groups on the BlackBerry and Crackberry sites.

True, not every user needs this, but adding it doesn't cost BlackBerry anything, and it will keep many users happy. Not having this feature -- along with others -- means the old BlackBerry Torch may stay in use for a while longer. Most users would rather update, but not if it means giving up valuable features they actually use.

Another item discussed is the middle control button that helps you navigate and puts the cursor right where you want it. It's very helpful when editing documents or emails. The new BlackBerry devices do not have this feature, so it's now as difficult to place the cursor with a new BlackBerry as it is with an iPhone or an Android device.

These are just a couple of examples of disappointment on the part of hard-core BlackBerry addicts. As I write these words, I realize that I will get countless emails from readers -- some who absolutely love the new devices. Granted, they have their appeal. However, I will also get countless emails from readers who are dismayed, and that is my point.

The simple solution for BlackBerry would be to keep every feature from the old operating system to keep existing customers happy, plus add loads of new features. That would keep BlackBerry relevant for existing users, while bringing everyone up to speed. The company would not only hang onto market share, but also grow market share.

Will BlackBerry understand this simple solution? Who knows? As much as BlackBerry says it has changed, it is still the same company in many ways -- for better and for worse. 


Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week





Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

My Pick of the Week is the brand new Nokia Asha 501 smartphone available this week in Thailand and Pakistan, and soon India. It will roll out across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia-Pacific and Latin America next. I'm not sure when it's expected in the U.S.

This is the next generation of Nokia smartphone technology after the Lumia. I haven't tried one of these, because it's not available in the U.S. yet, but it looks good and, based on its feature list, it's worth a look.

At US$99, this is a lower priced, full-featured smartphone trying to attract the attention of users who want to pay less and still get the full smartphone experience. That sounds like a solution that quite a few users worldwide would be interested in.

Vibrant colors are one of the best features -- like black and white, cyan, bright red, yellow and bright green. 


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at



A Search Service That Learns What You Want

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

06/20/13 5:00 AM PT

Vu brings personalization to search, and the more it learns about your Web surfing habits, the better it gets at uncovering content of particular interest to you. That's something none of the Web search giants currently can do, and it's not only good for content consumers, it's good for content producers. Vu can dig up and serve their buried treasures.


Vu Digital is a new search tool for the Internet that helps you locate content. This very interesting startup, which launched just over a month ago, does not replace traditional search engines like Google, Bing or Yahoo. It goes beyond them. You will still use traditional search engines, but Vu finds, organizes and delivers content users are looking for seamlessly. It seems to fill a need -- and oh yeah, it's free.

The Internet is vast, and it's increasingly difficult to find what you are looking for. Traditional search engines find countless items to sort though. Vu simplifies the process and brings the news and information you are interested in right to you.

When you visit a site for news and information, you often find one story on a site but don't even know about similar stories buried on other pages of the same site. Vu helps users find the needles in the haystack.

To Vu, getting the right content to the right people is key. This sounds like a problem solver both for content providers who want their stuff to be read and seen, and for consumers who must sort through masses of articles to find the stories they are interested in.

Good for Publishers, Good for Readers

This symbiotic relationship is what Vu is all about, said founder Wade Smith, who serves as the company's vice president of operations and development.

Vu watches users' online search behaviors and interests based on their daily journey through the Web, he said. Vu then takes that personalized knowledge to each of the sites a user visits and finds and delivers matching news and content, no matter where it is buried.

The goal is to sift through mountains of information and find what a user is looking for quickly, said Smith, and to present it in an easy-to-use format. The more content a person consumes, the smarter Vu gets. It learns.

Media and content providers nationwide seem to love Vu for this very same reason. They know the problem all too well. As the years pass, their sites get jam-packed. Unfortunately, users often miss out on much of what would be of interest to them. Vu aims to reveal their hidden gems for interested readers.

Users can try Vu by visiting its website at or via a wireless app for iPhone or Android. In fact, Vu won Editors Choice and Featured App in the iTunes App Store, and garnered a 4-star+ average rating in customer Try Start Your Free Trial Today. Click Here. reviews. Not bad for a brand new app.

New Rules

Vu has experienced good progress since its launch, and a positive overall growth trajectory, said Smith. Besides the tech and business media taking notice of Vu and its content personalization capabilities, consumers have jumped on board.

Vu has won more than 35,000 "Vuers" who downloaded the Apple iOS or Android app in just the first few weeks, he noted.

Word is starting to spread through media, social networking and word of mouth. Vu is expecting to reach critical mass of more than 90,000 by the end of Q2 said Smith. The company is focused on end user acquisition.

I downloaded the Vu app and found it continually updates as it learns. The company is adding streams to its mobile app to facilitate deeper, ongoing engagement. The product gets more refined with each passing week.

Vu is planning to launch a Facebook campaign, Smith said. It is also planning another external communications push that will further educate media and consumers about the entire Vu ecosystem and how it can change the way consumers experience and interact with content on a personal level.

It is interesting to watch how a startup builds in today's marketplace. Starting a new business in the information age is very different from what it used to be. Understanding the new rules of growth and success, as well as how those rules have changed over time, makes all the difference.

I'll keep my eyes on Vu, and as time passes, I will update you on how it is growing and changing. 


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at



Is Verizon's Uncomfortable Silence Savvy PR?

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

06/14/13 5:00 AM PT

It's a lot easier to see the best way to handle a PR predicament after it's over than it is when you're being buffeted by the storm. Right now, Verizon -- which typically is proactive, if not aggressive, about getting its message out -- is hunkering down and waiting for the worst to pass. This may allow the company to minimize its reputation damage -- or it could be a disastrous PR decision.


Verizon is on the hot seat. It is at the center of the story about releasing customer information to the U.S. National Security Agency.

As it turns out, there is more than one story here. There is the Verizon story and the Prism story. While Verizon does make information about every call available to the NSA, the actual conversation is still private -- for now, at least.

To date, Verizon has been quiet as the argument rages. Is quiet what you expect from the public relations department of any company caught in such a storm? Will quiet help or hurt Verizon and Verizon Wireless in the long term?

This story is much bigger than just Verizon. This is about the U.S. government and issues like invasion of privacy. It's about whether we crossed that line in the sand and went too far or are doing the right thing. Yes, there is a larger debate raging these days.

That's the best reason for Verizon to stay quiet right now. Quiet keeps the storm away from its front door. This is a very interesting story to watch. Valuable lessons can be learned in crisis PR for every company.

Risky Business

If Verizon handles this situation wrong, its reputation could be harmed. It is in a very tricky place -- and this kind of public relations debacle doesn't always play out as planned.

Sometimes it takes on a life of its own. While handling a PR storm correctly can help a company, handling it poorly can be devastating. Often, the devastation does not result from the original problem but from poor handling of it from a PR perspective.

So far, we have not heard Verizon or Verizon Wireless make a sound. This is typically not the way public relations pros would advise a company to go, but quiet has helped Verizon up to now. There is a difference between ordinary PR and crisis PR, though. There is more at stake -- and this is the time for crisis PR management.

It can be argued that Verizon has been handling this PR crisis well by staying quiet. Since Verizon cannot tell the whole story, it's better off keeping its mouth shut. So it is keeping quiet for national security reasons as the furor builds into an intense battle over privacy and politics.

So far, the argument is not focused on Verizon. It is focused on privacy and politics. So the safest position is for Verizon to sit quietly. However, it had better be ready for a sudden change of the weather.

We have learned watching the paths of tornadoes over the last few weeks that storms change course very quickly. What if that kind of shift should suddenly turn the focus on Verizon and Verizon Wireless?

Waiting to Exhale

One big question is whether all of the major U.S. carriers have given up the same kind of customer data that Verizon has turned over. If so, then the pain for Verizon will be lower.

However, if just a few companies are involved and Verizon is one of them, then the pressure cooker will be turned up. If Verizon is the only company, it could get pretty hot.

If that happens, Verizon will have to change PR strategies and hit this problem head on to save it from larger and longer-term problems like customer and investor loss.

The good news is Verizon and Verizon Wireless seem to be handling this storm well so far. The bad news is that if the storm changes course, Verizon could be in danger.

This story is still young and will play itself out over the next few months at least. It is a great lesson for every other company to learn the right and wrong way to handle crisis public relations. There are still privacy and political arguments to be made.

So let's keep our eyes open. School is in session. 


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at



The Race for 3rd Place in the Smartphone Space

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

06/06/13 5:00 AM PT

We are still very early in the smartphone game. Leadership may change from time to time. It already has changed once. Five years ago, the leaders were BlackBerry and Nokia. Then Apple and Google stepped on the stage and stole the show. Now BlackBerry and Nokia are shadows of their former selves, trying for a comeback. This marketplace has changed very quickly, and it will likely continue to do so.


We have been watching the big guys battle it out for the last few years. Apple's iOS vs. Google's Android on the operating system side, and Apple's iPhone vs. Samsung's Galaxy on the handset side. However little attention has been paid to No. 3. Which company is No. 3? I'll be you don't even know. Yet No. 3 could transform the industry over the next few years.

It seems we've been following the big guys for so long, we forgot about all the other players. The industry seems to be settling into two parts -- Tier I and Tier II. There are quite a few Tier II players, and we are just in the early innings of this game. Leadership in the Tier II space seems to change on a regular basis. What that says to me is there is not one strong third place leader yet -- but that could be changing.

So, whether you ask which company is No. 3 or which company is No. 1 in Tier II, there are quite a few to consider, both new and existing brands. Let's take a look.

Foxconn and Firefox

Mozilla's Firefox OS will soon enter the smartphone space. Foxconn agreed to make a number of brand new handsets running the Firefox OS. Foxconn is that company in Taiwan that makes the iPhone and other things Apple. By the way, it also makes smartphones for a wide variety of companies like Sony, Huawei and ZTE, which will also be working with Mozilla on devices running the new Firefox OS.

Foxconn is one of those winners in wireless that very few have ever heard of. Mozilla chose well. However, while Foxconn is a huge smartphone maker for many brands, Mozilla's Firefox OS is new and untested. I expect a big coming-out party for Firefox OS as it breaks into the market later this year on smartphones offered in Latin America and Europe.

Firefox is not competing in the U.S. market yet. I think Mozilla hopes to get a good running start elsewhere. Whether it will succeed and when it will enter the U.S. marketplace are the next questions. Let's hope it does.

Lenovo's Ambitions

Lenovo may soon launch a new line of smartphones running Windows Phone 8. It already offers a number of Android smartphones. With its Lenovo Reach cloud product, its customers will have an advantage in that they can store information online rather than on a hard drive, making data accessible across platforms and devices. It's just like what Apple is doing with the iCloud and Microsoft with its cloud. This is a growing segment.

Lenovo wants to enter the U.S. smartphone market within a year, but it won't be easy to crack, as there is already plenty of strong competition. It has been very successful in China and elsewhere, so I expect it will come on strong in this marketplace.

Microsoft, Nokia Register

Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system is on smartphones like the Nokia Lumia. Both Microsoft and Nokia have been struggling in the smartphone space, not moving the needle much. Today there are plenty of Lumias on the market, though, and in the last quarter, the Windows Phone OS suddenly seemed to be catching on.

A few months ago, the Windows Phone OS was at roughly 3 percent market share, but now it's at 5 percent. That's a good jump in just a single quarter. Who is the real winner? Is it Microsoft or Nokia? The answer is both. Can Microsoft and Nokia keep it up? Well there is a slice of the customer pie that likes Microsoft Windows Phone. Perhaps they are the same group who like Windows 8.

Perhaps these are the people who want a similar experience on their laptop, tablet and smartphone. Whatever the reason, Microsoft and Nokia are starting to gain some traction. Let's see if they can keep this up.

BlackBerry and All the Rest

Don't think competition for that No. 3 spot is just between these few companies. There are others who want to break in and succeed as well. BlackBerry is now back in the game with its BB10 OS, carving out a niche with its first new devices.

We don't know how well it will do compared to the competition, but it may be holding its own and even growing a bit lately. Many of its existing customers really like the new tech. I hope that is enough to trigger a long-term growth spurt.

There are quite a few other devices either here or coming soon from companies like Sony, Huawei, HTC, ZTE, LG, Motorola, Kyocera and many more.

The More the Merrier

This marketplace can only benefit from more successful competitors. Success for any of these companies will be a matter of building strong demand by innovating with both their technologies and their brands.

It all depends on ideas. What's hot today and what's going to be hot tomorrow? Wireless is changing from a tech business to a fashion business. It will face the same challenges as fashion retailers like Abercrombie & Fitch with all the ups and downs in a rapidly changing market.

Keep your eyes open for companies waking up and starting to hustle. Samsung has soared in the last few months. In the mind of the customer, Samsung has arrived.

Which company will be next to catch the growth wave? Keep your eyes open, because it will happen quickly. 


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at



Lenovo's Shot at the Smartphone Market

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

05/31/13 5:00 AM PT

Today Lenovo market share in the smartphone segment is nonexistent in the U.S. It's not even a blip on the radar compared to companies like Apple, Google and Samsung. However, the future of the industry looks very different. Companies will start to sell more devices from different segments and connect them all in their cloud. Leadership may change. There is a real opportunity going forward.


It appears Lenovo is getting ready to bring smartphones to the U.S. market. After acquiring the IBM Thinkpad line of computers, this company has gone from virtually unknown in the United States to one of the heavy hitters. Now Lenovo is entering the smartphone business. Will it be successful?

In China, Lenovo is a strong brand name. Since its acquisition of the IBM Thinkpad business, it has been building its brand in the U.S. market as well. The problem is that the traditional laptop business has softened since the iPad's arrival a few short years ago, triggering the tablet boom.

Only a very few PC companies are holding their own. Lenovo is one of them. It is closing in on the No. 1 laptop marker. What's new? It is also the second-largest smartphone maker in China. Samsung is No. 1. The PC business has been changing. Now smartphones will play a role, and companies that can play in multiple segments stand a much better chance of success.

Apple is building and blending its computer, iPhone and iPad tablet businesses together under its iCloud. This combining of different industries will be Apple's key to success. Standalone computer businesses are struggling, because they only offer one piece of this puzzle.

Samsung is like Apple, in that it sells Android-based phones like the Galaxy S4 and tablets like the Galaxy Tab. It is moving in the cloud direction as well.

This move to sell devices in all these categories and blend them together in the cloud is the future.

Path to Leadership

That brings us to Lenovo. Believe it or not, I think Lenovo may start to look more like Apple and Samsung going forward, by building out its business in these different sectors and blending them together under the Lenovo cloud.

This will take time -- but it will take time for all competitors in the space to change -- and now is the time.

The new Lenovo smartphone business looks successful so far in China. It is also expanding to other countries like India, Russia and Indonesia. The United States looks like it will be one of its next markets within a year.

The U.S. market won't be easy -- it never is.

The global smartphone market is very tough. Samsung and Apple are the two leading manufacturers, but many companies are gunning for the No. 3 position. Companies like BlackBerry, Nokia, Motorola, HTC, LG, Huawei, Sony and several others will compete fiercely with the new Lenovo smartphone brand.

That means success for Lenovo in the smartphone and cloud business is not guaranteed. However, it does have an interesting mix, and that -- along with its marketing -- could spell success. Marketing is key.

All About Brand-Building

Going forward, we can expect to hear much more about the new and expanded Lenovo universe. It's all about marketing -- creating a brand and image that attracts customers.

When we think about the Lenovo brand today, we think about computers like the Thinkpad. Going forward, if it is successful in expanding its brand identity, we will think of Lenovo in terms of computers, smartphones and tablets -- all tied together under the Lenovo cloud. The first thing I would expect to see is brand names built for these different groups.

The wireless business is changing from being tech-oriented to focusing on fashion. The way we market is changing from emphasis on tech to emphasis on emotion. Customers have to want the brand. Each and every brand must be a player in this new world, or it will fail.

If Lenovo is successful, its name will take on a new meaning. Will it be? We'll have to wait and see. However, the senior executives at the company seem to understand the challenge and the new game.

Today Lenovo market share in the smartphone segment is nonexistent in the U.S. It's not even a blip on the radar compared to companies like Apple, Google and Samsung. However, the future of the industry looks very different. Companies will start to sell more devices from different segments and connect them all in their cloud. Leadership may change. There is a real opportunity going forward.

Tomorrow will be very exciting, but it will look very different. We know what the industry looked like five and 10 years ago and how different it looks today. So the next question is, what will it look like five and 10 years from now, and who will lead? That's the big unknown.

One last thought: If Lenovo wants to mimic Apple and Samsung, what brand name will it give its new smartphone? Does ThinkPhone ring any bells? 


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at



When Customers Get the Shaft, Companies Are the Biggest Losers

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

05/23/13 5:00 AM PT

Customers who are mistreated may feel burned because they've lost money or had an experience ruined, but companies that fail to right wrongs ultimately suffer a lot more. The loss of one customer can quickly be multiplied many times over. Customers remember, and they tell their stories, and companies that fail to deal fairly soon get the worst sort of publicity as a result.

Do you ever wonder why some companies flourish and grow while others struggle? Why you love doing business with some but not others? It all has to do with how they interact with customers. Customer care is crucial for long-term success.

My family has been going to the beach every summer for as long as I can remember. Hilton Head Island in South Carolina has become our favorite destination. We've stayed at many places on the island, but there are two big brand name hotels: the Sonesta Resort, formerly the Crown Plaza Hotel; and the Westin. Both are important to the island, and I want both to succeed. However, there was a big difference in the way we were treated at these two places.

Customers Have Long Memories

We visited several different resorts over the years, and the Sonesta became our favorite. Its staff always treated us very well. Whenever we needed anything, they were right there making sure our stay was perfect. The property itself is both gorgeous and peaceful. It recently got a fresh face, making it even better.

The Westin is a different story. Don't get me wrong -- I like Westin. I have stayed in many of the company's properties for business and pleasure over the years. Many of those properties are terrific, but when we stayed at the Westin's Hilton Head resort several years ago, we were very disappointed. Among other things, our room was not cleaned properly, and the staff did not correct the problem, despite our requests for help.

Bottom line, the Westin on Hilton Head may be OK now, but we may never know. We haven't been back. Several years have elapsed since our last stay because of the poor experience.

So who loses? Westin. We have been back to the island many times, but not to the Westin -- and when I'm asked for a recommendation, I always say the Sonesta is our favorite.

Businesses that care and that treat customers right will get repeat business. So why don't they all treat customers right? It's a no-brainer. Yet they don't.

Unhealthy Customer Relations

Like many, I join a health club every few years. I was a member of LA Fitness and was happy until a recent problem came up that was handled poorly from the customer point of view. My son wanted to join, so I signed him up as well. Then he was hired as a fitness counselor there, and he told me his membership would be free as long as he was a counselor. That's great, I thought -- save a few dollars.

Fast-forward several years. My son is not working there any longer; in fact, he canceled his membership and joined another club.

That's fine -- except recently I took a close look at my credit card bill and saw that LA Fitness was still charging me every month for his membership. I asked my son about it and he said he hasn't used the club since he canceled his membership years ago.

So I called LA Fitness to fix the problem and get a refund, but I was told there was no record of the cancellation request. The club would be happy to cancel the membership, but it could not offer me a refund, even though its records verified my son had not been in the club for at least two years. So with the proof in front of them, and in spite of my customer request, LA Fitness still did not do the right thing.

Bottom line -- the club had been charging my credit card every month for years, although my son was not even walking through the door. What it should have done was contact me to bring this to my attention. It didn't -- and when I found out, a call to its customer service department showed me LA Fitness did not care to correct the problem, either. So if the club doesn't care about me, then I don't care to give it my business any longer.

Sure, this cost me several thousand dollars, but who lost in the long term? LA Fitness, of course. I will not only not join again, but also not recommend it any longer. In fact, I just received a "We Want You Back" email. Doesn't sound like the marketing department and the customer care department talk to each other.

Keep It Simple

What about retail? This sector is full of very good and very bad customer service stories as well.

Costco is one of those warehouse clubs like Sam's Club and BJ's. First, let me admit that I have a love/hate relationship with Costco. I hate the idea of having to buy a gigantic box of anything. I hate waiting in long lines to check out. I hate not having bags to carry my stuff home. And I really hate the process of leaving the store, because I have to wait in a long line so an employee can search my cart to make sure I didn't steal something. I always complain to my wife. Why do so many customers put up with this? I must be missing something.

Perhaps it's because Costco does several things right as well. The stores are fun, the prices are good, and its return policy is excellent. Any time you need to return something, you can. Period. There's no 90-day limit. Costco would rather keep you happy -- aside from the proctology exam when you leave the store -- and keep you coming back. It works. Its growth is a direct result of this.

Certain catalog retailers, like LL Bean and Lands End, do a very good job as well. They respect the customer. They make it easy to shop and order. Order what you want and return anything for any reason at any time. Period. They make it easy to shop with them. They take away any impediments to the buying and returning process. These are companies customers love.

Customer Loyalty Pays

Can you see the point I am making with all these examples? The lessons to be learned are clear as day. Companies either makes customers fall in love with them, or they don't. It all depends on the way the company treats its customers.

Companies like Sonesta and LL Bean that do the right thing and treat their customers the right way -- with respect -- win in the long term. Companies like LA Fitness and the Westin on Hilton Head Island lose in customers' eyes.

Customers help spread the word either way -- one way or the other, for better or for worse. So isn't it better to do the right thing, and treat customers with respect, and get long-term benefits from that? Yes, the answer is obvious. Companies that don't -- well, you know who you are, and the ball is in your court.  


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at



Connecting With Key Influencers in the Industry Analyst Community

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

05/16/13 5:00 AM PT

Briefing the industry analyst community is an art form. Ever notice how few people are artists and can actually create a masterpiece? That's the problem here, in a nutshell. It's all about communication between the company and the analyst. If you cannot crack that code, you will not succeed. It is important to talk the analyst's language. It's a mistake to simply create one canned pitch.


If presenting to the technology industry analyst community is so important, why do most companies do such a poor job?

I have participated in more analyst briefings over the last 25 years than I can remember. Companies all want the same positive result, but they all go about it very differently. Only a very few are well done and get good results. So what is the path to success?

My Pick of the Week is the brand new Nokia Lumia 928 on Verizon and Lumia 925 on T-Mobile. How do these compare to the original Lumia 920 on AT&T?

The Analyst's Model

With the CTIA 2013 wireless show coming next week, this is a good time to consider how companies can get the biggest bang for their buck when dealing with the analyst community.

First, it's important to set some specific goals. Most companies want every analyst to know about them and talk about them in glowing terms. The only problem is few understand how to get that result.

To be successful, a company must turn the entire process around. It must understand each analyst individually. How? Come at it from the analyst's perspective. Every analyst is different. If you line up 10 analysts, you will have 10 different business models, following 10 different areas, and getting their opinions out in 10 different ways.

It's important to understand the analyst's business model. Understand what each analyst does for a living. Some work for larger firms and get paid a salary for the work they provide. Larger firms have different people doing different things. The firm collects fees from companies for a variety of services.

Other analysts are either individual or work for smaller practices. In those cases, the analyst is often chief cook and bottle washer responsible for providing services to clients, disseminating information to the marketplace and collecting fees.

Movers and Shakers

The term "industry analyst" is a general term that suggests many different categories. It's important not only to understand what area each analyst specializes in, but also the way each does business.

Since there are too many analysts in each industry for a company to have a good relationship with each, it's a good idea to break the analyst community into two parts. Companies should appeal to the larger analyst community, while at the same time forming relationships with key analysts in their sector -- those who are best known, regularly quoted, and who frequently write about their industry's competition and trends.

Companies should host an occasional general analyst meeting to reach all analysts. They are often helpful to bring the entire community up to speed with the same information at the same time. After the general briefing, private briefings can be held. They are still part of the larger chaos of an analyst meeting but are a great way to connect.

Separately, it is vital for a company to have excellent communications with the key analysts who follow it on a regular basis -- the analysts who can help or hurt its efforts, since they are regularly quoted by the media, write columns, release statements, publish reports, give speeches and so on.

These are the movers and shakers. They can shape opinion. I have learned this small group is key, because often what the marketplace thinks about a company begins with what these key people think, say and write.

The Meeting Game

To recap, there are three important ways to interact with the analyst community:

1.Host a general meeting for a large group of analysts -- dozens or even hundreds assembled in the same room. Remember, however, everyone looks for different things, so each may be interested only in a particular slice of what you have to say.

2.Conduct individual briefings with analysts flown into the headquarters for a few hours to meet one-on-one with senior executives that cover the areas they follow. Smaller briefings for key analysts often are held at higher-quality spots like Las Vegas or Palm Beach.

Don't waste time. Analysts travel too much and attend too many meetings. So provide meetings of interest and value. Ask whom the analysts would like to meet with and what areas they want to focus on. Make sure they get good value out of the trip. These one-on-one meetings can be most valuable, as long as they are part of a longer-term relationship.

3.Hold briefings at trade shows like the upcoming CTIA 2013 in Las Vegas. Now what I am about to say goes against the groove most companies are in. Most, unfortunately, host meetings as though the analysts are on a conveyor belt -- saying the same thing to one after the other, and not really closing the gap with the analyst.

This is a reflection of the theory that if you throw enough stuff at the wall, something will stick. However, the results are generally a waste of time for the company and the analysts -- and a time-waster is not how any company wants to be perceived.

A Better Way

There is a more respectful way of doing things that typically has a much better result. As an analyst, I have little interest in attending dozens of briefings with strangers. I prefer personal invitations from company executives who really want to meet with me.

I'm happy to meet with those who want to start a relationship leading to my following their companies over the long term. The first meeting should simply be a way to get to know one other. The company learns how the analyst works, and the analyst considers whether to follow the company. After this first meeting, if both want to move to the next step, then a second meeting can be set up to flesh out the details.

However, I receive countless invitations for briefings from public relations people who are strangers to me, who are hired to fill the calendar of their clients, and that's where there interest ends. There is no relationship of any kind with the executive or the company. I see little value there. The real value comes in building long-term relationships.

Note, I did not say the analyst community in general -- the general analyst community is a good starting point. However, a company must make sure it has good quality relationships with the key analysts who follow it.

For one reason or another, analysts' opinions often matter to the marketplace of consumers, business customers, investors and workers, so it's important to be successful dealing with this community at large, as well as with every key analyst in the space.

When a company reaches out to key individual analysts, it will achieve a much higher level of success in reaching its goals -- and isn't that what every company wants from the analyst community in the first place?


Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week






Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

My Pick of the Week is Nokia's addition of the Lumia 928 on Verizon and the Lumia 925 on T-Mobile. Nokia launched its Lumia family several months ago with the 920 on AT&T.

The Lumia is a great device. Users seem to like it. With the Windows Phone 8 operating system, it is completely different from Apple's iPhone and the many devices running Google's Android OS.

Each of the Lumia models has a few unique features, but essentially it's the same device on different carriers.

I have a Lumia 920 from AT&T, which I have been testing over the last few months. I don't yet have a Lumia 928 or 925. However, it appears the choice will be which carrier you want to use, not which device.

I like this device. It is a third operating system to compete with Google's Android and Apple's iOS, which account for the majority of market share in the industry.

The wireless industry needs more than two competitors. That's why handset manufacturers like Nokia, BlackBerry, Motorola, HTC, Huawei, Sony and others are fighting for the No. 3 slot, behind Samsung and Apple. That's the good news. The bad news is none of them have really broken away from the pack yet.

This Nokia Lumia family of phones is a real winner for many users and is worth a look. Nokia just has to find a way to grow its slice of the pie. 


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at



Tech Offers Web of Support for Stroke Survivors

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

05/09/13 5:00 AM PT

Every few years, we see breakthroughs in the medical and health community, as well as in the wireless and telecom industry. We are just in the early stages of a technology revolution that will help stroke survivors. Visit the iTunes App Store or Google Play and take a look. Believe it or not, today there are stroke apps. Yes that's right, there's an app for that -- several of them as a matter of fact.


May is National Stroke Awareness month. I like to follow the technology advancements for stroke prevention and treatment -- and the companies making them -- because I have been a stroke survivor for nine years. We don't realize it on a daily basis, but things advance as quickly in the medical and health industries as in wireless and communications. If I had my stroke today rather than nine years ago, there would be much more help at my fingertips.

My stroke occurred in 2004. As advanced as the medical community had become by then, it was very distant from where it is today. Doctors struggled with too many questions and offered me very few answers. They simply didn't know. Plus, they were not counselors, so they weren't able to help me understand my situation. Things are different now.

The wireless and telecom world has changed too. Back then, Apple hadn't come out with the iPhone, and Google hadn't introduced Android. A cellphone was just a cellphone -- and there were a lot of Baby Bells that hadn't yet merged.

The Smartphone Revolution

Unfortunately, strokes happen all the time. Since having mine I have learned of many other survivors among people I already knew. How many do you know? Maybe quite a few. I have learned of many neighbors, friends and business associates affected by strokes -- and recovery is a long-term process, taking years.

Every few years, we see breakthroughs in the medical and health community, as well as in the wireless and telecom industry, Suddenly these two worlds are working together to create new apps and solutions for stroke survivors. Things are getting exciting.

For example, in 2004, the year I had my stroke, the smartphone revolution had not yet begun. BlackBerry, Nokia and Palm were the smartphone leaders. There were no iPhones, and there were no phones running Android. There was no app explosion yet. At that time, there were only a few hundred apps to choose from, and none of them addressed stroke prevention or recovery.

Then things quickly started to change. Apple debuted the iPhone in 2007, and Google unleashed Android shortly after that. The number of apps started to grow, but in the early years they were mostly about games. It would be a few years before anything of medical or health value was created.

Today, smartphones rule the world. More than 50 percent of us have one. There are nearly a million apps in the iTunes App Store and in Google Play. We've grown past the initial stage emphasizing games and are seeing apps with serious value propositions. There is a growing variety of healthcare-related apps, and we are still just in the very early years.

Apps for That

I am currently writing my second book. Stroke Recovery Stories is filled with stories from stroke survivors to offer encouragement to others. So if you have recovered from a stroke or know someone who has, and if you would like to help, I hope you will get in touch with me and contribute your story to this new book.

We are just in the early stages of a technology revolution that will help stroke survivors. Visit the iTunes App Store or Google Play and take a look. Believe it or not, today there are stroke apps. Yes that's right, there's an app for that -- several of them as a matter of fact.

Sorting through all these "stroke" apps is key at this early stage. Listed under "stroke" are stroke recovery apps -- but there are also golfing apps and other unrelated apps with the word "stroke" in their titles or descriptions.

One good app, from the American Heart Association, is Spot a Stroke F.A.S.T.. It is available at the iTunes App Store.

E-Books and More

The e-book craze is new and a big help as well. Amazon's Kindle, Barnes & Noble's Nook and other e-readers make it easy to shop, find what you are looking for, and download and read a book immediately, without leaving home. In the world before e-readers, if we wanted a book immediately, we had to go to bookstore, but they didn't carry a deep selection.

Buying books online is a whole new world. There is a huge selection of existing e-books about strokes, and there are new ones being published all the time.

Walgreens is an example of a drug store stepping in to improve healthcare as well. The shift from retail-only to healthcare consultant is growing rapidly. Before long, when you visit your local drug store, you'll likely find a doctor's office right next to the pharmacy counter.

Smartphones and tablet computers are starting to help doctors and neurologists with stroke assessment. Using technology like Apple's FaceTime for the iPhone, which is like a portable video conference app, a doctor can visit with a patient in rural or remote locations. This improves the chances for early diagnosis and treatment. Doctors even use medical apps to review brain scans of stroke patients.

Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center is using technology to help stroke survivors walk again -- one more example of the plethora of tools that are suddenly appearing.

Community Support

There are other new ways to bring the stroke community together, like stroke walks in different communities. This is important for a patient's psychological well being -- it lets survivors know they are not alone. Recovering from a stroke can be very isolating and lonely.

When I had my stroke, this community effort didn't exist. It was frightening. My wife and I were alone, and we didn't know what to expect. It remained that way for many painful years.

Today, thanks to all the new technology, education and medical treatments -- and all the community support -- things are different.

We are just beginning to see how the lives of stroke survivors can be improved, and we are still in the very early days of this revolution. Expect more from technology and the community to keep improving the lives of survivors.

I will occasionally write about exciting new ideas and technologies in this area. Remember to send me your encouraging thoughts and stories about your stroke recovery, so I can include them in my new book. Let's help new stroke survivors see that they will eventually get better and stronger. They just have to work at it every day.

Nine years ago, we thought we knew quite a bit about the brain and strokes. However compared with today, we were still in the Stone Age. Today we know much more. Just what will we know tomorrow?  


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at



Forgetting Today's Users May Be BlackBerry's Folly

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

05/02/13 5:00 AM PT

BlackBerry and its new management team are missing something important -- and missing this may be very costly to them in the long term. Perhaps they are simply trying to be completely new and different in an effort to reboot. The problem is, all this change is making BlackBerry look and feel unfamiliar to many existing users.


BlackBerry, formerly Research In Motion, is under a lot of scrutiny as it pursues its comeback strategy. An interesting question recently came up having to do with that effort: Is BlackBerry so busy focusing on growth and the future that it has forgotten about taking care of customer needs in the present? I'll address this both as a technology industry analyst and a long time BlackBerry fan.

Everything about BlackBerry is suddenly very different. The new BB10 is both better and worse than its predecessor. BlackBerry is in transition. However, a transition should not be about becoming something foreign. It should be an evolution of the brand and an update of the technology.

BlackBerry is not my company. I am just an observer and user with opinions and desires like everyone else. BlackBerry can do whatever it wants, of course. However, I do like the company, and I want it to succeed. After all, it is the oldest smartphone brand name in the market.

Sure, today's market looks very different from just a few years ago. Yesterday, BlackBerry led. Today Apple's iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy lead. However we still need other successful competitors in the space.

Let me pose a question: If you see someone you know and like about to be hit by a bus while crossing the street, would you shout and wave your arms and do what you could to prevent the accident? That's what I am doing here for BlackBerry.

Step by Step

What is BlackBerry today? The users that are left are the core BlackBerry customers. They may be core customers because they have phones supplied by their company, but they may have made the choice themselves.

Maybe they like something about BlackBerry -- that the device is simple, for example. Maybe they understand it because they've been long-time users. Maybe they really like its secure email. Maybe they're hooked on one of the other BlackBerry features they can't get elsewhere.

Five years ago, BlackBerry was the strongest brand in the smartphone world. There were loads of customers and websites where addicted BlackBerry users gathered, like Then suddenly BlackBerry was pushed aside by other brands.

After years of delay, BlackBerry 10 was finally introduced and the first handset, the Z10, was released. Now the second handset, the Q10, is being released -- it has a physical keypad.

This first effort at renewing the company with BB10 is good, but it is not yet great. Hopefully the Q10 will be successful. I'm getting one shortly.

The problem, as I see it, is simple. Management is totally reinventing the entire BlackBerry experience. While this is good in many ways, it is bad in others. The new BlackBerry should be a transformational device, giving happy users what they want. It should introduce them to many new features along the way.

The MemoPad Mistake

I have been a BlackBerry user for many years. Of course, I carry other phones as well. Think of this as a personality disorder. Yes, I carry too many phones -- an iPhone, several Androids, Nokia with Windows, and more. That's an entirely different story.

Let me give you an example of the problem I see. I have always liked the BlackBerry devices, but there was one feature I learned to use and now actually need. As it turns out, checking and other BlackBerry sites, it is the same feature many others use and like as well.

It's called "MemoPad," and it syncs with Notes on your computer's Microsoft Outlook software. It let's you keep dozens of notes, and they sync between your computer and wireless handset so you can take them with you. This is a very handy, simple and powerful tool that many users really like.

Many BlackBerry users still use older versions of Outlook software; however, MemoPad always worked -- until BB10, that is. Previously, this feature was always supported, and it was one of many key reasons people liked BlackBerry.

In fact, this feature is so important to so many users that even though Apple introduced the iPhone without this functionality, it later added it, based on user feedback. There is a lesson here somewhere.

Now, even as Apple embraces this MemoPad and Notes feature for the iPhone, BlackBerry is moving away from it. Fortunately this problem can be remedied quickly and easily if BlackBerry knows about it.

Now pull the camera back. The larger question is why didn't BlackBerry executives make sure all the goodies their customers really liked and used remained, alongside all the new features?

I have contacted the company with this question and have received no response on this issue. I have looked for an answer and asked many others as well. I have found no answer. If I am wrong, I hope BlackBerry will do me the courtesy of letting me know. I'll pass the word along to you as well.

Care for Core Customers

So, it seems that BlackBerry is so focused on tomorrow, it is forgetting about today's customers needs.

As a customer, I want the company to succeed. However for it to remain strong, it must understand and take good care of its customer base.

As an analyst, I look at this basic mistake from a big-picture perspective, and I wonder if it is a sign of things to come for a company so many have loved for so long.

We all want BlackBerry to succeed. It can. One year from today, BlackBerry will either be stronger or weaker. It all depends on the choices its executives make. BlackBerry is not the only company dealing with this issue. Others, like Nokia and Motorola, are struggling as well.

BlackBerry must focus on two areas: One, it must take care of existing customers who like existing features like MemoPad; and two, it must look to the future with apps and other technologies that could give it an edge tomorrow.

Currently I have both a brand new BlackBerry Z10 and an older BlackBerry Torch. Want to know which I prefer and use? The older Torch -- for now, at least. I hope that changes, but it's really up to BlackBerry.

Soon I'll have the Q10 to take for a test drive, and I will write about it for you as well. Off the cuff, I would guess the Q10 will be more popular because of the keyboard. After all, BlackBerry users love their keyboards.


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at



CTIA's Eye-Opening Competition

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

04/25/13 5:00 AM PT

There are so many ways wireless is touching our lives and changing our world. Today, when we leave the house we must remember our smartphone, car keys and wallet. Tomorrow, we'll only have to remember our smartphone. Everything else will be integrated in that device. That's just one component of the wireless transformation, though. Innovation is surrounding us.


I want to thank CTIA for inviting me to be a judge in its annual wireless competition. The winners will be announced at this year's CTIA 2013 starting May 21 in Las Vegas.

I was looking for what's new, earthshaking and transformative, and I was very impressed with many entries. I think you will be as well.

Every few years there is an earthquake in the wireless industry -- something new that redefines and transforms everything. The latest happened six years ago, when the iPhone and Android were created. Now they lead. The entire smartphone sector has rapidly grown since then, and technology has advanced at an accelerated pace.

Sorting through all the entries started me thinking. Perhaps we don't recognize an earthshaking technology when it is first introduced. Perhaps in the early stages, it's just an interesting idea. Great ideas that change the industry take time to develop. Then suddenly they pop up on everyone's radar, and we think they're brand new.

Snowball Effect

When the first iPhone came out, we were excited, but the industry had not changed. Apple still had lots of bugs to work out. There were only a few apps. Wireless Internet speeds were not fast. Remember, the first iPhone was really very similar to RIM's BlackBerry smartphones. Apple gave the concept a twist, but the iPhone didn't change the industry overnight. Neither did Google's Android operating system when it debuted on the T-Mobile G1. It had plenty of bugs.

However, over the next couple of years, everything started to come together for these new and innovative products. The iPhone and Android OS were improved and continued to advance. Android started showing up on a variety of handsets and networks. Apps in the marketplace rose from a few hundred, to hundreds of thousands. Both the iOS platform and Android have more than 800,000 apps available today.

Today the smartphone market looks completely different from six years ago. It is fast-growing and innovative. It affects carriers, handset makers and app makers. However, we didn't think this way about this segment from day one, did we? No, we watched it develop over several years. So when judging CTIA entries, I needed to keep that in mind.

Award categories:

ēEnterprise -- products and services, including software and hardware, used to deploy wireless technology in the enterprise;

ēInfrastructure -- products and services used in the deployment of a wireless network;

ēMobile Apps -- applications marketed and sold to consumers;

ēMobile Consumer Electronics -- handsets, Bluetooth accessories and other wirelessly enabled electronic devices; and

ēCrowd Favorites -- "Online Pick" and "Best in Show."

Vast Reach

Every year that I have attended the CTIA show, I've been overwhelmed with new and innovative technology. Yet from all of this innovation year after year, only a few ideas really catch on and change the industry and our lives.

Think about the current wave of innovation sweeping across the wireless industry. The wireless business is reaching far beyond traditional wireless services. Sure, networks are expanding, handset makers are growing, and the number of apps is increasing, and that's where our brain goes when thinking about the market. However, many other industries -- including automotive, healthcare and retail -- are taking advantage of wireless innovations as well. This is one of the hottest new trends, and it will be all we are talking about in coming years.

Categories in this year's competition include automotive, location-based services, navigation and safe driving. Items include the Chevrolet MyLink; Cobra iRadar ATOM; Telenav; Siri eyes free integration by General Motors; and the Verizon VZ Navigator powered by Telecommunications Systems on Windows Phone 8. Doesn't this remind you of other automotive innovations like the Ford Sync?

Handsets include the new HTC One, LG Sprint 4G, Doro PhoneEasy, Blackberry Z10, Samsung Galaxy S4, Nokia Lumia 920, and Samsung Galaxy Note II.

Wireless is key to areas like security, fraud and privacy; green telecom and smart energy solutions; machine-to-machine communications; sensors; RFID; and NFC. It's integral to mobile commerce, including payments, banking, shopping and much more.

Tomorrow's Promise

Yes, wireless is expanding far beyond traditional smartphones. In the healthcare industry, there are apps that can keep in constant contact with your doctor as you update your readings throughout the day. Walking into a retail store, you are recognized and greeted and sent personalized coupons and offers. Passengers in a car can surf the Web on a dashboard screen or on a screen mounted on the back of a headrest -- and there's much more.

On the network side are companies like AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile. Don't forget all the innovative handset and app makers. Plus I fully expect new handset makers to enter the marketplace, like Lenovo and others. What, you didn't think Apple and Google would be the only non-wireless companies to enter and lead the wireless space, did you?

We are just in the very early stages in this exciting transformation. There is so much innovation all around us. All we really have to do is pick a direction and run. This means there is great opportunity for workers, customers and investors.

The annual CTIA show is always one of the most exciting events of the year in the U.S. wireless industry. Enjoy this year's show. Just keep your eyes open and your mind clear, and imagine what tomorrow will bring. The real opportunities will be hiding in plain sight.


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at



Wireless: Fertile Ground for Wheeling and Dealing

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

04/18/13 5:00 AM PT

Dish Network and SoftBank are vying for Sprint not only because of what it has to offer today, but also because of the many new opportunities tomorrow will bring. The wireless industry is undergoing a revolutionary transformation, and companies that want to be on the growth side of the wave are looking for ways to expand their horizons. That's why owning Sprint could be a very big deal for either Dish or SoftBank, and neither is ready to back away.


Thanks to countless conversations with reporters, I have developed a crystal clear idea of why Dish Network and SoftBank want to acquire Sprint Nextel. It has less to do with wireless carrier ambitions, and much more to do with the future -- being leaders in a new space that's still largely under the radar.

When wireless took off, it is was all about voice calls. Then the industry realized if it wanted to continue strong growth, it had to be more than just voice. Since the late 1990s, we've seen a constant progression of wireless data speed and functionality. Wireless now supports text, Web, images, video, live television and more.

Change Is in the Wind

Not every carrier and handset maker has seen the same high levels of growth, but the industry in general has -- and the future of wireless looks even better than the past. Sprint Nextel was a rapidly growing company a decade ago. Then it slipped. It took two CEOs and a variety of changes at the corporate level to first see, then fix the problem.

Today Sprint is actually a good quality provider of wireless services, but it hasn't been able to convince the marketplace of that fact. So it continues to struggle. By the way, this same thing happened to it in the 1980s and 90s. It took Sprint forever to get past that problem time. Remember the pin drop commercials?

Look at the last few years. Six years ago, Apple's iPhone and Google's Android didn't even exist. Today the industry circles around them -- and the industry keeps growing, changing and innovating. What will it look like in another five years?

It will be very different. Sure, wireless will continue on it's growth path with smartphones, apps and more, but there are other things in store. Tomorrow is why companies like Dish and SoftBank want to get their hands on Sprint.

Where the Action Is

There are three big growth segments few are thinking about today:

1. Companies like Dish could use networks like Sprint's to deliver video and Internet to customers. That means Dish customers could get a wider array of services wherever they were.

2. There are more smartphone innovations to come. Today, we don't leave our homes without taking three things with us: our smartphone, car keys and wallet. As smartphones develop, they will be in charge of everything in our lives. Going forward, we'll just have to remember one thing when we walk out the door -- our smartphone.

A smartphone can unlock and start up a car. Just think about how you do that today. You carry a key fob in your pocket and simply hit the start button on the dash. Well the same technology that's in the fob can be in your smartphone. It's as easy as that. Plus your smartphone will keep you in touch with your car app to stay up to date so you'll know when it's time for another quart of oil, or an oil change, or changing other fluids and filters. Plus it wirelessly connects with the manufacturer , so you can report problems with your car and be notified of recalls and so on.

In addition, you will store all of your personal and ID information in digital format on your smartphone -- think of an e-DriversLicense, or insurance card and registration -- and have it automatically updated. Same thing with all your photos and membership cards.

3. Other industries need help to go wireless. You may have noticed that both AT&T and Verizon have been running television commercials about helping other industries use wireless and wireline networks and technology to innovate their business models. That's an enormous opportunity for growth in the wireless industry. This is also a great opportunity for Sprint.

Imagine walking into your favorite retail store, and the moment you walk through the doors, your phone beeps and you receive a friendly greeting. As you walk through the aisles, you get personalized offers for special sales.

Imagine that every time you test your blood, your numbers get sent to your doctor so your diabetes can be monitored in real-time. Imagine sitting in the back seat of your parents' car and watching television or surfing the Web on the back of a headrest. All these things and more are real today, and much more is coming. This a sampling of the enormous opportunity we are moving toward.

 We are just in the very early stages of this new wireless revolution -- and these are only three examples of what the future holds in store.

The Race Is On

So, any question as to why Dish Network and SoftBank want to make big moves in this exciting new marketplace? Many more companies will be interested in taking advantage of wireless opportunities going forward as well.

The opportunity is both for today's wireless marketplace and tomorrow's, which is much larger than anyone can imagine. We know all the changes the wireless industry has been through in the last five years with the smartphone revolution. Well, we are not done. The revolution continues. The question now is what changes can we expect going forward? How will things be different in the next five years?


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at



The Wild and Wonderful Future of Wireless

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

04/11/13 5:00 AM PT

Six years ago, lightning struck the wireless industry. Apple launched the iPhone and Google unveiled Android. These two companies rapidly changed the smartphone segment and then the entire industry. These are still the early days in this transformed landscape, and I see no slowdown ahead. Today is much bigger than yesterday, so what will tomorrow look like?


The wireless industry is in the middle of a transformation. That means there are many new opportunities going forward, but there are many new challenges as well. Which ideas, companies and sectors will win is the question.

I have been a wireless and technology industry analyst for more than 25 years. I have followed and worked with many companies as they changed the industry -- and change continues. The annual CTIA conference is coming in May, and the technology and ideas demonstrated will be simply incredible.

The wireless industry looks very different from several years ago. What will it look like several years ahead?

Wireless Today

Even though the industry is growing, some handset makers and networks have succeeded, while others have struggled.

Apple has both the iOS operating system and the iPhone. Google is primarily concerned with the Android operating system. It works with various handset makers like Samsung. I've heard that Apple and Google dominate roughly 90 percent of the mobile OS market so far. Not bad for an idea that's only a few years old.

Then there are numerous companies fighting to lead among handset manufacturers. Who will be No. 3? Two possibilities are past leaders like Nokia, which is partnering with Microsoft on a series of devices, and BlackBerry. Currently, both the Nokia Lumia 920 and the new BlackBerry Z10 are excellent devices. I have used both and like them.

These are very different in design. However, they have not yet broken through to compete successfully with Apple, Google and Samsung and take big market share -- not yet, anyway.

Other companies also want to break into a leadership position with handsets, like Sony with its Xperia, Huawei, HTC, ZTE, LG and others.

On the carrier side, AT&T Mobility and Verizon Wireless are the strongest national networks in the U.S. They are also busy expanding into new markets, helping other industries reinvent themselves. As they grow, they are helping other industries grow through wireless as well.

Sprint Nextel is once again becoming a good carrier. It has put up a valiant fight over recent years to regain market share, but it is still struggling for growth. Now it wants to merge with Softbank. If this deal is approved, it may indeed help Sprint, but with new ownership, it may also become a very different competitor. Stay tuned.

T-Mobile has been struggling for growth for years. It is trying to reinvent itself with a new CEO at the helm. It has introduced innovative new billing plans and is now selling the iPhone. It is expected to close a merger deal with MetroPCS soon.

Let's hope it can turn things around, because the industry needs large, strong, national competitors. Its performance has been disappointing in recent years. Are things getting ready to change?

C Spire Wireless is a strong regional wireless carrier with high speeds, popular phones like the iPhone, and very attractive pricing, which customers love.

U.S. Cellular is currently struggling. It is a good company in a weakened position. The question is will it get back on track in 2013?

On the prepaid side, companies like Tracfone have a strong wireless business but compete for a different segment of the marketplace and do it differently.

As you can see, wireless is winning and growing, but that's not true for every competitor. Remember, however, these companies can change position over the next few years. There have already been many changes over the last few years and I expect that to continue.

So that's where we are today. What about tomorrow? What will change?

Wireless Tomorrow

This is the exciting part of what I do. I get to talk with and follow the senior executives of the carriers and gain a pretty good understanding of the direction of companies and the industry in general.

I have talked with quite a few executives for various wireless networks, handset makers and app makers -- as well as people from other industries, like automotive, healthcare and more -- who are using wireless to reinvent the way they do business.

Today there are three things we don't leave the house without: our wallet, our keys and our smartphone. Tomorrow we will just have to take the smartphone. That's right, it will act as our wallet, storing credit card information, driver's license, photos and the like.

As for our keys, the automotive industry has already given us the ability to have a FOB in our pocket and a push button on the dash to start, so why not just have that technology in our smartphone? It's coming.

Leaders in the smartphone sector are changing. It's not just about the technology any longer. It's also about show business. It's about marketing, advertising and public relations. It should be interesting to watch things develop.

One recent example: A few weeks ago, Samsung introduced its Galaxy 4 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City in what may have been the largest, show-biz type introductory event of all time for the wireless industry. This event raised Samsung in the mind of the marketplace.

That's good -- but how will it top that show next time? How will other companies compete? The bar is continually being raised. How do we top that?!

Another example is Facebook, which -- like the Apple of six years ago -- is not a wireless company. Yet it wants to reinvent the wireless business as well. It recently announced Facebook Home, attracting the kind of media attention that was unheard of a few short years ago. Check Google for how many stories were written. You'll be amazed.

Like Apple, Facebook could indeed change the industry in new and uncertain ways. Be on the lookout for new opportunities.

Facebook is using wireless launchers to change the marketplace and grow its future. If successful, this will open the door to many other companies doing the same thing. This is a brand new sector in wireless -- just like smartphones were a half dozen years ago.

I expect many other companies to jump into this space going forward. This goes far beyond this one company and this one launcher -- even beyond more launchers from more companies.

Some customers will like Facebook Home, but others may like it just once in a while. Some users might like several different launcher home screens from different companies.

That means as a next step we have to come up with a way to manage multiple launchers or customized home screens. Who will develop that? Plus, think about developing your own personalized launcher. There will be lots of new competitors in this new segment.

There are other industries that want to use wireless to get a competitive advantage in the marketplace. All it takes is one established company to come up with an idea. After a short while, competitors will do the same thing -- until all competitors have to offer it just to stay in business.

Then pull the camera back as industry after industry will start to use the wireless industry to update the business practices. Walk into a retail store, and technology will greet you and offer you personalized coupons based on past visits.

Healthcare also is being transformed. You can test your diabetes blood sugar numbers and send the results directly to your doctor for ongoing management, skipping a doctor's appointment, thank you, yet getting better care.

New smartphone apps developed at Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center are helping stroke survivors walk again. Imagine what else the healthcare industry has in store.

The same thing is happening in the automotive industry. Starting with companies like Lexus, Cadillac and Mercedes Benz, then Ford and now Chevrolet, this technology is new and exciting and will change our lives. The innovation wheel is just starting in industry after industry.

This is an opportunity for every industry and also a big-time opportunity for the wireless industry, which will be at the center of this new universe with handsets, apps and networks.

That's why networks like AT&T Mobility and Verizon Wireless are plowing the road in this area. Helping every other industry is a huge growth opportunity for the wireless industry.

The big challenge today is bridging the gap -- getting wireless executives and other industry executives to be able to communicate and understand each other so they can make these dreams come true. This is harder than you can imagine.

So today we are surrounded by plenty of challenges as well as opportunities. Expect new technologies that we haven't even thought of yet as well.

Wireless will continue to grow, delivering new and innovative services to customers, and working with other industries. Some companies will win and others will struggle, but wireless in general will grow and remain healthy.

I look forward to learning and writing about the innovators and the companies taking leadership roles going forward. What ideas and technologies will emerge tomorrow? That's an exciting question. There will be challenges and opportunities. The race is on whether you are a customer, investor or worker -- so enjoy.



E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at



It's Time for Aereo to Soar

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

04/04/13 5:00 AM PT

A year ago, Aereo hit the market with one hot idea: a reinvention of the pay television business. Chairman Barry Diller is the familiar name that lends this company credibility. However, it has been a slow year for Aereo's growth. Its plans were thwarted by stumbling blocks. However, many of them may now be cleared away, thanks to a court ruling earlier this week. If so, what's next for Aereo?


Aereo streams television over the Internet for a fee -- so far only in the New York City region. Its expected rapid rollout has not happened over the past year. Why?

One reason is that Aereo was being sued by various broadcasters. However, the decision handed down this week from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals looks good for Aereo. The ruling allows it to partner with pay-TV providers. That means companies suing Aereo, like Fox, CBS, NBC and 14 other broadcasters, have to decide whether to take a different route to carry on their fight. Stay tuned.

Blazing a Trail?

If Aereo is indeed in the clear, it wants to expand, and it looks as though it is considering partnerships with cable, satellite or telephone company IPTV. There are quite a few options, as you can imagine. What will come from all of this activity?

Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia said Monday's ruling sends a powerful message that consumer access to free-to-air broadcast television is still meaningful. So what's next? No partnership agreements have been signed yet because of legal uncertainty. Could that be behind Aereo now? Could everything now start to change? Perhaps.

Aereo has been talking with several competitors lately, exploring partnerships with major pay-TV distributors and Internet service providers like AT&T and Dish Network.

A year ago Chairman Barry Diller said Aereo could expand to 100 cities within the next year. It missed that one by a long shot. Now Aereo plans to reach 22 markets in 2013. Will that actually happen? Is it getting ready to blaze a trail of growth?

It's hard to know what to expect from this startup. On one hand, without Barry Diller, this would be just another one-in-a- million shot. On the other hand, having name recognition to help the company rise above the noise could be the single point of difference to help it succeed.

Bring On the Competition

What will the future bring for Aereo? The good news is Aereo is still a startup, and it's common for things to get in the way of a rapid rollout. The only question is, are these things insurmountable or are they just stumbling blocks?

I like the idea of Aereo. I want it to succeed. In fact, I want others to succeed as well. I believe the entire pay-TV industry would benefit from new competitors. Shaking things up will help reduce costs and raise innovation.

Think of Aereo like a cable television company that delivers signal over the Web -- very innovative. This is what companies in this space are trying to expand into. Fortunately, there are plenty of companies that could make a good partner, such as AT&T, Verizon, Dish, DirectTV, Comcast, Time Warner and Cox. Countless others, including Amazon and Netflix, could be interested as well.

So, is Aereo a standalone brand or could it be part of a larger brand? What direction will it eventually head?

Let's hope this legal stuff is now out of the way for Aereo. That will clear the decks and we can see if it will fly. Aereo is a very innovative idea, and that is worth cheering. Barry Diller is the kind of name that can help raise this company from the noise of countless other competitors trying to find their way to the top and break out. This is a good idea, and Aereo could make a good partner to other service providers.

There are many reasons Aereo can and should make it. Don't know yet if it will, but this is an interesting story to follow. We'll just have to keep our eyes on Aereo and hope for the best.



E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at



BlackBerry Z10: All Sizzle, No Steak

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

03/28/13 5:00 AM PT

I really want to like the new BlackBerry Z10. The marketplace needs more competitors. The problem is BlackBerry has been sizzling like crazy, but now that we can see it, well, where's the beef? The best I can say is good first effort at this new design, BlackBerry. It's not enough, but it's a good first effort. Now go and make it better.


When the BlackBerry Z10 was first in my hands, I was prepared to write a glowing review of the new device and operating system. I like BlackBerry. I thought I was going to be able to write how it was a real competitor to the Apple iPhone and Samsung Galaxy. I was hoping to be able to say BlackBerry was back. Unfortunately, I can't -- not yet. The new Z10 is better in some ways and worse in others.

BlackBerry Z10

I've only had this device for a couple of weeks, so I don't yet know all it can do, but here are my first impressions.

When you upgrade to a new version of the iPhone or your favorite Android device, there is familiarity. It's new, but not all new. It's comfortable. Only when you move to a completely different handset do you have to relearn the entire operating system. There is an uncertainty about how to make it work and how to find all the new features.

BlackBerry is starting life all over again with new handsets, functionality and a brand new operating system, BlackBerry 10. This is more complicated to understand than just upgrading your handset to the next new version -- especially when things don't work right. My BlackBerry Z10 froze from time to time, and I could do nothing but wait until it decided to work again.

I like to talk about the steak and the sizzle. This is how a company should think to be successful. The old BlackBerry was the steak, but had no sizzle. That was the reason it quickly fell behind. This remake has the sizzle but not the steak. Without both, success is not possible. BlackBerry can recover from this though.

Long Term, Short Term

The big question is, will this change be enough to give customers what they want and save the company? These first couple of weeks of use show me that this new BlackBerry, the way it is today, makes that uncertain for the long term.

The short term should be good for the company, though, as current BlackBerry users, starving for something new, will switch out their existing handsets for one of the new BlackBerry 10 models over the coming year. What's next? Will it win them over? Will they stay? Does BlackBerry 10 have the long legs it needs for long-term success?

Based on the BB10 and Z10 technology as they are today, I would say that for most users, the answer is no. However, that could change. BlackBerry could update both and have a great, competitive handset over the next year or two.

Remember, neither the iPhone nor any of the Android phones were great when they burst onto the scene. They won on innovation. Over the years, they improved, caught the flow, and started to really succeed. Now they are cruising right along and are the market dominators.

The same thing could happen with BlackBerry. Its new OS could have a weak start, then make corrections and updates and really catch on over the next year. Whether it will is the question. Can't say -- we'll just have to wait and see what they do next.

The big problem is the marketplace has been waiting so long already, and expectations were very high. Still, we can wait and hope the new BlackBerry phones can take the same improvement path as the early iPhone and Android handsets.

BlackBerry can be very successful with a strong and growing share, even starting as low as 5 percent of the market. It doesn't have to hit it out of the park, which of course is what we were all expecting.

About the Z10

The Z10 is better than previous versions of BlackBerry in several ways and worse in others. That will attract many old-time users to upgrade. However, many others may find staying with the older technology is still better for them. The truth is, as new and advanced as the new BlackBerry 10 is, the older version is still better in several ways for many users. It all depends on what your needs are.

The old BlackBerry had few crashes and freezes. The newer has many more. This is something that hopefully can be corrected with updates. The old BlackBerry lets users sync with Outlook and share information like Memos and Notes. The new BlackBerry does not -- or I haven't found it yet. The new BlackBerry has voice recognition, which is a plus, but it does not do as much -- or do it as easily -- as an iPhone or a top Android phone.

There are many interesting new features and apps if you need them. However, compared to the competition, the number of available apps is relatively small, and that is one key indicator of success.

The Web browser is better but still disappointing. It should sync the Favorites from your computer browser like the iPhone does -- but it doesn't, so you must create your own new favorites file. Aside from that, the browser works better than the previous version in many ways.

There is plenty this device does well. However, with limited apps and functionality -- at this stage -- the question is will it be successful? Everyone interested will ask this question: Is BlackBerry worth it? The cost is roughly the same, but the features and functionality are not yet up to the same level as the top competitors.

So BlackBerry, if your goal is to be a strong No. 3, keep improving and you may get there -- but you are not there yet. You have heavy-duty competitors who aren't sitting back and handing victory to you.

Make sure you have both the sizzle and the steak. The race is not over. This is still the magical time when good operating systems and handsets can carve out their own niches. Don't be fooled into thinking your new technology is good enough. It's not today, but it can be. There is an incredible opportunity if you can crack the code. The market does want you to succeed -- don't let us down.


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at



Samsung's Galaxy S4 Dims Apple's Glow

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

03/21/13 5:00 AM PT

There are big changes afoot in the wireless industry. A year ago Apple was riding high. Today, it is responding to Samsung's new device with explanatory emails. That's an amazing change for Apple. Has its position veered from offensive to defensive? Apple always ignored other companies. Now it is firing off emails and making excuses.

Samsung's Galaxy S4 Dims Apple's Glow Talk about attracting attention. As I write this, there are more than a thousand recent news stories and opinion pieces on the Google News site about the brand new Samsung Galaxy S4. That's an incredible win for a company that a few short years ago wasn't well known in the wireless business. Since Samsung is successfully transforming how the world thinks about it as a smartphone maker, what can we expect going forward?

The Samsung Galaxy S4

If I'm reading the cards correctly, we can expect quite a bit. First, let's pull the camera back and take a look at Samsung from a longer-term historical perspective. Ten years ago, it was not a strong brand name in the wireless space at all, but it had a goal.

A few years ago -- before the great smartphone rush -- I met several high-level Samsung senior executives at a small Sprint Nextel event in Las Vegas. At that time, Samsung was building its brand in the space, but it still was struggling for attention.

During the last year or so, Samsung really seems to have hit its stride with the Galaxy S devices. Partnering with Google and using its Android operating system in wireless phones, Samsung has taken the lead in the space, far outpacing other handset makers. Samsung is climbing the growth side of the wave I often discuss.

Last week, at its big event at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, Samsung blew the roof off. It has become the leader on the Android side, competing directly with Apple. In fact, Samsung has Apple in its sights. Samsung is the No. 1 smartphone manufacturer in the world, and it wants to become the No. 1, best-known brand in the U.S. market as well.

This is a threat to Apple, but what can we really expect?

Market in Motion

If you read the stories, you will find plenty who love Samsung and the new Galaxy S4. Many think it is the iPhone killer. However, there are just as many who think it's just another device -- no big deal. It's just another Android phone, and it will have no effect on the iPhone. The truth may be somewhere in between.

It's easy to offer an opinion -- everyone has one. However, they are mostly based on emotion -- individual likes or dislikes. Opinions by themselves really have little effect on who will win or lose in the marketplace.

So what's the answer? Well, there are plenty who like the Samsung Galaxy S4. Then again, there are also plenty who prefer the Apple iPhone. There are others who are drawn to the Nokia Lumia powered by Microsoft Windows Phone, or the new BlackBerry Z10, or any of a great number of devices from Huawei, ZTE, Sony, Motorola, HTC, LG and more.

Thinking about all these options, we can smile because yes, it appears we have the beginnings of a growing and apparently very healthy and changing market. That is very good news -- so far, at least.

The companies we follow are changing as well. Yesterday we compared the two platform heavy hitters, Apple's iOS vs. Google's Android. However, while Apple has built an ecosystem that includes both an operating system and a line of handsets, Google's smartphone presence comes primarily through its Android OS, which is installed on many different handsets. Google's own branded smartphones have not really clicked yet, but that's another story.

When thinking about the leaders in this space, we have to decide whether we are talking about the operating systems or the handsets. The leading operating systems are Google's Android and Apple's iOS. The leading handset manufacturers are Apple and Samsung.

Today, Samsung is riding its rapid growth wave on handsets, while Apple may be cresting -- for now. This is a rapidly changing marketplace, so the leaders may shuffle from time to time.

Apple on the Defensive

In the mobile device market, Apple has never had to counterpunch before. Suddenly things are changing. Suddenly Apple is acting like the underdog -- very un-Apple-like. It no longer looks like the formidable leader of a year ago. It looks like it has taken a few punches and is trying to catch its breath. Samsung looks like it is gaining ground.

However, don't let all these theatrics fool you. The fight is not over. Apple will continue to do strong business, even though its stock price is in the toilet right now, because its customers love the company. It can recover, of course. The question is, will it? These waves often play out over several years.

Pulling the camera back and looking at the industry in general, it's clear that consumers want multiple choices. Some want one kind of device, while others want another. Many users like a smaller device and appreciate the entire Apple approach. Others like a larger screen and are more in tune with Samsung's approach. There are countless others who like the other competitive offerings as well.

That's the point. That's what we call the beginning of a healthy marketplace and choice. We want multiple players. We want choice. That will keep innovation high, prices low, and both customers and investors happy. Don't hope that one wins and the others lose -- hope they all win. That is good for everyone.

In the meantime, expect the battles between Apple and Google, and Apple and Samsung to continue. Keep your eyes open for two things later this year: One, watch what Apple does next; two, look for some surprises from smaller competitors. 2013 should be a very interesting year.


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at



What's Eating Microsoft?

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

03/14/13 5:00 AM PT

Microsoft has made dramatic shifts and changes, and it wants to force everyone into its new space, like it or not. Most users do not like it -- not at this point in time, anyway. Microsoft should be thinking about creating software that allows users to migrate from one version to another at their own pace.


Microsoft was once rapidly growing like Google and Apple. Then it changed. It became a very large, but very slow growing company. These days it seems stuck, struggling to break into other businesses. By the way, the same thing is starting at Apple too.

The growth wave Microsoft rode crested years ago, but it hasn't been able to catch the next wave. It is still successful, just not rapidly growing in new sectors. Why? What should it do?

My Pick of the Week is LightSquared. Is it coming back?

Stability vs. Innovation

CEO Steve Ballmer has been with Microsoft, along with Bill Gates, since the beginning. He is still excited and visionary. However, the company simply no longer connects with today's customers for new products and services. There's a reason for that.

There are two parts to Microsoft. One is focused on the Windows operating systems and software like Office. The other is the innovative part, trying to become successful in other businesses, like wireless.

If you had asked me a year ago, I would have said Microsoft's software side was strong while its innovation side was not. However, today I have to say both are missing the mark. Microsoft seems to have lost its ability to connect with users on both existing and new products.

The reason is obvious to me, from both my analyst and customer perspectives. Microsoft has been trying to succeed in wireless for a decade, without much success. Recently it partnered with Nokia on Lumia. It is getting better -- however, the marketplace is also continuing to move ahead. That's why it decided to completely transform its operations and blend its operating systems, software and devices.

This is the same successful path Apple has taken over the years. The general idea makes a lot of sense, but the problem is it does not work for Microsoft. Microsoft is not Apple. Microsoft's customers are not Apple customers.

The Apple brand has two meanings. One is for customers who buy and use their software and devices separately. The other is for customers who buy separate pieces and want them to sync and work together. Apple has both sides taken care of, so no one is cut out. Apple delights customers.

When Apple updates its software, it doesn't radically reinvent it, the way Microsoft does. That is another important key.

Microsoft sees Apple's success and is trying to imitate it. Fine. However, it is changing too much, too quickly, and not giving customers a chance to catch their breath. Customers don't have an escape hatch.

A segment of the Microsoft customer base likes innovative change. However, a larger segment takes longer to adapt to it, and those folks are being rudely ignored. Microsoft does not care about making its customers feel comfortable. That is another key problem.

Microsoft sees the threat of a changing industry and thinks it needs to completely reinvent itself, all at once. That's another problem. It should take a longer time to give customers the chance to choose this change. Don't make it a single event -- like it or not.

Microsoft has always been that way. It always directed. It did not care about the customer. That is another problem. It always was a problem, but since there was no real alternative other than Apple, Microsoft didn't suffer. That is changing now. There are other choices, and those alternatives are increasing.

A Different Kind of Change

Microsoft must change the way it interacts with the industry or it will continue to lose. The idea of an innovative new product sounds perfect -- however, the changes are too great for many to adapt quickly. That's the problem. Patience is an attribute that Microsoft has never had.

Sure, some users like new ideas and want change. Some want to use multiple devices and have them all work together and want an entirely new Windows experience.

However, the majority of customers are not there yet, and their needs are being ignored. Those customers would prefer not to have to make such a dramatic change. They don't want to be forced to spend so much time and energy learning a new software program.

I don't think Microsoft gets it. It doesn't think from the perspective of the customer -- how much time and aggravation is involved in learning a new operating system. Microsoft doesn't look at this from the customer perspective -- only from the investor perspective. That's another problem.

This is a basic flaw in Microsoft's thinking. It has always been its problem. Rather than just tweaking and improving the software, it totally reinvents it every few years. This requires all of its customers to invest substantial time and energy, simply to learn how the new software works. Customers are busy. They are actually unhappy with Microsoft for this very reason.

I, along with millions of others, have been a Microsoft customer for decades. However, I don't know if that will continue if I am forced to make such dramatic changes. All of a sudden there are viable options, and that is the problem for Microsoft.

Microsoft should give satisfied customers the ability to keep their existing software and operating systems like XP and Office, and simply pay a small, annual fee to keep the version current and updated. That would keep everyone happy -- the customers and Microsoft's investors.

That would be innovative and very successful. Why has it never thought of this before? The reason is it wants to keep growing. It wants to force all its customers to buy more software.

Customers Crave Choice

Microsoft needs to change its thinking from solely an investment perspective, to a customer and user perspective. If not, it will suffer.

That's the big problem for Microsoft going forward. There are two different customer groups: One wants innovation -- radical change; the other does not. Only one is being served, and that's why the majority of Microsoft customers feel abused.

Abusing the customer base will no longer work, as customers have more choice. The cloud is changing everything. Google and Apple and others will continue to grow and eat away at Microsoft unless it begins to understand the problem and change its thinking. It's that simple.

So far, Microsoft is trying to force its entire customer base to jump through hoops, like it did 20 years ago. That will hurt the company going forward -- both its Windows and Office divisions and its mobile and tablet operations.

Innovation is great. However, don't force your customers to innovate on your time frame. Let them do it on their time frame. Make your customers love you. Don't let them feel neglected and abused. That is the only way to succeed in a changing marketplace. Microsoft, you are no longer the only choice in town. The sooner you realize that the better off you will be.


Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week





My Pick of the Week is LightSquared. Is it coming back? Maybe it is.

We may be getting ready to see the rebirth of LightSquared -- its second attempt. Remember its rise and fall a year or so ago? LightSquared was supposed to be a solution for the wireless data spectrum shortage looming over the smartphone industry.

It was the brainchild of hedge fund magnate Phil Falcone, and it sounded like a solution to the growing wireless problem. Then came the interference with the GPS industry, causing it to crumble.

Many thought it was dead and gone. It lost its CEO and CMO. However, word is it is still around and ready to jump back into the marketplace.

We may hear more about LightSquared in the next few weeks. Things are different this time. It is partnered with another company and a university. I wonder if it will be as interesting as before? Either way, the industry still needs a solution to the growing capacity problem.

We'll see. Stay tuned.


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at



The Tooth-and-Nails Scrap for the No. 3 Smartphone Spot

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

03/07/13 5:00 AM PT


Smartphones are taking over the global mobile device market, with Samsung and Apple elbowing each other for the top spot. Their competition is far behind, but that doesn't mean the fight for the No. 3 position won't be fierce. In fact, that may spur some of the most interesting developments, with manufacturers innovating to draw consumers to their brands.


Until about six years ago, the wireless world was pretty predictable. BlackBerry and Nokia were the leaders, and everything was growing and stable. Then the iPhone earthquake changed everything. Android soon followed, creating more disruption. Today the global handset leaders are Samsung and Apple.

However, the big story in 2013 is who will be No. 3. The competition will be intense.

Nokia vs. BlackBerry

BlackBerry and Nokia, the leaders a few short years ago, are gearing up for battle to become No. 3. BlackBerry is rolling out its brand new BB10 devices, like the Z10, in the next couple of weeks. At the same time, Nokia is pushing its Lumia phones -- which run Microsoft's Windows Phone OS -- and it looks to be a worthy opponent.

AT&T Mobility gave me a Nokia Lumia 920 to use, and the operating system is completely different from any other OS on the market. It's very good -- but very different. Expect a learning curve, but once you get past that you may love it. There are many valuable apps loaded up from the start.

The new BlackBerry sounds innovative as well. I'll have one in the next week or so and be able to compare. I'll be looking at how easy it is to use, what's new -- and what's missing.

Plenty of Contenders

Don't think the battle is just between BlackBerry and Nokia, though. Sony is re-entering the smartphone handset space and intends to win the No. 3 spot. It may have been asleep at the switch for the last few years, but it's back. Now let's see if the marketplace will recognize it once again. Its strategy to win customers in different countries with different features sounds promising.

Sony will compete against Huawei Technology and ZTE, which also have their eyes on No. 3 -- and there's more. Motorola, HTC, LG and others could also make a play.

That's why I say 2013 will be the year of the battle for No. 3. It will be a wild and wacky world with marketing, advertising and public relations. New devices from many of these key players will be introduced in the next few weeks and months.

Comeback Kids

I think BlackBerry, Nokia and Sony will have a relatively good year, at least compared with the last few. There are many existing customers who want something new. Who will win in the long term is the question. What will the marketplace look like over the next few years? The long term may be very different from the first year -- it always is.

The industry changes quickly. Fifteen years ago, the wireless business was analog voice. Ten years ago, it was digital, and was just about voice, text and email. Five years ago, Apple's iPhone hit the market and Google then launched its Android OS. A number of manufacturers offer handsets running Android, but Samsung leads the pack. Today Samsung and Apple are the world's No. 1 and 2 smartphone manufacturers.

What about the next few years? We are just in the very early innings of this new smartphone game. The wireless and smartphone industry is one of the most exciting business sectors on Earth today. It's important to realize, however, that not every company is doing well. Sure, Samsung and Apple are doing strong business on the handset side, globally and in the U.S.

Rough and Ready

AT&T Mobility and Verizon Wireless are the dominant U.S. carriers -- but many other companies are struggling.

I believe 2013 will be very interesting and re-set the leadership scoreboard. A quick look at the Consumer Electronics Show, as well as wireless shows like MWC and CTIA, makes that very clear. There is a wide assortment of phone makers, networks, app developers and more -- all competing for attention, market share and success. Only a few will make the top of the list.

So the question is, which company will become No. 3 in 2013? This is going to be a loud and activity-filled year. The market needs a larger selection of operating systems -- people want choices. 2013 will be all about choice.

As of today, I think Samsung and Apple will hold onto the No. 1 and 2 spots. The battle for No. 3 is where the action will be this year. So who will win? And what will the marketplace look like in another five years? Interesting questions. No one knows yet. The industry can change on a dime. So -- ready, set, let the games begin.


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at



GM Switches Partners for OnStar's Next Big Dance

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

02/28/13 5:00 AM PT

GM wants to reinvigorate OnStar, and it chose AT&T Mobility to make that happen. I have a feeling we are going to see OnStar back on the front page once again with some very interesting and compelling ideas. It will be expanding beyond its original emergency road service and security focus to bring a new world of infotainment to travelers.

Several years ago, General Motors introduced a groundbreaking service called "OnStar," a wireless technology designed to keep drivers safer on the road. Since the 1990s, GM has used the Verizon Wireless network to link cars with OnStar.

However, it announced this week at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona that it's switching to AT&T Mobility. This is pretty big news -- and what we can expect going forward may come as a surprise.

This switch is not good news for Verizon Wireless, but it is very good news for AT&T Mobility. It reminds me of the beginning of the iPhone wave six years ago. When Apple decided to get into the wireless business, it approached Verizon Wireless, but the carrier said no. AT&T Mobility said yes, and the rest is history.

OnStar started as a way to keep a helpful eye on drivers. It started with providing emergency road and antitheft services, directions and other information. Now OnStar wants to rapidly expand. Users will be able to purchase different levels of service -- from basic protection to navigation, games, movies, television shows, music, books, newspapers, the Internet and much more.

Fortunately, drivers will not have access to all these goodies, so they can keep their eyes on the road. These features will be for passengers and kids, of course. When parked, drivers can enjoy them as well.

More Innovation to Come

OnStar was an innovative idea before Apple and Google started the smartphone revolution. During the last few years, however, consumers have gotten used to holding a great many innovations in their hands, and OnStar has faded into the background a bit.

Many users wonder why they need OnStar with the smartphone world clipped to their belt. True, OnStar is not for everyone. However, as laws governing motorists' use of cellphones change, the need for a service like OnStar is only growing.

Distraction is one key problem when a driver uses a phone. That's why automakers like GM are working to give customers the connectivity they want while reducing distraction. Ford Sync, Toyota Entune and Lexus Enform are similar systems.

I think we will see quite a bit of OnStar innovation going forward using the AT&T networks. When you marry the wireless industry, smartphones and 4G data speeds with OnStar, that generates quite a bit of excitement.

That's Infotainment!

OnStar will likely expand its offerings in the direction of infotainment, according to Glenn Lurie, who runs this part of the business for AT&T Mobility. That means streaming audio and video, television and movies, Web access and more.

It will also let your kids log onto an in-car WiFi network to use their smartphones and gaming devices. Oh yeah, that's in addition to navigation and emergency services. Let's see, will it also pour me a fresh cup of Starbucks?

This is the direction that AT&T Mobility is heading, according to CEO Ralph de la Vega: helping other companies and other industries reinvent themselves and take advantage of the new wireless world, which is one giant opportunity for creative thinkers.

There will be many new services coming from OnStar, and if you pull the camera back from the carriers themselves, things are going to get pretty exciting. Buckle up! Here we go.


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at



Elevating Customer Service to the Next Level

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

02/21/13 5:00 AM PT

Today customer service is a black hole that can suck the life out of innovative companies -- unless it is handled properly. That's why when you call customer service, you notice a big gap between the companies that do it right and the ones that don't. When a customer notices, companies either win or lose. So you had better make sure you continue to delight the customer if you want to keep on winning.


Do you dread calling a company to get customer support? Most of us do. We are on hold forever and the problem drags on way too long, leaving brand loyalty damaged.

Some companies are solving that problem by partnering with -- building customer loyalty, developing a competitive advantage, and turning a profit at the same time.

My Pick of the Week is Google's rumored plan to open a chain of retail stores, perhaps much like Apple's.

Seeing the Customer Service Light

Customer service is the new battleground, and, which is a young company, has become the support partner for many well-known brands, including Comcast, Sony, Time Warner, Symantec, Office Depot, OfficeMax, AOL, Staples and TrendMicro. It must be doing something right. In fact, if you pay for advanced customer service, you may already be getting help from

Companies that partner with can charge their customers a few dollars a month for enhanced service, which increases satisfaction levels and builds brand loyalty. It's especially effective compared to traditional customer service.

When contacted me for a briefing, it once again opened my eyes to the customer satisfaction and brand loyalty space. Solutions to some of the problems I've been complaining and writing about for years became crystal clear. As I have often noted before, service is an issue that can build or destroy customer relationships. offers many different services to companies in many industries -- yet customers often are not aware they are talking with someone from a different company. helps companies create a new revenue stream and deepen their customer's loyalty through branded services that enhance their experience, the company's senior management officials told me. My translation: They make customers happy and keep customers happy, plus earn profit for themselves and the client company at the same time.

Customers Want Instant Gratification

When customers call for service, they want a problem solved -- and quickly. There are two types of customer care, regular and enhanced. With regular treatment, the customer's experience often starts with a long wait. By the time the problem is solved, the customer is often cranky, which does not lead to a good relationship.

Enhanced customer care is often handled by separate companies like They fill the role of the customer service experience provider. Their job is not just to solve the customer problem, but to improve the customer's relationship with the company -- and earn a profit in the process.

A customer who pays a few dollars per month gets a special number to call for fast, expert help with problems.

Isn't this the kind of service every company wants to provide? Of course it is. So why aren't more of them taking advantage of this improvement? Maybe they think their own customer service is good enough. Maybe they don't realize the damage that is occurring to their brand. Who knows?

Some companies actually do a great job with customer care. Think of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel company. It projects a carefully crafted image of ladies and gentleman serving ladies and gentleman. Apple saw the value in that approach -- it sent its own management through the Ritz training process before opening its retail stores.

Serve Well or Die

Yes, you're right -- this is the kind of experience every company should provide. Customer service was better before the tech explosion created long lines of confused and unhappy people.

We can all remember plenty of good and bad experiences with customer service. It can help a company either build or destroy brand loyalty and customer satisfaction. Good customer care cements the relationship with the customer. Bad care destroys it.

Consumer-focused industries -- wireless, cable television, smartphones and tablets -- are continuing to grow rapidly. Based on that alone, I see this as a long-term opportunity -- or a threat, depending how you look at it.

Customer care is a young segment with a big upside going forward. It's up to companies to solve their customer care problems -- and according to, you can also create new areas of growth and profitability at the same time.

 Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week



My Pick of the Week is Google's rumored plan to open physical retail stores -- perhaps just like Apple's -- in your local shopping malls.

If it's true, that would be gigantic news for Google customers, workers and the entire retail environment. Apple Stores pay their workers much more than minimum wage, and I fully expect the same from Google.

Customers will be able to see, touch and play with all the new smartphones, tablets and whatever comes next.

Apple stores are doing very well. The funny thing is, Apple executives visited Ritz-Carlton Hotel training to get up to speed on treating customers in an exceptional way. They obviously have succeeded.

What would Google look like on the retail front? It would likely follow Apple in some ways and create a new and different experience in other ways. We'll just have to wait and see.

Apple and Google have already transformed the wireless industry. Are they now about to transform the retail industry?


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at



BlackBerry's Do-or-Die Marketing Challenge

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

02/14/13 5:00 AM PT

Can BlackBerry's new marketing chief Frank Boulben convince consumers and businesses that its new offerings are right for them? Can it solidly capture the No. 3 position in the smartphone market and start to grow again? The question is simple: Is there a future for BlackBerry, or is it a thing of the past? The answer depends on how well it does with a number of things -- particularly marketing.


Frank Boulben is the new chief marketing officer at BlackBerry and he has his hands full. Did you ever stand in front of a mountain of work and wonder how to get started? Marketing was one of several key weaknesses before RIM became BlackBerry. Can Boulben refresh, reinvigorate and save the smartphone maker? No one yet knows; however, marketing is key -- and Boulben is now center stage.

The question is simple: Will the new BlackBerry 10 succeed or fail? No one knows yet, but the initial devices are being rolled out. There will be many BlackBerry 10 devices rolled out this year, and they will continually be updated. Marketing is the next key step in this process.

Major markets like the U.S. have to wait till sometime in March. This timing was handled poorly. Forcing the customers to wait that long was a mistake. The excitement created during the launch event will have cooled by then.

OK, it's finally time to throw BlackBerry in the water and see if it can swim. These new BlackBerry devices have both strengths and weaknesses compared to competitors. They are not perfect, but then again neither are Apple and Google. All competitors have different strengths and weaknesses.

You may ask, so if the device is ready, what else matters? One word: marketing. Can BlackBerry become a top marketer? It never was before. It never understood the importance. Of course, you may say it wasn't important back then -- but a few years ago, it became critical, and the tank was empty.

So that's the question. Is BlackBerry ready, and does it understand marketing? To tell you the truth, I don't yet know, but I have heard some pros and cons.

Missing in Action

I have been watching BlackBerry for signs of marketing life. Where is the magic potion it needs? What I have seen is good progress -- but is it good enough? Will it wow the marketplace?

BlackBerry hired Frank Boulben last year from LightSquared to head up the marketing department. At the time, his hire did not get much attention, but today Boulben may be the single most important factor in whether BlackBerry succeeds.

Over the last year, I have seen examples of both good and bad, and while BlackBerry marketing is better than before, the nagging question is simple -- is it enough?

Here is an example of a BlackBerry mistake. Many users need a feature that BlackBerry once offered. It lets them synchronize information between an older version of Microsoft Outlook on their computer with their BlackBerry. On Outlook, the feature is called "Notes." On the BlackBerry, it's called "Memo Pad." The problem is the new BlackBerry 10 does not let users do this as all earlier versions did.

In fact, Apple quickly added this feature to the iPhone after the first year or two. Without this feature, many BlackBerry users who stuck with the smartphone may have to switch to another device like Apple's iPhone, which still offers it.

This is one example of the concern I have for BlackBerry. Does it see the forest or just the trees?

BlackBerry must update, of course, but it must keep all the features and functionality its existing users are used to and still need. There are reasons BlackBerry users have stuck with the company. The new design is great, but it shouldn't lose some key features. Getting rid of features will carve away user loyalty, and that's the last thing that needs to happen.

BlackBerry used to be No. 1. Then the iPhone and a slew of Android smartphones entered the marketplace about six years ago. Now they dominate the market. BlackBerry has fallen very quickly.

However, the situation is not really as bad as it sounds. Six years ago, the smartphone market was tiny compared to today. RIM could still have all the customers it had back then and be No. 3 today. Still, it has lost plenty of business -- lots of business.

Expect 2013 to be the battle for the No. 3 position. Competitors like Microsoft, Nokia, Sony and many others will be vying with BlackBerry for that spot.

Can BlackBerry Market?

So, can BlackBerry's Boulben convince the marketplace that its new offerings are right for them? Can it solidly capture the No. 3 position and start to grow again? The question is simple: Is there a future for BlackBerry, or is it a thing of the past? The answer depends on how well it does with the customer, as well as with marketing, public relations, media relations, analyst relations and investor relations.

BlackBerry has developed so many new and exciting features and so much new functionality. It's really a breath of fresh air. The company has a couple of great new devices -- and its products will continue to get better over time. What could make BlackBerry hot is already here.

However, one concern is that the new BlackBerry may leave off many important features that existing users like. A bigger concern is whether BlackBerry will be able to really create a meaningful marketing push, which is something it has never done before. I'm not sure.

I hope so. I want BlackBerry to win. I want the company to be a solid competitor against Apple, Google, Microsoft, Nokia and others. I only hope it is ready to pull out all the stops and make its dream a reality. BlackBerry has to hit this one out of the park -- a single won't be good enough.

OK, Frank. As they say in baseball, "Batter up!"


 Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week





My Pick of the Week is the Nokia Lumia. There are different versions. The 920 and 820 are available from AT&T Mobility; the 822 from Verizon Wireless; and the 810 from T-Mobile.

I can only talk about the AT&T Mobility version -- the Nokia Lumia 920 -- since that is the unit I've been testing. AT&T passed it out during its analyst meeting a few months ago.

Nokia 920

I didn't think that I would like it, but to tell you the truth, this is a very impressive device and operating system. It's fast, does everything very smoothly, and has tons of apps. It just works very differently.

I have to admit, letting us play with it is the best way to let people really know about how different, how innovative, and how good this device is. It's very different from both the iPhone and any of the Android-powered phones on the market.

What makes this device different is the Microsoft Windows 8 interface. The Nokia Microsoft partnership fits well here. It's another choice of operating systems, and more choice is always better.

So, which smartphone is best for you -- an iPhone, an Android or a Lumia? Aha. That's the million-dollar question. I can't answer that one. That's up to you -- everybody is different.

To make matters more confusing, there are other new operating systems entering the marketplace -- like the BlackBerry 10 later in March. So there will be plenty more to choose from. That's ultimately good news.

The Nokia Lumia 920 using Microsoft Windows 8 is definitely worth your consideration.


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at



Small Cells Could Solve AT&T's Data Problem

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

02/07/13 5:00 AM PT

At the heart of AT&T's strategy to keep pace with consumers' increasing appetite for mobile data is small cell technology. Small cells improve network coverage and capacity in areas that can't be served effectively by traditional cell towers. They use spectrum more efficiently, relieving the burden on wireless networks.

It looks as though AT&T Mobility has developed a small cell solution to the wireless industry's spectrum shortage -- a data capacity problem that will affect customers of every carrier. AT&T's is not the only solution -- there will be others as well -- but it is an important one.

The wireless industry has been dealing with this ever since the explosion of smartphones several years ago. The system is increasingly stressed with many customers using so much wireless data. The problem is spectrum, which provides the on- and off-ramps to the information superhighway. It's limited. Therefore, as with any highway, the threat of backups and traffic jams is growing.

Now it appears AT&T Mobility might have a solution. Small cells can lessen the effects of an industry-wide capacity shortage. This is exactly the kind of solution I've been hoping for over the last few years.

And Connections for All

Small cells take the pressure off accessing the wireless Internet, while strengthening networks at their weak spots. Every network has weak spots, and this is a real solution.

Small cells are installed in key locations, inside buildings or in busy outdoor areas, to solve this access problem. They give everyone the ability to connect and use wireless data devices like smartphones, tablets and notebooks.

Wireless data spectrum shortages are a real threat to all wireless carriers, large and small, including AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile, C Spire Wireless, U.S. Cellular and others. An industry-wide solution must be found.

John Donovan, senior executive vice president at AT&T technology and network operations, wrote a blog post explaining this breakthrough. AT&T has successfully tested small deployments in two U.S. Cities, and the devices are working.

Better, Stronger

Because of this success, AT&T is preparing to roll out small cells to more than 40,000 locations by the end of 2015. The focus will be on strategic weak spots in the network to dramatically improve service and quality.

AT&T is not alone. Other wireless networks likely will take this same course. Small cells are expected to reach a half million units this year, with more growth to come.

While small cell technology won't solve the entire wireless data shortage, it does offer a real solution that will not only help carriers with their explosive wireless data needs, but also strengthen signals in all the weak spots that were a problem in the past.

As wireless becomes more important in our lives and to our society, the networks must get stronger, faster and better -- and with small cells, they will.


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at



Why Apple Is Losing Its Shine

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

01/31/13 5:00 AM PT

Remember the Apple that consistently surprised consumers, the media and Wall Street with innovative products and stellar earnings reports? That Apple has gone the way of the first-generation iPod. Apple's future is in Apple's hands. What will it do next? What will it unveil next? It has been a while since anything really new has come from the company -- it has just presented more versions of the same technology.

Almost a year and a half ago, I asked a simple question: Will Apple Still Be Apple Without Steve Jobs? At the time, the answer seemed to be a simple "no." Over the next couple of years, Apple would become just another competitor, I predicted -- and unfortunately, that's exactly what is now happening.

Think of Apple as two different companies: One is a consumer electronics company that still has loads of happy customers; the other is an investment that's experiencing some performance problems. Customers may get lost in the fog of marketing la-la-land, but investors focus on the numbers. They simply want to make money, quarter after quarter.

Twenty years ago, Apple struggled. Then Steve Jobs came back, and the company started hitting the ball out of the park -- first with the iPod, then following with the iPhone, iPad and iPad mini -- wave after wave of success. During the boom time, investors saw Apple as a no-lose proposition. The stock kept rising as it continued to surprise and delight its customers.

Six years ago, RIM and Nokia were leaders in the wireless handset space. Then Apple changed the industry. Its touch seemed to turn everything to gold -- it was like magic. Google also jumped in, and today phones running its Android OS actually outpace iPhones in sales. With Apple and Google dominating the market, RIM and Nokia saw their shares quickly erode.

The Apple of Fewer Investors' Eyes

Today Apple is still a strong consumer electronics company, but it's suddenly having problems on Wall Street. As I have said many times, every company and every product rides a wave. The wave grows, levels off, then ultimately declines. Some waves are long and others are short.

Apple always started another wave with new products, even as existing products were riding high. If nothing had followed the iPod, it would have ridden that wave up and down again, but it created the iPhone wave, then the iPad wave, and so on. So the question always asked of Apple was: What's next? After all, there was always something coming next.

After Steve Jobs passed away and Tim Cook took the reins, however, Apple changed, but it has taken the past year and a half for the truth to settle in. Apple is still selling loads of devices, and customers still love them. The company is still strong. In fact, any other company would be drooling over the prospect of such great revenue and profitability.

The problem is simply that Apple is no longer meeting expectations -- which, for Apple, means consistently blowing away expectations. It seems to have lost the magic that guaranteed customers would always be delighted and investors would always make money. Apple has become a victim of its own success, and the shine is starting to fade.

During the last several months, Apple hit a dry patch. It has not been selling devices in the numbers Wall Street expected, and that is enough to cause investors to flee. That reaction may not make sense, but Apple isn't allowed to play by normal market rules. The bar is set higher for Apple than for any other company.

Apple's Next Chapter

What about Apple's future? Can it recapture its spectacular growth and stock performance? Perhaps, but without the Steve Jobs' magic, it may be that its growth wave is starting to crest, and it doesn't have another star act to begin a new one.

Apple will have to change. It will have to start marketing and advertising more. It will have to start talking to the marketplace in a different way than it has had to in the past. It will have to start acting like a normal company -- one that doesn't have an automatic glow. Can it succeed like that? No one knows yet. Many die-hard supporters say yes. Many others say no.

A year from today, we will either be looking at a recovered and thriving Apple, or the company will be struggling as it is today -- or things could be worse. It all depends on what Apple has up its sleeve -- and on that, your guess is as good as mine.

Hmm. Sounds like the same thing I've been saying about RIM -- which just changed its name to "BlackBerry" -- and its new BlackBerry 10 OS. I wonder if there is a connection?

One thing is for sure: Apple is a different company from the Apple we knew with Steve Jobs at the helm. Don't expect the Apple of the past to show up again. That chapter is over.

Competitors like BlackBerry, Microsoft and Nokia are gearing up for a very big battle against Apple and Google's Android partners this year. Will the industry change once again?

The real question is this: Will Apple move forward as a company both consumers and investors can love? That depends on what Tim Cook has up his sleeve. We'll find out soon enough.


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at



TV Industry Disruption: Aereo's Threat and Promise

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

01/24/13 5:00 AM PT

Today we have a gazillion TV channels, but still only watch the same few we always did -- and it's getting worse. Cable TV companies keep adding more channels every year, and they keep charging more as well. Price has roughly doubled in the last 10 years. So, is Aereo a threat or a catalyst to traditional cable television? Well the answer is both -- depending on which companies you work for or invest in.

So, what is Aereo all about? Well, it's a brand new idea, a Web TV service. The days of the US$200 TV bill are numbered, said the CEO of Aereo in an interview with Ad Age.

This sounds like a good idea, right? Well, the cable television model is old and broken, and the need for lower-cost alternatives is growing. The timing may be right for companies like Aereo to transform cable television the way Apple and Google changed wireless. Can they succeed?

We have always loved to complain about how our cable television companies don't care. How they charge more every year, yet don't provide more programming we want to watch. How there are so many channels to flip through, yet there is never anything good on. How customer care and service leave so much to be desired. To make matters worse, there are just no low-cost alternatives.

Scary Times

Until relatively recently, cable television providers like Comcast, Time Warner and Cox really had no competition, so they grew. Satellite companies like Dish Network and DirecTV entered the field and chipped away a little bit of their business. Then local phone companies entered with services like AT&T's U-verse and Verizon's FiOS. Now it appears Apple and Google are getting ready to transform television the way they did wireless.

In fact, watching television is moving beyond the TV set to our computers, tablets and smartphones.

We are now entering the scariest time ever for cable TV company executives. They lie in bed at night, stare at the ceiling, and wonder how they can continue to keep their business stable and encourage growth. Many won't. Some will fail. However, innovation will burst through like a flower in the springtime.

Out with the old and in with the new. That's the new charge that Aereo wants to lead.

So, what is Aereo? It is a Web TV service that announced a multi-city expansion at CES a couple of weeks ago. Barry Diller is one key name backing this new service. Aereo was in the sites of the cable television industry several months back, but it won that battle in the courts. Now this innovative service is going to try to take on the massive cable television world. Will it succeed?

Sounds a little like MCI, the long distance company that shook things up in the 1980s. Aereo wants to do the same today in cable television. Working with MCI as a consultant really opened my eyes as to what indeed is possible in transforming industries and competitors. The executives of that company were among the best and most exciting around.

Aereo has the right idea, and the timing is right, but does it have a strong team and leadership? Does it have creative ideas for marketing and positioning itself in the marketplace against the heavy hitters? That will make all the difference.