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Columns 2011

andJeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

 

 

Columns 2012 - click here

Columns 2010 - click here

 

 

 

Jeff Kagan

Tech Analyst

E-Commerce Times

Jeff Kagan is a Tech Analyst and E-Commerce Times columnist with ECT News with 6 million readers and is carried on thousands of web sites. 

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 www.jeffkagan.com

 

 


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Columns published in 2011 are below this list of headlines;

 

AT&T May Have to Eat Verizon's Dust in 2012

Tech Trends in 2012: What's Hot, What's Not?

Tech Companies in 2012: Who's Hot, Who's Not?

Loyalty Programs: The Wireless Industry Could Be Onto Something Big

Solving the Wireless Signal Strength Problem

AT&T Ďwill try againí but that wonít solve the crisis in the industry

It's Not Just a Tablet - It's an Ecosystem

Selling the iPhone: One Carrier's Meat Is Another Carrier's Poison

The Tough Task of Humanizing AT&T

T-Mobile's New Strategy Could Be a Winner

Can the Shriveling BlackBerry Brand Be Saved?
What's Next for Apple?
Why Verizon and AT&T Are Up, Kodak and Yahoo Down
Hello... Hello... Can You Hear Me Now?

For Analysts, It's Deja Vu All Over Again

The Best Cellphone Network for You Is . . .

Let's Solve the Real Wireless Problem: Spectrum Shortage

Will Apple Still Be Apple Without Steve Jobs?

What Sprint CEO Dan Hesse Should Do Next

Lightsquared Must Survive

AT&T's Runaway Growth Days May Be Numbered

Verizon Workers on Strike - Who Will Win?

Why Can't Motorola Get Its Act Together?

Saving Your Company From a Brand Wave Wipeout

Phone Bill Auditing Can Save Serious Money

Is The Industry Analyst Business Dying?

The Industry Analyst Business is Changing

What a Tech Analyst Does

It's a Brand New Day for CenturyLink

Government Regulation Is Killing the Entrepreneurial Spirit

Sprint Nextel and LightSquared: Uh-Oh

It's a Brand New Day for CenturyLink

Government Regulation Is Killing the Entrepreneurial Spirit

Sprint Nextel and LightSquared: Uh-Oh

Fasten Your Seatbelts - It's Going to Be a Wild IPO Ride

Lightsquared Hits a Brick Wall 

Do Cellphones Cause Brain Cancer or Don't They?

The Issue Nobody's Talking About in the AT&T/T-Mobile Debate

The Mobile Merger Domino Effect

Visions of Android@Home Dance in Google's Head

Summer Reading: Will Fear of GPS Interference Doom LightSquared?

Stroke Survivors Can Come Back Strong - and Tech Tools Can Help

Wireless Health: What's in It for Doctors?

AT&T Sees T-Mobile Merger Through Rose-Colored Glasses

Get Ready to Grab the mHealth Wave

Note to TV Nets" Steer Clear of Music's Painful Path

Thumbs Up or Down for AT&T + T-Mobile?

Pre-Paid Wireless Has Finally Grown Up

Why Don't Doctors and Patients eConnect Yet?

The Fuse Is Lit for the mHealth Industry Explosion

How Nokia and Microsoft Can Make It Work

Telephone Company Investors Are Baffled

mHealth: A Funny Thing's Happening on My Way to CTIA

And Now It Begins: The Media Will Sour on the Verizon iPhone

AT&T, Verizon and Sprint Tell Different Truths

How IT Is Changing Healthcare for Better and for Worse

Riding THE WAVE to Success

4G Wireless: Truth of Fiction?

CES: Being There

 


 

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/ATT-May-Have-to-Eat-Verizons-Dust-in-2012-74065.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/74065.html

OPINION

AT&T May Have to Eat Verizon's Dust in 2012

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

12/29/11 5:00 AM PT

Could Verizon pull ahead of AT&T this year? Yes it could. Of course, AT&T does its best when it is under pressure. And suddenly, it is under pressure. So it may struggle and fight and come back this year. Don't count AT&T out. A dry spell is not the end. This has happened several times in the past. However, things are rocky now, and will be for at least a while.

Lately, I have been asked by reporters to compare AT&T (NYSE: T) and Verizon and predict what 2012 will look like for them and their competitors. At this point, all I can say is it's happy holidays at Verizon, but not so much at AT&T. What a difference a year makes.

These two companies led the changes in the wireless industry over the last decade. They looked similar, grew rapidly, and have shared the No. 1 and 2 positions. However, something new is starting to happen. These companies could soon be on different tracks.

A year ago, AT&T Mobility was the only U.S. carrier to offer Apple's iPhone. Today, there are four. Almost a year ago, AT&T announced its intention to acquire T-Mobile and grab wireless spectrum. Now that deal is dead. Everything has completely flip-flopped.

So what is next?

It's all about spectrum and innovation. These are the two keys to long-term success -- and not just for AT&T and Verizon, but for all the other wireless competitors as well, large and small.

Wireless Spectrum

Wireless spectrum is like the lanes on the wireless superhighway. I live in Atlanta, one of the busiest areas in the country. When the highways get clogged, traffic slows. So the city paves more lanes -- expands the highway. That lets traffic flow once again -- until it gets clogged once again through more growth. The government is thinking up creative ways to improve traffic flow with all sorts of ideas. Some work. Some don't.

The same thing is happening in wireless. Think of spectrum as the lanes. When carriers sell to more customers and they use more services, they clog the lanes -- use up all the spectrum capacity.

One way to improve the situation is to add more lanes. Companies can do that by acquiring other companies and their spectrum. That's what AT&T tried to do with T-Mobile. Another way is to just acquire spectrum like Verizon did from the cable television industry.

Next is to think of new ways to squeeze more traffic onto existing highways.

In recent weeks, Verizon announced it is acquiring the spectrum of the failed cable television excursion into wireless. This is an easy way for it to get more spectrum.

After struggling for months to acquire T-Mobile, AT&T finally threw in the towel and instead announced it is acquiring the spectrum from the failed Qualcomm FLO TV. This will be a quicker and easier solution. In addition, it can share spectrum through a deal discussed with T-Mobile.

At this point in the industry maturation and development, this is the best way for these top carriers to acquire more spectrum and quickly expand their lanes on their wireless superhighways. And there is still more spectrum out there to be acquired. So expect more of these deals, not mergers.

This is also critical for every other competitor like Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile, C Spire and others. The wireless world is rapidly changing. Super smartphones like Androids and iPhones are squeezing the networks dry. We must act now to protect every carrier and every customer and make this ground fertile once again.

Looking at all of this, it seems Verizon is running this race without being exhausted like AT&T is.

Wireless Innovation

One example is a Netflix-type service. Netflix is a young company that has grown very rapidly. In fact, it accounts for roughly one-third of all Internet traffic in the United States, which is incredible.

Verizon sees this as a great new opportunity, and it may be right. Expect it to start offering a service in 2012. Of course, it may end up acquiring Netflix itself.

This sounds similar to what happened 10 years ago. Remember Internet service providers like AOL, EarthLink, CompuServe and Prodigy? They led through the 1990s until the Baby Bells and cable television companies started offering high-speed connections to the Net. Now the Baby Bells and cable TV companies dominate that space.

Today these competitors, if they still exist, are much smaller than ever. They are still good quality providers, but the growing wave of opportunity passed them by. They were unable to create the next wave.

This is what we may be starting to see here. If Verizon is successful, will AT&T follow? It would love to, once it catches its balance again. However, AT&T is off balance right now, bent over and breathing hard.

This is why I think Verizon is rockin' and rollin', while AT&T is struggling to regain its footing.

Verizon Ahead of AT&T in 2012

So, could Verizon pull ahead of AT&T this year? Yes it could. Of course, AT&T does its best when it is under pressure. And suddenly, it is under pressure. So it may struggle and fight and come back this year.

Remember in the late 1990s when SBC tried to acquire AT&T and Reed Hundt, the chairman of the FCC, said it was "UNTHINKABLE"? Yet less than a decade later, SBC did acquire AT&T -- and BellSouth and Cingular -- and the race was on. The smallest Baby Bell had become the largest, seemingly overnight.

Don't count AT&T out. A dry spell is not the end. This has happened several times in the past. However, things are rocky now, and will be for at least a while.

So what will 2012 look like for AT&T and Verizon and the other competitors with regard to spectrum shortages, industry-wide solutions to this growing problem, and innovation?

There are quite a few challenges ahead. We must come up with solutions that benefit all competitors, not just AT&T and Verizon.

Perhaps at the Consumer Electronics Show coming to Las Vegas in January, we'll get some ideas.

Yikes! CES is coming. This should be a very exciting show, with Apple iTV and Amazon smartphones, and all the rest of whatever is coming next. 

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

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http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/Tech-Trends-in-2012-Whats-Hot-Whats-Not-73977.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/73977.html

OPINION

Tech Trends in 2012: What's Hot, What's Not?

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

12/22/11 5:00 AM PT

2012 will be another exciting year in tech, wireless and telecom. A year with plenty of ups and down, good news and bad news, and plenty of wins and losses on the Wave. Public relations and advertising are growing in importance again as companies try to get attention and business in a crowded market for customers and investors. Expect big wins and big losses and lots of new ideas.

Last week, I focused on companies to keep our eyes on in 2012. This week, I'll share my views on different technologies and their place on the Wave. Remember, some are growing and others are falling. There are key differences for investors, customers and workers.

2012 is all about togetherness. Companies will be trying to lock in customers by getting them to use multiple services and products that work together. Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) is an example, with its many devices and its cloud. This approach locks in Apple customers. This is what the company will be promoting heavily going forward.

The industry will see many new innovations this year -- like Verizon offering Netflix-type television services and Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) selling its first smartphone along with its Kindle.

There are plenty of upsides and downsides ahead. Some companies will continue to grow while others will fail. The Wave can be a beautiful thing, but only for those on the growth side. Otherwise, it can be a pretty rough part of town. And each opportunity rides the same Wave up, then down again over time.

The last couple of years have seen many new segments take shape. Just think of Apple and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) entering the smartphone space. They are transforming it. And this segment is only four short years old. Five years ago, no one ever heard the words "iPhone" or "Android."

Public relations and advertising are growing in importance again as companies try to get attention and business in a crowded market for customers and investors. Expect big wins and big losses and lots of new ideas.

So much will happen in 2012. Let's take a look at some of what we can expect.

Smartphones will continue to grow. New areas of strength will grow. There will be plenty of advertising, marketing  and press reports about it. There will be a renewed interest in trying to attract plain old cellphone users with entry-level smartphones. Some companies and technologies will do well, while others will struggle. New entrants in this space will include devices from Amazon and Nokia-Microsoft.

Tablet computers, which are hot right now, will continue to grow, but things will start to change as the segment matures. Parts of it will stay hot -- like the Apple iPad and Android-powered tablets -- and other parts will cool, like the RIM PlayBook.

Traditional wireless handsets seemed to be going away over the last few years, but while they are not growing, they are remaining strong. However, basic, first-level smartphones will start to take the place of these ordinary handsets.

Voice on wireless will shrink and data will grow. In the next three years, voice will only account for about 3 percent of network usage. The vast majority of usage will be wireless data. Brace yourselves. Only the top carriers like Verizon Wireless and AT&T (NYSE: T) Mobility are heavy-duty players in the spectrum battle. And AT&T has its troubles. A healthy industry tomorrow means wireless data needs to spread to many competitors. We aren't even close yet.

Advertising on smartphones and tablet computers will explode next year. That's if marketers can crack the code. This is a brand new area. This is the very early stage. Google has the lead now. Apple is struggling trying to understand the opportunity. So are others. This is on the early part of a growing Wave.

Amazon's Kindle and Barnes & Noble's Nook will continue to grow, change and expand in this new sector, which is brand new and increasingly competing with Apple's iPad. The big competitors will be the iPad, a variety of Android tablets, Amazon's Kindle and Barnes & Noble's (NYSE: BKS) Nook.

Amazon's Kindle will outsell Barnes & Noble's Nook and get more media attention, but both will grow strong. Much of the difference has to do with Amazon's great understanding of public relations. B&N is not as robust. However, I have used both and think they are very innovative devices offering strong competition in the reader and tablet market.

Amazon will offer smartphones in 2012 and compete head-to-head with Apple's iPhone. This will be a new Wave for Amazon. Another WOW moment for the company.

AT&T Mobility will partner with T-Mobile and resell its spectrum, now that its acquisition plan has failed. However, AT&T won't completely give up on the merger. It will just be on the back burner for a while until it thinks the timing is right to try again. Just like SBC eventually acquired AT&T several years after the first attempt.

T-Mobile will use the $3 billion cash and $1 billion in spectrum it gained from the failed AT&T merger to build out its own wireless data capacity. It will likely share spectrum with AT&T. Next, will it be acquired by Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S) or another smaller company?

Verizon Wireless got its hands on all the cable television wireless spectrum. This will be a big help for it going forward.

Spectrum shortage will get worse. The debate for solutions will get louder. LightSquared offers one solution if it can solve its GPS problems. Another solution is pooling spectrum together and letting every carrier have access to it. Of course, Verizon no longer needs spectrum now that it has acquired the cable television spectrum. Other ideas will be introduced and kicked around, because this is a real problem for most wireless networks.

Research In Motion is failing. It will make another bold attempt to recover. Whether it will succeed is the question. Hopefully it will. Will it be acquired? It is struggling on the downside of the Wave. It reminds me of grandparents. You know them and you love them, but they are getting older.

Netflix is suddenly on the downside of the Wave and in crisis mode. Netflix-type opportunities will spread to companies like Verizon. We saw this happen with the ISP industry. AOL, Prodigy and Earthlink led it until the Baby Bells and cable television companies started offering Internet connectivity. Of course, Verizon could acquire Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX).

Apple will lose some of its luster. It will be less hot, though still important in 2012. Competition with others -- like Google, Amazon and Barnes & Noble -- will take a toll. It is about to attempt an iPhone- and iPad-like transformation of the cable television industry. Is it cresting on the Wave or is it still growing?

Mergers will continue, as always. Some will still be easy, while larger mergers will have a tougher time getting approval. Think of the problem AT&T and T-Mobile had.

Google and Microsoft will launch their own branded wireless phones with Motorola and Nokia (NYSE: NOK). Will they be successful? Wireless is a tricky business. Remember, Cox, Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSK) and Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) all tried and failed.

Social sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and many others continue to grow. Who is next?

Deal sites like GroupOn and LivingSocial have become overnight successes. Are they a flash in the pan, or will they have a long life?

Bargains on deal sites will get even juicier over the next six to 12 months. They all want to be No. 1 as the industry goes though the next transition. That means prices will be lower and juicier to catch customers' attention, but only for a while.

Auction deal sites seem to be hot, but I wonder if they are a short-term flash. Will they still be popular this time next year or not? They take lots of time to use, but you can sometimes get a great deal.

Wireless Health and mHealth will keep trying to make inroads with wireless service providers. Devices will continue to WOW but make little movement onto networks until carriers understand how to make money. These companies have not really scratched the surface yet.

Wireless will start to expand into other industries. Examples are helping utility companies get readings from customer homes and offices wirelessly, or helping the automotive industry give Internet connectivity from the dashboard.

Prepaid wireless continues strong growth, cutting more into the post-paid wireless world. Think companies like TracFone.

Loyalty programs will start to get popular. So will products that work together on the cloud. These are new trends. Think companies like C Spire with their Percs program and Apple with its cloud.

5G will enter the wireless discussion as 4G rapidly rolls out across the U.S. Which company will be first? Don't worry; there will be no 5G handsets or advertising for a while. Thank goodness. We are still trying to get 4G in most places.

Disaster will occur somewhere in the industry. Some company or sector will have a very rough time this year. It always happens.

So what else can we expect? Plenty. There is so much more that will happen in 2012.

This list is just a way to get your juices flowing. It will be another exciting year in tech, wireless and telecom. A year with plenty of ups and down, good news and bad news, and plenty of wins and losses on the Wave.

So get ready. 2012 will be a helluva year. The game is about to begin. Batter up!

 Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

 

 

My Pick of the Week is a brand new category of computers called "ultrabooks." Think of Apple's thin MacBook Air -- but on Windows.

These are a hit with Apple users, so there is no reason they shouldn't be just as popular with the Windows crowd, as long as they run well.

I have not used them yet, but from what I have seen, they have a full-size keyboard but are light and thin -- very easy to carry around.

Personally, I had a problem with the little netbooks. The screens and keyboards were small and uncomfortable. These ultrabooks seem like just the right mix of portability, power and usability.

This new ultrabook sector started with the Acer Aspire and Asus Zenbook, but now Lenovo is entering the space. I hear Toshiba and Samsung are getting ready to launch as well.

With all these computer makers, I expect to see this new category really take off in 2012.

These are quick. Open them and they wake up in seconds. Start from scratch, and they are up and running in 30-60 seconds. That's quick. Their size means they don't have features like a CD Rom or DVD player.

It looks like we're about to see a home run in the next few quarters. It all depends on the usability of the product and a successful marketing campaign.

I'll let you know more when I have tested them, but so far they look great. 

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

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 


 

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/Tech-Companies-in-2012-Whos-Hot-Whos-Not-73976.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/73976.html

OPINION

Tech Companies in 2012: Who's Hot, Who's Not?

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

12/15/11 5:00 AM PT

Our tech, wireless and telecom industries remain as strong and vibrant as ever. However, all companies are not on the same path. Some are on the growing side of the Wave while others are on the falling side. Knowing the difference is vital if you are an investor, worker, competitor or regulator.

Over the last 25 years, I have had a ball as a tech analyst following who is hot and who is not and what is next. I look at companies and technologies. There was plenty to follow in 2011. What about 2012? Believe it or not, it may be even busier with winners and losers.

At the end of every year, I look around the industry and try to call the winners and losers and predict what is coming next. Remember when I discussed the Wave in past columns? It's when companies or their technologies are either on their way up or down the other side of the Wave.

An example: A few short years ago, when RIM's BlackBerry was still hot, I predicted in a speech and later wrote that the company was heading for trouble. That Apple and Google were transforming the smartphone space. That this would impact RIM. After my speech, I was taken aside by several people who thought I was nuts. But today we all see the problems RIM is having.

So what do we have to look forward to in 2012? Once again, it will be a transformational year in the tech, telecom and wireless industries. There are thousands of companies. Some are going up, and some are coming down the other side of the Wave. Plus, there may always be new companies and ideas that will pop up.

Companies can actually be hot and cool. Hot as a technology and cool as an investment, or vice versa -- or both can be hot or both cold. So there are four different positions that companies can find themselves in.

This week, I'll look at companies. Next week, I will look at technologies.

If you think there is a company that should be on this list, drop me an email. Perhaps I will keep my eyes open for it in the coming year.

Here we go...

Tech Companies in 2012 in a Nutshell

Apple has seen incredible growth; however, it is going to slow down. It has transformed industries and created new sectors. Now that Steve Jobs has passed, this will be a transitional year. Apple will remain a top-tier company like Google, but it will also see struggles. Superman may have lost his superpowers.

Google continues to grow rapidly and transform many different spaces. Expect increased pushback from the government in 2012. Investors love the company. So do many users and customers. Many, however, feel uncomfortable by issues like the loss of privacy. Expect continued growth with Android and now with Motorola.

Facebook is one of today's phenoms. While customers continue to sign up in record numbers, privacy concerns will play more of a role. Like Google, expect more government and user pushback in 2012, although the company continues to grow rapidly.

Amazon.com started as a simple online  bookseller, but has transformed itself into an incredibly large and successful marketplace of quite a few different online retail categories. It makes nothing. It sells everything. Kindle devices will help it continue to grow rapidly. It will compete more directly with Apple. This new battle space will be interesting to follow. Will Jeff Bezos replace Steve Jobs as the industry point person?

Barnes & Noble will compete more directly with Amazon.com. The traditional book selling business is crashing and burning. Just look at Borders disappearing. However, B&N is rushing into the new book world with its Nook. This could be very successful if it's marketed correctly.

Verizon is a traditional phone company that's moving beyond the telephone. The traditional phone business is shrinking. Other areas like wireless, television and the Internet are growing. Verizon is also moving into new business opportunities -- like offering a Netflix-type service. In fact, it may acquire the suddenly failing Netflix. The acquisition of spectrum from the cable television industry will help it avoid the same problems AT&T deals with. Traditional growth will slow. Will it make up for it on new Waves of growth?

AT&T is not the AT&T you remember. It is SBC from Texas, which acquired AT&T and took the name several years ago. That said, it is strong and important. It is doing well for investors. Customers, on the other hand, really don't like it very much. In fact, Consumer Reports just released its latest customer  satisfaction survey last week and ranked AT&T the worst carrier in the U.S. -- again. This is several years in a row. It is also trying to acquire T-Mobile to get more spectrum, a move that the U.S. government opposes. Like Verizon. traditional growth will slow. Will Verizon create new Waves of growth? No signs yet, but I expect it will. I expect both quality problems and growth to continue.

Sprint Nextel has had plenty of ups and downs. Five years ago, this third place wireless carrier was crashing and burning. Then it found a new CEO and has been recovering ever since. Now it is struggling again. It was the wireless carrier for companies like Qwest and the cable television industry, which looked promising, but it has lost them all. Customers are happier, but investors are concerned. 2012 looks like a rough year for Sprint unless it turns things around.

T-Mobile got a late start to the wireless data party and found itself falling behind. It has struggled over the past couple of years to catch up. It has a happy customer base who like the lower prices. AT&T is trying to acquire T-Mobile, but the government is getting in the way. If the companies do merge, existing T-Mobile customers may flee. If they do not merge, then AT&T gives T-Mobile US$3 billion in cash and $1 billion in spectrum. Not a bad way to get the cash and spectrum it needs to build its network into a real competitive force. Stay tuned.

C Spire is changing and expanding. This regional wireless player the fourth company to offer the Apple iPhone. It is taking a different path with customers. Building customer connections with a loyalty program called "Percs." It changed its name from Cellular South and is actively reinventing itself. So far, things look good.

U.S. Cellular, another strong regional player, was offered the iPhone too, but said no thank you. It has been growing but has hit a rough patch lately. It remains to be seen whether it can turn things around. It has good quality and happy customers.

MetroPCS has its own network and has been building over the last several years. Its customers love to pay less.

TracFone is perhaps the lowest-priced national wireless phone service in the market. It also offers other brands like Straight Talk. Its resells networks like AT&T and Verizon. It offers a good-quality service. However, the phone numbers it assigns are often recent disconnects, and new users get lots of calls from collectors looking for old users. This is a big waste of customer minutes and must be solved.

RIM is going from hero to zero. I predicted this problem was coming a few years ago. RIM's BlackBerry was king of the smartphone world until Apple and Google transformed the segment. Now RIM is struggling. Its new tablet has been a failure. This is a good company, with good people and good technology, but it is like dear old grandpa. Can it recover?

Motorola fell off the fast track in the 1990s, and Nokia took over as No. 1. Things were rough, but the last couple years have been better with the debut of the Droid phones. Perhaps getting together with Google will work. We'll see.

Nokia took the same path as Motorola, but a decade later. It led through the last decade, but when Apple and Google transformed the smartphone space a few years ago, it lost its way as well. The Nokia brand is strong in cellphones, but not smartphones. Now it is partnering with Microsoft, and the first new smartphone handsets are just hitting the market. We'll see.

Samsung has been trying to carve out a niche in the smartphone segment over the last several years. It has been successful so far, but not to the same degree as Apple and Google.

HP is in transformation. Under new CEO Meg Whitman, the company will look completely different and hopefully be much more successful. This is a work in progress. No guarantees. Its board of directors makes being a CEO tough work.

Lenovo acquired Thinkpad from IBM and has been growing strong ever since. However, I have purchased two Thinkpads within the last couple years and have had different problems with each. Problems are a first. When I switch back to older IBM Thinkpads, things are still fine. I contacted Lenovo for help and got none. I am hearing similar stories from others as well. Strong company for investors for now. Some customers like it, while others don't. I'll keep my eyes on it going forward. Would not like to see it take the same path as Dell.

Netflix has been a very innovative young company leading the charge to change the way we enjoy our television and movies. It was going strong until several months ago, when it goofed. It split services and raised prices too high and didn't communicate well with users. The backlash was immense and long term. It has not recovered. The segment is getting ready to transition as well. Companies like Verizon are getting into the business. In fact, Verizon could acquire Netflix. Otherwise, I see it continuing to fall.

Kodak, one of America's best-known and loved brands, is collapsing. It missed the big transformation of the photography business. It should be providing the cameras on every smartphone. It is now trying the computer printer business but is struggling. No brand name in that area. Will Kodak survive? If not, it would be a tragic loss.

Microsoft is a wildly successful and strong brand and company. However, it struggles outside its core business. Example: It has been trying to make a dent in the wireless phone business for 10 years without success. Perhaps now that it is partnering with Nokia, it can finally make a dent in the business. No guarantees. I'll keep my eyes on it.

Comcast has grown into the largest cable television provider over the last decade. It is also rapidly growing into the network television space with NBC, CNBC and MSNBC. It has failed in its attempts at wireless. It is now selling its wireless data spectrum to Verizon. May give Comcast another shot at wireless. This company has generally happy investors and unhappy customers. Growth has slowed. It will be interesting to see what 2012 brings.

Cox is a strong but quiet cable television company. Its customers love it. Investors did, but may be cooling. Cox recently pulled the plug on its own bold wireless initiative. Why can't cable television companies make a dent in wireless? Good people running the business, but how will Cox grow in 2012? I will be watching for an answer to that question.

Qualcomm will grow. Period.

Clearwire had an innovative idea but has stumbled. Will it survive long term? Sprint Nextel still needs it today, but as it builds out its 4G network, what will happen to it?

CenturyLink is now the No. 3 Baby Bell after acquiring Qwest. It has grown well during recent years. However, it is not as advanced as its larger competitors. It is only playing with wireless and television right now. Will it continue doing well now that it is suddenly a much larger and potentially much different company?

Windstream is the fourth-largest local phone company after CenturyLink. It has been on a successful growth track. It makes acquisitions that keep propelling it forward. It is strong in the business side. It does not have a wireless component. Will it? This growth track will continue as long as it keeps acquiring. What then?

Earthlink was one of the top Internet service providers in the 1990s, like AOL and Prodigy, but as cable television and telephone companies started selling Internet access, much of its growth and business evaporated. It has survived, but it's much smaller. It will likely continue as is.

Vonage, a startup that created lots of angst several years ago, is still around and seems more stable today. Not as profitable as we expected, but it is a smaller player in the market and will continue to stay that way.

Carbonite is a company that helps you hang on to your computer data in case you lose it. A backup company that continues to grow strong. I like the ease and simplicity. I also tested MOZY, a competitor, which is also a good service but not as easy to use. Growth for both continues.

LightSquared is a brand new company, still in the building stage. It wants to offer smaller wireless companies the ability to offer high-speed wireless data services. Great idea, but AT&T and Verizon would rather keep this market to themselves. Does LightSquared interfere with GPS or not? The U.S. government is involved. Either this company will solve the GPS problem and be wildly successful, or it won't get off the ground. Stay tuned.

Waiting and Watching

These are a few of the interesting stories to keep your eyes on in 2012. There are so many more. Our tech, wireless and telecom industries remain as strong and vibrant as ever. However, all companies are not on the same path. Some are on the growing side of the Wave while others are on the falling side. Knowing the difference is vital if you are an investor, worker, competitor or regulator.

Drop me a line with your thoughts on other interesting companies worth keeping an eye on. And stay tuned. I guarantee there will be some very interesting surprises in 2012. There always are! 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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

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http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/Loyalty-Programs-The-Wireless-Industry-Could-Be-Onto-Something-Big-73922.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/73922.html

OPINION

Loyalty Programs: The Wireless Industry Could Be Onto Something Big

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

12/08/11 5:00 AM PT

Customers want to have a closer relationship with the companies they do business with. They want to be recognized, respected and rewarded for their loyalty. Will wireless loyalty programs turn into the next airline frequent flyer club? I'll bet if you asked C Spire and U.S. Cellular, they would say yes.

Androids and iPhones are not the only things that are new in wireless. Networks like C Spire and U.S. Cellular are starting to market themselves very differently to customers. They're using rewards and loyalty programs, which may play a larger role in winning and keeping business going forward. Will Verizon, AT&T (NYSE: T) and Sprint (NYSE: S) follow?

C Spire just entered this space with a new program called "Percs." The U.S. Cellular program is called the "Belief Project."

This process is still in the early stages. However, if properly executed, it could turn out to be a very important customer  relationship building program. The idea may be new in the wireless space, but it has been around for quite a while. Just look at airline frequent flyer programs, for example. Success depends how well the companies communicate with the marketplace and how valuable the rewards are.

Smaller Carriers, Bigger Rewards

C Spire was looking for a way separate itself from the competition. Looking for a way to get closer to the customer. To reward customers for bringing their business. To create an emotional connection with the company.

After the first two months, C Spire had already signed up 77,601 members; 5,143,011 Perc points have been earned so far.

Based on what I have learned about this program, C Spire could see quite a few of its customers sign up. Long-term customers already have valuable points. In addition, this idea could make C Spire very attractive to customers of other carriers in their market area as well. Could this turn into a real customer magnet?

What about the larger competitors? You would think this idea would spread, but not necessarily. Remember when AT&T Mobility (Cingular) hit a home run with its rollover minutes? We thought competitors would follow. They did not.

I think the big competitors like Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility will have no interest in following this path -- at least, not yet. They build loyalty differently.

Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile and other smaller players are a different story. They stand a better chance. Don't get me wrong -- every carrier has something they call a loyalty program, but only a very few really stand out as valuable in the customers' eyes.

Either way, this idea is very innovative for wireless. Rewards must be compelling. C Spire, for example, offers quite a few different rewards -- like 10 percent, 20 percent or 30 percent off accessories; free shipping; free accessories with an upgrade; instant rebates on phones; $30 off the upgrade fee. This looks like a great start.

Poised for Takeoff

As one of only four U.S. carriers selling the Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPhone, C Spire has a unique opportunity and challange as it competes with AT&T, Verizon and Sprint Nextel. It must reach out to customers in new ways and explain why they'll be better with C Spire.

This C Spire Percs loyalty program differentiates the company. The longer customers stay with C Spire, the more Percs they quality for. In fact, C Spire customers who have been with the carrier for five years already qualify for a high level of Percs, and customers who have stayed with the carrier for 10 years or more qualify at an even higher level.

A growing group of customers should really like these loyalty and rewards programs. After all, they want to have a closer relationship with the companies they do business with. They want to be recognized, respected and rewarded for their loyalty.

We'll have to keep our eyes on this new area to see how successful it becomes. Will it turn into the next airline frequent flyer club? I'll bet if you asked C Spire and U.S. Cellular, they would say yes. I wonder if they realize how big this could get if it strikes the right chord.

Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

 

 

 

My Pick of the Week is Verizon Wireless, for getting its hands on the wireless spectrum from the cable television industry. This should help it dodge some of the problems with wireless data capacity that AT&T Mobility has been wrestling with.

SpectrumCo is the cable television group that acquired spectrum several years back, allowing companies like Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSK) and Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) to work with Sprint Nextel.

This move is a big win for Verizon Wireless, but it is also just as big a loss for Sprint Nextel.

What will be different going forward? Will the cable television industry be more successful in wireless going forward? Will this help Verizon with its spectrum shortage problems going forward? And what's next for Sprint Nextel?

So, congratulations to Verizon Wireless and the cable television industry, and sorry to Sprint Nextel, which just got a helluva punch in the nose.

 


 

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/Solving-the-Wireless-Signal-Strength-Problem-73869.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/73869.html

OPINION

Solving the Wireless Signal Strength Problem

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

12/01/11 5:00 AM PT

Intermap provides location-based information from 3D digital models showing the strength of connections between every cell tower. This makes it easy for every carrier to improve service quality. Intermap helps wireless companies both with network expansion and with keeping existing networks in alignment and at top strength.

 

I recently discovered Intermap, a company that helps wireless networks solve a growing problem -- poor signal quality and strength.

It has seen growth rates of 419 percent during the last year and, based on what I've seen so far, that may just be the beginning.

My Pick of the Week is the hot new Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPhone 4S. It's in short supply -- what's up?

Fading Signals

Did you ever wonder how wireless networks keep the best signal strength between their cell towers, and how they prepare for new towers and network expansion? It's an ongoing process.

Cell towers are scattered around every city. Wireless carriers spend a fortune and lots of time sending people up to the top of every tower just to visually see the connecting towers.

The reason they do this is to improve the connection you have with the network. As time goes by, things change. Trees grow, buildings go up, billboards and signs get in the way. All of this impedes the signal between towers. That's trouble.

Good connections start to become not so good. Service can slow down or even disappear. Blocked signals mean poor connectivity to the network. Remember, a wireless signal is only as strong as its weakest connection. Customers who don't get good service switch away, and wireless carriers lose business.

That is the problem that Intermap helps wireless carriers solve. Fixing this problem on an ongoing basis is key to keeping happy customers and sustained growth for every wireless carrier.

Location-Based Information

Yesterday, finding and managing all the bad cells took too much time and money. Unfortunately, too many wireless networks still use yesterday's solution.

Intermap has a modern day solution. It uses a variety of techniques. It has not only created, but also continually updates, digital maps of every city showing anything that can get in the way of a strong signal.

Simply put, it provides location-based information, or LBI, from 3D digital models showing the strength of connections between every tower. This makes it easy for every carrier to improve service quality by aligning its towers. Intermap has its own aircraft with special equipment to measure every mile called "NEXTMap LinkPro."

Intermap helps wireless companies both with network expansion and with keeping existing networks in alignment and at top strength.

What this means is that wireless carriers like Verizon Wireless, AT&T (NYSE: T) Mobility, Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S), T-Mobile, C Spire, U.S. Wireless, MetroPCS and so many others no longer have to spend time and money sending people to the top of towers across their networks just to try and see the next tower off in the distance.

Instead, they can simply use Intermap software to get a detailed look at every cell site in every city and fix every problem. Then they can raise or lower or change configurations as needed -- quickly and inexpensively.

Intermap works in multiple industries, not just wireless. I will share more about its endeavors as I learn about them.

This is a great example of a company with a great idea. It sees a growing problem and has developed an innovative solution that, so far, is translating into a real growth opportunity.

  Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

 

 

My Pick of the Week is the hot new iPhone 4S. Apple is having a hard time keeping carriers stocked with this device.

When you walk into an AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless or Sprint Nextel store to pick up a new iPhone 4S, you walk out with a promise that your iPhone will arrive in the next couple of weeks. What?

C Spire does not seem to have this problem. When you walk into one of its stores, you walk out with an iPhone.

So what is up? Is this a question of incredible demand or manufacturing problems? We don't know yet.

It will be interesting to see how this turns out, but even with these bumps in the road, it looks like the Apple iPhone 4S is another big success.

Congratulations all. 

 


 

http://www.globaltelecomsbusiness.com/Article/2940723/Regions/25190/AT-T-will-try-again-but-that-wont-solve-the-crisis-in-the-industry.html

AT&T Ďwill try againí but that wonít solve the crisis in the industry

28 November 2011

US analyst Jeff Kagan says AT&T will make another attempt to buy T-Mobile USA, but the FCC and the industry arenít addressing the real problem: the availability of spectrum. Itís time to address the cold, not the sneeze

Jeff Kagan: AT&T will lobby behind the scenes to get the deal done then it will pop back on the radar and it will try again 
                           
We have seen countless successful mergers in the wireless industry over the last decade. AT&T has participated in many of them. Why then has everything seemed to change now? Why is this T-Mobile deal being met with so much pushback?

The reason is the marketplace has changed during the last several years. Letís discuss what changed, what went wrong, why AT&T wanted T-Mobile, what it will do now and what Deutsche Telecomís options are next.

It all started with the smart phone explosion over the last few years. AT&T Mobility led the charge and it won so many customers, so quickly, it could not keep up with the demand.
Wireless is a balancing act. Carriers need to stay just ahead of the demand curve. If they are too quick, they have to charge more to customers so they can pay their bills. If they are too slow they have bottlenecks and service problems.

After wrestling with the sudden influx of customers and wireless data demand AT&T knew it had a growing problem and needed a quick solution. It needed more spectrum. So it decided the best solution was to acquire T-Mobile. 
                              
Good for the company
                          
Yesterday this deal would have been approved easily. However today the marketplace is different. AT&Tís first mistake was not realising this. I like AT&T and this acquisition would be good for the company; however it is not good for the industry.

That was not AT&Tís concern. It didnít think it needed to be concerned with the entire industry. It had a spectrum shortage and it says this was the right solution for AT&T.
Over the last decade we have seen so many mergers. Today there are very few competitors left in the US, and they are very large. At some point regulators simply have to say no when the next deal would continue to shrink the marketplace to a level that would impact competition, innovation and pricing.

This deal was that line in the sand, and regulators said no. First the Department of Justice and now the FCC both said this deal may help AT&T, but would hurt the marketplace.
So it looks like AT&T is withdrawing its application for acquisition. However donít be fooled into thinking that the attempt to acquire T-Mobile is over. It is just behind the scenes now, instead of on the public stage.

I have watched AT&T over the last 25 years through all its changes. Remember this AT&T is actually SBC which acquired AT&T several years ago and took the name. 
                          
Second attempt
                          
We saw the same thing happen in the 1990s when SBC tried to acquire AT&T and was denied by Reed Hundt, then chairman of the FCC, who called the effort ďunthinkableĒ. SBC withdrew the bid. We thought it was over and done. However several years later SBC made a second attempt and that time it was successful.

I have a gut feeling that we are about to see history try and repeat itself. AT&T will lobby behind the scenes to get the deal done then it will pop back on the radar and it will try again.

There is a bigger problem the industry faces which led AT&T to make this move: spectrum shortage.

Every carrier may suffer the same problems tomorrow. AT&T wants to get its hands on T-Mobile spectrum to solve its problem. However even if it do merge it will solve the problem only for a few years. Then it will be right back where it is today. Then what?
In addition the other carriers will have the same problem and there will be no solution left.
So we should be working to solve this spectrum shortage. Thatís the debate we should be having right now. Instead of each carrier owning a portion of the spectrum, they should all pool their spectrum together. Then all carriers and all smartphones can access it all. 

When one band is full, switch to another band. Problem solved.

That is the kind of discussion we should be having right now. We must solve the growing spectrum shortage problem. This AT&T merger is like a sneeze. We should be focusing on the cold instead.

So whatís next? T-Mobile owned by Deutsche Telecom is a big winner. It gets a $3 billion break-up fee and $1 billion in spectrum from AT&T. That will allow it to build T-Mobile USA into a strong competitor.

Another possibility is T-Mobile USA could be acquired by Sprint Nextel. Remember all deals are not dead. However regulators have to weigh the benefits and hazards of each now.

Meanwhile AT&T will be working actively behind the scenes to clear the path for this deal to happen. Can it make lightning strike twice? There are multiple balls in the air so we will have to keep our eyes on them all. GTB

Jeff Kagan is a technology analyst based in Atlanta, Georgia, US

jeff@jeffkagan.com  
www.jeffkagan.com  


 

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/Its-Not-Just-a-Tablet---Its-an-Ecosystem-73776.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/73776.html

OPINION

It's Not Just a Tablet - It's an Ecosystem

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

11/17/11 5:00 AM PT

Now that the Amazon Fire and Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet have hit the market, the tablet world has turned into a three-way horse race. The decision around which device to choose is more important than just the device. The choice of the device will lock you into a company and a cloud.

The starting gun has just been fired. The new Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS) Nook Tablet have entered the tablet space, preparded to compete with the Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPad. That means this new industry segment will quickly change and evolve into a completely new and different model. The problem is, no one is educating us as consumers and investors about this change. We have decisions and choices to make.

Let me try and explain what this new tech world is transitioning into, how it impacts companies, how competition will change, and the effect it will have on your wallet. Then you can decide which is the best choice for your purchase and your investments.

Then in my Pick of the Week, let me tell you about a German tech firm called Giesecke & Devrient, which just announced a new Nano-SIM card. It is two-thirds the size of the small Micro-SIM card and it's found in many things like wireless phones.

3-Way Race

Over the last year or two, we all have seen the tremendous impact the iPad has made. Apple pretty much jump-started the entire tablet segment. There have been countless other tablets introduced by other industry leaders, but they just haven't made much of a dent yet in the market in comparison.

That is about to change. This holiday shopping season will be all about these tablet computers. All competitors will see a boost. However, only a few will be among the big winners.

A few years ago both Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble jumped into the e-reader space and sold similar devices, but these were really just meant as book readers. Now suddenly they are introducing new versions that look much closer to the Apple iPad, but at a much lower price tags.

This will create a real three-way horserace. The decision around which device to choose is more important than just the device. The choice of the device will lock you into a company and a cloud.

If you choose the iPad, it will be easiest to buy content from Apple's system. If you choose the Nook Tablet, you'll generally buy content from Barnes & Noble. If you choose the Kindle Fire, you'll probably buy content from Amazon.com.

So choosing the device means you are choosing the online store, or cloud, in which you'll do most of your shopping. If you change your mind after a year and want to try another company and device, you cannot easily take the content you already purchased with you. That is the problem.

Portability Coming?

That may change over time. Remember, wireless phone numbers were not portable early on. If you changed carriers you had to change phone numbers. That kept many customers where they were even if they were not happy with the service. Carriers loved it, but customers hated it.

Then number portability transferred the power from the carrier to the customer. Customers could keep their numbers and choose the carrier. Since then, quality has increased. Now customers love it and the carriers don't.

The same thing may happen in this tablet space after several years. Eventually we may be able to easily move our content from one device and carrier to another with some kind of "content portability," but not yet.

Until then, choosing the device also means choosing the company and the cloud we want to mainly do business with over the years.

So choosing a device has more to do with the company and the cloud than the device itself.

Buying content this way, in files, is new. Of course, we have been dealing with this for years as technology changes. Everyone had tons of old albums, 8-track tapes, cassette tapes, CDs, DVDs and now music files downloaded from Internet stores.

We are also watching leadership changes. Steve Jobs did lead Apple to the No. 1 spot in our hearts, but since his passing, the market has become a colder place. It's full of companies, with fewer personalities. Both Apple and Barnes & Noble are now this kind of faceless company.

Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon.com, is the only personality we have seen in this space. Since we love people, Bezos may rise in popularity going forward. We have not paid much attention to this yet, but mark my words.

Don't think this wave of change is over yet, either. Who knows what is coming next? We spend lots of money on never-to-be-used-again tech piled up in boxes in the corners of our basement.

These days, we log on and download music or movie files and play them on our devices. This may sound clumsy, but this is the way the market matures. Expect this revolution to continue.

Apple is further ahead with this cloud space, but it's new to everyone. It lets you buy stuff from the iTunes store. Your purchases stay in the Apple cloud and you can access music, books and more on any Apple device like iPhone, iPod, Mac and iPad.

Now both Amazon.com and BN.com are gearing up to do the same thing. They still have basic e-readers, but their high-powered tablet computers will do much of what the Apple iPad does, for much less.

So far they just offer these tablet devices, not wireless phones. Could that be next? Maybe. If so, they will compete more directly with Apple on a variety of devices.

Around the Corner

The big question is always, what is coming next? So who will be the big winner? To tell you the truth, I think they will all be big winners for customers and investors over the next few years. This new space will explode in a good way. Beyond that it is impossible to tell.

Apple will not compete with Amazon.com and BN.com for every purchase, but this seems to be the direction competition is heading.

One thing I do know is, we are just in the very beginning of this new wave that I regularly discuss with you. The Tablet Wave will likely continue to grow and make each company very successful.

The cloud will grow in popularity and importance. It is a way for companies to build their brand relationships with customers. It's a strange idea and concept, but will gain popularity over coming years.

This is also a threat and opportunity to the cable television industry as well. Much change will occur in that space in coming years. How will companies like Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSK), Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) and Cox compete with this new tech? Expect them to enter the tablet space as well.

The good news is, whatever we buy will always be there, in the cloud. We will always be able to use it. Then with content portability, it will be our content and we can consume it on our choice of devices.

The future may mean we don't have to buy the same content different ways. Perhaps someday we will buy a copy of a book and either read it or listen to an audio version for the same price, or at least at a discount.

As the years pass, and as other industries get up to speed, we will likely use these tablets to watch our cable television, as they will offer tablet versions that we can also pay for in addition to home versions for regular televisions. We will use these tablets to rent or buy movies to watch like going to Blockbuster, but instead we'll buy from the cloud we do business with.

Apps are another big and important segment. The bigger the demand for apps, the more successful the company and the cloud will be. The more crucial these devices become in our lives, the more successful the segment becomes.

So the vast difference between Apple, B&N and Amazon.com is shrinking.

How should you choose your new table computer? Based on the company and the cloud you want to do business with going forward, not on the features of the device itself. The reason is, over the next several years the devices will continue to improve, but all your content stays in one company's cloud.

So choose based on the company and the cloud. The question you have to ask yourself is, which do you want to do business with and invest in? That is the real question.

 Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

 

 

For my Pick of the Week, let me tell you about a German tech firm called Giesecke & Devrient, which just announced a new Nano-SIM card that is just two-thirds the size of the tiny Micro-SIM card found in many wireless phones and other devices today.

Things just keep getting smaller and more powerful, don't they? Apple uses Micro-SIM cards in the iPhone 4 and 4S, so I would guess they would be interested in this newest version as well.

In fact, a growing number of devices from wireless phones to tablets and more are using this technology.

This company made the first commercial SIM around 20 years ago. I would expect to see it in the first devices within months. This Nano-SIM is backward compatible, so it can be used in existing devices shortly -- an important feature.

Congratulations Giesecke & Devrient. It will be interesting to see how this Nano-SIM differs from the Micro-SIM. And it will be interesting to keep our eyes on this space to see what competitors are also jumping in, what is coming next and when.  

 


 

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/Selling-the-iPhone-One-Carriers-Meat-Is-Another-Carriers-Poison-73704.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/73704.html

Selling the iPhone: One Carrier's Meat Is Another Carrier's Poison

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

11/10/11 5:00 AM PT

Mary Dillon, the CEO of U.S. Cellular, simply said no to Apple. I am not sure Apple knows the meaning of the word "no." I'm sure the folks at Apple could not believe their ears. "We had the option to add the iPhone to our device lineup, but the risks were unacceptable," she said. Risks? This may be the first time anyone has put the word "risks" in the same sentence with "Apple." But Dillon is right.

 

Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPhone is showing up everywhere this year. Most major competitors have it, and Apple has also knocked on the doors of some of the Tier 2 players. In an interesting twist, C Spire said yes, and U.S. Cellular said no thanks. Why? I thought everyone wanted the iPhone -- but they have their reasons, and this could be good news for both.

We all know how much success AT&T (NYSE: T) Mobility had with the iPhone. In fact. this device should have gone to other carriers a year or two ago, but AT&T paid Apple a fortune to be the sole provider.

Earlier this year, Verizon Wireless started selling the iPhone. Of course, it also paid a fortune for the privilege. This fall, since the new version is out, Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S) is also starting to sell the device -- and yes, it is costing Sprint quite a bit as well.

Each of the top three carriers paid Apple billions of dollars to sell the iPhone. That means they won't be profitable for several years. And the surprises don't end there.

C Spire also recently announced it will sell the iPhone. That was an unexpected surprise. Then last week, U.S. Cellular CEO Mary Dillon said during her quarterly earnings call that Apple offered her company the iPhone. However, U.S. Cellular said no thank you. Another surprise.

So how many other wireless networks were offered the iPhone? How many said yes and how many said no? This story is just starting to get interesting. The truth is being revealed, one company at a time.

'Unacceptable Risks'

One of the interesting stories will be watching the big three compete. Actually, I think AT&T, Verizon and Sprint will simply sell iPhones in the same percentages as their other smartphones. Not expecting any big surprises here.

A more interesting story will be how C Spire competes. C-Spire has good service, and its customers seem to like the company. In fact, 50 percent of C Spire customers are now smartphone users. That is an incredibly strong position.

How well will C Spire's iPhone adventure work? That is the interesting question. Will it sell the expected number like AT&T, Verizon and Sprint -- or will it surprise us and sell more?

It depends on quite a few different things, like marketing, advertising, public relations and so on. C Spire has been aggressive in the smartphone segment for years. It has a fast network and good quality. It has priced its services lower than the big guys. That may translate into higher than normal sales.

Another really interesting story is how Mary Dillon, the CEO of U.S. Cellular, simply said no to Apple. I am not sure Apple knows the meaning of the word "no." I'm sure the folks at Apple could not believe their ears. "We had the option to add the iPhone to our device lineup, but the risks were unacceptable," Dillon said.

Risks? This may be the first time anyone has put the word "risks" in the same sentence with "Apple." But Dillon is right. The iPhone is not a good fit for every network. There are risks. To carry the iPhone, a company has to pay Apple billions of dollars. That means it will take years to show a profit.

The iPhone battle has changed. The next year or two will reveal the real winners and losers.

This puts U.S. Cellular in both a very good and very bad position. It doesn't have to commit billions to Apple. That is very smart from an expenditure point of view. However, it also doesn't have the iPhone to sell, which is bad from a competitive point of view.

Standing on the Sidelines

What that means is simply that customers who want an iPhone will have four other carriers to choose from. Losing customers can be very costly. Will U.S. Cellular be able to successfully compete with its other smartphones? That is the question.

Of course, if it made a mistake, it can always simply agree to pony up billions of dollars and sell the iPhone next year. It will be interesting to see just how important the Apple iPhone actually is in the industry.

So it looks like T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular are not in the iPhone game this year. However, there are four others competing in this space for the first time. This year will be very interesting to watch.

There are quite a few interesting angles to this iPhone story. The top six companies will show us what they are made of with and without the iPhone in a crowded market. Advertising, marketing and public relations will rise to a new level.

It will be very interesting to watch and find out who wins, who loses and why.

  Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

 

 

My Pick of the Week is the introduction of Barnes & Noble's (NYSE: BKS) new Nook Tablet on Monday.

The e-reader and tablet battle is really heating up between B&N and Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN), and they aren't even available for sale yet.

The Nook Tablet

Amazon introduced its Kindle Fire tablet a few weeks ago, along with several other e-reader models. Now Barnes & Noble has a tablet version of its own e-reader.

The new battle begins. These may be some of the hottest items for sale this holiday season. But which one should you buy? Ah, the question of the year.

If you have not taken a look recently, the changes and innovations will surprise you. You can get your choice of black and white or color screen. Some are touch and others are not. You can read books, surf the Web, watch movies and more. Of course, you can buy and read books, but now you can check out library books -- virtually, of course.

Amazon just announced its new lending library. That's different from the regular library. And I'll bet Barnes & Noble will do the same thing shortly.

The Kindle Fire

That's the way this segment operates. When one side gets the lead, the other side catches up quickly. So the customer wins. Choose one or the other based on other factors.

Choosing is up to you, but I would recommend waiting a few weeks until these devices are on the market and you can pick them up and compare them, side by side.

You can visit your favorite store, like Staples (Nasdaq: SPLS) or Office Depot (NYSE: ODP) or Walmart (NYSE: WMT), and hold them and use them and see which you prefer.

I believe when you do this, you will quickly choose your favorite. The devices are similar, but they feel very different.

So buckle up this holiday season. Reading may never have been this much fun!

 


 

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/The-Tough-Task-of-Humanizing-ATT-73666.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/73666.html

OPINION

The Tough Task of Humanizing AT&T

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

11/03/11 5:00 AM PT

AT&T has one of the best-known brand names in business. The problem is, customers don't love it any longer. That's a problem it's trying to solve by moving away from the hard sell and toward connecting with customers on a more personal and emotional level. But there's a problem with some of the terminology it's using. For example, "digital intimacy" -- what does that mean, exactly?

AT&T (NYSE: T) is one of the most successful and best-known brand names in the wireless and telecom industry and, in fact, in the entire world. So why do customers dislike it so much? That's the question Esther Lee thinks about every day.

Esther Lee is vice president of brand marketing and advertising for the company. Her job is to help customers love the AT&T brand. And right now it's an uphill battle.

Then, in my Pick of the Week, I'll tell you something that I heard this weekend listening to Leo Laporte The Tech Guy on the radio. You'll be as amazed as I was.

The Ma of all Bells

I have written about the growing problem at AT&T several times over the last few years. I am very happy to see it now both recognizes it has a problem and is trying to solve it. While the solution is not yet working, this is at least a beginning.

AT&T has one of the best-known brand names in business. It has been around for well over a century. You remember the story of Alexander Graham Bell. That's where the "Bell" in Bell System came from. It was always baseball, apple pie, Coca Cola and AT&T. Ma Bell. It was always part of our American culture.

The problem is, customers don't love it any longer. In fact, in many cases, customers don't even like it. So what is AT&T doing wrong, and what are they doing about it?

Sure, they have gazillions of customers and continue to grow rapidly, but the company has changed over time and customers as well as workers have valid complaints. This must be fixed.

First, we have to remember that this company called AT&T is not really the company we think it is. The original AT&T is gone. This is actually SBC, the baby bell from San Antonio, Texas. AT&T the long-distance giant was dying 10 years ago.

This smallest baby bell acquired AT&T and took its name. In fact, it also acquired AT&T Wireless, Bellsouth and Cingular a few years ago and has been wrestling with this growing problem of customer dissatisfaction ever since.

I remember after the acquisitions -- SBC executives called me to ask my opinion about which name to use going forward. I said there was no choice. AT&T has the history. It has the emotional connection to the customer. It is America. It just has to be modernized for the next generation.

Early on, things looked good. They changed the logo and focused on the brand and image. I was proud of the job they were doing. Then they fell off the track several years ago. They focused on the investor and not on the worker or the customer.

And over the next several years, this focused giant lost its emotional connection to all of us. That was the beginning of the problems the company faces today.

Connection Maker

That's where Esther Lee enters the picture. She battles this problem and helps AT&T win customers' hearts with marketing.

She is trying to move away from the hard sell and toward connecting with customers on a more personal and emotional level.

That sounds like a great plan. That personal connection is the secret of successful companies. That is what I have been talking about for years.

AT&T's new, softer position is that it is not in telecom. Instead it's helping customers connect. Sounds warm and fuzzy doesn't it? So far, so good.

She told Advertising Age their grand platform over the last year and a half is relentless innovation for human progress. OK. That is not as personal and emotional as I thought, but it's a good start.

Let me help translate. I think it's simply trying to tell us it cares, trying to put a warm, human face on a large and cold company. Just like the personal connection of Ma Bell in the good old days, right?

If it can do this correctly, I think this is exactly the kind of thinking AT&T needs right now. Will it be successful? That is the million-dollar question.

The problem is it's mixing warm and fuzzy with cold and technical. What do I mean? They describe this new warm and fuzzy plan as "digital intimacy." Oh really. Digital intimacy? What's that mean exactly?

Can you imagine using that language on your husband or wife? If your child said that, you would wash their mouth out with soap, wouldn't you?

Digital intimacy may sound good in a boardroom, but this does not translate and connect with customers or workers. It does not make you see AT&T as a warm and fuzzy friend like Ma Bell. Not by a long shot. Instead it's like an awkward teenager or a bull in a china shop.

Don't Ignore the Workers

AT&T has the same problem with both customers and workers. It's so large and its workers come from different companies with many different cultures. Today, AT&T workers feel totally uncared for and disconnected. They suddenly feel like they now work for a cold and heartless giant. And in fact, they do.

What is a company? It is built and run by people. So it's as warm and fuzzy or as cold and calculating as they make it. And that direction comes from the top. There is nothing wrong with warm and fuzzy. Some are very successful. Think of Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL). Sure Steve Jobs may have been tough, but he and Apple understood the value of building relationships.

Solving this problem with the workers is the first steps. They can then solve the problem with customers. Then good marketing will help put the frosting on the new cake. AT&T needs to reverse the system, and then it can be fixed. Focusing on the customer is good, but ignoring the workers short-circuits the entire effort.

With that said, I am glad it's now starting to think in this right direction. I don't blame Esther Lee for this problem. She inherited a giant ship's marketing problem that she needs to turn around.

I think she is trying has hard as she can to bridge the real world and real needs of real customers, with the cold and huge company. However the problem is deeper. "Digital intimacy" are code words.

AT&T needs to start using real, warm language. Think of all the successful advertising and marketing AT&T had in the past. It gave you goose bumps. That is what AT&T needs more of today.

The problem is it's trying to bridge that gap using messaging that's cold and heartless. It defeats the entire effort.

Success in this area is more than just messaging. Messaging is just the frosting on the cake. Important, but will not do it alone. AT&T has to remake the cake under the frosting too.

May I make a suggestion? Think back. Think of Ma Bell. Think about America. Think about the connection with the customer. Think about all the good marketing AT&T was known for. What does all that mean?

Doesn't that feel warmer and better? It's personal. Isn't that what you want to achieve? Now compare that to "digital intimacy." If you see the difference and really understand it, you are on the right path to correcting the problem.

Branding is not all about cold business. It's all about building the emotional connection with the customer and the marketplace.

That is the basic key message I want to make here. Once AT&T understands the cake and the frosting, it will be on the right path toward making close personal friends with customers and workers. And THAT will solve their growing problem.

Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

 

 

 

Leo Laporte said Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX) uses one third of all Internet traffic. What?

That's right. We may send a gazillion emails, text messages, use Twitter, FaceBook and YouTube, watch video clips, listen to music and so many other things.

However, Netflix still uses 1/3 of all Internet traffic. Incredible.

And that's today. As Netflix continues to grow and to transition from DVDs to online streaming, they will gobble up even more of the Net.

The good part for Netflix is they don't pay for these highways they are building their business on. The bad part is we do. It's like paying more each month for cable TV because of ESPN even if you don't watch ESPN.

Leo said the Internet was not designed for that much video downloading or streaming. I agree. But what are we going to do about it? The Net will have to keep bulking up just to handle this traffic. And it will. Until eventually, some day, it crashes.

I don't think this will get the attention of the mainstream until that happens. Until then we can just watch this awesome growth for both Netflix and video streaming in stunned amazement.

With all the problems Netflix has had lately, I just wanted to say great job.

 


 

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/T-Mobiles-New-Strategy-Could-Be-a-Winner-73606.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/73606.html

OPINION

T-Mobile's New Strategy Could Be a Winner

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

10/27/11 5:00 AM PT

The cheaper, no-contract and prepaid side of the wireless market looks juicy. It's a lower-cost area for subscribers, but it is the fastest-growing segment of the industry. As prepaid carriers offer better phones and more robust wireless data experience at a lower cost, they are attracting lots of new users.

What will T-Mobile do if the merger with AT&T (NYSE: T) does not work out? On the outside, both AT&T and T-Mobile are pushing as hard as they can to get the deal done. However, behind the scenes, T-Mobile is working even harder on the path it will take in the event the deal does not get done. And it may have hit on something.

My Pick of the Week is how both Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) are battling over the remains of Yahoo (Nasdaq: YHOO). Which will win -- and what will happen next?

Changing Landscape

Over the last several years, AT&T and Verizon have been growing much faster than the others. Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S) and T-Mobile are losing postpaid customers to them. This can be good or bad, depending on which side you are on. AT&T and Verizon workers and investors are obviously happy, but at Sprint and T-Mobile -- not so much.

Sprint has been trying to reinvent itself by focusing on more than just postpaid. It's been focusing on prepaid, wholesale and other not-so-typical offerings, and that path looks successful so far.

T-Mobile has been struggling. That's why this deal with AT&T looked like such a good deal for it -- just not for the industry. It all started several years back with the industry-wide move to smartphones and wireless data. AT&T led that charge. Now everyone realizes that is the path to be on.

T-Mobile snoozed its way through the industry shift from 2G to 3G. It had focused on a more basic service and attracted a more basic customer who used voice and text.

It was doing well, gaining customers; however, the shift to wireless data was just too much for it. The company started losing business.

T-Mobile finally realized this change was happening, so it jumped in as fast as it could, but it was behind the eight ball. When it shifted its focus to the wireless data area, it started winning customers again. Things looked brighter for the company.

It realized it could not catch up to the reality of 3G and the lead of its larger competitors. So what did T-Mobile do? It changed the rules of the game. It was the first to claim 4G. What? How? It was behind the rest of the pack on 3G. How could it be ahead?

T-Mobile came up with a brilliant marketing, advertising and public relations strategy, and it worked early on. It was winning again. It upgraded selected portions of its network. The problem was that most of its network was not ahead of the competition.

When the marketplace caught on, it started to lose business again. The ups and downs were like a roller coaster ride at an amusement park. That was T-Mobile's world.

That's why AT&T's merger lifeline made so much sense for the company -- just not for the industry.

In blocking the merger, the U.S. government said T-Mobile was too important a competitor to lose. It said the marketplace had seen many mergers in the last decade, but this one crossed the line and was not good for the industry. At some point, mergers become anticompetitive.

That brings us to today. If this acquisition does not occur, what is the next step for T-Mobile? What is its strategy?

Golden Opportunity

It looks like T-Mobile is now starting to enter the same space as Sprint Nextel. Its leaders figure if they have lemons, make lemonade. This strategy seems to be working for Sprint, so it could work for T-Mobile as well.

The cheaper, no-contract and prepaid side of the wireless market looks juicy. It's a lower-cost area for subscribers, but it is the fastest-growing segment of the industry. As prepaid carriers offer better phones and more robust wireless data experience at a lower cost, they are attracting lots of new users.

"This is a really strong, very, very, high-growth business for us in all key areas, both on customer growth and on revenue," Mike Katz, VP of marketing for T-Mobile and head of the company's prepaid group, told The Wall Street Journal.

This is the same space occupied by MetroPCS, Leap Wireless, Cricket, Tracfone and other prepaid services. This is a segment the wireless industry never really paid much attention to; however, even though it is just a tiny slice of the marketplace, it is growing rapidly.

T-Mobile just introduced a lower-cost plan, available at Walmart (NYSE: WMT), that undercuts the competition in this segment. This is a great start. The plan allows plenty of time for Web surfing, along with unlimited texting, but only 100 minutes of prepaid talk.

It offers T-Mobile's fast wireless data service, which many smaller competitors do not yet have. This first step into this new market segment seems to make a lot of sense for the company.

This suggests another shift for T-Mobile, but this one may be right on target. This could finally be the start of something good at T-Mobile. We'll have to keep our eyes on it and see what happens next. This kind of move proves the government right. T-Mobile is an important part of the competitive mix.

This is not a shift the company wanted to make. It was a consequence of losing traditional customers to larger competitors. However, as the gulf expands between the two or three largest providers and everyone else, there is real opportunity.

As an analyst and consultant, I have worked with AT&T, Verizon and Sprint off and on over the years, and I've have seen many good and bad ideas. I can honestly say that this move by T-Mobile is a great idea -- if it can make it happen, that is.

The choice is simple. T-Mobile can continue to compete in Tier 1 against Verizon, AT&T and Sprint and continue to lose. Or it can shift and start to compete in Tier 2 against all the rest. If it does, it can be No. 1 in that segment.

Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

 

 

 

You thought the World Series was the autumn game to watch. Not this year. Keep your eyes on this one. It should be big and exciting, and depending who wins, the marketplace could be very different for investors, customers and workers.

As big and strong as Microsoft is, it is not growing in the hot areas like the Web and wireless.

It has formed a partnership with Nokia (NYSE: NOK) on wireless, but what about the huge Web search opportunity? The place where Google is such a big winner?

Microsoft had its eyes on Yahoo several years ago. It wanted to acquire the company back then and was willing to pay a pretty penny. Yahoo said no. Microsoft backed away.

Since then, things have gotten better and worse. The bad part is Yahoo has lost customers, and its market value has dropped. The good part is it will be even less expensive to acquire.

So what will be the difference between an acquisition by Microsoft or Google?

In short, Microsoft wants to punch and Google wants to block.

Microsoft wants to use Yahoo to better compete with Google. As a self-defense move, Google wants to take away Microsoft's ability to do that.

So if Microsoft wins, it will try to build up Yahoo and partner with its own brand to successfully compete in the search space. If Google wins, I think we will see Yahoo disappear.

Google is so successful right now it cannot be interested in Yahoo for any reason other than to try to block Microsoft from using it to more effectively compete.

It will be interesting to watch this unfold over the next several months. 

 

 


 

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/Can-the-Shriveling-BlackBerry-Brand-Be-Saved-73551.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/73551.html

OPINION

Can the Shriveling BlackBerry Brand Be Saved?

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

10/20/11 5:00 AM PT

RIM is at a crossroads. One way is success and growth. The other is failure. Whether it is a player going forward depends on the steps it takes right now. This is the moment in RIM history that we will look back at and say was its turning point. Will it be? Do RIM's leaders get it? Do they know the direction to head? RIM needs to re-invent itself around technology and the brand. It's time to hit the refresh button.

Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM) is the successful, but aging grandpa in the wireless business, and lately it has encountered some big problems -- but that doesn't mean the company can't turn around. I'll get into its challenges and some ideas about how it can surmount them first.

Then, in my Pick of the Week section, I'll look at Cox Communications, its brand challenge, and why it is reviewing its US$100 million media account.

RIM's Turning Point

RIM had a tough week with another outage. This time, I am afraid it will cost them customers. RIM is at a crossroads. It has a choice. Only one way is the right way toward success. Does RIM know what to do? Has its leadership learned the right lesson? The next steps will either heal the company and it will succeed again, or it will continue to drop like a rock.

It's all about bringing the brand up to date -- something RIM has not done as yet. It's about having the brand say the right things.

BlackBerry outages at RIM are nothing new. Over the last decade, we have experienced so many outages it makes your head spin. It would have put a lesser company out of business. Yet it hasn't hurt RIM until this time. It kept growing. However, from now on, things will be different. RIM is no longer the bulletproof company it was.

Today, RIM is struggling against fast-growing competitors. Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPhone and Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG) Android have captured the imagination of the marketplace. They have taken over the leadership of the smartphone space.

Since customers have other choices now, I believe this will be the first RIM outage that will result in customer losses.

I have a suggestion for CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis. RIM never paid much attention to public relations, media relations or analyst relations. In its defense, it didn't have to. Everything was fine. It was the largest. The leader. And it was growing.

However, everything is different. It is not the leader any longer. Like Motorola of a decade ago, and like Nokia (NYSE: NOK) today, RIM is struggling.

It would have benefited from paying attention to public relations, media relations and analyst relations all along. It didn't.

Now the stories about RIM are always negative. So now its execs have to spend their time and energy fighting negative stories just to try and scrape their way back up to neutral. Keeping their head above water to breathe is getting tough. Forget about making progress.

Yesterday, RIM was bulletproof. Even when outage after outage kept shooting it in the foot, RIM never lost business. RIM is the only company that continually experiences these outages. Why? And why can't it use these outages to help itself?

Other leaders have also faced the same challenge. Some update and create the next Wave and grow. Others don't. So what will the RIM story be?

Get With the Times

RIM has not updated its technology or their its brand in years. It should have updated its brand and its tech all along. The result is that it is losing customers.

Over the last few years, RIM has watched their marketshare fade. It has watched the PR and media chatter about what's new and cool shift to its competitors.

RIM did launch a new tablet to much fanfare and high expectations, but it has just not captured the imagination of the marketplace.

Jim and Mike know what is happening. However, they don't know how to solve the growing problem. Their minds are looking backward to when they led. They are not clearly looking forward at the changed marketplace and the new rules for winning. They are different.

RIM has not yet updated its technology. The BlackBerry device is still very good but still very much the same. New technology found in the iPhone and in the many smartphones running Android is not only exciting and brand new, but it captures the imagination of the media, analysts, customers and investors.

Blackberry apps work great, but there aren't many compared with Apple and Google. Compare several hundred to several hundred thousand. RIM should have so many more for business and personal use.

The BlackBerry web browser stinks. It always has, but there was nothing better. Today Apple synchronizes your favorite sites from your laptop Web browser. That way you can easily search the Web on your iPhone just like on your computer. Why can't BlackBerry do that?

BlackBerry public relations, media relations and analyst relations are terrible. RIM doesn't have an understanding of how this works, and that is costing the company.

RIM has tried to expand the BlackBerry beyond business into the consumer side. It tried to compete against Google and Apple. It failed. Instead, it should focus on rebuilding and strengthening its brand on the business side. That is its key market. Once that is secure, it can experiment with other sectors, but it needs to strengthen its core first.

Lemon Into Lemonade

BlackBerry can still own the smartphone sector on the business side of the coin if RIM acts now and makes the right updates in technology and its brand.

BlackBerry outages are a problem. The company has to make sure there are no more outages. Period.

However, if that is not possible, it needs to turn the outages into a benefit. How? Have every outage become a giant billboard about the company's security and its benefits to the business community.

When there is another outage, turn the outage toward the company's strengths. Explain to the marketplace that the reason for the occasional outages is the amazing and secure email system that no one else has.

Explain how occasionally it has to burp, and we get an outage. Others don't have this problem because they don't have this kind of security built in. Occasional outages are a small price to pay for this kind of innovation and security.

Doesn't that make more sense than the way RIM currently handles these outages? It should turn a problem into an opportunity to remind the world about its strengths.

Every crisis is a public relations opportunity. RIM has not taken advantage of this. It is on the wrong side of this coin. It is fighting to keep its head above water. Instead, it should be leading the thought battle, using outages to its advantage.

When there is an outage, RIM should throw its public relations efforts into high gear. Have a well known and familiar key spokesperson go on television and radio news networks and all the newspapers. Explain the problem. Put out regular press releases.

This is what reporters look at when they write stories that influence the entire marketplace.

An apology is necessary, of course. Then RIM should explain the technology and how secure it is and how it is more advanced than others. Explain how these occasional outages are a small price to pay.

RIM needs to get back on the radar with innovations. Wouldn't it be great to see users anxiously awaiting the next version of BlackBerry and the media talking about what's new?

RIM is at a crossroads. One way is success and growth. The other is failure. Whether it is a player going forward depends on the steps it takes right now.

This is the moment in RIM history that we will look back at and say was its turning point. Will it be? Do RIM's leaders get it? Do they know the direction to head?

RIM needs to re-invent itself around technology and the brand. It's time to hit the refresh button.

Let me say that RIM has done an incredible job of building the smartphone industry over the last decade. But the world is changing. The Wave has just about passed RIM by. Either it creates the next Wave, or it will continue to shrink over the next decade.

 Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

 

 

 

I have worked with several companies that successfully did the same thing. As the marketplace changes, so must a company's strategy and brand if it is going to continue to succeed. If it doesn't change, it falls backwards.

Cox's leaders realize it can be more efficient to work closely with one key marketing team than to spread their attention across many teams in many areas.

It's all about strengthening the brand in a noisy marketplace. It's about taking the shortest and most effective path to connect on an emotional level with customers and prospects and investors.

Currently, Cox is all over the place. It operates in 18 different markets and uses nine different agencies. Each operates independently. How can its execs effectively wrap their minds around that? That's no way to get unity of message and discounts for the wallet.

I think this new path is so right, the company should have taken it years ago.

One tenth of its revenue comes from small business. This is a great opportunity if it can improve and update its brand identity.

Cox Communications is a cable television company, but it is trying to build a presence in wireless. The problem is, we don't hear much about that. Wireless is a big opportunity IF it can strike the right chord in the marketplace.

Cox is a well-run company and customers generally like it. Cox has always been a quiet and low-key player. However, the marketplace is getting noisier and rowdier all the time. It needs to be heard, or else it will be lost.

Companies need to adjust, or they run the risk of running off the track. This is where Cox is now. If it successfully makes this next move, I think it will continue to succeed. That is its challenge. We should keep our eyes on Cox.  

 


 

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/Whats-Next-for-Apple-73490.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/73490.html

OPINION

What's Next for Apple?

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

10/13/11 5:00 AM PT

Now that Steve is gone, we have to wonder if Apple has peaked. Will the Wave now crest and turn the other way over the next year or two? Without Steve Jobs continuing to throw wood on the fire, will it eventually die down? Or can Tim continue? Remember, Steve and Apple were connected in a very special way. Can Tim do the same thing in his own way?

After Steve Jobs' passing last week we have seen an unbelievable amount of, well, love poured out by everyone. That is truly amazing. Then it hits you. Steve Jobs and Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) are connected. They are one. It's almost like Siamese twins connected at the hip. What can we expect now that Steve is no longer with us?

For my Pick of the Week, I'll consider which carrier will be the next big Apple iPhone winner. This time there are three competitors getting ready to slug it out in the marketplace.

A Matter of Time

I'll be blunt about Steve Jobs and Apple. People are very sad, of course, but like the Godfather said, business is business. Countless companies, competitors and predators are getting ready to pounce after a respectful period of time has passed.

So what is next for Apple? Well quite a bit, actually. You see when Steve got sick several years ago, he realized his time was limited. He came up with several new ideas. Ideas that could be a big as the iPod, iPhone and iPad. We should expect to see them develop and roll out over the next several years.

He also contacted someone he had known for years, Walter Isaacson and asked him to write his biography. That was important to this private man as a way for him to teach his children what he wasn't able to because he was always working.

Tim Cook is the next leader of Apple. Steve honestly felt and thought Tim would be his best replacement. He had been around Steve, learning through osmosis. Tim may be a very good choice for a traditional CEO, but will Apple be Apple without Steve Jobs?

Unfortunately, the answer is no. And that is the challenge. Can Apple still shine?

Tim is not connected at the hip to Apple like Steve was. No one could be. We grew up with Steve. We knew him. It was personal. We don't know Tim yet. As we get to know him, will he be able to stoke fires like Steve did?

While we won't see Apple wither and die, I do think we will see serious changes at the company. We measured Apple not just based on numbers, like every other company, but on personal feelings. On history. On a personal connection with Steve.

Numbers and feelings don't usually mix. However, that is what Apple is -- numbers and feelings.

When the CEO is changed at any company, the company changes. It takes on the personality of the new CEO. If that is the case, what will Apple look like?

Personally Invested

No one can replace Steve Jobs. We have watched his Apple story grow over the last few decades like a weekly TV series we just couldn't miss. Remember the old hit shows "Dallas" with JR Ewing, and "Dynasty" with Blake Carrington?

They were connected to us. We liked them personally. Liked the families, as broken as they were. They were like family friends. We tuned in every week to watch the story develop.

Steve and Apple are that kind of story in real life. We watched Steve grow up in front of us. He was just a kid when he started. Sort of like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook. We experienced his wins and losses. Whether we were a customer, investor, worker, partner or just a follower, we felt part of his story.

When a TV series ends, that's it. It's over. However, when a CEO dies, the company continues. After all, there are countless people that depend on continued success. As it should be.

So one season is ending, and the next season is starting. It will be a different company going forward.

We don't really know Tim like we grew to know Steve. It will take us all a while. So we don't know what to expect. This is an uneasy feeling. The company is now a blank slate. What will it look like going forward?

So if Apple will not be the Apple we know today. What will it become? What will it look like next year, in five years, 10 years?

Competition is heating up. Apple will fight the growing competition from successful companies like Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN).

In the past, we could always count on Apple out-innovating and out dazzling the competition, but that was in large part due to Steve Jobs.

Riding the Wave

We have seen other leaders rise and fall over time. I call this "The Wave Effect."

Companies like Motorola rode the Wave for decades until they lost it in the 1990s and have struggled ever since to win it back.

Companies like Nokia (NYSE: NOK), which took the lead from Motorola in the 1990s, and other leaders like RIM are now in the process of losing their lead to the next generation of competitors like Google and Apple.

It seems every leader has its day. It rides a Wave of success. But every Wave rises then falls. They all do. It's just a matter of time.

Steve Jobs gave Apple extra oomph and kept creating the next wave. Remember, Apple was successful until the early 1990s then lost its way. It also lost Steve Jobs, who was ousted by the new CEO. It only recovered after he came back.

The return of Steve Jobs ushered in a long winning streak for the company. Wave after wave of product after product. More than just a winning streak, it was bigger than that. It transformed many industries -- from the computer to music to cellphones.

If Steve Jobs were still here, Apple would have more than likely stayed on this winning track. Now Apple is on a different track. Will it continue to be successful?

Steve had been working on several new ideas. They could continue to help Apple lead. What is the next industry Steve planned to transform? We may learn that secret soon.

Now that Steve is gone, we have to wonder if Apple has peaked. Will the Wave now crest and turn the other way over the next year or two?

Without Steve Jobs continuing to throw wood on the fire, will it eventually die down? Or can Tim continue? Remember, Steve and Apple were connected in a very special way. Can Tim do the same thing in his own way?

The Apple we knew and loved has suddenly changed and will be a very different company going forward. It could be more or less successful. We'll have to watch and see.

Steve, you are one special man, and we will miss you. I just want to say we love you, Steve. You will always be a true inspiration to our generation. You rocked our world. And we are all better for it. Rest in peace.

 Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

 

 

As my Pick of the Week, let me ask you a question. Who will win with the new Apple iPhone 4S? Will it be AT&T (NYSE: T) Mobility, Verizon Wireless or Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S)?

When this new iPhone was introduced, I said it wasn't a big enough deal to get excited about. I said this would more be a story about the three carriers competing for the first time. However, with the passing of Steve, I think the sales of this version of the Apple iPhone could be enormous. We'll have to watch.

AT&T has carried the phone for years. Verizon just started several months ago. Sprint will start very shortly. This release will be the first time all three will be competing head to head. Who will win?

We expected Verizon to rock our world last spring. Didn't happen. Maybe it was because it was in the middle of the iPhone season. Maybe customers were waiting to see how well Verizon would handle the pressure. Maybe they wanted to wait till the next version came out.

There were plenty of reasons we thought up to explain the disappointing sales, but now we are at the starting line of the real race. And this time Sprint is here too.

The new Apple iPhone 4S is launching, and AT&T, Verizon and Sprint are the racers in the United States that are lining up and getting ready for the starting gun.

Should we expect a big runaway story or just more of the same? We'll just have to watch the sales figures over the next few months and see.

What's new and different about this rollout is not so much the device. That is pretty boring this time. The real story is the three competitors for the first time.

Will they really rock the boat? We'll see.

Bang! The race is officially on! 

 


 

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/Why-Verizon-and-ATT-Are-Up-Kodak-and-Yahoo-Down-73436.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/73436.html

OPINION

Why Verizon and AT&T Are Up, Kodak and Yahoo Down

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

10/06/11 5:00 AM PT

When digital cameras started showing up on wireless phones 10 years ago, Kodak should have captured that Wave. It didn't. As loved as Kodak is, it never updated its brand, and it never jumped on the next Wave. Its leaders must have thought the company's brand name would see them through. It didn't. It never does.

Every company faces the same challenges. Some successfully transition themselves inside the changing industry. They update their brand and continue ride the Wave. Others struggle. Some even die. Why the difference? Look at companies like Verizon, AT&T (NYSE: T), Qwest, Kodak and Yahoo (Nasdaq: YHOO), among many others. Why do some succeed while others fail?

There are three catagories of companies: companies that successfully transition; companies that have tried, but fail; companies that missed the entire transition class in schoool and simply don't participate. Only one of these is the winner.

I have helped many companies and their executives understand this important issue. Execs are talented people who won big time with their great ideas. However they don't know everything. Many don't have a clue about the natural evolution of the marketplace and how to transition themselves to continue winning long term.

You would be surprised how many of these companies that make this basic mistake are big, brand name firms that should know better. Does Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM) come to mind?

A good way to understand this is to think about this natural phenomenon as the waves in the ocean. If you catch the wave, you take advantage of the power of nature to propel you.

Staying with that wave is key. If you stay with the wave, you keep moving. Keep growing. If you don't, the wave passes you by. It's your job to continue to transition your company to stay with the power of the wave. It's as simple as that.

Ongoing success has to do with both successfully updating the master brand and understanding the Wave theory I have talked about many times before. Doing both well can create the secret sauce of success your company needs to keep up with the changing industry. Getting this wrong is nothing less than disaster for your firm.

As the industry continues to grow and mature, customer needs and wants change. What it takes to stay successful changes. How to stay tuned in so you can ride the Wave of success changes all the time.

Matching your brand identity to that changing Wave is key. If you don't, your brand will eventually become tired. Failure is next. We have seen this time and time again. It is still happening today.

The Wave theory I talk about is clear. Opportunities have a lifespan. Think of this lifespan as a Wave, going up then down the other side. Companies can be very strong riding their Wave up, but if they are not careful they can simply ride the Wave down the other side as well.

If you have not created the next Wave to grow on, your company will struggle when the current Wave crests then falls. And it always does.

There are plenty of examples to examine in the marketplace today. Here are a few.

AT&T, Verizon and Qwest

Verizon and SBC were both growing in the 1990s. Local phone lines were growing -- they had strong brand recognition, and they were climbing the Wave. Then about 10 years ago, local phone lines crested and started falling as others -- like VoIP, cable television and wireless companies -- started offering competitive phone service.

If they didn't update their brand and switch to the next Wave, they would continue to struggle and shrink.

SBC acquired AT&T and took its name. Today, both Verizon and AT&T are very healthy growing companies, but they are very different from 10 years ago. They are no longer local phone companies. They have expanded. Now they focus on wireless and television and Internet as their local phone business shrinks.

Verizon and AT&T have successfully transitioned to date. And that is the point I want to make here. You must continue to transition yourself and stay with the growth Wave.

In contrast, companies like Qwest -- also a local phone company -- never followed the same path. It struggled. No wireless. No television. It lost business, and it had a hard time growing in other areas.

It was recently acquired by CenturyLink. This is a company on the growth side of the Wave because of acquisitions. We'll have to keep our eyes on Qwest and CenturyLink and how well they do now. Will they grow organically, or just through acquisitions?

Qwest could have been as successful as Verizon and AT&T. It is the same type of company. But it missed the transition and the Wave passed it by.

It is that simple and that complex.

Kodak, Motorola and Yahoo

Eastman Kodak (NYSE: EK) is the latest company that is failing. Why? It is one of America's best known and most loved brands. The reason is simple: Its execs never worried this could ever happen to them. By the time they realized they were in trouble, it was too late. The Wave passed them by. Sound familiar? Motorola perhaps.

When the first digital cameras came out, Kodak should have sensed the industry was changing. It should have lead that charge. It didn't.

When digital cameras started showing up on wireless phones 10 years ago, Kodak should have captured that Wave. It didn't.

As loved as Kodak is, it never updated its brand, and it never jumped on the next Wave. Its leaders must have thought the company's brand name would see them through. It didn't. It never does.

You have to update the brand and ride a new Wave to success.

Motorola was a leader for decades. Can you spell bulletproof? Then, in the mid 1990s, the world it once led changed. Its execs thought their company was too important to fail. They were wrong. The industry moved right past it, and it was dragged along in the dust.

Motorola finally had a second chance with the Razr in the early 2000s. Unfortunately, that was also when the Wave rose, peaked and fell again. Its leaders didn't understand the process. They didn't understand they had to keep feeding the fire. They didn't understand they had to catch the next Wave.

So Motorola struggled once again until the last couple years when it partnered with Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and Verizon Wireless. Its Droid phones have been successful. However, it still faces new threats. Will it handle things better this time? Is it ready this time? Will it catch the next Wave?

Of course, if Google manages to close its acquisition deal, a lot will change for Motorola.

Yahoo once led the search space, but in recent years it has lost to Google. Google won early on with the speed of its search results. It was the quickest in the market.

Yahoo's execs have been trying everything they can think of, but they have not been able to rejuvenate the company. They have not updated the brand, however. They have not changed the Wave they ride. These are the basics. The keys.

Companies like Google and Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) are riding the Wave and focusing on their brand and succeeding. These are the untouchables to many. Will they continue?

Google faces new pressures from the U.S. government that will only increase. Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) had a similar struggle and suffered for quite a long time. Apple faces its own transition.

These two are strong today, but will that continue?

Nokia and RIM

Nokia (NYSE: NOK) had a very successful decade and a half riding its single Wave. It took the lead from Motorola in the 1990s and never looked back.

A few years ago, the handset business suddenly shifted to smartphones, and new companies like Apple and Google led that space. Nokia was left behind in that revolution.

Nokia realized its winning streak was over. It has tried to become important in the smartphone space and compete with Google and Apple. It has failed so far.

Why? Its brand name in the U.S. is for regular wireless phones, not smartphones.

It has not been able to expand the meaning of its brand. It still has a strong brand in handsets, however. Before the Wave totally passes it by, Nokia must get back on track.

The rumor is it will now start to focus on what it does best -- handsets and basic smartphones. It will no longer directly compete against Apple and Google. That is a good idea. It may lead in its segment once again.

RIM is similar. BlackBerry ruled until the last four years when the super smartphones from Apple and Google came into play. It has since struggled with updating its brand and technology. Its new PlayBook tablet computer has not caught on.

It is seen as yesterday's brand. It has not successfully transitioned to the new Wave. It's not too late, but its leaders have to understand the problem and the solution. They don't so far.

RIM never had to worry about brand success. With the BlackBerry, it was just always there. So its execs never understood it, or got good at it. Now that the company's survival depends on it, they don't have a clue what comes next. That is the sad part.

Perhaps RIM should consider a similar path to Nokia. Perhaps it should focus on what it does best with the marketplace that knows and likes and uses its products.

It has to update its brand and technology. Its Web browser really is lacking. But if it updates, it could succeed in its existing space. If it does this before it's too late, that is.

Think Like a Surfer

As you can see, some companies make transitions and continue to succeed, while others don't. Why? The answer is obvious to me. They simply don't understand branding and the Wave of the business.

They should all have the same goal. Update the brand and transition to the next Wave and lead, before it's too late. So why don't companies get it?

Some executives get it and some don't. Some built their successful company without really understanding the brand and the Wave and the constant transition they need to keep up with.

They just don't think of this whole thing like a surfer thinks. Sticking with the power of the Wave is key. You don't have to create your own new Wave like Google and Apple. Instead you can simply ride the power of the Wave that surrounds you, like AT&T and Verizon.

Linking the changing master brand concept and the Wave is the secret sauce that can make all the difference between whether a company will successfully transition into a new butterfly or just stay an old caterpillar.

The choice between success and failure is always yours. 

 


 

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/Hello-Hello-Can-You-Hear-Me-Now-73381.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/73381.html

OPINION

Hello... Hello... Can You Hear Me Now?

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

09/29/11 5:00 AM PT

There are countless dead spots all over the U.S. -- embarrassing to the carriers, damaging to their brand, and frustrating to their customers. This is 2011. It's about time to get good coverage already, don't you think? Today it looks like carriers are upgrading their larger markets for all the whiz-bang 4G technology, and not filling in the dead spots in other areas to give people basic connectivity.

You know how frustrating it is to have a wireless call dropped, right? Or to have such a weak connection that you can't make a call at all. Very frustrating, to say the least. Now imagine that problem happening on a regular basis. Sounds like problems we had 10 years ago, right? Well, that is still everyday life in too many cities and towns around the United States. I call them black holes in wireless coverage, and I'll explain why.

Then, as my Pick of the Week topic, I'll tell you how the rich use technology -- about startling new numbers on things like smartphones and big-screen TVs.

Wireless Service Black Holes

Remember the Verizon Wireless television commercials that screamed, "Can you hear me now?" It may be hard to believe, but today many cities still have this problem, and consumers are still complaining at the top of their lungs: No, we cannot hear you now. Fix it already.

The problem is not just with Verizon Wireless either. It is also with AT&T (NYSE: T) Mobility, Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S), T-Mobile, MetroPCS, Tracfone and countless other networks.

Don't get me wrong. I love cellular. Wireless is one of the best things that ever happened. But as I travel around the country I have experienced quite a few of these black holes in coverage.

On occasion, I read a good article trying to bring this problem to the attention of anyone who can do something about it.

The September issue of Hilton Head Monthly Magazine had one, written by Sally Mahan.

Depending on where you are standing, you either have a strong signal or no signal. If you are driving, you often lose a call right in the middle.

Lori Goodridge-Cribb, the publisher of the magazine, experiences the same problems. So do I. And so does everyone else on the island -- and that's the point. Maybe we all need to put our voices together and demand better coverage.

There are countless dead spots all over the U.S. -- embarrassing to the carriers, damaging to their brand, and frustrating to their customers. This is 2011. It's about time to get good coverage already, don't you think?

Not Good Enough

So what is the problem, exactly? Wireless carriers either don't realize or choose to ignore this problem. Don't they realize letting it continue is hurting them? Many customers from outside these areas visit and experience the service problems. That will enter into their decision-making process when deciding whether to renew their service.

Carriers spend a fortune on advertising, marketing and brand building, but in countless areas around the United States they shoot themselves in the foot with these dead spots.

Many carriers and handset makers send me their phones to use and compare. While, generally speaking, they all have good coverage, they all still have serious black holes.

There is a map of Hilton Head Island accompanying Mahan's article, which highlights these dead spots. There are several, and they are large. There is no excuse for this. This is the way the entire industry was a decade ago -- like swiss cheese. Since then, the carriers have invested billions and improved service. Good. But not yet good enough.

Be Responsive or Be Regulated

Today it looks like carriers are upgrading their larger markets for all the whiz-bang 4G technology, and not filling in the dead spots in other areas to give people basic connectivity.

I guess it depends which lens you look through -- the investor's or the customer's -- to decide whether this is smart or not.

Let me give you a bandage till the problem is solved. Consider a Femtocell. Strange name for a simple solution. If you have no cellular connection in your home or office, and if you use a high speed Internet line, get one of the Femtocells from your wireless carrier.

These devices plug into your high speed Internet line at home or in your office and give you a connection to your wireless network through the Internet. It creates a little cell around the device only accessible by passcode and powered by your Internet connection. It's not an open cell site, but it will give you coverage if your home or office has a weak connection. This is only good for tiny spots, though.

As wireless moves from being a novelty to becoming a necessity, it is vital for carriers to take this problem seriously. Otherwise, they will have to become regulated by the government to improve service -- and that is the last thing they want.

So now is your chance to get it right already, guys.

I talk with executives of all the wireless carriers and can say they really want to have the best quality service in every area. That's when they wear their customer hat. However, when they wear their investor hat, service takes a back seat to profits.

Wireless has become a necessity. This is not a joke. It's a matter of safety and connectivity for the customer, and a matter of building, not destroying, the brand reputations of companies.

So, come on carriers. Step up to the plate. You need this as much as we do. Stop just looking at the investor. Start looking to satisfy the customer. That, in turn, will make your investors happy.

Give us coverage! Hello... can you hear me now? Hello... hello... .

  Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

 

 

My Pick of the Week topic is how the rich use technology. There are some startling new numbers out on things like smartphones and big-screen TVs.

Fewer than half of the richest Americans use these new devices. What?

Ipsos Mendelsohn surveyed Americans with incomes over US$100,000 and found that new tech like tablet computers, smartphones and flat-screen televisions are owned by fewer than you'd think.

Nine percent own tablet computers. That's up from 2 percent a year ago. Remember, this entire sector is only a year-and-a-half old, though.

E-readers win over tablet computers. Even though tablet computers get the big-dollar advertising budget, e-readers are still outselling them.

E-readers are owned by 13 percent compared to the 9 percent who own tablets.

Forty-five percent own smartphones.

Four percent use MySpace once in a while.

Fifty-nine percent use Facebook -- greater than the 52 percent of the general U.S. population who use it.

Eight percent of the higher-income respondents use Twitter -- less than the 11 percent of the general U.S. population who use it.

In this world, the future looks brighter than ever for these new companies.

Of course, after looking at all this, I would like to remind you that traditional television, print and radio are still not only very relevant for the affluent community, but vital.

Remember when we thought the boring newspapers, magazines, television and radio were supposed to fade away? Well they are still hot.

In fact, the world of advertising and marketing and public relations has simply expanded. 

 


 

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/For-Analysts-Its-Deja-Vu-All-Over-Again-73337.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/73337.html

OPINION

For Analysts, It's Deja Vu All Over Again

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

09/22/11 5:00 AM PT

What we're looking at is the beginnings of a new wave of activity in the technology space. Are you ready for it? What are key analysts saying about your firm? What are you doing to keep us up to date? When will you get active with the analyst community -- early on when you can discuss ideas, or later on when you are trying to put out fires?

Recently I read in The New York Times that the phenomenon of the "star analyst" is coming back into fashion. If Wall Street analysts, tech analsyts and telecom industry analysts are getting hot once again, how can you get good advice and good reviews from the analyst community? Let's discuss.

Then in my Pick of the Week, I want to tell you about AT&T (NYSE: T) Mobility offering their 4G LTE service in an initial five markets. This is finally great news for AT&T.

Remember the old saying, "you don't want the tail to wag the dog?" In the case of analysts, the best time to start is now. It's important to start out on the right foot. Don't wait till you have to put out fires. You would rather drive the race car around the track, rather than being dragged behind it. It's your choice whether you drive, or get dragged. Let me explain.

Analysts simply share their thinking and opinion. They follow the news, companies, technologies, investments and the competition. They either follow certain companies and dig deep, or they follow the entire industry looking for the good, the bad and the ugly, in Clint Eastwood terms.

Just like the sequel of a favorite movie, there is another sequel starting in our industry as well.

Personal Experience

I am writing about this because starting in the mid '90s, for better or worse, I became one of those so-called star analysts.

It seemed that as a telecom industry analyst, I was called by the media for a comment every day. I wrote columns, attended meetings, gave speeches, wrote reports and books. Many of the companies I followed were also consulting clients, which meant I could offer deeper comments.

Let me explain how this works. The noise was growing during the '90s. Everything got very loud and very crazy. So many companies from the young Internet world, to older and more established firms in industries like telephone, wireless and cable television found that getting noticed, being heard and followed accurately was increasingly difficult. Actually, that sounds a lot like today, doesn't it?

There was so much to follow. And everyone seemed to be a winner in those golden years of the late '90s.

Then the early 2000s showed up, and the Internet bubble burst. Several newspapers started to fold. Special tech sections dried up. Many new Internet companies and websites seemed to disappear. Poof. Just like that.

Mainstream companies continued to grow, but the spark of imagination was gone, for a while anyway. IPOs, which were so numerous in the late 90s, dried up as well. Executives went on trial. Money was lost in the stock market. It was a troubling time.

We watched the amazing rise followed by the agonizing fall. It was out of control.

In that crazy world, a few of us analysts kept getting busier -- kept getting new clients and new calls from the media. To tell you the truth, my business kept growing larger than ever through all the dry times in the industry in the mid 2000s, which always amazed me.

I was a telecom industry analyst, but I have since expanded my practice as a tech analyst. I simply follow the changes in the marketplace, and there is plenty to comment on in this noisy industry.

Reporters still call daily to discuss stories they are writing. I share my opinion and try and keep them on track. I even get quoted now and then, which is still a kick after all these years.

The industry has tried several times to re-boot itself. If you recall a few years ago, the Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) IPO was one of those attempts. Then it got quiet again.

A Reawakening?

Suddenly things are waking up. Will it last this time? Companies are going public again. Major industry changes are reshaping the services and devices and competition.

Just look at how two non-cellular companies, Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) and Google, are transforming the wireless space. Incredible.

The marketing and public relations and advertising are just as important as always, but they look very different today.

Suddenly there are so many new websites and Internet companies who are doing exceptionally well. Social media is exploding. My phone is ringing, and the media is writing more and more about this amazing phenomenon every day.

There are so many really interesting companies to keep an eye on today that didn't even exist a few short years ago, companies like LinkedIn, Facebook. GroupOn and Pandora. And there are plenty more we will be discussing that are not even on the radar yet.

Some win and others lose. Just look at Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX), a company who shot itself in the foot. They went from winner to loser in a split-second. Will they recover? Do they understand what they did wrong?

The telephone business is reshaping itself, again. It's not going away, but it is changing. It used to be seven baby bells. Then, after mergers, three. New companies are joining the fold. Today the leaders are Verizon, AT&T, CenturyLink and Windstream.

Cable television companies like Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSK), Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) and Cox are now offering phone service with VoIP and competing with baby bells offering IPTV.

The wireless world is just as crazy. Instead of dozens of smaller competitors, we see fewer and larger companies like Verizon Wireless, AT&T Mobility and Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S).

We also see smaller firms like T-Mobile, US Cellular, Cellular South, MetroPCS, Tracfone and many others. There are also several straight VoIP companies like Vonage and Skype.

All this new technology is causing the traditional baby bells like AT&T and Verizon to lose phone customers in mass. Ten years ago they hit their peak with local phone lines. The marketplace is reshaping itself, again.

Don't Count Out the Old Guys

The wave has passed the traditional services, and a new wave has begun. Who will be the winners and losers? Who will change the direction of the industry like Google and Apple are doing in wireless? We are only in the early innings of this game.

There are also plenty of existing companies who can also do very well like IBM (NYSE: IBM), Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT), Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO) and so many more. Plus all the computer and software makers. They are not part of this same IPO wave, but they are important drivers in the industry.

Follow the smaller and lesser known companies for the new ideas and innovation. Follow the larger and older and more established companies for direction of the industry.

In this atmosphere there is quite a bit of noise again, isn't there? Getting heard by customers, investors and the media is more difficult than ever. It's like deja vu all over again.

It is important for companies to break through the growing noise and chaos. They have to stand out snf explain why they are different and growing and healthy.

There is plenty of good and bad for each company to talk about. What will the focus be on your company?

Suddenly, star analysts are beginning to pop up on the radar once again. So buckle up, it looks like this could be the beginning of another wild ride.

How Do You Rate?

Here is an important question for you to think about. What are key analysts saying about your firm? How do you communicate with us? What are you doing to keep us up to date?

Do you even work with the analyst community? When will you get active with the analyst community? Early on when you can discuss ideas, or later on when you are trying to put out fires?

We are watching the next wave reboot with IPOs and new technology innovation. It looks pretty strong so far. All the ingredients are there. Are you ready for this next wave? Are you sure?

Just remember, the good times of the 1990s didn't last forever, and the bad times we are living through today won't last forever either. It's a cycle.

It looks like we are starting the next upswing. Reporters are calling on a daily basis again for stories they are writing. That is usually accurate as a barometer of things to come. This is a good sign things are starting to heat up again.

Do you remember the late 1990s when the world was all about the magic and new technology and wealth? It was a time when everyone seemed to win. Investors, workers, customers and partners as companies grew and expanded.

Well, the starting gun has been fired again. Let's hope this is a long-term wave and not just a short-term quickie.

Either way, sooner or later the good times will swing back into fashion. They always do. You can count on it. Are you ready?

 

Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week 

 

 

 

In my Pick of the Week I want to tell you about AT&T Mobility offering their 4G LTE service in an initial five markets. This is finally great news for AT&T.

Remember around the first of the year when AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph de la Vega suddenly said AT&T was entering the 4G marketplace? At that time he was simply trying to keep up with competitors like Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel and even T-Mobile.

AT&T felt uncomfortable not being in the 4G space yet, so they suddenly called their HSPA+ with enhanced backhaul "4G." At that time it was just a change in the words they used. There was no real 4G service yet, and there wouldn't be for months. Now they are starting.

AT&T just unveiled the first five markets, Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Chicago and Atlanta, on Sunday morning. Don't expect service everywhere in those markets yet. They have just started. AT&T says they will expand the LTE footprint in those markets in coming months as well as launch new service in 15 more markets by year end. Great start.

They have four devices that are compatible with the new service. No, don't expect your older devices to work with the new network technology.

The good news is this new network will deliver faster speeds on the data side of the network. If you have a need for faster service, this is for you.

It will be interesting watching AT&T Mobility market this new service. Verizon Wireless has a long head start in this new technology.

So congratulations to AT&T Mobility. Welcome to the 4G world! We're glad you are finally here. 

 

 


 

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/The-Best-Cellphone-Network-for-You-Is--73285.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/73285.html

OPINION

The Best Cellphone Network for You Is ...

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

09/15/11 5:00 AM PT

Since AT&T suffers from the same low ranking, year after year, I am very surprised it has not yet fixed its problems. At this point, who knows if it ever will? Its focus seems to be on the investor -- and not on the customer and employee. So as long as investors are happy with its stock price, customers and workers will just have to deal with it or leave.

Which cellphone network offers the best service for you? Simple question. The answer is a lot more complicated. When we walk out of the house each morning, we make sure we take our wallet, our keys and our wireless phone. We don't leave home without them. Our phone is our connection to our world. However, all networks are not equal. Some are better and some are worse...

My Pick of the Week is a backup wireless phone for an unbelievably low price: free. Well, almost free. I'll explain below.

Drum Roll, Please

So, which wireless network is best? Consumer Reports publishes an annual report that tries to help us answer this question. It looks at individual carriers in individual states, and it also offers a big-picture ranking on a nationwide basis. This may be the most comprehensive comparison most people will ever have, and it's on the magazine rack at your favorite store right now.

It is important to remember this Consumer Reports piece makes generalizations, though, and it is not an accurate guide for everyone. What I mean is that it is valuable if you have strong signal strength from all the carriers and can compare them all on other factors.

However, many of us don't have strong signals from all the carriers. If you do not, then even the best carrier is not for you, because you will not be connected.

That said, let's look at Consumer Reports' conclusions in this year's annual report.

On a regional basis, U.S. Cellular is the best carrier overall -- if you are in its region.

On a nationwide basis, Verizon Wireless provides the best service for most people.

If you have basic needs, either Consumer Cellular or TracFone may be your best bet.

This isn't noted in the report, but TracFone is the parent company of NET10, Safelink Wireless and Straight Talk. These companies don't have their own network. They resell others, such as Verizon, AT&T (NYSE: T), Sprint (NYSE: S) and T-Mobile.

Here is the order of the top five carriers: 1) U.S. Cellular, 2) Verizon Wireless, 3) Sprint, 4) T-Mobile and 5) AT&T. Some have improved, and others have stayed at the bottom.

Interestingly MetroPCS was not even mentioned. What does that mean?

Movers and Slackers

Sprint is turning itself around, and that is good news for its customers. Several years ago, its service was not very good. In the years since, it has worked hard to improve.

Verizon Wireless is usually at the top and has stayed there. Good job.

AT&T Mobility is usually at the bottom, and it has stayed there as well. Come on, guys.

This is not new. AT&T has been dealing with this kind of report for many years -- even before the iPhone troubles. I remember years ago, when Consumer Reports first said AT&T had bad quality, I got lots of phone calls from AT&T trying to put a better spin on the damaging headline.

I told those callers the answer was to simply improve the company's service. That was the only logical path. In fact, we can now look at the way Sprint improved as an example.

However, AT&T has stayed at the bottom with customers report lack of service, dropped calls, and problems with texting and data.

On the good side for AT&T, its rollover plan is a hit. I love it. If you buy a bundled package but do not use all your minutes, you can carry the unused minutes to the next month.

Since AT&T suffers from this same ranking, year after year, I am very surprised it has not yet fixed its problems. At this point, who knows if it ever will? Its focus seems to be on the investor -- and not on the customer and employee. So as long as investors are happy with its stock price, customers and workers will just have to deal with it or leave.

Boiling It Down

This is my take away from the Consumer Reports comparison.

If you are a basic customer, one of the prepaid services may be best for you. It will offer the lowest cost and very good service. Consider companies like Consumer Cellular and TracFone, which rank at the top.

Prepaid plans are actually growing in popularity. They cost less. They have no long-term contracts. The downside is, the phones are more basic. If that is OK with you, then these phones are great. The good news is they are also starting to introduce prepaid smartphones.

If you want one of the new super-hot smartphones today, then U.S. Cellular or Verizon Wireless are your best bets for service and quality.

Remember to check for signal strength where you spend most of your time. If those companies don't offer strong signals where you are, then you can consider Sprint, T-Mobile or AT&T, in that order.

The first priority in selecting a phone is the network. Is there signal where you spend your time? Check your home, at work, and everywhere else you regularly spend time.

Trust me on this. And to make your choice easier, simply eliminate the networks that don't give you strong signal. This is the most critical part of your decision.

Cost of Service

The Consumer Reports piece doesn't address the cost of service -- just quality. So here are some cost considerations.

Generally speaking, both Verizon and AT&T offer the highest-priced services. Somebody has to pay for all that advertising.

Next is Sprint. Then T-Mobile. Then the assorted other smaller companies.

The smaller the company, the lower the price -- it has to give you a reason to choose it over the big guys.

You can pay more than US$100 per month for service with the big guys or as low as $45 per month with the smaller companies for the same unlimited service.

There are also many other carriers in between that are not mentioned in the Consumer Reports comparison. Cellular South is an example. I would be interested in finding out how customers think about those companies as well.

Were their rankings too low to write about, or are they simply too small? Then again, U.S. Cellular took the No. 1 spot, so who knows?

Cost could make a big difference in your choice. Of course, if you don't need an unlimited plan, then you can pay as little as a few dollars every month for a small bucket of minutes.

Some carriers let you carry unused minutes to the next month. After several months, you can have quite a bucket of minutes to use for only a few dollars every month. Something to consider.

Hope this helps you sort through the mountain of choices. Buying a wireless phone is getting more complicated, but if you check which carriers have signals where you spend time, and then evaluate your typical usage patterns, the choice gets much simpler.

 Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

 

 

As my Pick of the Week, I want to share a secret that will help make sure you have a connection wherever you are: Get a second phone. That's right -- but not a regular wireless phone. Get one of the prepaid phones with a zero monthly cost. Let me explain.

With pay-per-use services, you simply buy a phone, activate it, then turn it off, stick it in your glove compartment, and forget about it until you need it. Just make sure the battery is charged.

Choose a prepaid plan that lets you pay nothing on a monthly basis unless you use it. Then, depending on the network, you pay either a per-minute charge or a per-day charge when you do use it.

I recommend having a second phone tucked away for a variety of reasons. I do, and I have used my backup phone more often than I imagined I would.

Make sure it uses a different network from your regular cellphone. Occasionally, you may find yourself out of the coverage area for your carrier, while others have strong signals. You might want to be prepared in case there is a hurricane, or a terrorist attack, or just a down or busy network. These things happen.

It's always smart to have a reserve chute when you go parachuting, right? Just in case the main chute does not open. Same thing here. If you rely on the always-on connectivity of the wireless world, make sure you are always connected.

You can find a wide variety of these plans from every carrier and the smaller brands.

 


 

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/Lets-Solve-the-Real-Wireless-Problem-Spectrum-Shortage-73234.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/73234.html

 

OPINION

 

Let's Solve the Real Wireless Problem: Spectrum Shortage

 

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

09/08/11 5:00 AM PT

 

If we are to survive, we have to come up with a bold solution. A wider hose. Otherwise the entire industry will face the same problems AT&T has been dealing with in recent years. So one idea is to take the spectrum back and pool it into a large group. Let every carrier and handset maker access it all. That way if one band is blocked because of heavy usage, the phone and the network can simply use another band. Simple solution.

Now that the Department of Justice said no to the AT&T (NYSE: T), T-Mobile merger, can we please start talking about solving the real -- and growing -- problem in the wireless industry?

It's something that will affect every carrier and every customer in the years to come. In fact this is the very reason AT&T wanted T-Mobile in the first place: the spectrum shortage.

As my Pick of the Week, I'll consider whether the Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPhone will be available as a prepaid device on smaller networks.

Short-Term Plan

AT&T wanted to merge with T-Mobile to solve its own capacity problem. It wanted to get its hands on T-Mobile spectrum. The rest was just noise. Still, that would have been only a temporary fix at best.

So why does AT&T need T-Mobile's spectrum? Doesn't it have its own? Sure, but remember all the terrible stories about the quality of AT&T Mobility's wireless data network over the last few years? It simply doesn't have enough. No one does.

The reason is that during the last few years, smartphones like the Apple iPhone and the many devices running Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG) Android OS emerged, and wireless data traffic grew like crazy. This problem jumped up and bit AT&T in the rear end.

Suddenly, so many people were sucking so much data that the network could not handle it, due to spectrum shortage. Spectrum is like the size of the hose. We need a wider hose carrying more data for more customers.

A couple good things are suddenly happening that may give us a little time to solve this increasing problem. However, if we don't, then every carrier and every customer will be faced with the same problem that's confronting AT&T.

It's noteworthy that many of the terrible stories about AT&T Mobility's quality seemed to fade away in the last few months. Why?

Perhaps Verizon Wireless starting to sell the iPhone in the spring has something to do with it. If so, then Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S) selling the iPhone later this fall will give AT&T even more breathing room, at least temporarily.

That's the good news. However, that reprieve will only last a short while before the exploding smartphone and wireless data growth catches up.

Then every carrier and every customer will suffer the same way -- just like in the 1990s, when America Online had a problem keeping up with demand and slowed the Internet to a crawl as more customers signed up.

After all, that's why AT&T announced its plan to merge with T-Mobile this spring at CTIA. At that time, the company was taking it on the chin with all the wireless data problems its customers were experiencing. It couldn't get ahead of the demand curve.

In the months since, the frenzy has calmed down. We have a little time to solve this problem. However, it will not be solved with mergers. That's only a bandage, and the box is almost empty. We have a broken bone that needs to be set.

The acquisition of T-Mobile would solve AT&T's immediate problem, but it would not touch the larger, industry-wide problem.

Now that the government has said no to the merger, AT&T should back away and join with other carriers to focus on solving the larger industry problem.

One Big Pool

What solutions are there? Here are two ideas.

The first one has to do with the spectrum the companies each own. Several years ago, when the smartphone industry was young, the U.S. government thought it would be a smart idea to auction off the spectrum. It raised billions of dollars, and everyone was happy.

Then the Apple iPhone and was born, followed by Google's Android OS, and that changed everything we thought we knew about the smartphone segment. Suddenly there was enormous data usage burdening the wireless networks. The number of apps grew from a few hundred to a few hundred thousand in just a few years. Incredible -- but a price had to be paid.

Suddenly, the smartphone solution was not so smart. Bottlenecks occured. There was too much demand and too little spectrum.

If we are to survive, we have to come up with a bold solution. A wider hose. Otherwise the entire industry will face the same problems AT&T has been dealing with in recent years.

So one idea is to take the spectrum back and pool it into a large group. Let every carrier and handset maker access it all. That way if one band is blocked because of heavy usage, the phone and the network can simply use another band. Simple solution.

LightSquared's Struggle

A second idea is something a new company is trying to do. LightSquared is building a wireless data network and will sell capacity to smaller wireless carriers. That would give smaller companies like Cellular South, U.S. Cellular, MetroPCS and Tracfone the opportunity to offer the same wireless data services we see on AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile.

In fact, LightSquared could also serve those big carriers, making its network available as backup when things get tight. More spectrum.

Simple as that. Makes sense, right? Then why are the big guys trying to put LightSquared out of business over the GPS issue?

That's exactly what the big carriers are doing, LightSquared founder Phil Falcone said in an interview on CNBC. It makes absolutely no sense.

It's time to solve this serious problem. Build a solution already. Enough of these stupid games. We have an industry at risk, damn it. The future of wireless data is at stake.

There must be plenty of other ideas in the marketplace as well. Now is the time to start having this discussion and solving this problem -- before it jumps up and bites us all in the rear end, just like it bit AT&T over the last few years.

After all, the question is simple: Do we all want to face the same problems experienced by AT&T and its customers? Or do we want to be mature and solve this growing problem?

That should be our industry-wide call. It's time to come together to solve this problem. Then we can all win. Otherwise we will all lose and pay a terrible price.

 

 Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

 

 

 

 

My Pick of the Week: Will the Apple iPhone go prepaid on the smaller networks? I am convinced the answer is yes -- let me explain why.

The iPhone was such an exclusive device when it was born several years ago. It was available only for the AT&T network.

However, earlier this year, Verizon Wireless began offering the iPhone. This fall, Sprint Nextel will be selling it. T-Mobile is the only other major carrier left.

As the price continues to drop on earlier iPhone models, it's becoming affordable for even more customers, especially if they can sign up for a low-cost monthly plan.

The prepaid segment is strong and growing. So this is a natural evolution of the product.

I expect the iPhone to be sold as a prepaid offering by the big carriers, and then by the smaller networks as well -- like MetroPCS, Tracfone, U.S. Cellular, Cellular South and so on.

After all, we are already seeing prepaid Android devices becoming available from these smaller carriers.

The only problem this raises is whether some of these smaller networks are capable of handling the massive volume of wireless data that comes with these super-smartphones.

That makes this an opportunity for Apple -- and it's not likely it will let it pass by. It's not a question of if, just when. 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 


 

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/Will-Apple-Still-Be-Apple-Without-Steve-Jobs-73190.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/73190.html

OPINION

Will Apple Still Be Apple Without Steve Jobs?

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

09/01/11 5:00 AM PT

Remember when Steve Ballmer moved into the CEO post? Microsoft was still a successful company, but something special was lost when Gates left. It lost much of its unique flavor and incredible story. It became just an ordinary company. Still large, still successful, but ordinary. Sometimes a CEO leaps past the position and becomes, in essense, the master brand.

We knew this day was coming. Now that Steve Jobs is leaving, Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) will change. Apple has stood out during the last decade or more as an incredible growth engine for customers, investors, workers and partners. However, it wasn't just Apple. If Apple is the steak, then Steve Jobs is the sizzle.

How important is the sizzle? Will Apple still be Apple? Without Steve, has Apple lost its mojo? Will growth slow? Will innovation decrease? I'll share my thoughts on some of these important questions and what they mean, because the Apple we all know and love is going to change.

Then, as my Pick of the Week, I'll review several next-generation smartphones.

The Master Brand Behind Apple

The short answer is yes, Apple will change. So much of its unique qualities came from the sizzle that was Steve Jobs as CEO. There's history there. We grew up with Steve and watched his successes and failures and his company's incredible growth during the last few decades. And we wanted to be part of it.

Even if Apple could find another iconic figure to lead, that person could not just jump in and take the place of Jobs. It would take time. So it's simply not possible for the company to remain unchanged. Perhaps over time, Tim Cook can develop his own winning persona. The marketplace hopes that happens. However, repeating the story of Steve Jobs is impossible.

The real question is what is at the heart of Apple's success, and can that be duplicated? What makes customers line up the night before a product launch to be the first to buy? In other words, what makes Apple Apple?

I think it's the same mystery shared by the Harry Potter stories and author J.K. Rowlings, or Bill Gates and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT).

Remember when Steve Ballmer moved into the CEO post? Microsoft was still a successful company, but something special was lost when Gates left. It lost much of its unique flavor and incredible story. It became just an ordinary company. Still large, still successful, but ordinary.

Sometimes a CEO leaps past the position and becomes, in essense, the master brand.

Gates, Rowlings and Jobs are a key part of the incredible success of these endeavors. They are people. Individuals. They are the master brand behind the brand names. Without them, these would just be ordinary companies. With them these companies excel.

I am so convinced of this that I think we should create an award like the Academy Awards to recognize these excetional corporate leaders. Unlike stars, with whom we have no real connection, these are the real champions who reward investors, workers, customers and partners.

I have worked with every major competitor in the space over the last 25 years. As much as their plans and strategies seem rock solid, the industry shifts and everything changes every few years. It has always been that way and will always be that way.

With that said, I think Apple will lose its luster and become just another company in the mind of the marketplace. However, I also think it will remain strong and viable and at the top of the list, at least for several more years. It will lose an important something since Steve Jobs will not be there feeding the fire as the master brand.

The Next Big Thrill Ride

This opens plenty of questions going forward. Will Apple have another personal master brand? What will Apple look like a year from now, two years from now, five years from now? What about competitors? Does this open the door for another company to win the hearts of the marketplace? If so, which is the next Apple?

Remember when Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) entered the marketplace? At that inflection point, companies like AOL and Yahoo (Nasdaq: YHOO) led the way. Now Google leads on every front.

The same kind of opportunity is here, right now, in this space. So will there be another great company that will rise when Apple fades? Perhaps. Which company will that be?

As for Apple, I still think it will remain a leader, at least for a while. It currently has loads of happy customers, and it still has another year or two of innovations in the pipeline. It will continue to amaze us for a while.

It is impossible to predict what this marketplace will look like beyond a few short years. Don't forget, the Apple iPhone began the transformation of the wireless industry only four years ago.

Since he got sick several years ago, we all knew Steve Jobs' days at Apple were numbered. We all expected and hoped the company had plans to hand off the leadership role. Those plans are in play now.

Apple has done everything it could do. Now the rest of the story has to be written. So what is the future of Apple?

No one predicted the changes that have happened in the past. No one predicted the iPhone or the transformation of the industry.

Today the same opportunity and challenge exists.

So what is the next big wave of innovation for Apple? It transformed the industy it played in -- from music, to smartphones to tablet computers. Will Apple continue to transform industries going forward? If so, which is next?

The story is not over at Apple. We have just finished a chapter and are beginning the next. It is still a gigantic and very successful company and will remain that way, at least over the next couple years. After that, well, we will just have to wait and see.

To Steve Jobs: You have earned the respect, admiration and friendship of the world during your journey. You have inspired each of us to stretch into the beyond. You are a real inspiration and have become the sunshine in our industry.

 

Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

 

 

For my Pick of the Week, I'll share some initial thoughts on several next-generation smartphones that I'll be reviewing in the coming weeks.

I am impressed with RIM's new BlackBerry models. I have a few BlackBerry phones that use different carriers. They are available on all the majors -- Verizon Wireless, AT&T (NYSE: T) Mobility, Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S) and T-Mobile.

So far I have to say I am impressed with the new BlackBerry 7 OS. The features you have grown to love are all still there. Some have larger touchscreens and others have smaller screens, but with a combined touch and keypad. Remember when a BlackBerry was just a BlackBerry, and they were all the same? Things are changing fast, and for the better.

Verizon Wireless sent me a new BlackBerry Bold, which is an incredible device. This newly upgraded Bold is a regular looking BlackBerry with both a touchscreen and a keypad. It is thin and light, and I like it a lot.

I also like the BlackBerry Torch from AT&T Mobility. I do not yet have the new 4G version; however, my understanding is that it's the same device with a faster browser. The big screen is still easy to see and use, and it has a slide-out keyboard.

The Torch on AT&T has a bigger screen then the Bold on Verizon, but it is also larger and heavier. Take your your choice.

They say the new version of BlackBerry 7 OS provides a faster Internet connection. I will test, but I did not see the dramatic difference I expected.

While it is an improvement, the problem is that the Web browsing still falls flat compared to Apple's iPhone. It simply transfers your Favorites to your smartphone, making it easier to find what you want.

Hopefully the next version of BlackBerry software will offer an improvement on using the Web.

The next Apple iPhone should be coming out soon as well. This year, it is available on two networks -- Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility -- and it's rumored to be coming soon to Sprint Nextel. How about that! One year ago, it was only available on one. Which carriers will the iPhone be with next year?

The wireless industry and the smartphone sector have been changing. Over the last four years, it has become a completely new place. Unlike a few short years ago, when the iPhone was it, today there are countless devices including an assortment of Google Androids from just about every handset maker.

As exciting as these devices are today, they will be old news by next year in this fast-changing industry. More to come. 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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

 


http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/73140.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/What-Sprint-CEO-Dan-Hesse-Should-Do-Next-73140.html

OPINION

What Sprint CEO Dan Hesse Should Do Next

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

08/25/11 5:00 AM PT

SBC transformed itself from the last place weakling to first place powerhouse seemingly overnight. Look at AT&T now. It's bigger and badder than ever, and growing rapidly. Why can't Sprint do the same thing now? Why does it even need Comcast or Time Warner? Why can't it take the big and bold steps it needs to take to reinvent itself into a giant overnight?

I don't get why companies today take so long to make deals. Just do it already. The latest rumor is about Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S), Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSK) and Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) Cable acquiring Clearwire (Nasdaq: CLWR). Of course, we have heard of other Sprint rumors over the last few years that didn't pan out -- like acquiring T-Mobile. Dan Hesse, the CEO of Sprint, waited too long to pull the trigger on that one, leaving Sprint out in the cold. So will Sprint swing this deal or not?

Some say the decision whether to acquire Clearwire will wait till after the AT&T (NYSE: T) merger is complete. Why? Even if AT&T and T-Mobile don't get together, this Sprint Clearwire deal still makes sense -- doesn't it?

Clearwire basically started life as a Sprint product. Then, to spread the risk, Hesse spun it off and got other investors like Comcast and Time Warner involved. This was smart, at the time, since Sprint was wounded. Clearwire's path into existance was strange, and its marketing  even stranger, but it grew -- intially, anyway.

Now it seems like it is traveling in the slow lane as competitors like AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile roll out their 4G plans. Today, Clearwire is sinking into second-rate status, fading into the woodwork without a big brand name behind it.

If this is Sprint's 4G network anyway, then just acquire it already. What good will waiting do? Another carrier may jump in and acquire it before Sprint can. Deja vu?

Damn. Watching these timid moves drive me crazy. What ever happened to bold CEOs taking the helm and steering their companies through the churning waters across the finish line?

Guns Blazing

CEOs like Ed Whitacre of SBC. Remember him? He tried to acquire AT&T when it was still big and strong in the late 1990s. Reed Hundt, the FCC chairman at the time, called that deal "unthinkable," and the offer was withdrawn.

Of course, he did end up acquiring AT&T a handful of years later, when the industry had changed and AT&T had shrunk to a mere skeleton of its former self. But he got the brand name.

Whitacre was a pistol. That's the way CEOs used to behave -- the way they should behave today. Taking bold steps and doing big deals, and transforming both their companies and the industry.

Remember how SBC started as the smallest Baby Bell? Remember how AT&T was dying on the vine? Remember how Whitacre pulled several companies together, seemingly over one hot summer a few years ago? Remember how SBC acquired AT&T, Bellsouth and Cingular -- then changed the name of the entire new company to AT&T?

That was one of the biggest and gutsiest moves we have ever seen. They should teach that move in CEO class at college. We should be seeing more of these gutsy plays. Today however, everything seems too quiet and sedate and orderly.

Run, Don't Walk

Enough! Its time to shake things up. It's time for another Big Bang! Sprint should take advantage of these uncertain times and turn itself into a big-time player, and transform the industry as well. It could quickly grow from a small time player into a powerhouse. It is being done by other companies -- just look at CenturyLink and Windstream for example.

SBC transformed itself from the last place weakling to first place powerhouse seemingly overnight. Look at AT&T now. It's bigger and badder than ever, and growing rapidly.

Why can't Sprint do the same thing now? Why does it even need Comcast or Time Warner? Why can't it take the big and bold steps it needs to take to reinvent itself into a giant overnight? Don't ask me. I don't understand why it hasn't already.

Sure, Sprint had a rough few years. It changed CEOs twice. It has been slowly recovering and rebuilding. Now that the AT&T deal has taken T-Mobile off the table, Sprint seems backed into a corner once again. Why, for crying out loud?

Wake up Sprint! Your only chance of coming out of this alive is to come out swinging. Stand up and take bold, decisive, company-reshaping moves -- today. This is important for workers, customers and investors. This is not just a game.

As for Comcast and Time Warner -- who knows? This Clearwire deal does not seem important to them right now. Does Sprint need them to strike this deal? They can always buy from Sprint if they want the service.

Dan Hesse should be thinking bigger and bolder that that. The world has changed in the last several years since Clearwire was formed. Sprint's thinking needs to catch up.

The passion in this deal must come from Hesse. If he shows bold leadership, Sprint has a chance to be great. If. So let me pose this question: What would Ed Whitacre do? That's the kind of fire we need to see more of today.

Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

 

 

Congratulations to my Pick of the Week, LightSquared, for bringing in a public relations guru to try and clear the cluttered path that is piling up during the last six months. If you read my column last week, you know that is exactly what I recommended it should do.

Terry Neal is the company's new senior vice president of PR and communications, reporting to Chief Marketing Officer Frank Boulben. The question is, can Terry turn the public relations ship around? It has been heading in the wrong direction fast.

LightSquared has spent the last six months trying to put out countless fires ignited by the GPS industry. It has not been focusing on building the company's name and image in the marketplace. It has not been ingratiating itself with carriers, customers and investors.

In fact, if you were to ask people on the street, they either would have no idea what LightSquared is, or they would say it is hurting the GPS industry. There would be nothing about the solution it presents to our wireless broadband problem. This is a disaster. Now the company has to spend enormous time and energy just trying to dig its way back up to zero. Only then can it start to build.

The first thing to do is to plug the hole, then try to rebuild. Provide new story ideas to the media so they can write about truthful things that will also be helpful to LightSquared. Inform the marketplace on the growing industry problem that LightSquared will solve.

There have been countless stories written about the black eye AT&T Mobility has suffered over wireless data problems. LightSquared could help erase it. However, most are not aware of this.

LightSquared could also help smaller wireless carriers offer the same wireless data services as Verizon Wireless, AT&T Mobility, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile. That is the story that should be told. Along with defending its position on the GPS issue.

So good luck, Terry. I have worked with many firms over the years and seen many hit a home run and others wither. You have a mountain of a job ahead of you. The future of the company is riding on your shoulders.

Hopefully, Terry Neal can solve the LightSquared GPS problem and solve the growing PR problem that has been developing over the last six months.

 

 


 

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/Lightsquared-Must-Survive-73099.html

OPINION

Lightsquared Must Survive

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

08/18/11 5:00 AM PT

The industry continues to go down the same old, tired path, with no solutions as the capacity problem grows. All companies want to do is continue merging to get their hands on more spectrum. Lightsquared has a new idea. Rather than continuing to push back against the Lightsquared plan, we should all be trying to figure out how to make it work.

Enough already with the crappy and negative stories about Phil Falcone, Sanjiv Ahuja, Lightsquared and the whole GPS problem. This is a company and a technology and a solution that we need. It is designed to fix the growing wireless data problem many of us are already experiencing.

So why isn't Lightsquared leading with PR messaging about how it will transform and improve the industry and the service? Instead it is simply reacting to negative GPS stories. It is not driving -- it is a passenger. This is a mistake that could be very costly to the company if it's not corrected soon, as I'll explain.

My Pick of the Week topic is the huge Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and Motorola merger announced earlier this week.

Big Picture

I must confess I am as guilty as everyone else. I started last year writing about the new Lightsquared and talking about the great idea it was. There were challenges, of course, but it was a brand new company and an exciting new idea.

We all hear the horror stories about the quality of an AT&T (NYSE: T) wireless data call. We know it is only going to get worse, and we need a solution. So this new company makes sense -- so far.

When we learned about the impact of Lightsquared's technology on GPS, I thought the company should put on the brakes until the problem was solved.

Now, though, it appears there is an inordinate amount of negative press surrounding this GPS problem, creating an environment that makes it difficult for a new company to succeed.

Lightsquared is now spending its time fighting the negative stories instead of leading with its messaging of how it can help the industry. It lost control of the public relations process.

However, if we pull the camera back, it becomes apparent that this issue is larger than one company. This is about the entire industry. It's about every customer.

Think about the capacity problem AT&T has been wrestling with for years. Think about this being the reason it wants to merge with T-Mobile. It needs more spectrum and capacity.

Lightsquared is a brand new company. A brand new idea. If it works, it will solve a growing industry problem.

Instead of attacking it, we should be supportive. Now is the time we should roll up our sleeves and help it solve the interference problem with GPS.

Then let the company jump into the marketplace, and let's see what it can do to help the industry.

Turn the Boat Around

Why Lightsquared doesn't focus on this positive aspect in its public relations I don't understand. It is reacting, not leading. Right now, it is being dragged, kicking and screaming, through the mud.

The battle with GPS is not the story. It is just a pothole in the road to Lightsquared's success. However, it is making a big public relations mistake by allowing itself to be defined by that issue.

By the time it solves this problem, its image in the marketplace will be severely damaged. It is already going in that direction. The time to act is now.

So, to founder Phil Falcone and CEO Sanjiv Ahuja, let me say this: It's time to turn your approach around. It's time to start thinking and talking like the winning new company you say you are. It's time to lead and not follow in the PR battle. What you do next will decide whether you turn it around or not. You decide.

It's time to turn up the positive heat on your PR and marketing  and let the world know about the incredible and positive solution you are creating to solve our growing capacity problem.

Welcome criticism. Welcome ideas from the industry to solve the problem. Don't fight it. Use it. Turn the noisy marketplace into your partner, not your adversary. Get everyone on your side.

The solution is that simple and that complex.

Currently you are being played -- positioned as the bad guys. The cowboy dressed in black.

The media is happy to continue to portray you that way because there is an absence of anything good to write about. That's your job. Knock, knock... anybody in there?

Lightsquared at the End of the Tunnel

The truth is, Philip Falcone saw this brewing capacity problem years ago and has been thinking about and working on a solution for a long time. He is a real visionary in the industry, and he is not even from the industry. That's the amazing story that should be told. Sometimes the best ideas for solutions come from outside.

Falcone never had to worry about PR before. He comes from the hedge fund business. That lack of public relations understanding is hurting him.

The industry continues to go down the same old, tired path, with no solutions as the capacity problem grows. All companies want to do is continue merging to get their hands on more spectrum. Lightsquared has a new idea.

Further merging, like what AT&T is doing with T-Mobile, may be a mistake. We are now at the point where major mergers in this space could be anticompetitive and have a negative impact.

This spectrum problem will continue to worsen. We need a solution without more mergers.

Rather than continuing to push back against the Lightsquared plan, we should all be trying to figure out how to make it work. Come up with solutions so it can get started in the marketplace solving this capacity problem.

Lightsquared is not a threat. So why is it positioned as almost evil? That's because the GPS industry positioned it this way and the media didn't have anything else to go by.

That wrong image is what it has to fix, and quickly. This negative opinion of Lightsquared in the marketplace will mean the company is worth less. That means when the time comes for it to have an IPO, it will be lower than it could be.

So let's keep our eye on the ball. Remember the growing problem in the industry that we cannot ignore.

We are only in the early innings of this new smartphone revolution. We watch as Google and Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) transform the space. As more users buy smartphones, and as more people use wireless data services, this capacity problem intensifies.

So the industry needs a solution. Come on Lightsquared, it's time to step up and turn your public relations around. It's time for you to lead. Be positive.

It's time to stop following and reacting. It's your job to talk to the industry about the positive side -- about the solution you want to offer.

Turn it around before it's too late. Get the world on your side.

Lightsquared has to happen. We need the solution the company wants to offer. And if Lightsquared is successful, others will follow.

If we don't help it become a real competitor and solve this growing wireless data capacity problem, I am afraid we will be sorry.

 Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

 

 

My Pick of the Week is the deal Google and Motorola Mobility (NYSE: MMI) announced earlier this week.

I must have gotten dozens of calls from reporters looking for comments on this story. The reason is these non-cellular companies, Google and Apple, are suddenly transforming the wireless industry.

Four years ago, everything was calm in the wireless industry. Then Apple and Google jumped in, and the industry hasn't been the same ever since.

The industry has completely transformed itself in the last four years, and I think this is just the first inning. Buckle up, because this is going to be fun and exciting to watch.

I will write extensively about this in coming months, but for now let me say congratulations to both Google and Motorola. Great move!  

 


 

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/ATTs-Runaway-Growth-Days-May-Be-Numbered-73054.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/73054.html

OPINION

AT&T's Runaway Growth Days May Be Numbered

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

08/11/11 5:00 AM PT

AT&T today is a very large and very complex organization compared with seven years ago. A company this large and complex is difficult to successfully manage and grow -- especially when yesterday you were one of the smaller and more nimble players. It has done a great job with growth so far, but it now may be stretching past its comfort zone.

Did AT&T (NYSE: T) just get chink in its armor? Something curious and interesting may be happening at the phone giant. Its growth seems to be slowing, according to the latest quarterly results. I watched Verizon for something similar that would show a trend in the industry, but its growth still looks strong.

So what's the problem? Historically both companies seemed to ride the same Wave. So either Verizon will soon start to slow as well, or this is an AT&T problem.

My Pick of the Week is an upcoming Wireless Technology Forum general meeting in Atlanta focusing on Wireless Healthcare & Medical Services.

Extreme Makeover

Both AT&T and Verizon are in the same business. They have changed and grown on a similar track over the last few decades. However, they do approach the marketplace differently, and that difference may be starting to show up in the numbers.

They have both been on the growth side of the Wave that I have talked about. However, AT&T appears to be reaching the top of its Wave, while Verizon is still climbing. What happens next depends on what AT&T does next.

First, it is important to understand what makes AT&T tick. Let's pull the camera back and take a refresher course. It is not the company many think it is.

AT&T has been with us for well over a century. In the early 1980s, it was forced to break up. It became the long distance giant and was competing with MCI and Sprint (NYSE: S). Then, in the late 1990s, it started competing against the Baby Bells and lost. It shrank, and was just a very small player by the early 2000s.

Gasping for breath, and on its hands and knees, AT&T was acquired about seven years ago by the smallest Baby Bell, San Antonio, Texas-based SBC, then run by CEO Ed Whitacre. Around the same time, SBC also acquired BellSouth (NYSE: BLS) and Cingular.

This instantly transformed SBC from the smallest phone company to a giant. Then Whitacre retired, and Randall Stephenson took the reins as CEO and transformed everything else about the new company.

He moved it to Dallas and changed the positioning and attitude of the entire organization virtually overnight. The new company looked very different.

So AT&T is actually a supersized SBC with a new king-sized attitude. SBC used to be a smaller and very active -- yet warm and open -- company, focusing more on the employee and the customer.

The company is now different, and its focus is on the investor. Now it is colder -- a stranger to the workers, customers and the marketplace -- and the difference is noticeable.

Ralph de la Vega, who came from BellSouth, runs the wireless operation. He may eventually become CEO of the entire organization.

Stephenson and de la Vega are trying to run a suddenly huge company. Typically, a company grows to this magnitude over time, but this was a sudden transformation.

This is an incredible challenge and opportunity, but keeping all the balls in the air can be quite difficult.

Employees and Customers First

As I travel, speak and attend meetings, I run into AT&T executives, workers and customers on a regular basis. The employees come from a variety of companies that are now AT&T. While the company is still growing, there is a problem that I've noticed and written about several times.

The question is will this problem continue to grow? So much depends on whether AT&T recognizes and fixes it. Unfortunately, there is no sign of that yet.

Perhaps that will change. This quarterly report may be just a nudge in the wrong direction, but it should feel like a sledgehammer to them if they recognize the warning signal. These are icebergs in the water, and it was hidden icebergs that brought down the Titanic.

AT&T today is a very large and very complex organization compared with seven years ago. A company this large and complex is difficult to successfully manage and grow -- especially when yesterday you were one of the smaller and more nimble players.

It has done a great job with growth so far, but it now may be stretching past its comfort zone.

Companies should focus on the employee and the customer first. Keep them happy and the company will be strong and growing. Then the investor will also be happy.

When a company focuses on the investor first, it cuts out the worker and the customer -- and that is a long-term recipe for trouble. I have heard some pretty disturbing stories on this front from AT&T workers and customers.

I would say this is a very important problem that AT&T needs to successfully address, and quickly.

The Wave tends to rise, then fall. AT&T has successfully reinvented itself and created a new Wave. Remember, the local phone business was growing in the 1990s, and then it slowed with competition.

AT&T changed its focus, acquired other companies, and started to focus on the next Wave, which was building wireless and television. It has been successful with this so far.

Can it succeed again again? Yes, but rather than seeing the problem, it seems to be blaming the slowdown on the market.

If that is the case, why isn't Verizon having the same problem? Perhaps it will over the next quarter -- who knows, at this point? However, it is still growing strong, so this seems to be an AT&T problem.

I have worked off and on with AT&T over the last few decades. I have gotten to know many executives. I hope the company continues to do well for the sake of everyone involved, including workers, customers and investors.

I guess every once in a while, we all need a wake-up slap to realize we are on the wrong path.

So AT&T, with respect, SLAP!

 

Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

 

 

 

My Pick of the Week is an upcoming Wireless Technology Forum meeting on Wireless Healthcare & Medical Services.

You know how exciting this new world is becoming and how this has been a key interest of mine, so I want to let you know about it.

The meeting will focus on some of the new wireless networks, systems and devices that are becoming key elements of our healthcare system. Participants will discuss how wireless technology is reinventing the healthcare industry.

Remember, we are only in the very early innings of this new game. There are enormous opportunities ahead for both individuals and companies.

This panel will discuss some key ideas in the wireless medical solution space. I think this will grow into one of the hottest segments of the wireless and healthcare world.

Speakers will be Mathew Grubis, the CE of communications and information at GE Healthcare; Praveen Chopra, the CIO of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta; Rick Allen, the executive VP of Gwinnett Medical Center (north Atlanta); and Joel French, the VP of Motion Computers.

This event is sponsored by GE Healthcare. If you will be in the Atlanta area on September 15, you should stop by.

Let me know of new and interesting ideas you see developing in the wireless and healthcare field. This game is just getting started. 

 


 

 

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/Verizon-Workers-on-Strike---Who-Will-Win-73028.html

ANALYSIS

Verizon Workers on Strike - Who Will Win?

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

08/08/11 8:19 AM PT

If Verizon doesn't make some changes, its expenses will be higher than competitors. That means it will have to charge more. That means it will lose business. And that means it will have to cut even more workers, and everyone gets hurt. After all, one of the things customers look for is the lowest price. They won't pay more for phone service just to take care of Verizon workers.

Verizon Communications [NYSE: VZ] is struggling through yet another strike. Actually, all the workers, customers and anyone who touches Verizon are also struggling. I have commented on these strikes many times over the last couple of decades. What is happening is unfortunate, but it's a necessary part of the process as the industry changes.

First, will there be long-term repercussions for workers, investors and customers? There hasn't been in the past, so the Verizon brand should be OK as long as this is settled quickly. Customers don't like it, but they are relatively used to it. Like it or not, this has long been the way phone company employees negotiate for a raise.

On the other hand, there was no competition until the last decade. Now there is -- from cable television companies, wireless companies and Voice over IP companies. Will customers suddenly decide now is the time to make a change? Yes, I think more will. That will make matters worse.

The Shifting Marketplace

The telecom industry is changing. It has been in transition over the last few decades. We are communicating differently today. There is good and bad to that new reality.

The local phone business is shrinking. It was growing through the 1990s -- but during the last several years, it has been giving way to competition and new technology. Remember the Wave theory I regularly talk about? This is a perfect example.

Local phone companies have watched their traditional local phone business drop like a rock. Verizon local phone service has crossed over the top of the Wave and is now on the downside.

Other parts of the Verizon business -- like wireless and FiOS Internet and television -- are growing. That is the new model. These sectors are on the growth side of the Wave.

So what does that mean to all the long-time Verizon workers who are now fighting for their financial lives? I have met with many workers over the years and feel for them on an emotional side. After all, they are people with families and they relied on promises  made. We all understand how earning less hurts.

However, on the business side, I understand that Verizon has to make some changes in order to remain competitive and continue to grow. If it doesn't, its expenses will be higher than competitors. That means it will have to charge more. That means it will lose business. And that means it will have to cut even more workers, and everyone gets hurt.

After all, one of the things customers look for is the lowest price. They won't pay more for phone service just to take care of Verizon workers. Especially not during these trying financial times.

Harder Times Ahead

So even though Verizon is still growing and healthy, when you take a closer look, only parts are growing and healthy. Other parts are shrinking on the down side of the Wave.

As hard as it is for workers to accept, this is the problem that companies like Verizon must address. It's not only Verizon; many other companies whose businesses are also changing are wrestling with the same issues.

Customers and investors love the changes. On the other hand, workers don't -- because of what it does to their earnings.

Over time, workers have seen their income and benefits rise year after year. However, that world cannot sustain itself any longer as the industry continues to change and non-union competition increases.

So, what's the answer? The company and the workers both have to understand the needs of the other and negotiate a solution that neither is really happy with -- but that both can live with.

That's the only real solution. And they should also prepare for more of this wrestling down the road, because for workers on the downside of the Wave, things are only going to get rougher as the years pass. 

 


 

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/Why-Cant-Motorola-Get-Its-Act-Together-73004.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/73004.html

OPINION

Why Can't Motorola Get Its Act Together?

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

08/04/11 5:00 AM PT

Is Motorola cool? The truth is no, and that is its big problem. It was on the upside of the Wave, the growth side, through the 90s. It used to be cool. Remember in the mid 1990s, when the coolest handset was the StarTac? The marketplace has changed, and Motorola is struggling with this new space. Just like in the movie "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me," Motorola has lost its mojo.

Motorola (NYSE: MOT) Mobility is one of the industry's more interesting stories. It is a story of rags to riches to rags, again and again. It was the leader in the wireless handset market for decades. Then it lost its way in the 1990s and has not had a long-term recovery since.

Through partnerships with Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and Verizon, it seemed to be getting some traction under its feet again. Things were starting to look better at the company helmed by CEO Sanjay Jha.

However, as the industry continues to move ahead, suddenly Motorola is starting to get lost at sea again in a battle of big brand name super smartphones. When you walk into any store, you will see countless Google Android phones made by different manufacturers.

In addition, Verizon Wireless is no longer focusing just on Motorola, but rather promoting its entire line.

Is Motorola getting ready for another downturn? Why? Where is its problem? After all, the industry continues to grow. Will it ever recover?

I'll address these very interesting questions, with an eye on how they impact other previous leaders like Nokia (NYSE: NOK), RIM and Palm/HP.

As my Pick of the Week, I'll tell you how WindStream is continuing its growth Wave by acquiring Paetec.

The Right Outlook

Since Motorola lost the No. 1 spot in the 1990s, it has only had two upward bursts -- one in the early 2000s with the Razr, and now another with Google Android.

Can Motorola recapture its greatness as a leader in the handset market? Sure, anyone can. After all we have witnessed two non-wireless competitors, Google and Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL), jump in, change the marketplace and continue to lead.

The big question is WILL Motorola recapture its glory days? The answer, as far as I can see today, is no.

Understand what I am saying. It's not that Motorola can't. It just don't have the right mindset. Of course, that could change at any point -- if.

The marketplace is very different from when Motorola led in the 1990s. Today it's all about big name brands and smartphones and the Internet and apps. It's all about being new and cool and amazing. About touching the customer in new ways.

Is Motorola cool? The truth is no, and that is its big problem. It was on the upside of the Wave, the growth side, through the 90s. It used to be cool. Remember in the mid 1990s, when the coolest handset was the StarTac? The marketplace has changed, and Motorola is struggling with this new space.

Just like in the movie "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me," Motorola has lost its mojo.

It's Time to Swing, Baby

How can it get its mojo back? That is the big question and challenge Moto faces today. What is Moto? That was the re-branding effort of several years ago that seems to have faded away.

So the problem is simple. Moto has no mojo. At least not now. Not yet. This does mean it understands the problem -- just not the solution.

Here is a major homerun branding and advertising idea for the company: License Austin Powers and through your advertising and marketing , start telling the story of how Motorola lost its mojo, and how now it is battling to win it back.

Create an entire set of ads, commercials and messages. Involve the audience. Win them over. Get them on your side. Create entertainment with your messaging.

Then watch your numbers climb as Moto gets its mojo back. Be playful. This is one way to build a killer refreshed brand with a name like "Moto."

Remember, the marketplace is much different from the 1990s. So for Motorola to succeed, once again, it has to think out of the box. New rules.

Who and what are Motorola today? How is it different from its competitors? Why should customers like it and love its technology?

These emotional questions are left unanswered, and that is the problem. It's the emotional connection that is missing. People buy and don't buy based on emotions. Period.

Bring On the Sizzle

Motorola has to focus on the brand as well as the technology. The problem is it never knew how. Does it even understand the "brand magic" that has built competitors like Google, Apple, Samsung, HTC and others?

What has Motorola done differently to create excitement and buzz? It was never a marketing company. It was always a very fortunate cellphone company until it fell off the track.

What Motorola needs is to be a brand marketing company. It means thinking in a completely new way. The wireless industry is changing. Yesterday you walked into a cellphone store and bought.

Today you can also walk into a Best Buy (NYSE: BBY), Radio Shack, Apple Store, grocery stores, pharmacies and tons of other retailers. Today it's a marketing game. Today it's all about the brand. The emotional connection.

Apple and Google, of course, are tech companies, but first they are marketing companies. They capture the imagination. Everyone is excited about how they are changing the industry. People love these companies.

This is the next generation of branding. Is Motorola changing the industry? Not anymore. Not for a long time.

It is not alone, however. All of yesterday's leaders are struggling with the same problem. Companies like Nokia and RIM and Palm/HP also have the same challenge.

These were never marketing companies. They didn't need to be in the 1990s and early 2000s. Today they do, however -- and because they are not, they are struggling in the fight for their lives.

As the industry changed over the last five years, they have all been left behind. They do not have a forward-looking brand. They don't understand the branding aspect of the business -- the emotional connection to the customer. Because of this, they no longer lead.

So what is the industry all about today? It's about the sizzle, not about the steak. If you can't capture customers' imagination with the sizzle, they will never taste the steak. This is the reverse of the way the market worked 10 years ago.

So these companies need to reinvigorate their brand. AT&T (NYSE: T) did after SBC acquired the failing long distance company several years ago and turned it around with completely new and different ideas and thinking.

Either transform your brand or create a new brand and build that to effectively compete with today's winners.

Of course you must have cool and cutting-edge technology. You have to lead instead of follow. You must have killer Web browsers and be easy to operate. You have to challenge and tickle and delight the customers.

That is the playground where success is found today. Even if your steak is much better, much juicier, much tastier than the others -- without the sizzle, no one will ever know.

  Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

 

 

 

As my Pick of the Week, I want to tell you about WindStream acquiring Paetec and continuing its runaway growth Wave story.

WindStream is the fourth largest local phone company, and it has been growing very rapidly through acquisitions over the last few years.

It started out as Alltel, a smaller local phone company. A couple years ago, Alltel broke up into a wireless and wire line company. The wireless company kept the name "Alltel" and was acquired by Verizon Wireless.

The wireline company changed its name to "WindStream," transformed itself, and has been on a tear ever since acquiring companies right and left and growing like crazy.

It offers business and consumer telephone and Internet service, and it resells satellite television.

It still doesn't offer wireless, though. I think it is just a matter of time before it gets into the wireless business -- but it maintains that wireless is not in its future. We'll see.

This Paetec deal really beefs up WindStream's business services in more markets nationwide.

You can imagine both CEOs, Jeff Gardner of WindStream and Arunas Chesonis of Paetec, must be very happy indeed. Congratulations, guys.

As for WindStream... yes we are sitting and waiting for your next big acquisition. Who's next? 

 

 


 

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/Saving-Your-Company-From-a-Brand-Wave-Wipeout-72959.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/72959.html

OPINION

Saving Your Company From a Brand Wave Wipeout

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

07/28/11 5:00 AM PT

All customers are not early adopters. Executives tend to forget this. The problem comes when companies take away what customers love and introduce something totally new. This may please a slice of the consumer pie, but it also tells a larger slice they are not important. Turning your back on the customer like this costs you business. You break up the long-term trust and relationship you have carefully been building.

We always think the next generation is better. Often that is true -- but too often, it's worse. On the heels of success, too many companies take their eye off the ball. Every year, new and improved versions are introduced to keep us brand-loyal. That works until something goes wrong. Then years of valuable brand building simply collapse.

This up-and-down movement is the Brand Wave. We see this implosion too often with just about every brand. I'll illustrate this trend with several examples and suggest some remedies.

Then, in my Pick of the Week, I'll you about ZocDoc, a new company that is making it easier to set an immediate appointment with a doctor wherever you are, whether at home or while traveling.

The Amnesia of Success

I mention the Wave frequently -- this time, I'll focus on the Wave in relationship to your brand.

The Brand Wave builds as a company does things right and continues to grow on the upside. Then it always seems to take its eye off the ball and hurt the brand value. That starts their journey down the other side.

Why do so many companies spend years building a valuable brand relationship with the customer and then lose it overnight? I don't think they realize the damage they are doing until it's too late.

They start out hungry. Work hard over years to build strong relationships. Then they begin to believe they are greater than they actually are. They start to believe their own story and they take their eye off the customer.

It's not part of a corporate plan, but it does happen, because executives love to win and eventually forget what brought them success.

They take their eye off the ball. No executive would choose to damage the brand and lose business. Yet it happens every day to countless executives, companies and brands.

This costly mistake is made too often by either changing the focus and design, or through new and different versions of products or services that many existing users don't like or want.

Basking in the glow of success, executives forget the ultimate judge is the customer -- period.

Relationships Must Be Nurtured

When a company lowers quality and reliability, its customer relationships are damaged. That means instead of just buying the next version of your product, your customers will shop around for a competitor's brand. This is the serious problem you want to avoid. You want them to love your product and simply replace it with a newer model.

Also, when a company radically reinvents the design of its products and stops producing what existing customers have grown to love, it is saying "sorry, we are moving on, with or without you." That attitude tells customers they are no longer important. This is another serious problem. You have to continually court your customers -- it's much like a marriage.

You might ask what company would say goodbye to a large percentage of its customer base? Yet it happens every day. After a few years of success, every executive feels certain about what customers want.

They seem to forget it took years and money to build good customer relationships, yet it only takes a moment and a bad decision to lose them.

If you think the competitive marketplace is pressuring you to create a radical new design, fine. Add that new design to your offerings, but don't take away what your customers have grown to like about you. Let customers continue to be happy buying what they know and want.

All customers are not early adopters. Executives tend to forget this. The problem comes when companies take away what customers love and introduce something totally new. This may please a slice of the consumer pie, but it also tells a larger slice they are not important.

Turning your back on the customer like this costs you business. You cannot force a customer. When you try, you break up the long-term trust and relationship you have carefully been building.

3 Disappointments

Tell me the companies or products you can think of that fit this broken model. Here are a few personal illustrations -- I am sure you can think of your own handful.

Hamilton Beach built a very strong brand relationship with me. I finally found a coffee maker I loved, the Brew Station. I could have been a Hamilton Beach customer forever.

However, a few years after creating this perfect design, the company changed it to save money. The new version was thinner and felt cheaper. It was more difficult to use and messier. Water and coffee drips on the counter.

This was suddenly no longer a good product. Hamilton Beach broke the long-term relationship it initially built with me.

Perhaps since the new model cost less to make, it thought profits would be higher. What the company missed is that I am no longer happy. So I may not buy from it again. That means Hamilton Beach loses.

Another example is Palm. As an analyst, companies send me phones on an ongoing basis to use and compare. Until about five years ago, Palm was my favorite because of the simplicity and design -- it had the features I needed.

Each version of the Palm OS was a little better than the last, and I was very happy. I considered myself a long-term Palm user.

What did Palm do? It changed the operating system to webOS. It did more, and had additional features, like GPS, but I did not like it as much as the original version.

The worst part is, it stopped making the Palm OS devices, and I was suddenly dealing with a new OS that I did not like as much.

It turned its back on all its happy customers who loved the Palm OS. It should have continued to update the Palm OS while introducing the new webOS and let the customers choose.

Since then, Palm failed and was acquired by HP (NYSE: HPQ), which is trying to resuscitate it. It is using the webOS in its new tablet computers and smartphones. Palm users loved the earlier devices but felt abandoned by the company.

Another example is Chrysler. My wife and I have been a fan of its Town and Country minivans. We've bought a new van every three years over the past 25 years. We tried different brands but decided the Chrysler was the best for us.

Each purchase was better than the previous one, and it built our brand loyalty and connection with the company. We were happy long-term customers.

However, the last van Chrysler made was suddenly worse instead of better. There were so many problems -- like the handling, wind noise from the sunroof, chipped paint on the dash, leaking air conditioner fluid inside, failure of the transmission and plenty more. Suddenly the van we loved was a big problem.

Chrysler destroyed our brand loyalty. We did not feel comfortable taking it on trips any longer. So we sold it and purchased a replacement a few months ago. This was the first time in as long as I can remember that we did not buy a Chrysler.

Update but Don't Eliminate

There are so many more illustrations of companies that have ridden the Wave up, then down again. Companies like Qwest, Motorola (NYSE: MOT), Nokia (NYSE: NOK), RIM and many others.

There are also companies that have successfully created the next Wave, like IBM (NYSE: IBM), AT&T (NYSE: T) and Verizon. When one product line weakened, they had the next ready to go.

It's a completely new battle every few years, as one Wave crosses over the top and starts the decline. Companies that can do this dance can continue to win by creating another Wave to ride. Companies that cannot will decline.

Remember the meaning of the power of the brand. The power of the brand swings both ways. It can build, or it can cut. It takes years to build, but only a moment to lose.

Brand implosion happens every day. Companies either continue to build their brand and get stronger over time, or they hurt themselves overnight.

One secret is to hang on to your existing technology in order to hang on to your brand relationship with your customers. It's OK to update but not to eliminate. At the same time, you can introduce completely new and different versions and let them grow.

Remember, you are not the most important piece of the puzzle. Your customers are king. They are the source of your success or failure.

Advertising and marketing can steer a marketplace, but that is only one part of creating a successful brand. The brand is much deeper than a jingle. It is a quality relationship that must continue to be built.

It's your customers who buy your stuff, and they control everything. Without customers, you are out of business.

It's that simple -- yet company after company continues to make these serious mistakes. You may think you are king because of your success, but the customer ultimately rules.

Send me your examples of companies, products or individuals who have successfully built their brand and then damaged it. I will write about this again and would love to discuss them.

 Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

 

 

My Pick of the Week is ZocDoc, a company with a strange name that is solving a common problem. Did you ever need to see a doctor in an emergency at home or while traveling? Many of us have, and many of us have been stuck waiting days or weeks for the first available time.

Now ZocDoc helps you find the right doctor, wherever you are, immediately. It solves a real problem. It can find immediate appointments, whereas before it took an average 11-day wait.

This is a new company with operations in nine cities across the United States so far. It has aggressive growth plans and several big name investors like Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com; Mark Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce.com; Khosia Ventures; and angel Ron Conway.

ZocDoc CEO Cyrus Massoumi said he was inspired when he ruptured his eardrum while on a trip and couldn't find a doctor to see him right away. Looks like he saw a real opportunity in all that pain.

The company plans to expand its workforce and cities covered. If successful, it could become a real player in the healthcare arena. Keep up the impressive work, Cyrus!

 


http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/Phone-Bill-Auditing-Can-Save-Serious-Money-72915.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/72915.html

OPINION

Phone Bill Auditing Can Save Serious Money Thursday - July 21, 2011

Twenty-five years ago, I was in the business of auditing phone bills for many companies and saving them hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Back then, that was a lot of money. I felt like Santa Claus and had lots of happy clients. Today, the utility and phone bill auditing business is even more important, but it's completely different. It can save much more money because there are so many more services companies buy. Phone bill auditing was a cottage industry when I was working in it. Today, there are both large and small auditing firms.

 

OPINION

Phone Bill Auditing Can Save Serious Money

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

07/21/11 5:00 AM PT

The auditing business has gone through enormous changes. The methods have changed. So have the results. Companies use more services, but that means more overcharges and more can be recovered. Plus, today there are many more areas that companies need to keep an eye on -- like cellphones, the Internet, networking and so on. There is a gold mine in savings for many companies to find.

Twenty-five years ago, I was in the business of auditing phone bills for many companies and saving them hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Back then, that was a lot of money. I felt like Santa Claus and had lots of happy clients.

Today, the utility and phone bill auditing business is even more important, but it's completely different. It can save much more money because there are so many more services companies buy. This week, I'll focus on the opportunities offered by this sector.

Then, as my Pick of the Week, I'll you about Star2Star Communications, a young and rapidly growing business IP phone service provider.

Ignoring Mistakes Is a Big Mistake

Phone bill auditing was a cottage industry when I was working in it. I met others who audited freight bills, utilities and many other expenses.

Today it's a mix. There are large auditing firms that specialize in helping large corporations manage expenses, reduce costs and get refunds. There are also quite a few very small auditing firms that still help the small and mid-sized market.

One thing I found was that almost every company overpays and does not realize it. How much is the question. For some, it's worth the effort to audit and win refunds, while for others, it's not.

Generally speaking, companies don't audit bills themselves. First of all, they typically don't know how. Second, they don't know what problems to look for or how to solve them. They also don't know the proper contacts at each vendor who can get these issues resolved as quickly as possible.

Many vendors today have special people or departments to handle this because it is such a pervasive problem. I don't believe they overcharge purposely. There are many reasons, but mistakes do happen. However, don't just assume your huge bills are accurate. That is a costly mistake most companies make.

Large corporations get thousands, even tens of thousands of bills every month. Managing them can be impossible. Some are electronic, while others are paper. Electronic bills are the easiest to audit. Run the information through your software and it spits out the results. OK there is a lot more to it than that, but you get the point.

Smaller companies often continue to get paper bills requiring manual audit, which often takes longer. Years ago, I had to lug home big boxes of phone bills and sort through them manually to find overcharges and errors in the bills. It was like sorting through a haystack, but now and then I found a needle and it was worth the effort.

As long as you talk to the right people and can justify your claims, your client company usually gets the refund. Imagine that you closed an office five years ago but have been paying the phone and power bills ever since. Or you downsized and cut half the phone lines, yet charges for them stayed on the bill. It happens. There are many slam-dunks like that. There are also many areas that are a little more difficult to prove.

An audit consists of things like understanding what a client company looks like -- then sorting through the bills to find any discrepancies. There always are plenty. The only question is, are they worth going after?

Today, clients pay many more bills every month, and they can all contain overcharges and errors. Imagine the bills for all the telephone and wireless phones in the company, including voice and data. Imagine the bills for VoIP lines, cable television, Internet access lines and network connections.

Same with freight bills, medical, power, utilities and water. Imagine the bills for all the offices and homes for workers. Getting the point?

Market Is Ripe

I think the timing is perfect for this. I am even tempted to jump back in myself. Companies are paying more and using more services and getting more bills. They are also looking for ways to reduce costs.

There are so many ways to save so many companies so much money, it can make your head spin.

So I think it is a good idea for every company to contact one of the better auditing firms and take a look. Often, the first time they take a look, they'll spot problems that are complicated and time-consuming to address -- but doing so will result in substantial savings.

There are many different ways these auditing firms work. Some charge a flat fee for a job. Others charge an hourly rate. The most popular is to split the savings on a contingency basis. That way the client pays nothing if nothing is won, but an auditor who saves the company big money does very well.

I'll be writing about this topic again, so I invite client companies to write me an email and tell me their stories. What are their experiences with good firms they would recommend, and with those they would advise staying away from?

I also invite auditing companies to write me and tell me their stories. Share your ideas about winning and losing. Remember, companies want to save money. Once they understand there is real money to be recovered, they may be looking for good auditors to help them.

Most companies have billing errors. Once corrected, they often save between 5 percent and 25 percent. So you can see, this can be a worthwhile endeavor.

The auditing business has gone through enormous changes. The methods have changed. So have the results. Companies use more services, but that means more overcharges and more can be recovered.

Plus, today there are many more areas that companies need to keep an eye on -- like cellphones, the Internet, networking and so on.

There is a gold mine in savings for many companies to find. It is too easy to be overcharged and to overpay and not know it. So roll up your sleeves and dig in. There's gold in them thar mountains of phone bills.

 

Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

 

 

 

My Pick of the Week is Star2Star Communications, a young and rapidly growing company in the business IP phone space.

I spoke with CEO Norm Worthington and Director of Communications Les Freed last week, and they had a very interesting story to tell.

While other companies are struggling, Star2Star is growing rapidly and competes directly with legacy systems like the local phone companies, selling IP phone lines and the gear to make them work in the IP space.

Worthington said this is an IP pure-play that serves businesses, not consumers. It started in 2004, had its first product in 2006 and was profitable in 2009. Star2Star has had a very strong year so far in 2011 and expects to double in 2012. Not a bad story, these days.

It has some big name customers, including Dollar General Stores. It does not sell to the customer. It typically sells through distributors that sell their gear to the end users.

Ten years ago, this kind of company was not possible. Today, it is growing rapidly and is one of the firms that is shaking up a corner of the industry. This is the kind of healthy, growing business we should be talking more about.

Star2Star's website claims it is the world's most reliable business grade Internet phone solution. Its management has a contagious positive spirit that comes with entrepreneurial success. It is refreshing to see.

Keep up the good work, Norm and Les. Yours is the kind of company and success we need to see more of.

 

 


 

http://jeffkagan.com/what_a_tech_analyst_does.htm

Is The Industry Analyst Business Dying?

By Jeff Kagan

 

Some say the industry analyst business is fading away. I disagree. It is changing, not dying. While there are analyst firms that may be struggling, the business itself is still very strong, just different. It is that difference I want to discuss with you here.

I have been an industry analyst or a tech analyst for the last 25 years. I got into the business when it was young and growing during the 1980ís and 1990ís. So much has changed since then in the industry. And because of that things have to change among the analyst world. Some understand that and continue to succeed. Some donít.

There seem to be as many different business models as there are analysts. We all specialize in a part of the business. We all do things differently. Some talk with the media and write columns, others write reports, give speeches and write books. We all focus on different parts of the industry and we all charge differently.

So it is up to the client company to find the analyst or firm they want to do business with. Since different analysts provide different services, it is likely that companies will do business with several analysts or firms.

So you have to make sure that what you offer is desired and needed by client companies today. Success ten years ago does not translate to success today unless you offer what they need today, and the way they want it.

If you can do that your business can continue to grow. I have talked with analysts who are still doing strong business and those who are discouraged. There are both in the marketplace. Learn from those who are successful.

Learning how to properly update your offerings and reposition yourself in the marketplace and stay hot is key to your success. And it is not just a one time re-do. You have to continually evaluate the changing marketplace and stay on top of the Wave. Otherwise you will be left behind.

The industry has changed. In the 1980ís and 1990ís there were so many companies and they all needed the industry analyst community. Compared with today they were smaller and they needed us to both talk about them to the world, and to provide competitive intelligence in reports and research.

At that time the industry also had sectors. Each company competed in one sector or another.

Then after the Telecom Act of 1996 the industry started to change. That means the industry analyst sector needed to change to stay current. This is the rub. Some did, but most did not.

Companies that worked in one sector started expanding. An example is local phone companies, which were just in the local phone sector in the 1990ís. Then they started selling long distance, Internet, wireless and television as well.

The many smaller competitors started merging. Today there are fewer, but larger competitors in the same local phone company space.

In the 1990ís there were seven baby bells, three major long distance companies, countless smaller wireless companies, Internet service providers and cable television companies.

Today there are only three baby bells, AT&T, Verizon and CenturyLink. There are no more long distance companies. There are fewer, very large cable television companies, wireless companies, ISPís and so on.

In addition the marketplace has developed a short attention span. Clients no longer have the time to read all the longer reports like they did ten years ago.

So even if your analyst practice still has every competitor as a client, you have lost far more than 50% of your business through mergers.

Doesnít that mean things are bad? Not if you are smart and can reinvent yourself. Today they still need the information, but they want it in summary form. You can provide the full report of course, but the summary page is generally what is needed.

The media has also changed. In the 1990ís the newspaper business was healthy and focused on the amazing story of the communications industry. Local newspapers from coast to coast started a weekly section looking at all the communications news and there was plenty.

Media today is just as important, but looks completely different. Some newspapers have closed while others have downsized. The staff is smaller and the specialists are no longer there.

Today the web is growing in importance and is growing as vital today as print was in the 1990ís. New services lead this news sector and traditional newspapers and magazines are growing their web presence as well.

I write a column for www.EcommerceTimes.com and it is read from coast to coast, and in fact worldwide by people interested in what I write about. It shows up high on Google for News and Web search.

If you take a closer look you realize it is an incredible transformation that is occurring in the industry. But this is change, not death.

As an example look under Google forÖ   analyst ďjeff kaganĒ  and you will see what I am talking about. Youíll find me in tens of thousands of stories and pieces that I have either written or been quoted in. 

This opportunity did not exist in the 1990ís. But today if you know how the industry is changing, and how to plug in, you can play the game to win.

Now what about the fewer client companies? This is not as difficult as it seems. There were twenty or thirty or more smaller companies in the past. They have since merged and today the same sectors now have less than ten, very large companies.

Just looking at that trend things donít look good. However there are also new sectors competing in the space. Consider telephone. Who do the three baby bells compete with? Ten years ago they competed with the long distance industry. They won and acquired the long distance giants.

Today the baby bells face several new sectors. One big competitor is relatively new, the cable television industry. Companies like Comcast, Time Warner, Cox and all the rest. They all offer telephone using VoIP services.

In fact the cable television industry competes head to head with the local phone industry. They both offer local and long distance telephone, high speed Internet and television. The phone companies offer IPTV or resell satellite.

Phone companies are also competing with a variety of new and smaller competitors in the space like Star2Star, which offer IP local phone service, Time Warner Telecom, Vonage and Skype, all the wireless competitors and so many more. 

Yesterday we had to do business with a separate local phone company and cable television company. Today the customer can choose one and say goodbye to the other. Itís an all or nothing competitive battle. The cable television industry is a new potential client for the industry analyst community.

In addition there are other sectors like smaller competitors who offer telephone, VoIP and other IP services including voice. The local phone companies are losing business to these new competitors pretty quickly.

Another sector is the new smart phone segment. It is transforming the wireless space. Traditional handset makers like RIM, Nokia, Ericsson and Motorola are new competing with brand new handset makers like Apple and Google.

Bottom line everything about this industry is transforming itself, sector after sector. Parts are on the downside of the Wave while other parts are on the growing side.

Continuing down the same path as ten years ago is a dead end. Look at the changing industry and where you can best fit in and lead.

The growing part of the Wave is all these new segments. All these new companies who need competitive intelligence. Who need you to pay attention to them and talk about them and write about them.

There are so many smaller and newer companies with innovative technologies that are transforming the industry. They need to both understand what is happening in the industry and they need to get their name out there.

Your audience will be customers, investors, workers, competitors and suppliers. That has not changed. Just the way you reach them has been updated. Have you updated the way you reach out to them?

So if the industry analyst community will take itís blinders off and focus on how the industry is changing, you can find new opportunities right in front of you. You will have to change what you do. You will have to jump from one Wave to the next. But isnít that the price every success story has to pay?

Stay tuned in, and change with the industry and you will find opportunities will come knocking on your door. When you lead, you find you donít really have to work hard to find new clients. As always, they tend to find you.

 


 

http://jeffkagan.com/what_a_tech_analyst_does.htm

he Industry Analyst Business is Changing

By Jeff Kagan

The Industry Analyst business is still healthy, but is now looks very different from just ten short years ago. In fact it continues to change and will look just as different ten years from now. Whether you are a company who wants to do business with an industry analyst, or whether you want to become one yourself, there are important things you need to understand and important questions you need answered. Letís talk about some of them.

I have been an industry analyst or tech analyst for twenty-five years. I have watched the business change quite a bit over that time. It is a completely different place than just a few short years ago.

All Analysts Are Different

One thing is important to understand about this sector from the start. Analysts are all different. They focus on different segments. They offer different services. They charge differently. So you must consider each on their own merit.

In addition most analyst firms are reasonable, flexible and negotiable. If you want to do business with an analyst, but on a different basis than presented, bring this up. Suggest the terms that work for your company. Most analysts can work with you on your basis if need be. No one wants to turn away business.

Brand Wins

Ten years ago the big brand names were mostly among the analyst firms themselves, although there were a few of us individuals with strong brand recognition as well.

Today the model I have always worked by seems to be growing in popularity. Individuals are becoming the well-known brand names and are growing in strength and influence.

Many have left the big name firms and are creating their own small, analyst boutique firms. Some do well and others donít. Being in business for yourself can be risky, but the rewards can be great as well.

Client companies used to spend quite a bit of money with a few of the very large firms, and a few select individuals as well.

Today, they are doing less business with the larger firms and moving to the brand name individuals that can be most helpful to them. They look for the analysts that can give them the biggest bang for the buck.

This also means many larger firms have been downsizing. Thatís a shame because there is still a place for what the larger firms do. The problem is they find it difficult to change with the market and get left behind.

Heading out on your own is not easy, but when you are successful it can be very rewarding. To be successful, you have to find a niche and lead in that space. That means you must be at the top of your game.

Know that running your own business is a lot more complicated than you many think. You are responsible for everything and that can take time away from what you love to do. I started my practice when I was too young to know better.

Think about the direction you want to go. If you are not cut out for running your own small business it is often much better working for a larger firm. You can still build your brand name inside the company brand.

Larger firms actually need this if they want to grow going forward. Both are good options depending on you.

As The Industry Changes, So Do Analysts

Ten years ago the industry operated in sectors like local, long distance, wireless, Internet, cable television and so on. Today the sector lines have vanished. Companies like AT&T and Verizon offer all these services.

Some sectors have vanished. One example is the long distance industry. A decade ago it was marketed as a separate service. Today long distance is just part of the bigger bundle sold by telephone, wireless, cable television and VoIP companies. 

Industry transformation has changed the analyst sector. Analysts must understand what is happening and get with the program. Either that or they will fail. The analyst business is still strong and healthy, but looks very different over the last decade.

In addition there are other sectors like health care, computers, software, and assorted technologies that are transforming their spaces. Look at how Apple and Google are transforming the wireless space with iPhone and Android. Look at the pressure previous leaders like RIM and Palm (HP) are having.

Look at how CenturyLink and Windstream are transforming the local phone space. A few short years ago these were unknown. Today they are the number three and four local phone company. In fact CenturyLink is now the number three baby bell. Or how Time Warner, Cox and Comcast are changing with new brands like Xfinity.

Look at how other industries are starting to work with the wireless and wire line business to transform what they do. This created new segments and new opportunities.

This means there are more sectors and companies to follow. In that world we see most analysts focus on one sector or another.

I have always gone against the grain. I follow the larger, changing industry in many segments. I look at the opportunities and the challenges. The leaders and the companies that struggle. The new technologies that change our world.

I look at the Wave. Who is on the young, growth side of the Wave and who is on the declining side. To me this is very exciting because I get to follow many companies, many sectors, many technologies and all the changes that are reshaping our world.

Bottom Line: Growing But Changing

So as you can see the industry analyst community is both contracting and expanding along with the industry. Firms and individuals who can make this leap are still doing well. Others struggle.

You must change as the industry and the opportunity changes.

The marketplace for the traditional industry analyst model is shrinking. The Wave saw its rise in the 1990ís and has been on the down side during the last ten years.

However a new Wave has begun. This new model is for both the industry and the analyst. This new model is on the growth side of the Wave.

So it is important to understand where the industry is on the Wave. It is important to know where the opportunities are on the Wave. And it is important for you to put yourself on the right side of the Wave.

Itís vital to build a strong brand name. It is important to continually transition your business to the new segment. If you can do that either for yourself or your firm you will continue to do well. If you cannot you will struggle along with many others. The choice is that simple and that complex.

 


 

http://jeffkagan.com/what_a_tech_analyst_does.htm

What a Tech Analyst Does

By Jeff Kagan

 

Whether you want to do business with a tech analyst or become an industry analyst for a career, first you have to understand what we do. Since I have been a tech analyst for twenty-five years let me fill you in.

First of all it is important to remember that tech analysts are all different. Even if two seemingly follow the same space, what they follow is actually quite different. The way they follow it is different. What they offer to the marketplace and to their clients is different. How they interact with the marketplace is different. How they earn income is different.

In fact I have not met two analysts who were the same. That is good because there is always room for other good analysts. And it is also a little rough because it is difficult to explain what you do.

Remember the old saying, there are a hundred ways to skin a cat? Like with many careers this also applies to the analyst community.

First it is important to break the analyst functions into two areas. One is a tech or industry analyst. The other is a stock or investment analyst.

These are focused on two different areas.

The stock analyst is mainly interested in deciding whether and how to invest.

The tech analyst looks at the marketplace and competition and success or failure. Tech analysts compare the companies, the technologies, the products and services. They look at it from a customer service and care perspective. They see who is winning, who is losing and discuss why.

They also look at where the industry and competitors came from, where we are today, and what is coming tomorrow. Some of us are involved with the media. As an example I write a column. Here is a link to take a look. http://www.ectnews.com/perl/section/jeff_kagan/ 

I also get calls from reporters looking for comments on the stories they are writing. That means print, broadcast and web reporters, and not only from the United States, but worldwide.

I have also written reports and books for companies who request them. I give speeches to groups of customers at company events, or to groups of workers or to groups of executives bringing a fresh perspective.

Other analysts may do some of these same things, while others do something completely different. Yet the way we work is different. At the same time we all call ourselves analysts.

There are more than tech analysts. There are also industry analysts, telecom analysts, wireless analysts, cable television analysts, health care technology analysts and so on.

In fact there is not a simple term we all fall under. It can be a struggle to come up with the right name for what you do. This is difficult especially since as the analyst grows the area they follow changes.

So if you are looking for a job in an analyst firm, let them give you the title. They are looking to fill a slot. It helps them in marketing. As you get into the role your work can move in the direction you are more comfortable.

If you are an entrepreneur and hanging out a shingle, you will want to both have a broad enough title so you are not boxed in, and have a tight enough title so you can become an expert in a certain space. There are no easy answers.

If you are a client or potential client it is important to understand how an analyst works and how they earn a living. Once again there are so many different ways and each firm follows their own path.

Larger firms often have one person or group selling the services and collecting the fees, while another person or group is the analyst. However most analyst firms are very small and typically the same person often does both. There are countless ways that analyst firms work, so it is important for both the analyst and the client to understand and work together.

There are also separate firms who fill the gap. They operate their own businesses and help analysts with the financial end. Itís like having a separate person handling the finances, but they are a service like accounting is a service. This often is a good compromise.

There is so much more to the tech analyst business, but this is a good start. Sound interesting? To tell you the truth I love it. I have been a tech analyst for twenty-five years and have worked with quite a few companies, large and small.

However you must realize this is not an easy business. Then again nothing worthwhile is. If you love what you do then your work is not work, it is play. You are welcome to visit my web site and look around. www.jeffkagan.com

 


 

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/Its-a-Brand-New-Day-for-CenturyLink-72860.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/72860.html

OPINION

It's a Brand New Day for CenturyLink

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

07/14/11 5:00 AM PT

CEO Glen Post and the rest of CenturyLink's executives will have to brace for a slap in the face when they confront the reality of the new world they have entered. If they make one mistake, slap. If they miss one projection, slap. If they miss one goal, slap. Suddenly, every word they say will be closely watched, listened to and measured. The wiggle room they have enjoyed until now will be gone.

Now that CenturyLink has completed its merger with Qwest, what is next for the company and for the marketplace? The media, investors, competitors and others are starting to ask me on a regular basis whether this will be successful.

In my Pick of the Week, I want to say thank you for a great first year writing this column.

New Ball Game

I have worked with many companies in the industry and always had a good sense of the direction they were heading in. I have always shared my thoughts with anyone who asked, including members of the press, who call daily.

So far, I think CenturyLink shows a healthy growth curve and is a strong company. That is the good part. However, it has now crossed over the line. It has become large enough that the line in the sand and its world will be very different going forward. Will it continue to win in this new environment?

CenturyLink is not like other similar companies. It has quickly risen through acquisitions from a quiet, pipsqueak of a company to the No. 3 Baby Bell in the United States, right behind Verizon and AT&T (NYSE: T).

This company is the newcomer to the space, while the other two have been there for a long time already. That means the game has changed for CenturyLink. If it recognizes things are now different, and if it handles them correctly, it could remain a winner moving forward.

However, if it tries to continue doing business the way it has till now, I am concerned that it may run into some serious problems.

Harsh Environment

CenturyLink must now act like a completely different company. In some ways, this reminds me of several years ago when SBC acquired AT&T, Bellsouth and Cingular. It suddenly changed its identity. While it definitely has some problems with its model, it is continuing to grow.

This first year is key. How CenturyLink acts, how it treats investors, customers, the media, workers and analysts matters. Does it understand?

CEO Glen Post and the rest of the executives will have to brace for a slap in the face when they confront the reality of the new world they have entered. If they make one mistake, slap. If they miss one projection, slap. If they miss one goal, slap. That's reality in the big leagues today.

There will be a sudden change in the way they do business now. Will they be easier to work with or harder? Will customers like them more or less? What about workers and investors?

Suddenly, every word they say will be closely watched, listened to and measured. Their comments will be compared to the competition and to what they have said in the past. Their performance will be looked at much more closely than ever before. The wiggle room they have enjoyed until now will be gone.

CenturyLink was always a very quiet company. Going forward, that may not help it. It has to be concerned with interest from outsiders.

Now that it is the No. 3 Baby Bell, it will be in the spotlight. Will it embrace that new world, or will it eat them up? That is the only question. It can't remain the same. As it changes, will it improve or get worse?

Relationships Are Key

If CenturyLink is too quiet, it will be viewed as secretive. Just because no one ever paid attention to it before doesn't change things. It will blow up in its face very quickly.

Remember how Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S) struggled a decade ago with this same problem? This smaller and more private company had a hard time with the realities of keeping a good public face in this part of the marketplace until Dan Hesse joined as CEO and started to turn things around.

What about CenturyLink's PR and analyst relations? Does the company understand the wave of change that is upon it? Its executives will have to schedule conference calls and briefings and meetings and keep everyone up to date. It will have to put out regular press releases. Its public relations will have to improve dramatically and quickly.

Why is this important? Analysts and reporters are the minds and mouths of the industry. Either you give them something to focus on or they will find something themselves. Suddenly, CenturyLink is in the crosshairs.

One way gives the company more control. The other way is simply reacting to negative news. And once the negative stories get started, it is very difficult to turn them around. They feed on each other.

Pivotal Moment

I think CenturyLink has an honest group of executives -- I just hope they are ready. I have worked with many groups over the years. Some get it and others don't, and the result can be either delightful or painful.

Do you remember a book called The Peter Principle? It's about getting promoted time after time until your latest promotion is finally over your head, and the problems that come from that. The same thing applies here.

CenturyLink is not a traditional giant Baby Bell. It is headquartered in a quiet southern state. It has plans to expand beyond the traditional telephone business. It is playing with wireless and television.

If it is successful, it could reinvent the entire space, or at least the entire company. If successful, it could become a vibrant and attractive competitor, like Verizon and AT&T. If not, it will be lumped into the same struggling slush pile that Qwest has been struggling in for years.

This moment in time is CenturyLink's moment to define itself. After this passes, if the image in the mind of the marketplace is wrong, it will have to spend a fortune in time and money trying to correct it. It's much better to do things right out of the gates for this suddenly new company.

 

Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

 

 

 

As my Pick of the Week, I want to say thank you! I have been an analyst for the past 25 years, and this is my one-year anniversary writing this column. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I do writing it for you.

Selecting interesting topics is always fun. There is so much to sort through each week. There are so many companies, news announcements, and important topics to discuss.

I have received so many emails and phone calls from readers. Some are comments on stories I wrote. Others are ideas for the next column. Still others are introductions from executives and people and companies wanting to get on my radar. Even an occasional new client. I enjoy it all.

Not all are happy. I often get emails from executives at companies who are tweaked by some stinging comments. Remember -- the same piece of news can be positive for some and negative for others. One example is when a company merges and workers are cut. Investors love this move, but the workers hate it. Both are equally important, aren't they?

This column reflects my opinion and what's on my mind, and I always welcome hearing from everyone with new ideas or comments about the other side of the story.

I love hearing from you about how the tech industry is changing and getting better. There are so many breakthrough ideas that affect us all. I want to learn about them and share them with all of you.

Here's to another great year. Keep in touch. Cheers! 

 


 

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/Government-Regulation-Is-Killing-the-Entrepreneurial-Spirit-72819.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/72819.html

OPINION

Government Regulation Is Killing the Entrepreneurial Spirit

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

07/07/11 5:00 AM PT

While regulation helps us on one side, it hurts us on the other. It cuts out the opportunity for us to succeed and to grow as entrepreneurs. We need entrepreneurs. They break the rules. They find the new opportunities. They create new markets. They create the next wave we all ride.

I recently heard a couple of very interesting interviews on the radio -- both with Bernie Marcus, one of the original founders of The Home Depot. They turned out to be two of the most interesting and important interviews I have heard.

Marcus said that government regulation has grown so out of control that it would make starting and succeeding with The Home Depot (NYSE: HD) impossible today. What?

For my Pick of the Week, I want to tell you about Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) Health and the future of the segment.

Shooting Down Success

Marcus was a guest on both the Dennis Prager and the Michael Medved radio shows. We see great success stories like The Home Depot and want to jump into the entrepreneurial world of opportunity and get started, he told the hosts. That's the good part.

However, he also said that if he were going to start The Home Depot today, he couldn't succeed because of government regulation. That stunned me. Is that true?

I don't think most people realize what has happened to our world over the last couple decades. How it has changed. Too much government regulation has become a roadblock, according to Marcus. If that is true, then it means it's impossible for countless entrepreneurial companies to succeed today.

That means others will not have the opportunities these companies create -- like workers and suppliers and advertising agencies and newspaper ad departments and so on.

Over the years, one by one, we hear of all these new regulations, and we feel the government is looking out for us. However, we lose sight of the damage that regulation is doing until people like Marcus shake up our thinking.

I guess this is an example of the difference between feeling and thinking. The truth is there are two sides of the coin. While regulation helps us on one side, it hurts us on the other.

It cuts out the opportunity for us to succeed and to grow as entrepreneurs. We need entrepreneurs. They break the rules. They find the new opportunities. They create new markets. They create the next wave we all ride.

However, we have been building the walls higher and making it harder for new companies to start and succeed.

How do we start a fire without the spark of entrepreneurship? Do we really want to cut out the opportunities that made America great?

Better Days

Bernie Marcus talks about a new group he is part of -- the Job Creators Alliance. This is a new organization that is full of leaders like himself who are trying to educate the marketplace and turn back the clock to the successful times we enjoyed just a few short years ago... before its too late.

The group has a growing list of leaders including Brad Anderson, CEO of Best Buy (NYSE: BBY), John Mackey of Whole Foods and many more.

Bernie Marcus and I both live in Atlanta, and I remember the early days when he and Arthur Blank started The Home Depot. They were young and broke, and at first, most of the boxes lining their store's shelves were empty. They were there to make The Home Depot look bigger than it really was. It worked. They started with one store, then added another and another.

The Home Depot became an incredible success story. There are many other similar stories. Consider Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL), Google, Facebook, and so on. Are other incredible success stories doomed if we keep heading in the same direction? Yes, according to Marcus.

That is something we need to think about and correct immediately before we lose our entrpreneurial spirit.

These radio interviews were great, but they are just the beginning. This is an important message. Bernie, you have to tell the world. Give more interviews and speeches. Write articles. Write a book.

This is such an important message that everyone needs to hear it before it's too late. When I heard it from Bernie Marcus, it shocked me like a slap in the face. Now it's my turn to slap you in the face.

Just think about this important message and if you agree, act.

 Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

 

 

 

My Pick of the Week is Google Health. The idea is fantastic. Among other things, it lets users store and manage health records in one central place, and they can share them with family, friends or doctors.

The only problem is Google Health is closing. Yes it is. Bye-bye. How can that be? It's only been around for a few years. Will the promise of eHealth and mHealth ever come to pass? The answer is yes, but it will take a little longer.

Google was a great company to join in the effort. The only problem is it has grown and matured and changed quite a bit over the last few years since it went public.

It is no longer that young, entrepreneurial company willing to spend years developing an opportunity if it can't be profitable from the start.

Remember the good ole days when the world used Google to search, but it never made a dime? Then it went public, and everything changed.

Will Google Health ever come back? Yes, I think it will -- perhaps a few years from now under a different name. This is the direction of the industry and the opportunity. Google Health will come back when the marketplace is mature enough to make it profitable.

That's too bad. It's a real blow to this new segment of the industry, and we will simply have to deal with it as it continues to grow and become relevant and profitable over the next several years.

Many other important companies that are also in this young space will have to work harder. They will have to jump in and take up the slack -- companies like Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM) and groups like the Wireless-Life Sciences Alliance.

Google may be bowing out, but there is still Microsoft HealthVault, as well as a handful of other health information storage services.

So don't worry -- even without Google Health, the future still looks as bright as ever, but the path may sometimes be rough as opportunities come and go. 

 


 

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/Sprint-Nextel-and-Lightsquared-Uh-Oh-72775.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/72775.html

OPINION

Sprint Nextel and Lightsquared: Uh-Oh

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

06/30/11 5:00 AM PT

I was shocked to read that Sprint forged a deal with Lightsquared at this time. What about waiting to see if Lightsquared can solve the problem that has its back against the wall? Wouldn't that make sense? Shouldn't there be an order to things? Perhaps Sprint sees this Lightsquared deal as important in the less-than-bright future it is suddenly facing.

I have been impressed with the recovery that Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S) has shown over the last few years, but now it has struck a deal with LightSquared that puts the cart way ahead of the horse.

Is Sprint making a big mistake while trying to bounce back from another body blow it just took? I'll take a look at how its future may be shaping up thanks to these developments.

In my Pick of the Week section, I'll you how Consumer Reports ranks the cable television companies on customer service.

Blinded by the Light?

A few years ago, Sprint Nextel was crashing and burning, until it hired CEO Dan Hesse. Since then, it has managed to pull up in the nick of time. During the last year, we have seen that recovery get stronger, although the company still has a long way to go.

Suddenly, it faces two significant new challenges.

The first is a deal Sprint just cut with LightSquared, which confuses and concerns me. Will this help or hurt it with investors, customers and workers going forward?

In fact, several clients have asked me to write a report and share my opinion about LightSquared with them. This is not a typical company. It is a very interesting company, with a very interesting history and two very interesting men running it. Let me share a few thoughts with you.

Generally speaking, I like the idea. I like the entrepreneurial spirit. This is not a typical small business story. One interesting aside -- LightSquared is trying to start out big and important instead of starting small and learning the way and growing.

That will be an additional challenge. That creates a lot of pushback from various others in the industry, because when it launches, it will have an enormous impact. So Lightsquared has to get it right -- I don't know whether it understands that yet.

While the company has been around for more than a decade, it was acquired not long ago by Phil Falcone, who had been giving thought to the opportunity for several years. Last year, he hired Sanjiv Ahuja as CEO, and the company was on the fast track -- until it ran off the road with this serious GPS problem.

Sprint is one of the industry's long time brands. Number three. It's had a rough period, but it seems to be coming out of it. However, it suddenly faces a new and serious challenge.

We all thought Sprint would merge with T-Mobile, but now AT&T (NYSE: T) has jumped in ahead of it. Now Sprint's future may be starting to look shaky again.

Maybe that's one of the reasons it entered this deal with Lightsquared. It is, in essence, a startup. It has a great idea, and there is a need in the marketplace.

Risky Business

However, LightSquared is having a heck of a time getting past the fact that its technology collides head to head with the GPS industry. Until it gets that problem fixed, its future remains one big question mark.

As good an idea as it may have -- and as much as the marketplace needs a solution like this -- if it is delayed a year or longer, other new technologies will enter the scene and Lightsquared's opportunity may fade away, unrealized.

This company should be working with all its might to solve this important problem. However, it also continues to make deals with other companies, as if there were no question mark in the picture.

That's the confusion I have shared with so many reporters who have interviewed me and what I'm writing about in the report.

Sprint is not its only partner -- LightSquared has struck deals with a variety of companies. However, most of these other deals were struck before the GPS problem raised its ugly head earlier this year.

So, did Sprint enter this fast-and-loose deal because it was under the gun, thanks to the AT&T, T-Mobile deal?

Let's say the wireless merger does happen. I would then expect to see Sprint forced into a deal of its own that we don't yet see. Either it will acquire, or it will be acquired.

So, as you can see, change is continuing to transform this space. Perhaps Sprint sees this Lightsquared deal as important in the less-than-bright future it is suddenly facing.

If Lightsquared can solve the GPS problem, it might become a strong and growing company. Maybe. No one knows yet. There is a lot of ground to cover first. Then, if it can clear this one big hurdle from its path, it still faces the same challenges as any startup.

That's why I was shocked to read that Sprint forged a deal with Lightsquared at this time. What about waiting to see if Lightsquared can solve the problem that has its back against the wall? Wouldn't that make sense? Shouldn't there be an order to things?

We just don't know what the future will hold for these deals. Will AT&T and T-Mobile be approved to merge? Will Lightsquared be able to solve its big GPS problem that could stand in the way of its launch? Will Sprint merge with another company? Will they all be successful?

I may like Sprint and Lightsquared, but there are many serious questions that need to be answered. How about not putting the cart ahead of the horse? Talk about living life on the edge.

Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

 

 

My Pick of the Week is Consumer Reports' rankings of cable television companies for customer service.

The best in cable TV are DirecTV (Nasdaq: DTV) and Wow. The worst are Charter, Mediacom, RCN and Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSK).

The best in phone service are Bright House Networks, Cablevision/Optimum and Cox. The worst is Charter.

The best in Internet service is WOW. The worst are Mediacom, Charter, HughesNet and RCN.

Customer service and customer care are two of the most important ingredients in a company's success going forward.

The rest of the companies are stuck somewhere in the middle. This should be a wake-up call to all of them as the marketplace gets more competitive. Satellite television and local phone company IPTV are making progress in their efforts to compete.

What's the secret to success? Scott Wise, the VP of customer care for Cox says, "Creating a customer experience that is second to none is Cox's goal." I think that is the key. Focus on keeping your customers and workers happy, and then your investors will also be happy.

I have worked with several, and trust me when I say they are not all created equal. Increasingly, customers have the choice between one cable television company, two satellite television companies, and if they are lucky, an IPTV service from their local phone company like AT&T U-verse or Verizon FiOS. They all have strengths and weaknesses.

Year by year, the marketplace is getting more competitive. It is turning into a customer-focused marketplace. That is the good part. That means increasingly the customer is in the driver's seat rather than the company. Because of that, companies have to focus on taking better care of the customer than their competitors do.

So congrats to the winners. To the losers: Wake up before you get hurt! As the competition heats up, only the best will win. 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Jeff Kagan is an E-Commerce Times columnist and tech analyst following wireless, telecom, healthcare and technology. He is also an author, speaker and consultant. Email him at jeff@jeffKAGAN.com. Read the first chapters of his new book Life After Stroke, now available at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 


 

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/Its-a-Brand-New-Day-for-CenturyLink-72860.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/72860.html

OPINION

It's a Brand New Day for CenturyLink

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

07/14/11 5:00 AM PT

CEO Glen Post and the rest of CenturyLink's executives will have to brace for a slap in the face when they confront the reality of the new world they have entered. If they make one mistake, slap. If they miss one projection, slap. If they miss one goal, slap. Suddenly, every word they say will be closely watched, listened to and measured. The wiggle room they have enjoyed until now will be gone.

Now that CenturyLink has completed its merger with Qwest, what is next for the company and for the marketplace? The media, investors, competitors and others are starting to ask me on a regular basis whether this will be successful.

In my Pick of the Week, I want to say thank you for a great first year writing this column.

New Ball Game

I have worked with many companies in the industry and always had a good sense of the direction they were heading in. I have always shared my thoughts with anyone who asked, including members of the press, who call daily.

So far, I think CenturyLink shows a healthy growth curve and is a strong company. That is the good part. However, it has now crossed over the line. It has become large enough that the line in the sand and its world will be very different going forward. Will it continue to win in this new environment?

CenturyLink is not like other similar companies. It has quickly risen through acquisitions from a quiet, pipsqueak of a company to the No. 3 Baby Bell in the United States, right behind Verizon and AT&T (NYSE: T).

This company is the newcomer to the space, while the other two have been there for a long time already. That means the game has changed for CenturyLink. If it recognizes things are now different, and if it handles them correctly, it could remain a winner moving forward.

However, if it tries to continue doing business the way it has till now, I am concerned that it may run into some serious problems.

Harsh Environment

CenturyLink must now act like a completely different company. In some ways, this reminds me of several years ago when SBC acquired AT&T, Bellsouth and Cingular. It suddenly changed its identity. While it definitely has some problems with its model, it is continuing to grow.

This first year is key. How CenturyLink acts, how it treats investors, customers, the media, workers and analysts matters. Does it understand?

CEO Glen Post and the rest of the executives will have to brace for a slap in the face when they confront the reality of the new world they have entered. If they make one mistake, slap. If they miss one projection, slap. If they miss one goal, slap. That's reality in the big leagues today.

There will be a sudden change in the way they do business now. Will they be easier to work with or harder? Will customers like them more or less? What about workers and investors?

Suddenly, every word they say will be closely watched, listened to and measured. Their comments will be compared to the competition and to what they have said in the past. Their performance will be looked at much more closely than ever before. The wiggle room they have enjoyed until now will be gone.

CenturyLink was always a very quiet company. Going forward, that may not help it. It has to be concerned with interest from outsiders.

Now that it is the No. 3 Baby Bell, it will be in the spotlight. Will it embrace that new world, or will it eat them up? That is the only question. It can't remain the same. As it changes, will it improve or get worse?

Relationships Are Key

If CenturyLink is too quiet, it will be viewed as secretive. Just because no one ever paid attention to it before doesn't change things. It will blow up in its face very quickly.

Remember how Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S) struggled a decade ago with this same problem? This smaller and more private company had a hard time with the realities of keeping a good public face in this part of the marketplace until Dan Hesse joined as CEO and started to turn things around.

What about CenturyLink's PR and analyst relations? Does the company understand the wave of change that is upon it? Its executives will have to schedule conference calls and briefings and meetings and keep everyone up to date. It will have to put out regular press releases. Its public relations will have to improve dramatically and quickly.

Why is this important? Analysts and reporters are the minds and mouths of the industry. Either you give them something to focus on or they will find something themselves. Suddenly, CenturyLink is in the crosshairs.

One way gives the company more control. The other way is simply reacting to negative news. And once the negative stories get started, it is very difficult to turn them around. They feed on each other.

Pivotal Moment

I think CenturyLink has an honest group of executives -- I just hope they are ready. I have worked with many groups over the years. Some get it and others don't, and the result can be either delightful or painful.

Do you remember a book called The Peter Principle? It's about getting promoted time after time until your latest promotion is finally over your head, and the problems that come from that. The same thing applies here.

CenturyLink is not a traditional giant Baby Bell. It is headquartered in a quiet southern state. It has plans to expand beyond the traditional telephone business. It is playing with wireless and television.

If it is successful, it could reinvent the entire space, or at least the entire company. If successful, it could become a vibrant and attractive competitor, like Verizon and AT&T. If not, it will be lumped into the same struggling slush pile that Qwest has been struggling in for years.

This moment in time is CenturyLink's moment to define itself. After this passes, if the image in the mind of the marketplace is wrong, it will have to spend a fortune in time and money trying to correct it. It's much better to do things right out of the gates for this suddenly new company.

 

Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

 

 

 

As my Pick of the Week, I want to say thank you! I have been an analyst for the past 25 years, and this is my one-year anniversary writing this column. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I do writing it for you.

Selecting interesting topics is always fun. There is so much to sort through each week. There are so many companies, news announcements, and important topics to discuss.

I have received so many emails and phone calls from readers. Some are comments on stories I wrote. Others are ideas for the next column. Still others are introductions from executives and people and companies wanting to get on my radar. Even an occasional new client. I enjoy it all.

Not all are happy. I often get emails from executives at companies who are tweaked by some stinging comments. Remember -- the same piece of news can be positive for some and negative for others. One example is when a company merges and workers are cut. Investors love this move, but the workers hate it. Both are equally important, aren't they?

This column reflects my opinion and what's on my mind, and I always welcome hearing from everyone with new ideas or comments about the other side of the story.

I love hearing from you about how the tech industry is changing and getting better. There are so many breakthrough ideas that affect us all. I want to learn about them and share them with all of you.

Here's to another great year. Keep in touch. Cheers! 

 


 

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/Government-Regulation-Is-Killing-the-Entrepreneurial-Spirit-72819.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/72819.html

OPINION

Government Regulation Is Killing the Entrepreneurial Spirit

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

07/07/11 5:00 AM PT

While regulation helps us on one side, it hurts us on the other. It cuts out the opportunity for us to succeed and to grow as entrepreneurs. We need entrepreneurs. They break the rules. They find the new opportunities. They create new markets. They create the next wave we all ride.

I recently heard a couple of very interesting interviews on the radio -- both with Bernie Marcus, one of the original founders of The Home Depot. They turned out to be two of the most interesting and important interviews I have heard.

Marcus said that government regulation has grown so out of control that it would make starting and succeeding with The Home Depot (NYSE: HD) impossible today. What?

For my Pick of the Week, I want to tell you about Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) Health and the future of the segment.

Shooting Down Success

Marcus was a guest on both the Dennis Prager and the Michael Medved radio shows. We see great success stories like The Home Depot and want to jump into the entrepreneurial world of opportunity and get started, he told the hosts. That's the good part.

However, he also said that if he were going to start The Home Depot today, he couldn't succeed because of government regulation. That stunned me. Is that true?

I don't think most people realize what has happened to our world over the last couple decades. How it has changed. Too much government regulation has become a roadblock, according to Marcus. If that is true, then it means it's impossible for countless entrepreneurial companies to succeed today.

That means others will not have the opportunities these companies create -- like workers and suppliers and advertising agencies and newspaper ad departments and so on.

Over the years, one by one, we hear of all these new regulations, and we feel the government is looking out for us. However, we lose sight of the damage that regulation is doing until people like Marcus shake up our thinking.

I guess this is an example of the difference between feeling and thinking. The truth is there are two sides of the coin. While regulation helps us on one side, it hurts us on the other.

It cuts out the opportunity for us to succeed and to grow as entrepreneurs. We need entrepreneurs. They break the rules. They find the new opportunities. They create new markets. They create the next wave we all ride.

However, we have been building the walls higher and making it harder for new companies to start and succeed.

How do we start a fire without the spark of entrepreneurship? Do we really want to cut out the opportunities that made America great?

Better Days

Bernie Marcus talks about a new group he is part of -- the Job Creators Alliance. This is a new organization that is full of leaders like himself who are trying to educate the marketplace and turn back the clock to the successful times we enjoyed just a few short years ago... before its too late.

The group has a growing list of leaders including Brad Anderson, CEO of Best Buy (NYSE: BBY), John Mackey of Whole Foods and many more.

Bernie Marcus and I both live in Atlanta, and I remember the early days when he and Arthur Blank started The Home Depot. They were young and broke, and at first, most of the boxes lining their store's shelves were empty. They were there to make The Home Depot look bigger than it really was. It worked. They started with one store, then added another and another.

The Home Depot became an incredible success story. There are many other similar stories. Consider Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL), Google, Facebook, and so on. Are other incredible success stories doomed if we keep heading in the same direction? Yes, according to Marcus.

That is something we need to think about and correct immediately before we lose our entrpreneurial spirit.

These radio interviews were great, but they are just the beginning. This is an important message. Bernie, you have to tell the world. Give more interviews and speeches. Write articles. Write a book.

This is such an important message that everyone needs to hear it before it's too late. When I heard it from Bernie Marcus, it shocked me like a slap in the face. Now it's my turn to slap you in the face.

Just think about this important message and if you agree, act.

 Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

 

 

 

My Pick of the Week is Google Health. The idea is fantastic. Among other things, it lets users store and manage health records in one central place, and they can share them with family, friends or doctors.

The only problem is Google Health is closing. Yes it is. Bye-bye. How can that be? It's only been around for a few years. Will the promise of eHealth and mHealth ever come to pass? The answer is yes, but it will take a little longer.

Google was a great company to join in the effort. The only problem is it has grown and matured and changed quite a bit over the last few years since it went public.

It is no longer that young, entrepreneurial company willing to spend years developing an opportunity if it can't be profitable from the start.

Remember the good ole days when the world used Google to search, but it never made a dime? Then it went public, and everything changed.

Will Google Health ever come back? Yes, I think it will -- perhaps a few years from now under a different name. This is the direction of the industry and the opportunity. Google Health will come back when the marketplace is mature enough to make it profitable.

That's too bad. It's a real blow to this new segment of the industry, and we will simply have to deal with it as it continues to grow and become relevant and profitable over the next several years.

Many other important companies that are also in this young space will have to work harder. They will have to jump in and take up the slack -- companies like Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM) and groups like the Wireless-Life Sciences Alliance.

Google may be bowing out, but there is still Microsoft HealthVault, as well as a handful of other health information storage services.

So don't worry -- even without Google Health, the future still looks as bright as ever, but the path may sometimes be rough as opportunities come and go. 

 


 

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/Sprint-Nextel-and-Lightsquared-Uh-Oh-72775.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/72775.html

OPINION

Sprint Nextel and Lightsquared: Uh-Oh

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

06/30/11 5:00 AM PT

I was shocked to read that Sprint forged a deal with Lightsquared at this time. What about waiting to see if Lightsquared can solve the problem that has its back against the wall? Wouldn't that make sense? Shouldn't there be an order to things? Perhaps Sprint sees this Lightsquared deal as important in the less-than-bright future it is suddenly facing.

I have been impressed with the recovery that Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S) has shown over the last few years, but now it has struck a deal with LightSquared that puts the cart way ahead of the horse.

Is Sprint making a big mistake while trying to bounce back from another body blow it just took? I'll take a look at how its future may be shaping up thanks to these developments.

In my Pick of the Week section, I'll you how Consumer Reports ranks the cable television companies on customer service.

Blinded by the Light?

A few years ago, Sprint Nextel was crashing and burning, until it hired CEO Dan Hesse. Since then, it has managed to pull up in the nick of time. During the last year, we have seen that recovery get stronger, although the company still has a long way to go.

Suddenly, it faces two significant new challenges.

The first is a deal Sprint just cut with LightSquared, which confuses and concerns me. Will this help or hurt it with investors, customers and workers going forward?

In fact, several clients have asked me to write a report and share my opinion about LightSquared with them. This is not a typical company. It is a very interesting company, with a very interesting history and two very interesting men running it. Let me share a few thoughts with you.

Generally speaking, I like the idea. I like the entrepreneurial spirit. This is not a typical small business story. One interesting aside -- LightSquared is trying to start out big and important instead of starting small and learning the way and growing.

That will be an additional challenge. That creates a lot of pushback from various others in the industry, because when it launches, it will have an enormous impact. So Lightsquared has to get it right -- I don't know whether it understands that yet.

While the company has been around for more than a decade, it was acquired not long ago by Phil Falcone, who had been giving thought to the opportunity for several years. Last year, he hired Sanjiv Ahuja as CEO, and the company was on the fast track -- until it ran off the road with this serious GPS problem.

Sprint is one of the industry's long time brands. Number three. It's had a rough period, but it seems to be coming out of it. However, it suddenly faces a new and serious challenge.

We all thought Sprint would merge with T-Mobile, but now AT&T (NYSE: T) has jumped in ahead of it. Now Sprint's future may be starting to look shaky again.

Maybe that's one of the reasons it entered this deal with Lightsquared. It is, in essence, a startup. It has a great idea, and there is a need in the marketplace.

Risky Business

However, LightSquared is having a heck of a time getting past the fact that its technology collides head to head with the GPS industry. Until it gets that problem fixed, its future remains one big question mark.

As good an idea as it may have -- and as much as the marketplace needs a solution like this -- if it is delayed a year or longer, other new technologies will enter the scene and Lightsquared's opportunity may fade away, unrealized.

This company should be working with all its might to solve this important problem. However, it also continues to make deals with other companies, as if there were no question mark in the picture.

That's the confusion I have shared with so many reporters who have interviewed me and what I'm writing about in the report.

Sprint is not its only partner -- LightSquared has struck deals with a variety of companies. However, most of these other deals were struck before the GPS problem raised its ugly head earlier this year.

So, did Sprint enter this fast-and-loose deal because it was under the gun, thanks to the AT&T, T-Mobile deal?

Let's say the wireless merger does happen. I would then expect to see Sprint forced into a deal of its own that we don't yet see. Either it will acquire, or it will be acquired.

So, as you can see, change is continuing to transform this space. Perhaps Sprint sees this Lightsquared deal as important in the less-than-bright future it is suddenly facing.

If Lightsquared can solve the GPS problem, it might become a strong and growing company. Maybe. No one knows yet. There is a lot of ground to cover first. Then, if it can clear this one big hurdle from its path, it still faces the same challenges as any startup.

That's why I was shocked to read that Sprint forged a deal with Lightsquared at this time. What about waiting to see if Lightsquared can solve the problem that has its back against the wall? Wouldn't that make sense? Shouldn't there be an order to things?

We just don't know what the future will hold for these deals. Will AT&T and T-Mobile be approved to merge? Will Lightsquared be able to solve its big GPS problem that could stand in the way of its launch? Will Sprint merge with another company? Will they all be successful?

I may like Sprint and Lightsquared, but there are many serious questions that need to be answered. How about not putting the cart ahead of the horse? Talk about living life on the edge.

Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

 

 

My Pick of the Week is Consumer Reports' rankings of cable television companies for customer service.

The best in cable TV are DirecTV (Nasdaq: DTV) and Wow. The worst are Charter, Mediacom, RCN and Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSK).

The best in phone service are Bright House Networks, Cablevision/Optimum and Cox. The worst is Charter.

The best in Internet service is WOW. The worst are Mediacom, Charter, HughesNet and RCN.

Customer service and customer care are two of the most important ingredients in a company's success going forward.

The rest of the companies are stuck somewhere in the middle. This should be a wake-up call to all of them as the marketplace gets more competitive. Satellite television and local phone company IPTV are making progress in their efforts to compete.

What's the secret to success? Scott Wise, the VP of customer care for Cox says, "Creating a customer experience that is second to none is Cox's goal." I think that is the key. Focus on keeping your customers and workers happy, and then your investors will also be happy.

I have worked with several, and trust me when I say they are not all created equal. Increasingly, customers have the choice between one cable television company, two satellite television companies, and if they are lucky, an IPTV service from their local phone company like AT&T U-verse or Verizon FiOS. They all have strengths and weaknesses.

Year by year, the marketplace is getting more competitive. It is turning into a customer-focused marketplace. That is the good part. That means increasingly the customer is in the driver's seat rather than the company. Because of that, companies have to focus on taking better care of the customer than their competitors do.

So congrats to the winners. To the losers: Wake up before you get hurt! As the competition heats up, only the best will win. 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Jeff Kagan is an E-Commerce Times columnist and tech analyst following wireless, telecom, healthcare and technology. He is also an author, speaker and consultant. Email him at jeff@jeffKAGAN.com. Read the first chapters of his new book Life After Stroke, now available at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 


 

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/Fasten-Your-Seatbelts---Its-Going-to-Be-a-Wild-IPO-Ride-72727.html  

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/72727.html

OPINION

Fasten Your Seatbelts - It's Going to Be a Wild IPO Ride

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

06/23/11 5:00 AM PT

It is important to widen our view. This is not just about Internet companies, like before. This next wave is about a wider range of companies in the innovative technology space -- oh and yes, that still includes the Internet. As the marketplace gets hot, there are real opportunities bubbling up. Know that there will be plenty of winners and losers. Understanding the difference is one key to success. Timing is another key.

It's beginning to look like 1999 all over again. Ten to 15 years ago, the IPO craze was amazing. As I said in many speeches, a great time was had by all. Everyone seemed to win -- workers, investors, executives, even customers.

Over the years, these waves rise and fall, and a new wave is beginning to rise. This time, there are a few important differences. Understanding them will be the deciding factor between winning and losing.

In my Pick of the Week section, I want to tell you about how near-field communication, or NFC, is about to roll out as the next mHealth wave.

Party Like It's 1999

In the late 1990s, I got calls from a great many companies that wanted me to get to know and understand them. They lined up to become clients. They wanted me to follow them so I could write about them in my column, talk about them to the media, and mention them in speeches, reports and books. After 2000, things calmed down.

During the last year or so, I think we can all sense that the steak is starting to sizzle on the grill once again. Do you smell it? Is your mouth starting to water? It should be. We may be about to experience a repeat of the heated days of a decade ago.

Lately my phone has been ringing much like it did in the late 90s. Companies are introducing themselves to me. Young and old, large and small, they all want to get on my radar. It's starting to be fun again.

There are quite a few companies making quite a bit of noise. Who will be noticed? They all want to rise above the crowd and become visible to the world. Only some will. They want to become well-known brand names. They want to be known as winners among investors, customers and workers.

They may want to get attention to help them grow, or maybe to help them get acquired, or attract investment. They all have different reasons, but they all want to punch their way onto the radar for one reason or another.

To tell you the truth, we are entering a time when that is all possible. We have seen this happen before, several times -- and there will be more times after this one. This ebb and flow is the way it works.

During the last decade, the marketplace changed. Companies look different today, but they are still interested in the same thing: growth.

Today there are so many different sectors and so many new companies. Some of these are profitable, and others are not. I expect the marketplace will get quite noisy.

Yes -- it looks like we are getting ready to repeat the exciting 1990s all over again.

Beyond the Internet

It is important to widen our view. This is not just about Internet companies, like before. This next wave is about a wider range of companies in the innovative technology space -- oh and yes, that still includes the Internet.

As the marketplace gets hot, there are real opportunities bubbling up. Know that there will be plenty of winners and losers. Understanding the difference is one key to success. Timing is another key.

There is real money being thrown around, and companies are lining up to play a role in the new economy that is taking shape right now.

Public relations will benefit. This is a great opportunity for the public relations industry. There is so much confusion. So much noise. PR is so important to every company.

PR reaches out and touches the customer and the investor. If done right, it can create a special bond. That is a key component.

I was called by so many PR firms last decade. That is starting to happen again now. Some want to brief me on a company. Others want to learn about the new opportunities that are coming and how to win their share. Still others want to learn how to solidify their relationships with their existing tech clients so they can keep them as clients.

With all this bubbling, there will be much business that will be won and lost. Just like before, many companies will hit the target and do well -- and many others will miss.

Whether they will be successful or not depends on things other than just how well their products work. It also depends on how well they get their messages out. How much excitement they generate in the marketplace. Whether investors and customers even hear about them.

That is the challenge. Brace yourself. Things could start to get loud and chaotic from this point forward.

Seize the Day

The next IPO era is beginning. Several high-profile companies have already jumped in, and the water is feels great again. Prepare yourself. There will be many more high-profile IPOs coming.

There will also be many smaller IPOs that most people will never have heard of. Some will be a good investment, and others won't. Much depends on whether they become well known.

Excuse me now... I am having another flashback to the 1990s. This is going to be a golden opportunity for companies and for investors, IF your choice and your timing are both right.  

 Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

 

 

My Pick of the Week is a new development: how near field communication is about to roll out as the next wave in the young and rapidly growing mHealth industry segment.

NFC-enabled products are coming to the healthcare industry, and we will start to see them in the market this year.

Glucometers will read our blood levels, skin patches will communicate information during a visit to the doctor, sleep tracking will provide important feedback, and monitors will watch for post-op infections.

There is an incredible rush of health-tech ideas and innovations coming. I have been briefed by many, and taken together, they might make you think we're living in the future already.

There are even more ideas in the discussion stage, and many of them will be developed and could be in the market sooner than you expect.

Imagine the sign-in process at the doctor's office being updated with NFC-enabled smartphones, allowing the entire process to happen with a touch of your phone screen.

Imagine a chip implanted in your arm that stores your identification and medical history, giving every doctor and hospital the ability to learn about you and instantly provide you with better care.

Imagine innovations like this in at-home diagnostics, pharmacies, fitness, emergency work and more.

I have been briefed by so many interesting and innovative companies on what is coming next. It is truly a very exciting space that we are just entering.

As smartphones get smarter, we will increasingly use these devices to manage our lives, including our health and finances.

Ever hear of using your smartphone as an e-wallet with NFC? Welcome to tomorrowland.

 


 

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/Lightsquared-Hits-a-Brick-Wall-72654.html

OPINION

Lightsquared Hits a Brick Wall

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

06/16/11 5:00 AM PT

Lightsquared should acknowledge the GPS problem and instill confidence it will fix it, but it should also be talking about the solution it will bring to the crowded marketplace. Capacity. Industry growth. Increased competition from smaller players. The investors it will please. The customers it will serve. The workers it will hire. There is plenty of good that will come IF Lightsquared can solve the problem.

This is the question I've been most asked by the media this week: Is Lightsquared going to work or not? Let me start by saying that I think this company sees a problem and it could come up with the right solution. However, there is no answer yet -- so it seems it has reached a brick wall. What happens next? Is this the end of the road for Lightsquared?

In my Pick of the Week section, I'll tell you about a new book -- Search & Destroy: Why You Can't Trust Google Inc. by Scott Cleland with Ira Brodsky.

Should Lightsquared Go Dark?

The June report on Lightsquared that we have been waiting for is in, and it doesn't look good for the company. The technology it uses does impact the spectrum of the GPS industry, the report concludes. So even though we need a solution to the spectrum problem, we cannot allow this company to interfere with another industry. What's the answer?

First things first. Let's remember, Lightsquared is a brand new company. It is just building and testing its network, so there are no customers or employees at risk. The risk is for the investors who may have put up a few billion dollars to build it.

If it will harm another industry, why not just shut it down? Well, the truth is we need Lightsquared -- or a company like it, anyway. We have a bandwidth shortage.

Until four years ago, everything in the wireless industry was going along just fine. The smartphone sector was growing at a manageable rate. Companies like RIM were growing and doing fine. Everyone was growing and happy.

Then, four years ago, Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) changed the industry with the iPhone, in much the same way it changed the music industry with the iPod. It was so successful it enticed Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) to jump in with Android, and the race was on.

Two non-wireless companies are now leading in the wireless handset race. Imagine that. Suddenly, the smartphone sector is exploding. Apps grew from a few hundred to a few hundred thousand over just the last few years. Growth jumped from 15 percent to around 50 percent. The industry is on fire.

That sudden demand caused a big problem for carriers like AT&T (NYSE: T), Verizon and Sprint: not enough spectrum for wireless data usage. AT&T Mobility has been battling data logjams for years.

In fact, that's why it wants to acquire T-Mobile. Actually, it needs to acquire T-Mobile -- not for the company, but just to get its hands on more spectrum. But that's another story with another solution.

This is the problem that Lightsquared wants to solve. If it works, it will not only provide a solution to large and small competitors, but also do very well itself.

Always Something

However, there is this GPS spectrum problem. There are countless well-known companies on the navigation side who have weighed in with negative comments on the problem.

To answer, Lightsquared held a conference call last week, which didn't do it any good. Jeff Carlisle, EVP of regulatory affairs, sounds like a nice guy, and he tried but made no progress. Don't get me wrong; it needs to hold these conference calls. The industry needs to hear from the company. However, it needs to make things better, and it didn't.

Whether Lightsquared likes it or not, stories will be written, and analysts like me will be called by the media for comments. Without the company's positive side of the coin, all we will discuss is the negative side that we are asked about. There is a positive side -- if it can solve this problem.

Lightsquared needs to think about its PR -- and quickly -- before this whole thing spins out of control. I have seen that happen too many times. I have worked in this industry for 25 years and worked with many companies. I've witnessed many very good and many other very bad PR moves. So far, Lightsquared is not handling this problem well.

It should acknowledge the problem and show it is working to fix it. It should instill confidence that it will fix it. However, it should also be talking about the good it will bring -- the solution it will bring to the crowded marketplace. Capacity. Industry growth. Increased competition from smaller players. The investors it will make happy. The customers it will solve problems for. The workers it will hire as it grows. There is plenty of good that will come IF Lightsquared can solve the problem.

Being quiet will kill it. It's starting to happen already.

I have been asked to write a book about Phil Falcone and his Lightsquared adventure. While I have not yet said yes or no to the publisher, I have been kicking the idea around, and there is definitely quite a bit to write about. This is becoming quite a show.

How it handles this growing problem will be critically important not only for Lightsquared, but also for the entire industry. The U.S. needs to fix its capacity problem, and quickly. Then Lightsquared needs to fix its problem and build the network. Then it needs to start selling its service quickly, and it needs to start building a true company. And it needs to do this yesterday. There is no more time to play games.

If Lightsquared doesn't step up, the wave of opportunity will pass it by, and it will lose its chance at greatness. So what will be the next step? Will Lightsquared recover and be successful, or will it become road kill on the information superhighway as others pass it by on their way to the next great idea? That is the question we are all asking today.

  Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

 

 

My Pick of the Week is a new book, Search & Destroy: Why You Can't Trust Google Inc., by Scott Cleland with Ira Brodsky.

I have been reading Scott Cleland's weekly column about Google so this topic is no surprise, but it does cover it all in one place, and it does make you think. What this book does is make an argument about Google that we don't usually hear.

We typically hear of Google as a growth company. How it is reinventing the search business and moving into many other areas, like wireless with Android. It also has its eyes on many new areas like television and may eventually start to compete with the cable television industry.

At the same time, Cleland says there is a dark side to the Google growth story that most are not aware of. He says this is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the future of the Internet and the online economy.

According to Cleland Google is so pervasive and dominant on the web that one can't really understand the Web without understanding where Google is taking it.

He says there are many books that tell the Google story from Google's perspective. This is the first book to answer questions users most want to know about the company. Questions like, can I trust Google? Do they respect property rights? Are they a monopoly? Are they accountable to anyone? Are they as ethical as they claim? Do they have a hidden political agenda? And many more.

These are serious questions, and Cleland says the evidence is overwhelming that Google is not the company it pretends to be.

This reminds me of the fabulous growth story Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) was until it finally got into the crosshairs of the Government. I don't know when that will happen to Google, but a young and successful company that keeps growing in importance eventually gets seen as a threat. Amazing.

I have used Google for years and love the service. However, this is another very interesting side of the story that I was not aware of. See what you think. 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Jeff Kagan is an E-Commerce Times columnist and tech analyst following wireless, telecom, healthcare and technology. He is also an author, speaker and consultant. Email him at jeff@jeffKAGAN.com. Read the first chapters of his new book Life After Stroke, now available at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 


 

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/Do-Cellphones-Cause-Brain-Cancer-or-Dont-They-72617.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/72617.html

OPINION

Do Cellphones Cause Brain Cancer or Don't They?

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

06/09/11 5:00 AM PT

The bottom line is that we just don't yet know whether there is real danger. There are many studies that say "watch out." Then again, there has been no increase in brain cancer over the last 10 years. I have a feeling we will be dealing with more of these studies over the next decade until we can either finally say there is damage being done or conclude this was just a lot of hooey.

Last week, I was on CNBC's "The Kudlow Report" discussing the new World Health Organization findings that cellphones may cause brain cancer. Brian Sullivan, the host, asked all sorts of questions about the WHO study and whether this is a major problem for users, companies, investors and the industry.

Let's take a hard look at this issue.

Then, for this week's Pick of the Week topic, I want to tell you how Verizon Wireless is jumping into the mHealth environment with Medco Health Solutions.

No Clear Answer

So, do wireless phones cause brain cancer or not? It seems we've seen study after study over the last decade raising that same question. Many researchers are convinced the answer is yes. The industry, however, has answered with a resounding "I don't know." That's where we stand. No one really knows.

None of the past studies have seemed to slowed down growth in the wireless space. I don't think the WHO's warning will either -- at least not until we have serious medical problems.

If there are so many different studies and claims that cellphones are a big potential risk, should we change the way we use them? Let me tell you two interesting stories -- then you can decide for yourself.

One is about the Marlboro man -- the strong, vital cowboy sitting on his horse in the cigarette advertising.

A few years later that same man taped a new spot. He was withering away in a hospital bed dying of cancer.

OK, maybe we should have listened to the warnings earlier.

Then there's the story about the sugar-free sweetener saccharin. There was a study that suggested it was unhealthy. The entire business was injured. Investors, workers and customers were hurt financially.

Then, years later, it turned out the study's conclusion was wrong, and saccharin was safe for human consumption. However, the damage was done.

So what is the truth with cell phones?

Not Black and White

NBC contributor Dr. Nancy Snyderman, who also appeared on last week's "Kudlow Report," advised reading between the lines.

No one has ever proven cellphones cause brain cancer. In fact, with 5 billion people in the world using them, we have not seen an uptick in brain cancers, she pointed out.

I think that is one of the most important points to keep in mind.

People love their wireless devices. They say, "Don't take my cellphone away. How will I stay in touch? I will be unconnected to my world." That is the strong pull the wireless world has on us.

Users forget that wireless is a new phenomenon. It was invented in the 1980s. It became mainstream in the 1990s. Remember when we were all disconnected? Somehow we all made it through life.

I believe WHO's statement will draw attention, but it won't stop many people from buying and using wireless devices and services. That won't stop until we have actual proof instead of just claims. Wireless is a very important part of our economy, our infrastructure and our society.

What to Do?

If this concerns you, however, there may be ways to limit your risk:

ē Use an earpiece instead of putting the phone up to your head. I mean an old fashioned wired earpiece, not Bluetooth. No radio waves near the brain.

ē Understand how cellphones work. If you have a strong signal, the phone works on low power and may be safer. If you have weak signal, the phone cranks up the power and could potentially fry more of your brain.

ē Keep the phone in your pocket or your belt -- but even that is not foolproof. If there is a problem, it is still close to your body, just at a different spot.

ē Do you have a regular cellphone or one of those super smartphones like an iPhone or an Android? Regular cellphones are not always sending and receiving data when in your pocket. Smartphones are regularly cranking away, even when you are not using them.

ē Keep wireless conversations short. The longer you hold the device to your ear the more damage could be taking place. Want a long talk? Pick up your old-fashioned landline phone -- if you still have one.

The bottom line is that we just don't yet know whether there is real danger. There are many studies that say "watch out." Then again, there has been no increase in brain cancer over the last 10 years.

I have a feeling we will be dealing with more of these studies over the next decade until we can either finally say there is damage being done or conclude this was just a lot of hooey.

I won't stop using my phone, but I will use it more carefully -- just in case. Got to go. My phone is ringing.

 

 Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

 

 

 

My Pick of the Week topic is how Verizon Wireless is jumping into the mHealth marketplace. It is partnering with its own pharmacy benefits vendor Medco Health Solutions, and has launched the Medco Pharmacy mobile app for smartphones.

There are many pharma apps in the market today. Medco Health Solutions focus on reducing costs for medications. It provides reminders to take your meds, it warns of interactions, and it tells patients how much prescriptions will cost with their health insurance plans.

This empowers the patient. Oftentimes patients don't have a clue how much their health services will cost until they finally get the bill after insurance pays its share.

This app tells patients their out-of-pocket expenses and finds the lowest-cost alternatives, according to Mike Ross, Verizon Wireless VP of healthcare sales.

The big challenge here was developing a simple app. Verizon Wireless is currently making this app available to its workers who use the Medco Pharmacy. Plans are to eventually roll it out to 100 million customers. This can be marketed not only to Verizon Wireless employees and customers, but to all other Medco customers as well.

Verizon Wireless is trying, along with other major wireless players such as AT&T (NYSE: T) Mobility and Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S), to successfully enter the mobile health space. It is a huge opportunity, but there are still more questions than answers.

These are very early days in the mHealth revolution, and it is by far, one of the more exciting parts of the rapidly growing and changing wireless, smartphone and mobile app market. 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Jeff Kagan is an E-Commerce Times columnist and tech analyst following wireless, telecom, healthcare and technology. He is also an author, speaker and consultant. Email him at jeff@jeffKAGAN.com. Read the first chapters of his new book Life After Stroke, now available at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

 


 

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/The-Issue-Nobodys-Talking-About-in-the-ATTT-Mobile-Debate-72563.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/72563.html

OPINION

The Issue Nobody's Talking About in the AT&T/T-Mobile Debate

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

06/02/11 5:00 AM PT

Since AT&T announced its intention to buy T-Mobile, critics of the deal have been ganging up to express their concern. Many of their points are valid, and it's clear this deal must be thoroughly examined before it's allowed to go further. However, while debating this issue, no one is discussing the elephant in the room. Spectrum shortage continues to spread. The problem continues to grow over time.

The latest news on the AT&T/T-Mobile merger comes from California. State regulators said last Thursday they would launch an investigation into the proposed merger. This is yet another worrisome problem for AT&T (NYSE: T) to deal with in what is turning out to be a very squeaky deal.

This merger proposal did not start out to be controversial, but that's what it is rapidly turning into. The wireless industry has been weighing in, and the negatives are piling up. I will discuss the problem and a workable solution.

Then in my Pick of the Week, I want to tell you about IBM (NYSE: IBM) using their supercomputer Watson to improve healthcare.

Enemies Lining Up

This is turning into a real uphill battle for AT&T. There are valid concerns being raised -- concerns that AT&T has not been able to answer.

Last week, Leap Wireless was one of the latest companies to take a side. It's against the merger. It says it would leave the U.S. market with just two wireless giants, and that would harm competition. A familiar argument.

Two weeks ago MetroPCS also weighed in. It too is against the merger. It said the deal would overly concentrate spectrum holdings with one company, AT&T.

Sprint (NYSE: S) was the first company to take an anti-merger position. It's articulated strong opposition to the merger, saying it would be bad for the competitive market and for Sprint as a company. Sprint says there are many negative implications for pricing, choice and innovation.

One by one, opponents are registering their complaints. It looks like the only one this deal is good for is AT&T as competitors and suppliers weigh in.

The Bucket Approach

Years ago, spectrum sales by the U.S. government sounded like a great idea. Not so much anymore. In the last few years, wireless data usage has exploded thanks to smartphones. In this world, this original solution no longer works.

One solution would be putting the spectrum together in one large bucket, and letting every new phone access it no matter the carrier. That would give every carrier, every phone and every customer  identical access and opportunity. If one is full here, then the phone will simply switch to another.

That makes sense once we realize the marketplace is much healthier with multiple strong competitors. That would improve the connection for every customer. That would strengthen competition as well. And isn't that what we really want?

This may sound outrageous to some, but we cannot continue down this same path. The road will get rockier as wireless data demand increases.

Like with other mergers, this deal with AT&T and T-Mobile is not all good or all bad. Depending on your position, there are good and bad parts to this.

The good part is it will help AT&T Mobility, which has been choking with limited spectrum. It will give them extra capacity. That will make AT&T and their customers and investors happy.

However, everyone else says they will be hurt by this deal. It continues down the broken path. Mergers are OK when there are countless small competitors, but we have been merging for years, and today there are very few and very large competitors.

A Shortage of Spectrum

In deciding to approve or not we have to think of the benefits and the problems to the marketplace, not just for AT&T and T-Mobile.

It is important to be aware of the good and bad things that will happen to the industry, to other competitors, customers and investors. This deal changes everything.

I have to ask this question: Will we be happy with the end result?

AT&T says it is confident that it will win approval, but as more anti-merger activity builds, one has to wonder if it will be blocked, or at least challenged and changed. It is becoming clear it will not be approved as-is.

AT&T hopes they will get what they need -- spectrum. That will help them, but what will it mean for the rest of the marketplace? And what does it mean for the future?

While debating this issue, no one is discussing the elephant in the room. Spectrum shortage continues to spread. The problem continues to grow over time.

Who has the crystal ball? The problem is trying to see the future. We cannot tell what the industry will look like just a few years down the road. It changes rapidly and often. This always happens.

What I am saying is that it is impossible to see what the future looks like. What will the industry look like in another five years? We don't yet know, but we can all agree it will look completely different than it does today.

Unforeseen Consequences

As you can see, the industry changes faster than any regulator can deal with. The clocks they work on run at different speeds. Private industry clocks runs much faster than government regulators' clocks.

Yet we expect regulators to see into the future and make the best deal for the consumer and the marketplace as well as the competitors and investors. It's an impossible task.

That is the world we are dealing with. We have seen so many mergers and acquisitions over the last decade. There are fewer and larger competitors today. Each past merger was managed as best we could. Yet the marketplace continued to rapidly change.

The same thing will happen here. We should not expect the regulators will know what the marketplace will look like in a few years. No one does. Much depends on the moves we make today, mergers and the new technology that is introduced.

So what's the answer? Good question. There are many solutions, but there is no clear answer. However, this spectrum shortage will continue, even if this merger is approved.

Regulators will try to address the problem areas. They will successfully address some, but not others. Then the new problems we cannot even see today will start to appear over the next few years. That always happens.

If this merger is approved, it will change the industry dynamics, and that will usher in another wave of change that we cannot fathom today. Sprint may be acquired by someone else, or visa-versa.

We can expect another wave of smaller mergers trying to fill the number three slot better than Sprint could alone.

What the Industry Needs

AT&T needs the spectrum, not the deal. All the competitors who have voiced their opinions have been against it. Now California, a very influential and powerful player, has also raised concerns.

AT&T is not concerned with the health of the entire marketplace. Nor should they be. That's our job. It's up to us to look at the entire industry and guide it in the right direction.

I can't believe I am saying this. I have been a free market hawk for many years. However, as the number of wireless competitors continue to shrink, we have to be much more careful going forward.

We have a growing capacity problem. So rather than just discussing AT&T's needs, we also should be talking about the growing industry needs. After all, it's not all about AT&T. It's about the entire industry. That means nearly 300 million customers, millions of workers from the entire industry, and investors in this wide assortment of companies.

If we solve the capacity shortage, AT&T's need for this merger goes away.

This proposed merger is just a short-term bandage, and just for AT&T. What about the rest of the industry that will suffer with the same problems going forward if we keep ignoring the elephant in the room?

What we need is to pull back the camera and come up with a real industry-wide fix.

  Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

 

 

 

In my Pick of the Week, I want to tell you about IBM using its supercomputer Watson to improve healthcare. You remember the IBM Watson don't you? It became a TV star by winning on "Jeopardy." Today IBM is using this supercomputer to improve healthcare. That's right.

Imagine going to your doctor and watching as he or she uses Watson to search databanks, diagnose anything and prescribe the best treatment for you -- even with all your existing conditions that make your treatment different and often more difficult than that of your neighbor.

Today doctors say they spend at least five hours a month reading medical journals to stay updated. Watson can reduce or even eliminate that need. Remember when we used to type a page on a typewriter or take hours or days researching something that now takes seconds using search engines? Things change. Things improve.

IBM's Watson is already digesting medical textbooks and information. It is a big challenge for doctors to stay up to date. This is what the computer was made for.

HealthTech! Healthcare and IBM sound wonderful together, don't they? 

 


 

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/The-Mobile-Merger-Domino-Effect-72532.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/72532.html

OPINION

The Mobile Merger Domino Effect

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

05/26/11 5:00 AM PT

If it happens at all, AT&T's purchase of T-Mobile won't happen in a vacuum. One thing always leads to another -- and often unexpected -- series of events. One strong possibility is that CenturyLink will jump in and acquire Sprint. Would this be good or bad for customers, investors, partners and workers?

The wireless and wire line telecom industry is changing, again. Remember a decade ago, when we had long-distance companies? Then the long-distance giants were acquired by the baby bells. Next, the baby bells merged into three. Then the wireless industry merged its way down to a handful of giants.

So what's next? We are watching the next wave of industry-reshaping events setting themselves up. Let's take a look. When this is done, the industry will not look the same.

Then, in my Pick of the Week, let's look at Nokia (NYSE: NOK) doing the right thing and deep-sixing the Ovi sub-brand.

One Thing Leads to Another

We expected to see Sprint (NYSE: S) merge with T-Mobile. That would have created a more stable three-way race between AT&T (NYSE: T), Verizon and Sprint. However, AT&T jumped in to acquire T-Mobile instead, and that changed everything. Now it looks like the industry will only have two big competitors. Not as good.

So what is next? Don't think this is over. This new AT&T/T-Mobile merger is not only big for them; it will also set a whole chain of events in progress.

You can't do one thing in a vacuum. One thing always leads to another -- and often unexpected -- series of events.

One strong possibility is CenturyLink will jump in and acquire Sprint. Would this be good or bad for customers, investors, partners and workers?

If AT&T and T-Mobile do merge, it will change the playing field and make it very difficult for Sprint to compete and grow by itself. The two big players, AT&T and Verizon, are both wire line and wireless, while Sprint is only wireless.

At the same time, we have been watching two of the smaller local phone companies, CenturyLink and Windstream, grow through mergers in recent years. Of these two companies, CenturyLink has shown more of a desire to grow into the wireless space, with limited success.

Windstream could also use a wireless business plan desperately but does not have one yet. So let's focus on CenturyLink for this conversation.

Industry Reinvention

Acquiring Sprint would give it an instant third-place status in wireless. Combined with its wire line business, it would start to look more like AT&T and Verizon, which also offer both. In fact, it would become third in wireline and wireless. Remember, it just acquired Embark, the wire line company, from Sprint and Qwest (NYSE: Q), the No. 3 local phone company.

This could be full of benefits for it and the marketplace if it knows how to run a wireless company. Does it? Remember, Sprint was having lots of trouble and it was CEO Dan Hesse who pulled the company out of a crash-n-burn dive.

If done right, this merger could improve both CenturyLink and Sprint: a case of one plus one equals three. It would be able to more directly compete for the entire customer  the way AT&T and Verizon do.

This would be part of the reinvention of the industry I talk about.

CenturyLink, this smaller, very fast-growing and entrepreneurial company, may actually start to shake things up in both the wireless and wire line sides of the business.

Suddenly it's on the map. It's growing through acquisitions, and it's suddenly the No. 3 local phone company in the United States. That is impressive.

I have worked with every baby bell and many smaller local phone companies and can tell you that I have not seen such chutzpah in a long time. This is promising.

But What About Sprint?

Of course, this is not what Sprint wants to happen. It's continuing its recovery. It likes the position it's in right now after years of hard work, sweat and tears. However, if AT&T and T-Mobile do merge, Sprint may have to do something dramatic like this.

CenturyLink, which is based in Monroe, La., has been acquiring companies, and I don't think it's done yet.

Of course, this speculation could all be completely wrong. Sprint could end up being the acquirer. There are still a number of smaller wireless carriers which, if acquired, would make Sprint bigger and stronger as a wireless company. However, this would still mean Sprint would just be a wireless carrier.

Then again, all these mergers could take place, turning the combined CenturyLink and Sprint into an even bigger single company.

So the question is, once the AT&T, T-Mobile merger is done, what's next?

What will Sprint do? What will CenturyLink do? What will WindStream do? Just like we thought Sprint would acquire T-Mobile until AT&T jumped in, there may be more surprises to come.

One thing is for sure, the industry and the companies are changing. It is still too early to know, but this is a very interesting story we will be watching unfold over the next few years.

 Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

 

 

For my Pick of the Week, let's look at Nokia doing the right thing and deep-sixing the Ovi sub-brand and focusing on the main Nokia brand.

The marketplace can be confusing enough with all the new companies and brands and technologies. Then companies make it even more confusing by introducing many sub-brands.

Stick to the core business and brand.

When the soup just doesn't have the right taste, sticking with the master brand strategy and strengthening it is always smart-- especially when you have not done so well trying to introduce a sub-brand and instead confused the marketplace and hurt your mast brand.

In the last few years, Nokia has been under the gun. Just like Motorola (NYSE: MOT) was 10 years ago, Nokia is trying to find itself as the marketplace changes from ordinary cellphones to hot new super-smartphones.

Motorola did it with the help of Google (Nasdaq: GOOG). They tried for years and failed until then. What is the future for Nokia? The market has changed in the last few years. Will they have to partner with Google as well with Android? Or maybe Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT)? That company is not hitting on all cylinders with smartphones themselves yet. Can they actually help Nokia?

There is a lot more to follow in this story, but here's a pat on the back to Nokia's Chief Marketing Officer Jerri DeVard and key Nokia executives who decided to keep their eye on the ball. Good move.

Whatever Nokia does next, at least it seems to be starting to think in the right way and starting to focus on the value of its brand name first. That is a great start. 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Jeff Kagan is an E-Commerce Times columnist and industry analyst following wireless, telecom and healthcare technology. He is also an author, speaker and consultant. Email him at jeff@jeffKAGAN.com. Read the first chapters of his new book Life After Stroke, now available at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 


 

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/Visions-of-AndroidHome-Dance-in-Googles-Head-72482.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/72482.html

OPINION

Visions of Android@Home Dance in Google's Head

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

05/19/11 5:00 AM PT

Like the Android system controls the smartphone, this Android@Home will control your home life. Using your mobile phone or tablet computer or other new remote control, you'll be able to do all sorts of things. It will open and close your drapes, brew your coffee, turn on the lights, turn off the alarm system, turn down the HVAC in unoccupied rooms, and so many more things.

Let's take a peak into the future. Over the next few years, we will see the industry continue to transform itself. Industry leaders may change. We have seen that happen in the smartphone industry already. Are telephone and cable television companies next?

Companies like AT&T (NYSE: T), Verizon, Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSK), Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) and Cox have a target painted on them, and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) is an expert shot.

My Pick of the Week topic: Verizon is working with Healthsense on an innovative mHealth offering for seniors.

Major Disruption

It's hard to contemplate, but transformative companies like Google and Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) will continue to change everything. Over just the past four years, these two companies have already begun to transform the wireless industry -- specifically the smartphone space. They now lead. Just a few years ago, leaders were companies like RIM and Palm.

Google is much more than search today; however, its search remains incredibly successful with 93.7 percent market share revenues in the U.S., according to Scott Cleland of Precursor, author of a new book called Search & Destroy.

What is Google doing that makes me say we should think about it moving into and disrupting the traditional telephone and cable television space? Let's take a look. This could be very disturbing if you have not thought about it yet. It could impact every worker, investor, partner and customer .

A New World at Home

Last week, Google introduced a new idea called "Android@Home." This is not yet a product, but it is its dream. When other companies talk about their dreams, we take it with a grain of salt, but when Google talks, we realize it is already moving very quickly.

First generations with Google are not always the best. Remember the first Android phone on T-Mobile after the Apple iPhone was introduced? It was a flop. Yet it did get Google into the wireless field, and it did learn some very important lessons. The second version a year later was a hit, and it keeps getting bigger and growing like crazy.

That's how Google works. It jumps in and changes as it grows. That is the opposite of other companies, which don't jump in until they are convinced they've got it right. Those companies actually don't have it right -- and they have to make the same ongoing adjustments as Google anyway. This method gives the impression that Google grows and changes quickly. And it does.

When I heard about Android@Home, I realized it was the first step into a new world Google is not yet saying much about. This has to do with the cool things Google wants to do for you in your home. Like the Android system controls the smartphone, this Android@Home will control your home life.

Using your mobile phone or tablet computer or other new remote control, you'll be able to do all sorts of things. It will open and close your drapes, brew your coffee, turn on the lights, turn off the alarm system, turn down the HVAC in unoccupied rooms, and so many more things.

We'll likely download apps to do more with the system at home. That means the app environment will continue to grow. Apps for smartphones. Apps for tablet computers. Apps for Android@Home. Apps for whatever will come next. And there will be much more to come.

OK, this is exciting, but it's also a big threat to traditional companies. What should we expect next?

The Government Is Watching

I firmly believe that Google has its eyes on the bigger picture -- in this case, the home phone and cable television services. That means as part of a bigger bundle, Google will compete with telephone and cable TV and IPTV services. Depending on how you look at it, this can be good or bad, but either way it will be disruptive.

Google is already in the early stages of ruling and changing the wireless world. Customers love it, but competitors don't. Why stop there? There is an entire other world of opportunity to also rule -- the wireline space.

Traditional telephone and cable television companies are at risk as Google grows and transforms the space. Today they all work with Google in one form or another. Will that change? Will Google become the major competitor going forward? Yes, I think that will happen. And if that is the case, will Google continue working with these other companies?

This could have a major impact on all sorts of companies, like AT&T, Verizon, Sprint (NYSE: S), T-Mobile, CenturyLink, Windstream, Comcast, Time Warner, Cox, CableVision, and all the smaller companies as well.

As an example, look at traditional smartphone leaders like RIM, which is now struggling as Google and Apple transform the space. The transformation is good. It's what these traditional companies should have done themselves. However, now they have a tough time keeping up. That wave of innovation continues to challenge the status quo. That is good.

On the other hand, if Google becomes that important, it will become a big target for the government. Remember Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT)? It was like Google through the 1980s and 1990s. We praised its growth and ingenuity. Then it became too big and powerful. That's when the government had to step in and, well, castrate it. Ouch.

How long does it take for a company's growing wave to crest -- for it to capture the government's attention and then battle for its life? Google is not ready for that yet, but at some point it will be. As good as one company is, when it becomes too successful, the government always steps in.

Change Is Certain

We don't know today exactly what the marketplace will look like going forward. We don't know the products and services. We don't know what competitors will jump in. We don't know how the traditional companies will suffer and react. We don't know how we will think about this entire telephone and television space going forward.

One thing we should know is we will think very differently than we do today. After all, just look at the smartphone industry as an example. Five years ago, smartphones were RIM's BlackBerry and Palm's Treo. They were growing around 15 percent per year, and there were a few hundred apps. During the last few years, the smartphone market has exploded with growth, and the leaders are Google and Apple.

While we don't have all the answers yet, I think it's clear that with companies like Google and Apple leading the marketplace, we can expect things will look very different, very quickly.

 Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

  

 

 

My Pick of the Week is about Verizon working with Healthsense on an innovative mHealth offering for seniors. Healthsense is a telehealth and remote monitoring company.

It provides things like activity monitors for the home and the ability to call nursing stations. These monitors check users' activities in the home. They monitor things like how often toilets are used, or when doors open and close.

If activity is outside of expectations, doctors or nurses are notified to check on patients, as Healthsense president Brian Bischoff describes it.

Verizon provides the network connection. This is intended to be marketed to assisted living facilities and senior centers. This is part of the next generation of services we will be using going forward.

Brian Bischoff even talks about the next step for both Healthsense and Verizon: expanding telemedicine with a remote physician visiting in patient's homes. That's right -- just like the Emergency Medical Hologram on the Star Trek: Voyager TV series. Beam me up, Scotty! Incredible. 

 


 

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/Summer-Reading-Will-Fear-of-GPS-Interference-Doom-LightSquared-72437.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/72437.html

OPINION

Summer Reading: Will Fear of GPS Interference Doom LightSquared?

By Jeff Kagan
E-Commerce Times
05/12/11 5:00 AM PT

LightSquared is trying to steam along at full speed toward the finish line. At the same time, instead of a clear racetrack, the path is loaded with all sorts of hazards, and it's getting worse -- not better. This GPS problem may be a real problem for the startup. If this is a good summertime novel, we don't yet know how the story ends. It has not been written yet.

 

LightSquared sounds like a great idea. The company sees a growing need and has a plan. It plans on building a network and offering extra capacity to wireless carriers for wireless data usage.

Wireless carriers that need wireless data capacity can just partner with this company and get the connectivity they need. Sounds good so far. Think about AT&T (NYSE: T) Mobility wireless data logjams over the last few years with the iPhone. The reality, however, seems to be a very rough road ahead. The question is, will this thing ever get off the ground?

In this week's Pick of the Week section, I want to tell you about WellDoc, an interesting mobile health company. It uses a new mHealth app to help people stay on top of their Type 2 diabetes.

Where's the Bandwidth?

Months ago, we wondered about financing for LightSquared. Since then, it has lined up the first rounds. OK, good. Now there is another big question. The spectrum LightSquared uses may interfere with GPS signals. So suddenly, the entire navigation industry is up in arms.

LightSquared's reply? Well, it has none. OK. Doesn't make sense.

This company's struggle to break out and become real has been a very interesting story to follow. Like every good novel, it is full of great characters, loads of twists, and plenty of conflict. In the end, you hope the company can prevail, because the industry could really use what it promises. Smartphones are proliferating so quickly, they are squeezing the wireless networks like AT&T Mobility dry.

However, as we get further into the story, the future and success of the company gets cloudier -- not clearer. Will this story ever have a happy ending? It's the not knowing that keeps us following this story.

Let's face it. The fast-growing wireless industry has a problem. It needs more wireless bandwidth. There are growing data logjams everywhere, and it is only going to get worse. After all, that's why AT&T wants to merge with T-Mobile. That's why it started offering WiFi access for smartphones a few years ago.

This is the problem and the opportunity that LightSquared sees. As wireless data demand grows, it wants to help carriers like AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S), T-Mobile and a host of smaller companies such as U.S. Cellular and Cellular South with their bandwidth shortages.

Obstacles Strewn on the Path

A few years ago, this was just a dream by investor Phil Falcone. Then he hired several key executives, including CEO Sanjiv Ahuja, who was a keynote speaker at last month's CTIA wireless show in Orlando. Ahuja also gave an interesting interview on CNBC later that day.

The company launched a satellite into orbit several months ago. It has also got several large investors. It just signed partnership deals with Best Buy (NYSE: BBY) and Leap Wireless. They are also talking with other companies like Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) and CableVision.

On one hand, things really seem like they are coming together for the startup. On the other hand, all of a sudden, the other side of the coin is starting to show itself and threatens to become a real problem for the company.

This company is trying to steam along at full speed toward the finish line. At the same time, instead of a clear racetrack, the path is loaded with all sorts of hazards, and it's getting worse -- not better. This GPS problem may be a real problem for the startup.

If this is a good summertime novel, we don't yet know how the story ends. It has not been written yet.

Will the problems be solved, and will the company be successful? Will the industry have all this extra wireless capacity as the smartphone market continues to explode?

Or will it really be incompatible with GPS frequencies? Will LightSquared be forced to make some big changes or even perhaps shut down? That is the question. Apparently, it's not a sure thing.

In addition, there is quite a bit of activity on the anti-LightSquared front. There have been quite a few stories written about the problem, and not just here in the U.S., but globally. There are conferences popping up discussing the topic and all that could go wrong.

Now the Department of Transportation and the U.S. Defense Department are raising a red flag warning of potential problems. They are raising concerns about the FCC's waiver to LightSquared. They are asking the FCC for a more comprehensive study of the potential interference problems with GPS and navigation. If you recall, in January the FCC gave LightSquared a waiver if it can resolve the GPS problems before it turns on the service.

LightSquared started working with the Global Positioning System Industry Council to study the problem, and the company has to report to the FCC on a regular basis about its progress. The final report is due in June.

LightSquared Could Go Dark

Now another group of manufacturers has formed a group called SaveOurGPS.org. There is a growing number of companies -- like Garmin (Nasdaq: GRMN) in the GPS and navigation space -- that have real concerns.

Last week, Sens. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Ben Nelson, D-Neb., said they wanted the FCC to stop the deployment of the LTE network until LightSquared can prove it won't interfere with GPS.

So the stack is building against LightSquared, and seems to be getting quite high. Until the company can definitively say and prove it won't cause harm, it looks like it will be stopped.

If it cannot fix this problem, it could mean the end of the story for LigthtSquared. That would not be good news for the company -- but beyond that, it would not be good news for the wireless industry, which is facing spectrum shortage as wireless data usage continues to explode with smartphones like the many devices running versions of Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) Android and Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPhone.

So what is the truth? Is there a real problem, or is this a lot of worry about nothing? We have to ask this question in today's environment. That is the question, but no one really seems to know for sure on either side. Even LightSquared does not have answers.

Every great story is full of conflict, which is one of the reasons this is a heck of a story to follow. However, this story is not just about LightSquared. It is also about needed spectrum, other wireless carriers, and all the customers. And it's also about the GPS navigation industry.

Oh well, I guess we'll have to keep following this story. Like I said, the end has not been written yet. We'll find the answer sooner or later. However, something tells me the report due in June won't be the end either. To be continued . . .

 Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week 

 

 

 

For my Pick of the Week discussion, I want to tell you about an interesting mobile health company, WellDoc. It uses a new mHealth app, the WellDoc DiabetesManager System, to help people stay on top of their Type 2 diabetes and communicate with their doctors for better care.

Anand Iyer is the president and CEO. WellDoc has found a way to use the cellphone to capture data, provide behavioral coaching, and communicate with the doctor,who then has a better picture of your condition to inform any necessary adjustments to your medication.

During a 90-day study, it has seen A1C levels drop two points. If you have diabetes, you will know that is a terrific result. WellDoc has received the blessing of regulators like the FDA.

The company has started working with AT&T. The way it works is simple: Say it has a customer  that is a healthcare insurance company. Patients/subscribers are invited to participate. Those who agree will receive a text message with a link to download software to the cellphone -- the app.

Once it's installed, the customer can access the portal. At that point, the system begins communicating with the patient, offering reminders to test blood sugar levels, for example, and enter the results into the phone. It then gives recommendations.

This is helpful, because a problem we have to solve is that after a few refills, many patients just stop taking their medication. This new and innovative wireless health company looks like it is on the right track. 

 


 

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/Stroke-Survivors-Can-Come-Back-Strong---and-Tech-Tools-Can-Help-72395.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/72395.html

OPINION

Stroke Survivors Can Come Back Strong - and Tech Tools Can Help

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

05/05/11 5:00 AM PT

I have to tell you, while I would never volunteer to take the ride again, what I learned about the mind is incredible. It is strong and deep -- and a very surprising place. It was the most beautiful and awesome and awful ride, all at once. There are so many new health-tech ideas in the market today. This is one of the reasons I am so interested in and excited about our growing wireless health, mHealth and eHealth industry.

Since May is National Stroke Awareness Month, and since I am a stroke survivor, I want to share with you some important information everyone needs to know -- whether you are a stroke survivor yourself, or have a recovering relative or friend.

In my Pick of the Week section, let me tell you about Allsup, a company that has turned into a powerhouse helping people win their elusive benefits.

We hear of quite a few famous stroke survivors -- like actor Kirk Douglas, Vice President Joe Biden's son Beau Biden, weatherman Mark McEwen and Dick Clark. New England Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi had a stroke 10 days after winning the Super Bowl. He was only 31 years old and said he was in the best shape of his life. He thought strokes only happened to elderly people.

In the tech industry, Steve Largent -- head of the wireless association CTIA -- had a stroke the year after I had mine. When we talk, I see Steve's recovery has been inspiring. He has the right attitude. His hard work, commitment and recovery make a great success story to inspire everyone struggling with stroke and recovery today.

Sharing My Story

As I struggled with recovery, I found a problem that needed a solution. Suddenly I had many new doctors and had even more questions. Surprisingly, they offered nothing in the way of answers.

I wanted to know how to recover quickly. How to put this behind me. What was coming next. I wanted to know how to get my life back. Eventually I did learn -- over time.

So I decided when I had recovered that I would help others get these answers. I would write a book on what I had learned. I wanted to help others better understand what was happening to them and what was coming next by telling my story.

My book, Life After Stroke: On The Road To Recovery, has just been published. I have received so many touching emails from readers. You can click here and read the first couple of chapters. It will open your eyes and give you important tools everyone should have.

In the book, I call us "stroke survivors." To me, having a positive attitude is an important part of the recovery process. Looking at the glass as being half full, not half empty. That is key.

An App for 'Help!'

In the world of wireless and healthcare technology, there are so many new ideas that didn't exist a few short years ago. Here is one example: an app for stroke survivors that works on smartphones.

Jay Elliott, founder of Nuvel and author of The Steve Jobs Way, briefed me on his new app, vSOS.

When you press the icon on your iPhone, it jumps to action. It calls you to see if you need help. If you don't answer, it can use GPS technology to tell where you are and send emergency help.

Elliott developed this with a friend in mind who is also recovering from a stroke. vSOS actually has lots of applications, including for people living alone.

Awesome and Awful

This is just one of many exciting ideas I am briefed on every day. When I went to the CTIA Wireless show in March, there were so many more exciting ideas on display. This is an amazing time we are entering, and I will tell you about many of these great ideas.

The good news is stroke survivors often come back strong. They can once again grow into important players in our industry and our companies. It just takes a little extra time and work.

I have to tell you, while I would never volunteer to take the ride again, what I learned about the mind is incredible. It is strong and deep -- and a very surprising place. It was the most beautiful and awesome and awful ride, all at once.

When I give a speech on my experience, it brings back tears about the past and excitement about the future.

There are so many new health-tech ideas in the market today. This is one of the reasons I am so interested in and excited about our growing wireless health, mHealth and eHealth industry. Health is something that we will all be dealing with going forward as individuals, workers and investors. You will see me following and covering and talking about this exciting area. I hope it surprises and delights you as much as it does me.

The changes in healthcare technology we have seen over the last seven years have truly been amazing, and we are still only in the first inning of this brand new game. Batter up!

 

Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

 

 

 

My Pick of the Week is Allsup, a company that helps people win their Social Security benefits. Jim Allsup started the company in 1984 after working for the Social Security Administration. He saw a need and started this company, which has grown into a powerhouse of help for those struggling with a variety of illnesses, including stroke.

Since I am a stroke survivor, I can completely understand their model and the need. I was unable to work or even think. My income stopped, and my mind was in such chaos. Benefits? Disability insurance or Social Security? I was lost. That's where Allsup enters the picture.

Allsup calls itself the nation's leading disability representation company and says it has helped more than 150,000 people receive more than US$12 billion in Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Medicare benefits.

This is a needed service when dealing with the confusing and complex world of government benefits, where even when you need them the most, it is often very difficult to get help. If only I knew about Allsup a few years ago!

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Jeff Kagan is an E-Commerce Times columnist and industry analyst following wireless, telecom and healthcare technology. He is also an author, speaker and consultant. Email him at jeff@jeffKAGAN.com. Read the first chapters of his new book Life After Stroke, now available at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

 


 

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/Wireless-Health-Whats-in-It-for-Doctors-72347.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/72347.html

OPINION

Wireless Health: What's in It for Doctors?

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

04/28/11 5:00 AM PT

I firmly believe all this mind-blowing innovation will occur. This is great news for jobs and investment and industry growth. However, we need to change some basic things to make sure one party does not win at the expense of another party. We have to make sure we have the right people in charge so everyone benefits. We understand the wireless industry changes -- and often. We have to start thinking the same way about this new healthcare model.

After listening to countless companies' exciting ideas, I have come to the conclusion that the new wireless health sector has the potential to grow into a booming business within the next five years. The question is, how much am I willing to bet? The potential is there, but can we clear the path?

Depending on whom you ask, it is either coming on strong or it is going nowhere. Both sides are firmly convinced they are right. The truth is that something has to change, and I'll explain why.

In my Pick of the Week section, I want to tell you how Michael Dell (Nasdaq: DELL) and Dell Inc. are getting into the mHealth industry with Meditech.

Our healthcare system is being rewritten with wave after wave of change -- innovations and technologies that use new wireless and wireline connections. There are companies, large and small, with exciting ideas about what the future will look like. They are all contacting me to get on my radar, and it is exciting.

On the other hand, there is a roadblock I want to tell you about. I just visited a few doctors and brought up the topic of wireless health, mHealth and eHealth. I like talking with doctors, because they are honest and tell me what they really think.

They all surprised me and quickly said all this new health stuff would not happen. Period.

Show Me the Money

So where is the rub? Is this going to be real or not? Why don't these two important sides in the process see eye-to-eye on where we are heading?

Well, the answer is simple enough. You and I would not be willing to do loads of extra work without being compensated, and the doctors feel the same way.

They say it sounds like a great idea. It will save the insurance companies money, since they won't have to pay for a visit. It will save the patients time and money, since they won't have to come in for a visit. But for the doctor, the picture isn't so rosy.

It means doctors will have to spend more hours per day, often at the end of the day, communicating with patients without compensation. Plus the patient doesn't come in for a visit, so they lose that income also. It's a double-whammy. The doctor gets it from both ends.

If you were asked to spend that much more time at work, with no more income, and in fact losing income, would you? I didn't think so. Neither would I. So why should they? That is one of the problems we must fix if we want to move forward.

Another hurdle is expertise. There is a big gap here. There are very few people in the world who have expertise on both sides. Either they are an expert in healthcare, or communications technology.

So what is the answer? Do colleges start teaching differently? Do we take wireless people and teach them healthcare, and visa versa? Whatever the solution is, we are just getting started down this new path, and we need solutions. We'd love to follow the yellow brick road, but instead the path is uphill, and full of vines and rocks.

All Aboard

Another question is do we totally overhaul the system or continue to tweak it for years to come? It sounds better to just overhaul the entire system right? However, technology innovations bring changes every year. So this massive overhaul will be outdated in a year or two. Even before the transformation is complete. It makes more sense to keep tweaking.

Let me say I firmly believe all this mind-blowing innovation will occur. This is great news for jobs and investment and industry growth. However, we need to change some basic things to make sure it is fair for everyone. To make sure one party does not win at the expense of another party. We have to make sure we have the right people in charge so everyone benefits.

We understand the wireless industry changes -- and often. We have to start thinking the same way about this new healthcare model. All this new technology that is being presented by companies like Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM), Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ), Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO), GE, and many others. They will continue to change the healthcare world we think we know.

We have to look for help from new groups with new thinking, like the Wireless-Life Sciences Alliance. What about government agencies? Which will play a role? The Food and Drug Adminstration? The FCC? What about new agencies as this industry sector grows? I think we'll see new players in this space. Piece by piece, everything will change.

Every day, I get contacted by companies, large and small, with amazing and earthshaking ideas that make me realize the future of healthcare is bright and new and exciting. They want me to tell the world about them.

We have seen lots of innovation -- but make no mistake, so far this is a new path, and we have more questions than answers. That is actually the good part. However, we have to remember that while some parties are excited about moving forward, others think this just won't happen.

Today they are both right, because the disconnect shines a light on some of the areas we need to adjust to make sure everyone is on the same train.

One of our more immediate challenges is to make the playing field even and opportunities fair for all. Once we do that, the bumpy road ahead will be smoothed, and the speeds will increase, and things will start to happen quickly.

And isn't that what we all want to happen? Imagine what the world will be like when healthcare gets to be as cool and fast-growing and rapidly changing as the iPhone and Android? This is the incredible world that investors, workers and everyone else are waiting for.

Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week 

 

 

My Pick of the Week topic is how Michael Dell and Dell Inc. are getting into the mHealth industry with Meditech. But, you may ask, aren't they in the computer business? Yes, but they are also thinking outside the box. Looking to new areas for growth. That will also help the healthcare industry.

Wireless health is one of the big opportunities going forward for companies large and small. Computer companies like Dell are well positioned not only to be big winners in this space, but also leaders.

Dell is moving into this area and has unveiled a new mobile program called "Meditech MCC," which stands for "mobile clinical computing." This new program brings companies' healthcare information services (HCIS) from a PC-based system into a cloud-based system.

Dell says it is a virtual desktop that allows users to seamlessly move from desktops to laptops to tablets to smartphones. According to Dell, storing data in the cloud rather than on hard drives is a better way to prevent security problems. Actually, it solves some and raises others, but they can be managed with good execution.

Meditech is being beta-tested in hospitals now. If Dell does this well, it could be an important slice of its business going forward. I think if you look at similar computer companies -- like Lenovo, Toshiba, HP (NYSE: HPQ) and Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) -- you may find plenty of movement in this same direction. They are hoping to capture the imagination of the marketplace and find growth outside the traditional PC market. 

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Jeff Kagan is an E-Commerce Times columnist and industry analyst following wireless, telecom and healthcare technology. He is also an author, speaker and consultant. Email him at jeff@jeffKAGAN.com. Read the first chapters of his new book Life After Stroke now available at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

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http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/ATT-Sees-T-Mobile-Merger-Through-Rose-Colored-Glasses-72310.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/72310.html

OPINION

AT&T Sees T-Mobile Merger Through Rose-Colored Glasses

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

04/21/11 5:00 AM PT

Let's hope this merger benefits not just AT&T, but the industry overall. There is a long way to go before it gets there, and it would be very helpful if AT&T would take a more realistic stance on both the pros and cons, instead of looking at this deal like it is just positive for everyone, which it clearly is not.

I want to give you some of the feedback on my recent column, "Thumbs Up or Down for AT&T (NYSE: T) + T-Mobile?" It is very interesting indeed. This merger is getting lots of attention. Arguments on both sides make sense, but only one side will win. Which side are you on, and why? Have you thought it through?

When reading this, please realize I am not saying this deal shouldn't happen. What I am saying is that AT&T is only looking at the reasons for and not the reasons against -- and that is creating a lot more pushback.

AT&T customers seem to like the idea. They like that this will give them better quality and reliability and service. This has been an increasing problem in recent years.

Customers of other carriers, if they have an opinion, seem to dislike it, because they say fewer competitors mean higher prices and less vibrant competition.

Execs from AT&T thought I was crazy for questioning the deal in my column. They think this is a good deal -- not only for AT&T, but for the entire industry. They see no other side. They are singularly focused. Of course, they want the deal to happen. More on this later.

AT&T workers are more of a mixed bag. Some think it is a good idea, but many are also very worried about their jobs with all the new workers coming in. They have seen this before with the other mergers they have participated in. Bottom line: The efficiencies resulting from a merger typically mean the company doesn't need all those workers. Many lose their jobs. In today's jobs environment, that has many concerned.

Weighing the Competition

Execs from Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S) are against the merger. Sprint CEO Dan Hesse has been a very vocal adversary since the beginning. AT&T did not immediately answer his criticisms, but after a recent speech by Hesse, AT&T responded in a post on its public policy blog: Jim Cicconi, senior executive VP for external and legislative affairs, said Dan Hesse's comments about the merger were "way off base." Are they?

"Given that Sprint is a major competitor to AT&T in the hyper competitive wireless market Mr. Hesse describes, no one should be surprised that they would oppose this merger, but it is self-serving for them to argue that the highly competitive wireless market they cited only months ago is not threatened by the very type of transaction they seemed prepared to defend previously."

I like Cicconi for his valiant effort, but I really don't think he realizes that he is making Sprint's point. If Sprint and T-Mobile got together, it would have made the three-way marketplace more even. Three more-equal competitors. Instead, this current deal will make AT&T that much bigger and farther ahead of Sprint Nextel. So you can't consider these two mergers equal. They are not.

Sprint is now recovering from a very rough period and many years of losses. While this recovery looks good, it should not be used to say that Sprint is as strong and healthy as AT&T or Verizon. Sprint should not be pointed to by AT&T as vibrant competition. It is not. Not yet. Just look at the market share numbers.

I don't know if Sprint expects to stop the merger or just to moderate the potential damage it could cause, but it is vocal about it. Sprint workers seem to agree. This is turning out to be a very interesting battle that is just starting.

Execs from Verizon have not really weighed in one way or the other. They express obvious concern with the many issues but don't want to block the deal either. My impression is they have a problem with this merger but want to keep the pathway clear in case they have another acquisition in mind.

There are plenty of others -- like Tracfone, MetroPCS, Cellular South and U.S. Cellular -- that AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph de la Vega points to as vibrant competitors. Sure, they are competitors, but they don't sell enough to be real competitors. Not in this argument. Look at market share. In the new environment, AT&T and Verizon will have somewhere around 80 percent market share. All the other competitors have to split the rest.

I have also heard from equipment and network companies, and there are plenty. Very few, if any, like the idea. Most think this will have a negative impact on them and the industry in general.

For example, companies like Ericsson (Nasdaq: ERICY) and Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) don't seem happy about this merger. They would prefer a marketplace full of smaller and mid-size competitors, because they sell more gear. This deal means fewer sites. That may mean losses and layoffs in an industry sector very hard hit by previous mergers.

Tower companies, like American Tower, have taken an immediate hit in the stock market. American Tower CEO James Taiclet said in a CNBC interview that when similar mergers took place in the past, the company experienced an initial slowdown before continuing to grow. It sounds like he would prefer many companies as opposed to a few, but said his firm will make it either way.

I got a lot of phone calls and email and have read numerous articles with quotes from various executives, associations, customers and investors either complaining about the deal or loving it. There were plenty of both.

I had so many questions when this merger was announced. Now, after hearing from so many different interests, I have even more questions.

However, that was the point of my original column. AT&T wants this deal, but it is making things harder on itself with its current playbook.

Time to Get Real

This deal is clearly good for AT&T. This deal is also clearly bad for many others. For AT&T to ignore both valid sides will only hurt it.

I have watched Ralph de la Vega for 15 years, and I think he is a good man, but I think AT&T is making a mistake here in its approach. This is one of the last big deals and should be harder to get approved. Ignoring the arguments of the other side creates angst.

If AT&T takes a fair approach, it will make friends and have less pushback. If it stays on the current path, pushback will be strong the entire way.

AT&T customers have been complaining for a while about lousy service. This merger will help the company deliver better service. So there are reasons this makes sense.

On the other hand, we have seen many mergers in the past decade, and the results have been mixed. This time, we have to be smart and try to look into the future and design the best merger for everyone -- customers, workers, investors, as well as the companies.

We need to think about the changing and growing industry. We have to realize the wireless industry changes every five years. Remember, five years ago, the words "iPhone" and "Android" did not even exist. Five years ago, RIM, with its BlackBerry, and Palm ruled the smaller smartphone space. Five years ago, we had a couple hundred apps, and today we have a few hundred thousand.

So, what will the wireless marketplace look like tomorrow? That is what we have to think about. That is what we have to address.

When all is said and done, I think this deal will be done -- but AT&T should make several important concessions. I think it knows this but doesn't want to move in that direction yet.

I like AT&T. Starting as SBC from San Antonio Texas, it is suddenly a very large company that is trying very hard to grow and please everyone. I also think it is having a dickens of a time doing so. It makes its share of mistakes, but it also makes many good moves and is a very innovative and creative company.

Let's hope this merger benefits not just AT&T, but the industry overall. There is a long way to go before it gets there, and it would be very helpful if AT&T would take a more realistic stance on both the pros and cons, instead of looking at this deal like it is just positive for everyone, which it clearly is not.

Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

 

 

 

For my Pick of the Week topic, I want you to think back and remember the good old advertising commercials AT&T ran in the 1980s and 1990s. The kind that made you feel good. During the last decade, we have not seen them. The good news is they are back.

Suddenly, AT&T is running a newer version of those same old wholesome feel-good messages that worked so well in the past, and this time they are called "Anthem." I guess the company is hoping they will warm the hearts of the marketplace -- and they just might.

Among other things, AT&T is talking about healthcare and putting your personal information in the cloud, so that when you are traveling, the doctors can see your medical history.

That is brilliant. AT&T understands the direction the industry is heading. It will play a role in this new industry going forward.

It is talking up a great story. Now it just has to make it a reality. This new world, with wireless health, mHealth and eHealth, is really starting to arrive. Let's hope it has a faster growth curve than the videophone did from the 1964 World's Fair. Has it hit the market yet? 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Jeff Kagan is an E-Commerce Times columnist and industry analyst following wireless, telecom and healthcare technology. He is also an author, speaker and consultant. Email him at jeff@jeffKAGAN.com. Read the first chapters of his new book Life After Stroke now available at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

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http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/Get-Ready-to-Grab-the-mHealth-Wave-72264.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/72264.html

OPINION

Get Ready to Grab the mHealth Wave

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

04/14/11 5:00 AM PT

What do you think about when you think of AT&T, Verizon and Sprint? Probably wireless and telephone and Internet and television -- but not healthcare. Yet they will play an important role in the development of the new mHealth industry segment. These companies understand they will play an important part in this new revolution, but today they simply don't have a clue what that means exactly.

Suddenly, mHealth is very visible in the wireless industry. At the CTIA show a few weeks ago in Orlando, there were many companies up and down the aisles from every corner of the industry. They were trying to capture the attention of the attendees, who were mesmerized by all the bright lights and cool things to see. Mixed in with all this craziness, the newly planted seeds of the wireless health space were starting to take root.

Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM) looks like one of the leaders in this new wireless health space. At the show, it had its own huge booth as usual, but it also sponsored a separate area , the Wireless Health Pavilion, which gave space to many small companies with big ideas.

I met with representatives of several of these companies, and they have very interesting and exciting ideas. New companies like Diversinet, which enables secure, mobile communications among healthcare professionals, hospitals and the entire healthcare ecosystem. Independa is another; it will announce a tablet-based service that remotely monitors homebound patient health and reminds them of their medications, appointments and other important things, so off-site caregivers can view trends and spot problems before they become crises.

There were others, like Magellan, Zinwave, Mobi Health News, CellTrak Technologies, AnyDATA, Telcare, OptumizeMe and many more.

There were so many new and really cool ideas, I could see how exciting the next decade will be watching new opportunities develop.

Transformation and Renewal

I talked with Don Jones, VP of business development for Wireless Health at Qualcomm. In every revolution, there are a few key people and companies that help to drive things in the right direction. Don and Qualcomm are part of that small group with a large voice helping to drive mHealth.

I had coffee with Rob McCray who is president and CEO of the Wireless-Life Sciences Alliance, also at Qualcomm's Wireless Health Pavilion. Rob has a strong desire to bring wireless health to reality, and this global trade organization is bringing CEOs from wireless health companies together with business leaders and researchers in healthcare and technology.

There are other companies just as active in this space, large and small, and I am getting to know them all as they get in touch with me.

The fun part is watching an old and established wireless industry transform itself. What, you don't think wireless is old and established? Well, compare it to the new mHealth space, and you will see what I mean.

I am starting to meet some very interesting people who are driving this young and exciting industry segment. The blending of healthcare and wireless has been growing in recent years.

I think 2011, this year, will be the breakout year when it takes on a life of its own.

With that said, the leaders of today may or may not be the leaders of tomorrow. Remember what we saw with the Internet. While eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY) and Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN) are still doing well, where are other previous leaders -- like Prodigy and Netscape? They were important, but they are no longer.

So who will still be here, who will disappear, and who will appear during the next five years? Who will capture the imagination of the marketplace, investors and the media?

Wireless health is one of the newest -- and is going to be one of the hottest -- growth areas going forward. The more I look into this new space the more interesting it gets, and the more questions I have.

This is exciting from an investors' point of view, although it is like a minefield. Some companies are going to grow, and some won't. Picking the winners to invest in is always the challenge.

I have talked with many executives from large companies, and from smaller companies with great ideas looking for venture capital. Angel investors. How they find each other remains one of the big challenges.

Chief marketing officers for this new sector have a big opportunity and a bigger challenge. How do you get the word out on such a new area? Ten years from now it won't be a problem, but today most people have never heard of wireless healthcare.

Wide-Open Frontier

Three companies here in the United States that will play a role in this space are AT&T (NYSE: T), Verizon and Sprint (NYSE: S). There are plenty of other companies in other countries. These are the companies that have the networks to connect patients and the entire medical community, both wireless and wireline.

What do you think about when you think of AT&T, Verizon and Sprint? Probably wireless and telephone and Internet and television -- but not healthcare. Yet they will play an important role in the development of this new industry segment.

I have talked with each of these companies, and so have many others from the wireless health industry, and I think we all have found the same thing. These companies understand they will play an important part in this new revolution, but today they simply don't have a clue what that means exactly.

Trying to get AT&T, Verizon and Sprint to think like a healthcare company is like trying to fit a round peg into a square hole. Yet it's a hurdle we have to get over to make all this come true.

Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and Yahoo (Nasdaq: YHOO) also have search engines for this sector. We have to encourage these companies to continue rapidly moving in this direction. This is an amazing opportunity.

Does that mean these wireless companies need to hire healthcare executives, or does that mean the healthcare companies need to hire wireless execs? Too bad there are so few executives who really understand the coming opportunity from all sides. Perhaps that is an opportunity to explore.

Barry Green, owner and innovator with Consultants At Large, says he sees a big opportunity here in this space and doesn't realize why carriers are not there yet. He says someone has to build the bridges to connect wireless and healthcare.

As I see it, you can either lead or follow in this new space. There are no long-standing rules yet. I believe it is up to the CEO of every company to decide which role to take. How do you build this bridge? Companies think they are moving in the right direction, but this is more like the wild wild West.

I am a relative newcomer to this space. I have been a wireless and telecom industry analyst for 25 years. The business sectors and the companies I follow have expanded over that time to include many in the cellular and wireless, telephone, Internet, cable television and IPTV space.

Now I am following this brand new mHealth and eHealth industry as it cracks open the eggshell and hatches in the beautiful sunshine of a warm, spring morning. Let's continue to learn about this exciting and challenging new segment together.

There are loads of opportunities and risks for investors, venture capitalists, workers, executives, partners, customers -- and of course, the patients and doctors. This new playground means we'll have some fun, make some money, find new careers, and change the world of wireless healthcare forever.

Remember, change only takes a moment. Then everyone has to rush to catch up. 

 


 

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/Note-to-TV-Nets-Steer-Clear-of-Musics-Painful-Path-72222.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/72222.html

 

OPINION

Note to TV Nets: Steer Clear of Music's Painful Path 

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

04/07/11 5:00 AM PT

The networks' argument is that by making the content available on the iPad, Time Warner has violated its agreements with them. OK, so let me get this straight. As technology and innovation continue to sweep across the marketplace and delight us, we have to be worried about old agreements that didn't see these changes coming. Adhering to these old agreements makes this cool new tech no better than a really hot paperweight.

New technology may be cool, but it can also be a double-edged sword. Different industries are starting to overlap, and even though the blending of different technologies can be very exciting, it can also be very confusing.

One example is how cable television companies have been starting to use the Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPad and other tablet computers as a super-powered remote control. You can flip through pages of channels and times and shows on the handheld screen and select what you want to watch. They do this through an app that customers download. I'll explore some of the implications of the tablet's encroachment on the TV this week.

As my Pick of the Week topic, I want to congratulate CenturyLink for becoming the No. 3 baby bell by acquiring Qwest.

Fighting Change Instead of Embracing It

The TV remote app is just for starters. Taking this to the next logical level, cable television companies are letting customers watch shows not only on their TVs, but increasingly on personal computers and tablets. Customers love the flexibility. Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) customers have downloaded its iPad app more than 300,000 times already. This seems like it is just what customers want, and it will be big.

However, this innovation seems to be rubbing some in the industry the wrong way -- like some television networks and channels.

These companies are starting to remind me of the music industry during its transformation in the 1990s, when music was starting to be turned into files and listened to on the laptop, and then iPods and the like.

Cable television companies have started down this exciting path -- watching television on whatever screen you choose -- and today we have an increasing number of screens. Imagine watching television shows on your handheld device anywhere in your home. And imagine what is coming next, when you are at the store, or waiting for the kids in car-pool line, or even in another city on a trip. Eventually, you will be able to watch your own personal cable television service anywhere.

Time Warner and Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSK) are starting to allow customers not only to use their tablets as a remote, but also to watch television on them. Cablevision was planning on launching its app in March, but it is not yet ready. Cox is starting to dip its toes in the water with its first app. This is the beginning of an entirely new way of thinking about and watching television.

Some networks don't like this innovation, however, and are starting to raise the same objections the music industry did. Fighting the change rather than embracing it ultimately hurt the music industry. Will the same thing happen to these networks?

While Time Warner is not saying it did anything wrong by putting channels on the iPad streaming video application for their customers, it has decided to remove a dozen channels from some powerful networks that were not happy.

Why did these networks object? They wanted to make more profits on their channels, I guess. Screw innovation. Screw the customer. It looks like they are singularly focused on the investor. Why don't they see this as a ticking time bomb?

Old Agreements vs. New Technologies

Time Warner says it will continue to fight to ensure that their customers have access to the content they pay for, no matter which screen in their home they choose to view it on. Customers are on the Time Warner side of this argument.

The networks' argument is that by making the content available on the iPad, Time Warner has violated its agreements with them. OK, so let me get this straight. As technology and innovation continue to sweep across the marketplace and delight us, we have to be worried about old agreements that didn't see these changes coming. Adhering to these old agreements makes this cool new tech no better than a really hot paperweight.

Fortunately, Time Warner Cable soon rebounded, announcing it would start including 17 new channels for viewing on tablets. As with music, this is a runaway train. The networks should either figure out how to join this exciting movement or they should get out of the way. They can't stop it.

This battle is in the very early stages, and it is time to make your opinion heard. It is important to understand that this issue has a variety of heads -- including the investor and the customer. Which are the networks focusing on? The investor, it looks like.

Fine, investors in the networks are probably happy. On the other hand, customers of Time Warner want innovation, and the networks are standing in the way. If the networks don't want to make viewers angry, they should be very careful here. Competition is growing from AT&T (NYSE: T) U-verse and Verizon FiOS. Even the new third baby bell, CenturyLink, is experimenting with this technology. The writing is on the wall, and innovation is key.

Don't Tick Off Your Customers

This shows the painful problems of innovation as technology expands and changes. This shows the problem when a company focuses on today's profits and ignores the competitive reality that is changing beneath its feet.

Here's an idea: What about saying customers can watch the programming they've paid for on any device in their home area? Televisions, table computers, laptops, desktops, screens on the walls -- everything. After all, we are starting with iPad computers, but as the table computer continues to explode, this is another great new way to watch television.

Any new technologies would be allowed, as long as they were used in the home zone. Why does it have to be a TV screen, when so many other screens can access the same content?

Perhaps there can be an additional charge for watching your television shows when out of your home zone. So if you want to watch TV while waiting for the kids in car pool line on your iPad or even on the TV screens in your mini-van, you will have to pay another fee. Maybe that's a solution.

I don't have all the answers, but I do know that trying to stop this sweeping wave of exciting change will only tick off customers and viewers -- and the price that will have to be paid down the road for that stupid move will be very costly indeed to the networks. This is the kind of anger that is the starting place for real innovation.

So come on networks and cable television providers, work it out -- and quickly. The consumer is champing at the bit and has a very short fuse.

Good job, Time Warner Cable. Here's a pat on the back to Jeff Bewkes, Time Warner chief executive, and Glenn Britt, Time Warner Cable chairman and CEO.

 

Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

 

 

 

For my Pick of the Week discussion, CenturyLink is now the No. 3 local phone company, after AT&T and Verizon. It just completed its acquisition of Qwest, and now we will see what new things will start to occur.

By the way, this also moves Windstream up to the No. 4 position among local phone companies, if you are counting.

We are watching the U.S.'s local phone companies change and break up into two distinct groups -- AT&T and Verizon on one side, and CenturyLink and Windstream on the other.

CenturyLink seems to have some aggressive plans. Whether it can make them reality is the question that has yet to be answered. It has some innovative ideas. It is testing its own wireless service in a few markets. If this works, it will expand. What about television?

What will CenturyLink look like going forward? Will it compete with a variety of services -- more like AT&T and Verizon -- or will it stay on the other side of the line with Windstream? It will now be in 37 states with a 190,000-mile fiber network. It will also have 850,000 wireless customers, 1,415,000 video subscribers, 17 million access lines and more than 5 million broadband customers. It sounds like a pretty solid company at this point.

Glen Post, the CEO and president, says the Qwest acquisition allows CenturyLink to offer customers of all sizes an even more robust portfolio of communications solutions that will continue to be backed by honest and personal service. That actually sounds like a pretty good place to start, doesn't it? Refreshing. Maybe it'll catch on.

It will be interesting to hear its position on important industry reshaping issues like the AT&T + T-Mobile merger.

So congratulations, CenturyLink. You have suddenly become a very large and important company. You will now be watched more closely. You may enjoy some of what is written and said about you, and you may not like other parts. That's just the way the business goes. Your performance is what counts for customers, workers and investors.

I hope you are ready, because the rules of this big game are much different than the rules of the smaller game you've been successfully playing for the last several years.

Suddenly the world has changed for you. Just remember, all of a sudden everybody will be listening to every word you have to say. Good luck! 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Jeff Kagan is an E-Commerce Times columnist and industry analyst following wireless, telecom and healthcare technology. He is also an author, speaker and consultant. Email him at jeff@jeffKAGAN.com. Read the first chapters of his new book Life After Stroke now available at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/Thumbs-Up-or-Down-for-ATT--T-Mobile-72176.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/72176.html

OPINION

Thumbs Up or Down for AT&T + T-Mobile?

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

03/31/11 5:00 AM PT

If Sprint had acquired T-Mobile, it would have increased the size of the No. 3 competitor, and the result would have been a more competitive three-way race. That would have been good -- and easier to get done. Instead, this current proposal would turn AT&T into a bigger giant, followed by Verizon, which is also a giant, and it would leave Sprint even further behind than it is now. That is not good and will make this deal tougher.

So you've heard that AT&T (NYSE: T) Mobility wants to merge with T-Mobile. There are two main questions on everyone's mind: Is this deal good or bad, and will it happen or not?

Whether it's good or bad, of course, depends on your perspective. It will be good for some and bad for others. I have heard many opposing opinions on this merger.

While I initially thought it was just another deal that would be approved, I began to realize that many questions needed to be considered.

I'll consider the pros and cons of the AT&T-T-Mobile deal, and then in my Pick of the Week section, I'll tell you about Lightsquared.

Transformational Event

As the next several months pass, there will be a lot of debating over AT&T and T-Mobile. This is just the beginning. An exploration of some of the arguments for and against this deal will hopefully make it easier for you to decide which side you are on.

At this early stage, I believe this merger can be approved. However, it will be a sticky mess before the companies get there.

The question is this: What price will AT&T ultimately pay? Based on what I've heard so far, I have a feeling it won't be cheap. Approval will likely come with a hefty price tag that will affect investors, customers, competitors and suppliers.

This last week has been exciting, and we just started this game. I gave countless interviews with newspapers, magazines, television and radio stations. (You can read many of them on my website.) Like yours, perhaps, my opinion has already begun to mature over the last week -- and it will likely change over the coming months as both sides talk.

This is a very large deal that will have long-lasting impact on the entire industry. This is not just about AT&T.

This is one of those industry-reshaping events, so I think it is important to ask the right questions and make sure we think of everything before regulators decide yes or no. Even with all that thinking, we will not get it all. We never do. The industry continues to change, and unexpected results often occur.

Many think this is a good deal, and many think this is not. The funny thing is, they are both right. AT&T and T-Mobile executives love it. Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S) does not. Verizon Wireless so far does not have much of an opinion but is not opposing it. AT&T investors seem to love the idea. Investors in many smaller competitors don't.

Customers love and hate the idea. They love the idea of more spectrum and capacity improving their connection because they have had problems in the last few years. Some T-Mobile customers are happy because they see an improvement in their service.

On the other hand, T-Mobile customers are generally happy with their existing service, while AT&T customers are not as happy. Workers and executives at T-Mobile are generally not happy, because many of them will be cut.

Sprint Will Fall Behind

When we listen to AT&T or T-Mobile, all we hear are the good reasons for this deal to get done. That's fair enough since they want it. However, it is just as important to listen to the many arguments against the deal. Then weigh them and compare them. Then put them in order, most important to least important.

We have seen this industry transform itself over the last decade. In the 1990s, we had dozens of smaller, regional industry competitors. Today, after waves of mergers, we see fewer, larger, national players.

If anything, it seemed Sprint and T-Mobile would get together. They have been talking off and on over the last several years. This deal with AT&T surprised everyone.

If Sprint had acquired T-Mobile, it would have produced a very different result. It would have increased the size of the No. 3 competitor, and the result would have been a more competitive three-way race. That would have been good -- and easier to get done.

Instead, this current proposal would turn AT&T into a bigger giant, followed by Verizon, which is also a giant, and it would leave Sprint even further behind than it is now. That is not good and will make this deal tougher.

I originally thought there were plenty of competitors. There would still be a big three, plus a few smaller competitors. However after listening to the arguments against the idea, and after thinking this through over the last week, I am starting to realize that is not the case.

Instead it will be the big two -- AT&T and Verizon -- with their wireless and wireline businesses competing with each other. Sprint will be a very small player in comparison, even though it has been recovering.

That is another interesting part of this story. If Sprint were still struggling the way it was a few short years ago, this deal wouldn't stand a chance. However, now that Sprint is recovering and looking better and stronger, AT&T and T-Mobile have the guts to try to get together.

Serious Scrutiny Required

This deal will save AT&T's bacon. It was the first to go into smartphones full force -- before competitors who are still trying to catch up. This flood of Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPhone traffic started a data bottleneck at Ma Bell that the company still hasn't fixed.

Extra spectrum is just what AT&T needs -- it's not just about size. It's also about good quality service. This will give the company the spectrum and the wiggle room it needs, for now. Until it overloads again anyway.

Customers often complain about AT&T quality and service, but the company is still growing rapidly, so this does not seem to be a real problem.

These are all long-term questions and they require long-term answers. Unfortunately, this merger is a short-term fix. One step at a time, however. This will turn AT&T into the largest competitor once again. The next step may be what my Pick of the Week is about at the end of this column.

I have been asked another interesting question. Will they stay in Atlanta? I have heard they may be moved to Dallas. Who knows? Much of the decision-making is already there. If so, that would be a big blow to Atlanta.

I am not saying AT&T's merger ambitions should not be permitted. I am just saying there is so much more to be considered and debated this time around. Previous mergers were approved because there were still so many competitors. Now, however, the competitors are small in number. There are only AT&T and Verizon as the big two.

After Sprint Nextel, there is an assortment of smaller firms like Tracfone and MetroPCS, and regional players in each marketplace like Cellular South and U.S. Cellular. These are good players, and they are an important part of the mix, but they are not large enough to matter in this debate. And this merger would make them smaller than ever in comparison.

So, when AT&T and T-Mobile point to a very robust and rapidly growing wireless marketplace in order to be approved to merge, we should realize that this may be stretching the truth quite a bit. If this merger takes place, AT&T and Verizon will control what -- 89 percent of the market?

At the end of the day, this deal may happen. If it does, there will be good and bad parts. We should just make sure we don't just quickly and blindly approve it. This is an opportunity to shape the future of the wireless business going forward. It is not only an opportunity, but also an obligation. If this merger goes through, it will impact everyone -- customers, investors, workers and competitors -- for many years to come.

Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

 

 

For my Pick of the Week topic, I'll offer some thoughts about Lightsquared, which may play a role in giving wireless carriers more data capacity. It does not offer service yet, and it continues to send out mixed signals, but it continues to build.

Lightsquared CEO Sanjiv Ahuja gave a keynote at last week's CTIA show and was on CNBC describing what it is trying to do, and it sounds impressive. It is facing some stiff technical problems that it needs to overcome, but it also has a great idea.

The industry players need more wireless data capacity, and Lightsquared would provide it.

Phil Falcone is a single man with a big dream, and he is working to make this a reality. He sees a growing wireless opportunity and wants to be a part of it.

Lightsquared is striking deals with industry players. For example, last week it announced deals with Best Buy and Leap Wireless, and this week, there have been reports of interest from cable television companies like Time Warner and CableVision.

Nothing is certain yet, but Lightsquared is inching its way closer to becoming a real competitor. We'll have to keep our eyes on it and hope for the best.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Jeff Kagan is an E-Commerce Times columnist and industry analyst following wireless, telecom and healthcare technology. He is also an author, speaker and consultant. Email him at jeff@jeffKAGAN.com. Read the first chapters of his new book Life After Stroke now available at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

 


 

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/Pre-Paid-Wireless-Has-Finally-Grown-Up-72132.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/72132.html

OPINION

Pre-Paid Wireless Has Finally Grown Up

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

03/24/11 5:00 AM PT

Post-paid cellphone providers often have a lock on the premium and brand-new devices, but don't write off pre-paid wireless providers entirely. I took a new look at these recently and was both delighted and surprised at how much this pre-paid industry segment has matured and gotten better. Do you want a second phone? Or what about a primary phone that just costs less?

Have you taken a look at pre-paid wireless lately? I hadn't, since there is always so much noise to follow in the post-paid world and pre-paid is relatively quiet, but pre-paid is actually looking better and better over the last few years.

Pre-paid is becoming a mainstream part of the mix you should consider. In fact, it is now even better than traditional wireless for a growing percentage of users. Is it better for you? You may be surprised.

At the end of this column I will talk about how tablet and pad computers are beginning to change the healthcare industry from doctors to hospitals and more.

A Better Rate

We always think the first option should be a traditional post-paid cellphone. And for many years that was the best first choice. In the early days, pre-paid was more expensive. Its claim to fame was it gave those with a poor credit rating a chance to go wireless, but at a higher cost.

Ever since, there has been a group of smaller companies that have been transforming this space. Companies like Tracfone and MetroPCS are actually doing strong business, and not just for the credit-challenged anymore. Now this service is right for tens of millions of customers who just want to save money.

Traditional post-paid wireless phone service is excellent, but it's also getting very expensive. When you add voice, text, email and the Web, your bills are around $100, give or take a little depending on the carrier.

Today both AT&T (NYSE: T) Mobility and Verizon Wireless are the most expensive. Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S) costs less but is still more than the smaller competitors.

The general rule is, the smaller or lesser known the company, the better deal they have to offer. Otherwise customers would buy from the big brand-name companies who spend billions advertising and marketing.

The Best Deal in Town?

All the majors offer a pre-paid service, which can cost less than post-paid and have no long-term commitment. However, these cost more than others.

Smaller companies like Cellular South and US Cellular often charge less for the same good-quality service.

However the lesser-known pre-paid carriers are suddenly providing the same valuable service, on the same network connection, with the same quality and network reach, at a much lower cost.

These pre-paid services traditionally offered only the plain-Jane handsets, but they are increasingly offering more sophisticated devices that do everything many people need without all the extras that you may not use, but still have to pay for.

Wouldn't it make sense to have a handset that did what you needed, without having to pay for all the other features you never use?

I started looking at these and was both delighted and surprised at how much this pre-paid industry segment has matured and gotten better. Do you want a second phone? Or what about a primary phone that just costs less?

These handsets are not expensive and there is no long-term commitment. You simply continue as long as you want and you can cancel whenever you want.

MetroPCS operates their own network, so I am not sure how good their coverage is, but they are a major player in this pre-paid segment and continue to grow.

Tracfone I understand re-sells AT&T Mobility and Verizon Wireless networks. That's right. The coverage is the same as either network. Tracfone says in their ads the coverage for every user is better than with either AT&T or Verizon separately. I am not sure about that. If each device uses both networks, then that is true. However if each device uses only one or the other, then it is not true. In that case the service should be the same as either AT&T or Verizon. Still a great choice.

Models and Plans

Besides that, the devices are solid, but more basic than the super smartphones like the Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPhone or a typical Android. They do email and text messaging and access the Web.

There are a large variety of plans to choose from. There are unlimited plans for voice and Web and text, and the cost is much less than the majors. Depending on the network, you can get unlimited for as low as $45 per month. Compare that to close to $100 from the majors.

On the other end, if you seldom use the phone but still need one, you can get the monthly service for free and just pay per minute. That's right -- if you don't use it you don't pay for it, but still have it just in case. And there are many plans to choose from in between depending on your needs.

Tracfone also operates other pre-paid services like Net 10 and StraightTalk, depending on the type device you want and how much you will use it. StraightTalk is their top-of-the-line service offering the best phones and quite possibly the lowest price on an unlimited plan. They also operate two other services called "Safelink Wireless" and "Senior Value Cellphone."

Compare this to AT&T, Verizon and Sprint pre-paid service, which charges $2 per day for unlimited voice and text. Email and Web costs more. If you don't use the phone that month, the cost is zero. If you do use it, the most it will cost is about $60 per month, but remember there is no Internet connection or email at that price.

Another innovative idea is i wireless.com, which is a new type of wireless company that does business with Kroger grocery stores. This uses the Sprint Nextel network and offers low prices that save quite a bit from the traditional AT&T, Verizon or Sprint. They also offer extra discounts when you shop at Kroger, which makes it even better.

I expect to see this partnership segment really start to grow rapidly over the next few years, so they may have some new competition getting ready to start. It is good for the companies and the customers.

There's a growing number of these pre-paid services in markets around the country, large and small. I am trying a few of these and they seem to offer good quality service, at a lower price and with no long-term commitments.

Smarter Selection

OK, so this pre-paid segment is looking better and better. Will this threaten the majors? Not likely. Many people are interested in the brand names and the top-end devices like the Apple iPhone or the latest Android. Most of their pre-paid carriers don't offer real smartphones yet, but they do offer better smartphones than last year, and they keep getting smarter.

I have noticed i wireless.com is offering a Sanyo Android device, the same one Sprint Nextel offers. Could this mean we'll start to see more of these super smartphones available on pre-paid services? I think so. That's the direction we are heading in.

There seems to be a line being drawn down the middle of the marketplace. Some customers want the super-powered smartphones and other customers want to save money, but still get the same kind of quality and reliable service.

So as this pre-paid market continues to grow and get better and act more like the traditional side, the phones and devices will get better and stronger. The prices continue to be less than traditional wireless, and you don't get locked into long-term contracts. What could be better than that?

  Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

 

 

Pads and tablet computers are starting to catch on in healthcare. John Halamka, the CIO at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center says the iPad will change the way doctors practice medicine. This is right on target. But this is not just about the Apple iPad; the entire pad and tablet computer industry will rapidly grow into this segment.

This is the early days of an enormous healthcare technology revolution, and this is just one slice of a growing pie. Each new version will be lighter, more powerful and do more than the last.

Not only devices like these computers, but also new apps and software for the healthcare community are starting to emerge. This is becoming a very exciting time indeed. Not only do these devices turn on and off quickly, but the cameras will start to be used for all sorts of things like imaging and radiology apps.

This is the start of an entirely new and very exciting market segment that will impact companies you already know and many you don't -- companies like Apple (iPad), Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM) (Playbook), Motorola (NYSE: MOT) (Xoom), Lenovo, HP (NYSE: HPQ) (Slate), Dell (Nasdaq: DELL) (Streak), Samsung (Galaxy), Fujitsu (Slate), Sylvania(MID tablet), Augen, Archos, ViewSonic, Coby, Boss, Ican, Nextbook, Maylong (Universe) and many more.

We have been paying lots of attention to this brand-new sector, but these devices and software are getting ready to transform many industries, like health care.

 


 

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/Why-Dont-Doctors-and-Patients-eConnect-Yet-72082.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/72082.html

OPINION

Why Don't Doctors and Patients eConnect Yet?

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

03/17/11 5:00 AM PT

Perhaps as this eHealth segment matures, it will find itself. We just have to make sure we play a role in the path it takes because this is not just about apps and games. This is about our health, and the way we interact with our doctors and the medical community, so we want to make sure we do this right. We want to make sure we add to what we already have -- not simply replace one way with another way that is not as good but is cheaper to deliver.

With the recent growth of eHealth and mHealth, there has been a lot of excitement about tomorrow's possibilities, but doctors and patients aren't interacting very much via the Internet today.

While doctors are beginning to post things like test results online, saving the nurse a phone call, that is not improving the doctor-patient relationship. Not yet. In fact, the lack of that personal call from the nurse can even create more distance between the doctor's office and the patient.

For my 'pick of the week' topic at the end of this column, I will discuss how Optimum Lightpath gives Horizon Health Center, a Cablevision Systems company, the ability to revive its aging telecom network -- a challenge faced by every hospital and healthcare facility.

Different May Not Be Better

eHealth is electronic health (think over networks like the Internet), while mHealth is mobile health (think over your cellphone and wireless networks). Healthcare providers and patients are getting excited about these new ways to reach out and interact with each other and with patients.

What is happening, however, seems to be that doctors are starting to change the way they reach out to patients. They are not adding ways -- just changing. They don't realize it yet, but they could start heading down the same path customer care did in the 1990s.

Think about what we saw happen to tech companies in the 90s. Before then, we used to be able to call a customer service line and talk with an actual person who would help us get a product working.

Then, in the 90s, everything changed. Now when we have to get help, it's difficult to call a company and talk with anyone. Today, we have to post a question or send an email and wait several hours or even a day for a reply.

That reply is never the answer, so we have to ask another question and wait another day for a reply. This is customer-no-service, and it has distanced many customers from many companies.

This did not add to the ways customers could interact with a company -- it changed the system. In other words, it may save the company money, but it backfires, because what a company saves in money, it loses in customer happiness and, therefore, loyalty.

Meaningful Interactions Rare

At this early stage, I think doctors do want this to work. They want to show a meaningful use of these new technologies. They love the idea of electronic health records. However, there is a wide gap between what doctors are providing and what patients are expecting.

Perhaps this is just the way it looks in these very early days. Perhaps it will get better and satisfy both the patient and the doctor. We don't know yet. However we have to stay alert and drive the changes the way we want to see them develop. We cannot let this take on a life of its own, or we will regret it as doctors and as patients.

Patient portals are new, and today they are used for some tedious tasks like setting appointments and refilling prescriptions. This is helpful to the doctor, because it frees up time and reduces costs.

However, meaningful interactions are just not occurring yet. The use of personal health records, or PHRs, is increasing, but only roughly 10 percent of us use them so far.

Stakes Are High

Next week at CTIA Wireless in Orlando, I will visit the Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM) Wireless health pavilion and try to learn more about this. Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) HealthVault could be a part of the solution. There are so many new ideas just starting to bubble up in the marketplace.

I think this is an early problem that will work itself out over the next several years if we keep our eyes on the ball.

In speeches, I often compare this to apps on wireless phones. We saw smartphones rise over the years from companies like RIM, maker of the BlackBerry. The sector hit around 15 percent and had a few hundred apps. Then Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) jumped in with the iPhone. Then Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) with Android. Suddenly this market segment is growing faster than the rest -- somewhere around 50 percent growth. Suddenly, there are several hundred thousand apps.

Yesterday, the apps were just meaningless, fun games. Today, however, they are maturing and becoming much more important to us. There are apps for health, finances and work, as well as GPS and games.

Perhaps as this eHealth segment matures, it will find itself. We just have to make sure we play a role in the path it takes because this is not just about apps and games. This is about our health, and the way we interact with our doctors and the medical community, so we want to make sure we do this right.

We want to make sure we add to what we already have -- not simply replace one way with another way that is not as good but is cheaper to deliver. We want to be happy patients and satisfied doctors. That is the goal we have to keep our eyes on going forward.

 Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

 

 

Optimum Lightpath is giving Horizon Health Center the ability to revive its aging telecom network. The healthcare firm consolidates services for streamlined communication across three facilities that share real-time critical data needs, improve patient support and more.

Healthcare providers face rapidly changing technology, government and patient care demands. They are finding that their legacy telecom networks are preventing them from staying head of the curve.

Optimum Lightpath helps to overhaul and transform networks; it is helping Horizon improve how it delivers care to more than 19,000 patients.

As a result, the healthcare provider sees cost savings, boosts in network performance, and improved operational efficiencies, while preparing for ongoing enhancements.

Older networks are getting overloaded with new tech. It becomes slow, drops calls, has a tough time remaining stable. Is it an option to let our older telecommunication services negatively impact the ability to serve patients?

This is one of many stories of how wireless, telecom and technology are working with the healthcare industry to bring it up to modern day expectations with eHealth and mHealth.

We don't want to be able to do more with the apps on our iPhones or Androids than when we get to the hospital, do we?

Optimum Lightpath is a division of Cablevision Systems Corporation. That's right -- the cable television and telecommunications company. What else will we learn next? 

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Jeff Kagan is an E-Commerce Times columnist and industry analyst following wireless, telecom and healthcare technology. He is also an author, speaker and consultant. Email him at jeff@jeffKAGAN.com. Read the first chapters of his new book Life After Stroke now available at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

 


 

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/The-Fuse-Is-Lit-for-the-mHealth-Industry-Explosion-72033.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/72033.html

OPINION

The Fuse Is Lit for the mHealth Industry Explosion

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

03/10/11 5:00 AM PT

Whether you are an investor, a worker, an executive, a doctor or a patient, you have a stake in making the mHealth industry easy to understand. It will get confusing enough in the next few years as things really start to explode. Remember the 1990s, when local and long distance and wireless and wireless data and the rest exploded onto the scene? There has to be structure, or our building will fall as it grows.

mHealth is an exciting new industry that blends healthcare and wireless. In the next couple of weeks, I will be meeting with many people representing companies and new ideas in the mHealth industry at the annual CTIA show in Orlando. Some of these are established large companies, while others are small and spunky startups, but all have some very hot ideas and technologies they want to talk about.

This mobile health space is starting to get some traction, and I believe it is getting ready to explode into the marketplace. That's the good part.

Plus, in my Pick of the Week segment at the end of this column, I want to tell you about Ascom, a wireless company that just got approval from the FDA for an exciting new service called "Cardiomax."

An Industry With No Name

Wireless health is becoming one of the most exciting places to watch. It is transforming the medical and health industry as the healthcare and wireless and telecom industries come together. This is just the first inning in what I see turning into a very exciting game.

I am looking forward to watching it and talking about it as an industry analyst, and to working with many companies as a consultant. The next few years may transform the world of healthcare we are all familiar with. Some companies will win and others will not, but the battle of ideas will be inspiring.

One of the key problems that we have to address as this new industry segment develops is what will we call it? There has to be one main category name, then several categories under that, and then several subcategories under that.

As an example, think about the term "telecom" as the main name for an industry. Then subheadings can be wireless, VoIP, telephone, television and so on. The next level of subcategories under "wireless" could be voice, data, Web, video, GPS, photography and more.

So let me ask you, what is the name for this entire wireless healthcare segment? We see all the competing subheadings clamoring for attention, as it should be, but what is the main segment name?

That's right, there isn't one yet.

How can that be? That is such a basic point. There is no central point on the chart with a name and lines going out from that point for each segment, then more lines going out from those points to the subsegments and so on.

We have to create and agree on a name for the larger industry group so every reporter and news story and advertisement and investment and conference understands. One key term.

World-Changing Potential

Let's back up. The changing healthcare industry touches more than just wireless. It is also involved with wireline. So first we should look at the larger world of communications blending with health and give that the main name. Then under that there could be other categories.

Think about the smartphone industry. It was growing for years, led by companies like RIM (BlackBerry) and Palm. Then, about four years ago, the marketplace changed and exploded with the introduction of Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPhone, followed by Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG) Android operating system.

Suddenly the mobile app marketplace jumped from a few hundred to a few hundred thousand. Suddenly, growth has skyrocketed from around 15 percent to somewhere around 50 percent. Suddenly, smartphones are changing the world, and we are just in the very early stages.

The same thing is about to happen here. There are so many names we bandy about every day -- names like "wireless health," "mobile health," "cellular health," "mHealth," "eHealth" and many more.

Whether you are an investor, a worker, an executive, a doctor or a patient, you have a stake in making this industry easy to understand. It will get confusing enough in the next few years as things really start to explode. Remember the 1990s, when local and long distance and wireless and wireless data and the rest exploded onto the scene? There has to be structure, or our building will fall as it grows.

There are many exciting sectors growth will come from. Some of the new areas are smartphones, tablet computers and new software all connected wirelessly. These can and will revolutionize the medical experience. In addition to doctors, the patients will have access to eHealth technology as well. This technology will not only improve the entire process, but it can cut costs as well.

The cost of healthcare has to come down as well. The current model may have to be changed. There are competing forces battling the cost model right now. It is a very interesting battle. It seems we do have a choice in the matter.

I will write more on both sides of this in future columns.

So send me your thoughts on the main name for this industry segment. I want to see which names seem to get the most votes. I'll let you know the results in an upcoming column.

Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

 

 

Ever wonder how doctors and nurses can keep an eye on patients in hospitals and react quickly when something goes wrong? That's the challenge.

Ascom, a North Carolina-based wireless communications company, has announced that Cardiomax, which is a patient monitoring component within its ClinicalConneX service, received 510(k) clearance from the Food and Drug Administration as a medical device.

Cardiomax will forward alarm information to Ascom handsets, pagers and LED signs. This means bedside monitoring alarms can be forwarded throughout the system. This will help doctors, nurses and the hospital stay connected during patient care.

Communications solutions speed up response to alarms from medical monitoring equipment to detect abnormal respiratory, cardiac and other conditions which providers quicker response to emergency situation demands, according to Ascom.

Nurses and physicians get status reports on request and alarms when conditions deviate from preset values. Information does right into the pocket telephone, freeing staff for other duties than watching monitors. Treatment can start earlier, which improves outcomes and potentially saves lives, the company says.

The new Medical Device Data System rule classifies Cardiomax as a "class 1" device. That means it is low risk, and that means it is exempt from premarket review.

Now Ascom is going to deploy the system nationwide. The CEO in the United States is Chad West, and he says they have a first mover advantage -- for a little while, anyway -- as they deploy the system nationwide.

This is a part of the revolution of many new and innovative ideas that are erupting right now, which blend healthcare and wireless and telecom technologies. 

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Jeff Kagan is an E-Commerce Times columnist and industry analyst following wireless, telecom and healthcare technology. He is also an author, speaker and consultant. Email him at jeff@jeffKAGAN.com.

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http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/How-Nokia-and-Microsoft-Can-Make-It-Work-71975.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/71975.html

OPINION

How Nokia and Microsoft Can Make It Work

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

03/03/11 5:00 AM PT

Nokia and Microsoft's problem is that they keep competing on Google's and Apple's terms. The solution is really simple. What if they aim at a different target? What if Apple and Google aim at the youth marketplace, and Nokia and Microsoft aim at the older adult space? This has not been tried yet. The devices don't actually have to be that different. Just the marketing to create a different image in the mind of the customer. That's all it would take.

In this column, you will find answers to how Nokia (NYSE: NOK) and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) can succeed in the smartphone marketplace, and even how RIM can be saved. First I'll explore the current problem, then offer my solution.

Through the late 1990s Motorola (NYSE: MOT) led. It missed the change from analog to digital, though, and over the last decade, Nokia grew to become the No. 1 cellular handset maker. During the last several years, the tide began turning again. Nokia tried just about everything it could think of, but still could not break into the fast-growing smartphone space.

Microsoft has had the same problem breaking into smartphones, and it has been trying for even longer. These two companies' solution is to get together. To pool their resources and deliver something that will knock our socks off.

The question I have is simple: Will this work? No way to know at this point. Either they will be able to pull the rabbit out of the hat and delight everyone, or they won't.

Even though these are two large, established and successful companies, getting together and becoming successful is still a very long shot. Remember, Microsoft struggled for years.

Making Waves

There is a solution, however. Remember the Wave I discussed a few weeks ago? I think it is clear that these two companies have passed over the top and are on the way down the other side. What they have to do now is become hot again, relevant again in a new and growing area -- like smartphones.

I can see the problem plain as day, and I can see the solution. Neither of them has solved the problem yet. It is easy to explain, but apparently very difficult to fix for these companies. Yet they have to.

First, what they have to do is update the technology and the brand. They also have to get closer to the customer in ways we have not seen except in companies like Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG). That is it. Simple. This is not brain surgery.

Winning depends on the right thinking starting at the top and working its way down through the entire organization. Apple and Google have incredible new technology and an incredible new brand identity wrapping the customer up in a special feeling of youth and excitement and adventure. They feel connected to these brands and breakthrough technologies. They feel connected. Period.

However, as this new and exploding industry begins to mature, there is a new opportunity. A large segment of older customers who are interested in what these smartphones and apps can do for them don't feel as comfortable with them as younger people do.

This mature segment still buys from Apple and Google because these companies seem to have a lock on the smartphone space.

mHealth on the Horizon

Remember, the smartphone space is not new. Just a handful of years ago, it was led by RIM's BlackBerry and Palm, and its focus was on the business community. Since these newcomers have entered, the excitement has spread beyond this segment.

The smartphone business has matured to another level. At this point, I think the smartphone pie can be sliced in different ways. The Wave has crested for first-generation smartphone products. BlackBerry is now crossing over the top and will start its decline unless RIM can reinvent. So this idea is important for RIM to consider.

This problem is not just about Nokia and Microsoft. It's about the changing marketplace. It not just about youth and excitement. It is about the growth and maturing of the app marketplace.

There were only a few hundred apps four years ago. Now there are a few hundred thousand apps for the iPhone. Fewer for Android, but they are catching up. RIM BlackBerry has fewer in comparison, but is also still growing. Why?

The apps marketplace is exploding. We are starting to see an increasing number of important apps, not just games. Many of these are for our health. We can plug a blood pressure strap into the iPhone and not only monitor our own stats, but send the information to our doctor, plus get useful tips to motivate us and keep us on the right track. There are so many of these really great ideas that are just starting to hit the marketplace.

In fact, I have heard predictions that 500 million people will be using these medical health apps within five years. Frankly, I think we will do even more than that worldwide.

mHealth Apps are growing rapidly. So are eHealth Apps. I have been getting calls from companies attending this year's CTIA conference who want to meet with me. This is an enormous opportunity for the companies, investors, patients and doctors.

Make It New Again

Today, Apple and Google battle it out in the marketplace for all customers. So what is the solution for companies like Nokia and Microsoft?

Rather than join that battle, why not redefine the space, create a new segment, and lead it. That is the key.

Think about Nokia and Microsoft. The job of updating their technology and their brand should not be that difficult. However, both keep shooting blanks. The problem is they keep competing on Google's and Apple's terms.

The solution is really simple. They have tried and failed to battle the changing marketplace on Google's and Apple's terms. What if they aim at a different target? What if Apple and Google aim at the youth marketplace, and Nokia and Microsoft aim at the older adult space? This has not been tried yet.

I have heard this so many times. Many adults like the idea of what is happening with smartphones, but simply think Apple and Google are overkill. They like the idea, but they want a version that is targeted at them -- not their kids.

The devices don't actually have to be that different. Just the marketing to create a different image in the mind of the customer. That's all it would take.

With the amazing new line of apps pouring into the marketplace, there are plenty aimed at the older adult community as well as younger customers. In fact, these apps continue to grow. So why are older adults not marketed to? Good question.

The app marketplace was originally thought of as youth-focused, but in recent years we have seen quite a few hard-hitting apps. There may be tens of thousands of medical and health apps today so far, and we are just in the first inning of this game. Does this make sense?

Boiling It Down

Don't compete directly with Apple and Google. Let them compete against each other. Don't compete with them on their terms. They will win.

Instead, create a completely new segment. A place for older adults who also have needs for smartphones and apps. A place that is welcoming and embracing for the older adult community.

Marketing would be different than before. A new message for a new target audience. This is a brand new space. There is plenty of room for a new segment and a well-thought-out marketing strategy.

Sure, if you had a choice, you would rather be king in the youth-oriented marketplace. However, since there are two new kings battling right now, it might not be wise to enter that fray. Why not be king of the older-adult marketplace?

Can Nokia and Microsoft do it? Can RIM? Sure they can. We expect something new every year from both Apple and Google -- and we seem to get it, don't we? Why not a completely new market segment that can be dominated by Microsoft and Nokia and RIM?

This seems to make too much sense. The marketplace is enormous and continuing to grow rapidly. There will be different segments. The companies that create these segments generally lead in them. Create this new space now. Create the new brand names that lead this new slice.

Growth will look different. It will be a different model. However, it is still growth and will still be welcomed by the customers. In turn, that will make investors happy as the companies grow, which makes workers happy.

This is a way for these companies to finally win in the smartphone space. To create the next Wave, and to grow for the next decade and beyond.

The problem is, these are companies are used to leading the space. Can they re-throttle themselves so they can succeed? That is the question.

Smell the Coffee

I predicted this in a series of speeches and columns a few years ago. No one wanted to listen at the time. They can't ignore it now. The youthful spark may have passed to Google and Apple, but the opportunity is still there for Nokia and Microsoft to create a new segment and win. They are strong companies with a desire to win.

Romance the customers in new ways. Once this flag is in the ground, you can then expand your brand into the youth marketplace from this position of strength. That should be a future chapter, but it could be a natural progression for customers who start out as young adults and grow.

So, Steve Ballmer and Stephen Elop, I suggest you do more than just create a new company. Instead, create your own new sector -- and lead it.

That may be the smartest next step. Everyone wants you to succeed, but you have to play the right game. Media, customers, investors and workers will be on your side if you get up and hit it out of the park. This is your chance. Batter up. 

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Jeff Kagan is an E-Commerce Times columnist and industry analyst following wireless, telecom and healthcare technology. He is also an author, speaker and consultant. Email him at jeff@jeffKAGAN.com.

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http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/Telephone-Company-Investors-Are-Baffled-71934.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/71934.html

OPINION

Telephone Company Investors Are Baffled

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

02/24/11 5:00 AM PT

While Windstream is growing through acquisition, the actual local phone business that is its core is shrinking. Each company it acquires wrestles with the same shrinking business threat. After being acquired, that does not disappear. It continues. So, while Windstream continues to grow through acquisitions, which is the good part of the story, it also continues to shrink because of the other side of the coin.

Where should you invest, what should you avoid, why and when? These are the basic questions every investor wrestles with. There are so many companies in the wireless, telecom and healthcare industries, and they are no longer on the same track. Some are strong and growing rapidly and leading, while others are struggling. Even the leaders have things to be aware of.

I recently gave a speech to an investor group. I get invited to these meetings regularly. Let me share some of what I discussed. I am an industry analyst -- not a stock analyst -- but I have been following this industry for 25 years and have seen all the different waves of ups and downs.

I have seen how changes in the industry lead to some companies succeeding and growing, while other companies struggle just to keep their head above water. Seeing who will win and lose tomorrow can be difficult, but that's investing.

I'd like to take a look at some of the top companies, how they have done so far, and what the next few years looks like for each of them, starting this week with some of the local phone companies. In upcoming columns, I'll focus on different industry sectors.

Verizon: Strength and Innovation

The Baby Bells are an interesting place to start. Ten years ago, the industry looked very different. The local phone line business was still growing. These companies were the big players in the industry. Since then the industry has transformed itself and is still doing so.

Today, instead of seven Baby Bells, there are only three: Verizon, AT&T (NYSE: T) and Qwest. There are no separate long distance giants since AT&T and MCI were acquired.

Today the Baby Bells compete with the cable television companies, with wireless companies, VoIP companies and assorted others. They offer big bundles of services including telephone, wireless, Internet and television.

Verizon and Verizon Wireless are very well run, showing real strength and innovation over the last decade. As the industry changes, they are transforming themselves as well.

A few months ago, I spoke with Peter Thonis, Verizon's chief communications officer, and he said the company is changing. It has sold off many access lines and is now more heavily focused on wireless and FiOS. Verizon also sees cloud-based services  as a larger opportunity going forward.

Verizon's traditional wireline phone business is on the downside of the wave, but its wireless, FiOS and other businesses are on the growth side.

Its wireless business had not been growing as quickly as some competitors over recent years, but its new focus on smartphones like the Droid line and Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPhone have put it on the right path, and rapid growth is now occurring.

CEO Ivan Seidenberg is retiring later this year, and he has successfully transformed the company over the last two decades. Lowell McAdam, who ran wireless, will take his place. I have watched Lowell over the years and have been impressed so far. He has his work cut out for him as the industry continues to change. Verizon performance as a competitor has been very good to date.

AT&T: Looking Good

AT&T and AT&T Mobility are similar to Verizon in many ways. They are the other 800-pound gorillas in the room. They are also doing strong business on both the wireline side and the wireless side. AT&T has a few areas to keep an eye on as well.

Like Verizon, its traditional wireline business is shrinking, but its wireless and U-verse television offering is growing. There is plenty of growth to come, and this looks good so far.

One reason for worry is that much of its growth in wireless in recent years has come from its exclusive Apple iPhone offering. Now Verizon Wireless also carries the iPhone, so the natural question is how badly will this hurt AT&T Mobility? We don't know yet, but this will not be a positive for the company.

However, AT&T is still strong and growing. I have been very impressed with new CEO Randall Stephenson and his performance so far. Ralph de la Vega heads up the wireless business, and he has a strong success record as well. This looks like a good strong and growing company at present.

Larry Solomon heads up corporate communications and focuses on keeping the company looking strong and healthy. Based on what we know about the company, this seems to be going well. So far, this new company looks good.

We have to remember however that this large and strong company is brand new. Just a few short years ago, it was the much smaller SBC Communications, based in San Antonio, Texas. It went on an almost mad acquisition spree. It acquired AT&T, AT&T Wireless, BellSouth and Cingular within a very short period of time.

This transformative period can be taxing to any company as it tries to merge and meld the many different cultures.

Many workers and customers have reached out to me to express their dissatisfaction with the company right now. Many others are, of course, happy. So it depends on what occurs over the next several years. We'll keep our eyes on it. There is plenty of potential risk, but so far so good at Ma Bell.

Qwest: Big Bumps in the Road

Qwest (NYSE: Q) is another story. This company has gone through the wringer in the last 15 years. Changing from a standard Baby Bell, US West, to the current Qwest has been a challenge. It covers roughly the same territory it did from the beginning. It looked like it might have been on a success track in the late 1990s, until telecom hit a brick wall. After that, the company struggled to survive.

It brought in a new CEO, Dick Notebaert, who ran Ameritech and managed to save Qwest. That was the good part, but he was not able to grow the company. Now it has a new CEO, Edward Mueller, and he has been struggling as well.

This company does not offer its own wireless services. It resells Verizon Wireless after reselling Sprint (NYSE: S) for year. Surprisingly and disappointingly, this is not a very successful part of its offering.

I'll discuss Sprint Nextel in an upcoming column focused on the wireless sector.

Qwest offers high-speed Internet and resells satellite television. It seems to market many services, but it doesn't own many of them, so its innovation is just not there. Neither is its marketing . It has been limping along compared with bigger sisters Verizon and AT&T.

Qwest has struggled for years. Now it is being acquired by CenturyLink. This is one of two smaller and more rural local phone companies that seems to be doing strong business so far.

CenturyLink: Growing Through Acquisitions

CenturyLink is one of the smaller local phone companies that didn't get much attention until recently. It has been growing through acquisition. It has been acquiring smaller local phone companies. Around the United States, there are many small, local phone companies. It's not just the large Baby Bells.

Sprint had a local phone business that it spun off into a company called "Embarq," which was acquired by CenturyLink. The same thing is happening with Qwest. In fact, after the acquisition, CenturyLink will be the No. 3 baby bell after Verizon and AT&T.

This is a small, but rapidly growing company. It is not as advanced as the other Baby Bells, but it doesn't have the same competitive threat either. It loses local phone business every year, but not at the same rate as the Baby Bells. It loses business more slowly.

That is good; however, the company does lose business, and that is a concern -- especially since its is not building its own television service to compete with the cable television industry and bring in new business.

CenturyLink is experimenting with a wireless offering. It offers wireless in a few markets. I don't know whether this will be successful or not. Remember, while AT&T, Verizon and Sprint do well with wireless, Qwest has not. Will CenturyLink? That is an important question.

So far, generally speaking, the company looks to continue its growth through acquisitions, but longer term is unsure. We'll have to keep our eyes on it.

Windstream: Strong and Growing

Another similar company is Windstream. This was Alltel until it broke up a few years ago. The wireless business was acquired by Verizon Wireless. The local phone business changed its name to "Windstream."

This is a strong and rapidly growing rural local phone company like CenturyLink. It has made so many acquisitions in recent years it is growing larger and stronger every year. That is the good part.

The part that I worry about is while it is growing through acquisition, the actual local phone business that is its core is shrinking. Each company it acquires wrestles with the same shrinking business threat. After being acquired, that does not disappear. It continues.

So, while Windstream continues to grow through acquisitions, which is the good part of the story, it also continues to shrink because of the other side of the coin.

As long as this company continues to acquire, I see it remaining strong and growing. However, once the acquisition wave slows, which it always does, I worry about its growth potential. It does not offer its own wireless or television services. It resells satellite television, and that is good -- but not as good as owning and controlling like the Baby Bells.

I gave a speech to Windstream's CEO Jeff Gardner and its board of directors at a meeting several months ago, applauding its successes, and also stressing these longer-term concerns.

Its performance is strong to date. It should remain strong for a while. Long term it is not as clear. We'll have to keep our eyes on this as well.

Where on the Wave?

Where are these five companies on the Wave, which I discussed in a previous column?

Verizon and AT&T are on the growth side for now. Their local phone businesses are now shrinking, but they have transformed both companies well over the years into wireless and television. Qwest is on the falling side; however, it is now being acquired by CenturyLink, so perhaps it will get better.

Even though both CenturyLink and Windstream are losing local phone customers, they are bucking the trend by making acquisitions. So they are still on the growth side of the wave. When this activity slows, I think they will switch and be on the other side of the Wave, unless they can transform themselves. What is their strategy going forward?

These are just five companies in one sector of the rapidly growing and changing local phone side of the telecom industry. There are other sectors like wireless, television, Internet, cable television and the very rapidly growing and changing eHealth and mHealth industries in healthcare.

The good news is the industry in general is strong and growing. Individually, some companies are doing well, while other companies are not. Even among the companies that are doing well today, there are several signs to keep our eyes on that could affect them in the future. How they handle these challenges will make the difference going forward.

We have to watch all these companies for any changes in their positions as the industry changes, but right now things look strong in this sector in general. Any change in leadership does have potential risks and rewards, so we'll have to keep our eyes on it.

In the coming weeks, I will share my thoughts on the companies that are leading as well as those that are struggling in other sectors as well. 

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Jeff Kagan is an E-Commerce Times columnist and industry analyst following wireless, telecom and healthcare technology. He is also an author, speaker and consultant. Email him at jeff@jeffKAGAN.com.

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http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/mHealth-A-Funny-Things-Happening-on-My-Way-to-CTIA-71882.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/71882.html

OPINION

mHealth: A Funny Thing's Happening on My Way to CTIA

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

02/17/11 5:00 AM PT

The mobile health industry segment is in the first inning of a brand new game. It will grow and change so much in coming years. Some ideas and companies will be bright for a short time, then burn out, while other companies and ideas will last. Choosing the right companies will make all the difference -- whether you are an investor, an employee, a patient, doctor or hospital.

As I prepare to attend the CTIA show in Orlando, Fla., next month, I am getting calls and emails from healthcare companies wanting to meet with me. That is amazing. The lines that separated healthcare and wireless are blurring. We are in the early stages of the healthcare industry working with the wireless and telecom industry to create an entirely new business segment with loads of new opportunities, risks and challenges.

At the end of this piece I will also discuss a new report on healthcare opportunities from research firm In-Stat.

"mHealth" and "eHealth" are not only new words, but also new worlds. In recent years, they have come to represent brand new ways of doing things in healthcare -- in fact, new ways of looking at the way we do everything in the medical community. This is one of the most exciting opportunities we have seen in our lifetimes, and it is still in the very early stages.

So what do these new terms mean? "mHealth," or mobile health, is simply health supported by mobile devices, according to Wikipedia. mHealth uses mobile communications networks and devices such as mobile phones and PDAs for health services and information. Before long, I'll bet we will start to see TV commercials saying, there is an app for that -- but it will be a medical app.

"eHealth" is the other new term, and it refers to healthcare supported by electronic processes and communications. It started around 10 years ago, and it uses electronic and digital devices and processes in healthcare and health informatics. It also utilizes the Internet and involves electronic health records, telemedicine, consumer health informatics, healthcare information systems and so on.

A Dazzling Array of Possibilities

Think about this as a revolution that is beginning to transform healthcare. In fact, doctors will have to hire the electronics experts they need to work all this technology. This is a new opportunity for service companies and individuals.

Just consider all the coming possibilities. Doctors can now begin to treat patients remotely. Doctors and hospitals can collect medical and health data and even deliver healthcare in new ways. eHealth lets monitoring take place from a patient's home with equipment connected wirelessly to the doctors office. It brings new tools and technologies to hospitals to care for us in a much more advanced way. And it is in the market right now.

There are already unlimited opportunities, and these are just the very early days. Objectives include access to healthcare and health-related information, as well as improved ability to diagnose and track diseases. New technology will be in the doctor's office, the hospital, and even at home. This opens all sorts of new opportunities like training health workers, and many other areas as well.

Over the last 25 years as an analyst, I have worked with every major wireless, local and long distance phone company, as well as many others -- like equipment makers, Internet companies and so on.

Now I am hearing from a growing number of companies with new ideas in the enormous healthcare field. I have to say this is getting very exciting for everyone, including patients, investors, workers and the entire industry.

I recently met with a company that wanted to brief me on its new healthcare technology that has not been released yet. It also needed advice on dealing with the wireless and wire line industry. This is the future. Breaking through all the noise in the crowded and noisy marketplace is always one of the biggest challenges.

Several years ago, I had a serious health issue. As I struggled to recover, I experienced many of these brand new and exciting technologies. I learned that in healthcare, things change quickly. In just the last few years, many of those brand new technologies have already been replaced by the next best thing. It's truly a very fast-moving and changing industry.

Over the last couple of years, I have been contacted by an increasing number of healthcare companies wanting to brief me on their new technologies. Many of them are very interesting and may indeed be valuable to all of us, including our families and friends.

There are so many new advancements to focus on. Apps are those simple games or software tools with icons on smartphones. Their growth has exploded in the last few years.

A New Health App World

Health apps are brand new, and they are going to be very important going forward. They can connect doctors and patients to provide more thorough healthcare. They can let patients communicate with their doctors on their prescriptions and test results, and prompt ongoing adjustments.

Diabetics can send in daily numbers on their glucose to let the doctor more closely follow their progress. Dieticians and weight loss specialists can communicate with patients on a daily basis, checking weight loss progress and sending inspirational messages.

There is an unlimited number of ideas and opportunities that are just beginning. Healthcare is starting to change quickly, thanks to these wireless and wire line technologies.

This is the reason a growing number of healthcare companies are attending the CTIA show. They are trying to reach out to the wireless industry and connect. This wave of innovation looks like it will be the next big wave in wireless and healthcare.

I have to admit, I was initially surprised by the growing number of healthcare companies that have been attending these shows over recent years. However, when you think about it, this is exactly what we should expect going forward. It's all about blending industries to achieve new waves of products and services.

Truthfully, I think this is very exciting. This is an entirely new industry segment with the same huge opportunities for growth we have seen in the tech industry. The good news is that we are just in the early stages.

At CTIA, I normally just meet with AT&T (NYSE: T) Mobility, Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S), T-Mobile and so on, but now there is a new universe of very interesting and innovative companies capturing my imagination.

What a shift... or is it? It is not something I am creating. Instead it is a new wave I am reacting to. It is an enormous opportunity for everyone, and it is just beginning. How will this impact you, your company and your industry segment? Where will new opportunities pop up that are not on your radar yet?

This entire new industry segment is in the first inning of a brand new game. It will grow and change so much in coming years. Some ideas and companies will be bright for a short time, then burn out, while other companies and ideas will last. Choosing the right companies will make all the difference -- whether you are an investor, an employee, a patient, doctor or hospital.

I will write about the many exciting ideas and companies I learn about. We don't yet know what this will look like going forward, but this is a great place to start. This changing marketplace is truly amazing.

Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

 

 

A new report from In-Stat forecasts US$4.5 billion will be spent on wireless data by the U.S. healthcare industry by 2014. If that weren't good enough news, remember this is just one slice of a very large pie. That is an incredible new opportunity for the wireless and healthcare world, isn't it?

The primary objectives in healthcare are around immediacy and mobility, according to In-Stat, which notes that medical caregivers now seek portable access to data, patient status, records, diagnostic tools, prescriptions and medications.

This will change what has become business-as-usual in the entire growing industry. Just think about this as the very early years in this brand new wonderful world of opportunity unfold for patients, companies, workers and investors.

It's time to buckle up. The ride has begun. 

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 Jeff Kagan is an E-Commerce Times columnist and industry analyst following wireless, telecom and healthcare technology. He is also an author, speaker and consultant. Email him at  jeff@jeffKAGAN.com.

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http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/And-Now-It-Begins-The-Media-Will-Sour-on-the-Verizon-iPhone-71832.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/71832.html

OPINION

And Now It Begins: The Media Will Sour on the Verizon iPhone

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

02/10/11 5:00 AM PT

This is the day the media starts focusing on everything that is going wrong with the new Verizon and iPhone marriage. As we follow this story, we may begin to think these two companies are just bumbling idiots. These articles won't mention that the problem comes from an unbridled tsunami of orders suddenly appearing out of nowhere.

Watch today as Verizon Wireless sells its first Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPhone: The media will change its focus from writing positive stories to negative stories. Over the next several days and weeks, we will read startling pieces about what is going wrong. This is the same news we have been so thrilled with over the last few weeks. So why the change -- and how long will it last?

We know this is what will happen, because this is what has happened following every launch by AT&T (NYSE: T) Mobility and Apple over the last several years. There are good and bad stories, but the media loves to find what's wrong and focus on it. It makes great stories. It's a build you up, then tear you down, then build you back up model.

This should be expected, so don't take it all too seriously. Not yet anyway. If the stories don't die down after a few days or weeks, then we can start worrying.

There Will Be Trouble

The question is, can Verizon handle the sudden and massive flow of new customers and wireless data demands? AT&T Mobility could not, and it has had years of experience dealing with Apple launches. What makes us think Verizon Wireless will do any better coming at this with no experience?

Every year, we see AT&T Mobility buckle under the massive Apple demand curve when the new iPhone is released. Even after that initial pressure eases up, AT&T still struggles in certain markets with unyielding wireless data demand on an ongoing basis.

It's not a bad problem to have, but it is still a problem that needs to be solved.

Verizon says it is ready; however, that's what AT&T says too. What will happen next with Verizon Wireless? We'll have to wait and see -- but after watching the iPhone over the last several years, I think it's pretty obvious.

I expect Verizon Wireless will have some successes and some problems, and the problems are what the media will love to focus on first. Sure there will be positive stories, but for the first time, there will also be lots of negative stories.

The Honeymoon's Over

This is the day the media starts focusing on everything that is going wrong with the new Verizon and iPhone marriage. As we follow this story, we may begin to think these two companies are just bumbling idiots. These articles won't mention that the problem comes from an unbridled tsunami of orders suddenly appearing out of nowhere.

We have seen this year after year with AT&T Mobility as the next new Apple iPhone hits the market. The negative stories are not really an accurate representation, but they still get the spotlight for a while.

If we are smart we can get a chuckle over it, but we shouldn't pay much attention to it. That's just the marketplace reacting. When it gets pinched, it yells "ouch!" That's it at first. Makes great stories to cover. Nothing worse that that.

That's unless it is worse than that. Unless Verizon screws it up and users have problems on an ongoing basis. Then this becomes a real problem, and Verizon will have to rush to catch up to it.

However, watching the demand curve AT&T deals with, it never seems to catch up. Still, even with all these problems, AT&T Mobility still seems to win big with the iPhone and in the stock market -- if not in the media or with customer satisfaction.

Now It's Game On

Even if Verizon has problems, I still think it will do fine financially. Customers want this. The only question is, will it be a good experience for Verizon Wireless?

Verizon better brace itself. It has worked hard to shine its Apple, but its system will likely choke in the early days as well, at least in some spots. And those are the points the media will focus on.

As I said, it's a good problem to have, but it is still a problem. There are lots of customers lining up in the early days. Some will have a great sign-up experience, and some won't. That is what will be focused on -- and that will take some of the shine off Verizon's Apple.

Actually, I think Verizon may take some pressure off AT&T, and even its customers will have a better experience.

How many iPhones will Verizon sell? How many new customers will Verizon Wireless win? How much business will AT&T Mobility lose? What will be AT&T's next move to make up for the coming loss? How badly will AT&T be hurt? Apple will win either way. It will sell millions of devices through each player. There are so many questions we are keeping our eyes on.

Just remember, there will be a flood of negative and sometimes funny stories coming up. How long they will last is the question. We will all have to keep our eyes on it.

Congratulations, Verizon Wireless. The easy part is now over. Now comes the hard part of keeping up with insatiable Apple demand. Good luck!

Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

 

In my Pick of the Week segment, I want to tell you about the Shriners Hospitals for Children in Tampa Fla., which just announced a 672 percent return on investment.

This was thanks to using MEMdata's medical equipment procurement model, Shriners said. This model ensures open access to new technology while it also achieves competitive pricing on all kinds of equipment in the hospital.

Way to go! Keeping medical costs down can only help. Who knows? Maybe our health insurance will come down... Naaa. 

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Jeff Kagan is an E-Commerce Times columnist and industry analyst following wireless, telecom and healthcare technology. He is also an author, speaker and consultant. Email him at jeff@jeffKAGAN.com.

 


 

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/71782.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/ATT-Verizon-and-Sprint-Tell-Different-Truths-71782.html

OPINION

AT&T, Verizon and Sprint Tell Different Truths

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

02/03/11 5:00 AM PT

There has to be truth in marketing and advertising, or it will increasingly be ignored. Meaningless. Not truth, just a jingle. Is that what we really want? Companies need advertising and marketing to tell the marketplace about their offerings and compete. Buyers also need it to help them choose. There is a real and honest need for creative and truthful marketing. When done with truth, everyone wins.

Which wireless provider is doing the best job? Listening to them gets confusing. It's like me saying that I am the slimmest, healthiest and best-looking wireless analyst on this airplane (I'm flying to the west coast to give a speech). Now that line has as much truth in it as a load of horse manure -- but technically, since I am the only wireless analyst on this plane, I guess it is true. Listening to the major wireless providers strut their stuff is much like that -- and that is the problem we have to solve.

Every wireless provider claims to be No. 1 in something. The result is that the consumer is confused. That is the whole point, I think. Keep customers confused so they can't buy based on anything real. That way only the warm and fuzzy messages of advertising , public relations and marketing will convince them to buy.

This is a dangerous path to go down. We should think this through and decide if this is really the path we want to be on.

In that unreal world, every carrier looks like it is No. 1 in something. There used to be comparisons of subscriber numbers. That gave us a simple list of the No. 1, 2, 3 and 4 wireless carriers. Since this is what we wanted to know, it worked.

We're All No. 1!

However, things have been changing. Carriers seem not to be satisfied being anywhere other than No. 1. In addition, as wireless data and tablet computers enter the space, the term "subscriber" can mean different things. If carriers simply told us their number in the same areas, we could easily compare. Unfortunately, they don't.

The wireless industry is moving away from a world of telling the truth to a world of each company telling a version of the truth that makes it sound better. This clouds the industry and makes a simple decision very complicated.

Wireless voice and wireless data are becoming two different areas to follow. So are prepaid and postpaid. There are also individual customers, family plans and those on corporate plans. Oh, and don't forget all the wholesale customers. Getting the point?

Should an Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPad user on AT&T (NYSE: T) Mobility count the same as a voice-only customer on Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S) or a Droid user on Verizon Wireless? Mixing and matching all these new areas makes all this confusion very obvious. However, customers and investors don't have a clue who is really No. 1 in any particular area.

One example is when both carriers announced their numbers last week. Over the last several years, AT&T Mobility had the lead in subscribers and was happy to tell the world. However, Verizon Wireless recently made an acquisition and now holds the No. 1 spot. The problem is that AT&T got used to saying it was No. 1. Not being able to say that anymore must have felt like withdrawal.

Not to worry. There is a solution at hand. Not wanting to sound like it has fallen behind Verizon, AT&T quietly changed the metric it reported. That's the problem.

New Math

Suddenly, instead of just counting wireless phone users, AT&T started counting users of all wireless connections -- people using things like iPads, laptops with built-in WiFi, and anything else it could lump together.

So, when reporting its quarterly numbers, AT&T claimed it had 2.8 million net adds in Q4. It wanted the world to think it was ahead. AT&T decided to count 95.5 million subscribers.

Does this mean it is ahead of Verizon once again? Not really. AT&T is getting the benefit of confusing the marketplace.

The problem is that Verizon reported its numbers a day or two earlier, saying its Q4 adds were fewer than 1 million, and its total was 94.1 million.

Sounds like AT&T is winning, doesn't it? The truth is, if Verizon counted the way AT&T counted, it would add 8.1 million "other connections" to the 94.1 million wireless subscribers for a total of 102.2 million.

So when you compare AT&T to Verizon, apples to apples, AT&T has 95.5 million subscribers and Verizon has 102.2 million. That is the truth.

Things look much different when you blow the fog of confusion away, don't they?

No matter how AT&T tries to spin the truth, Verizon Wireless still leads in today's wireless marketplace if you compare apples to apples.

Marketing Madness

This is an example of marketing hype spinning out of control. There has to be truth in marketing and advertising, or it will increasingly be ignored. Meaningless. Not truth, just a jingle.

Is that what we really want? Companies need advertising and marketing to tell the marketplace about their offerings and compete. Buyers also need it to help them choose. There is a real and honest need for creative and truthful marketing. When done with truth, everyone wins.

The problem is that when words are carefully spun into a web to try and capture every customer, the truth is eventually lost.

The problem is the telling of half-truths in an effort to confuse the marketplace and hope that confusion wins business.

The problem is truth -- or lack of it.

Marketing at some companies is starting to spin out of control. Instead of trying to improve themselves, and improve the marketplace and ultimately win more business, some companies are trying to confuse everyone. That does not provide a better experience for customers. This is a very shortsighted approach, isn't it?

Companies can spend years trying to build a relationship with the marketplace, and then can blow it all in the blink of an eye.

The wireless industry had better come up with a consistent standard -- one that lets companies compete and that simplifies the buying process for customers. Otherwise, both the customers and the carriers will lose.

Customers will lose because they will not be able to understand the real difference between carriers. The carriers will lose because they will have blown their credibility, and they will not win customers back for a long time.

The industry has to agree to new rules going forward. The customer wins in a clear marketplace, and that is what matters. That is what will keep competitors improving in order to stay competitive and to win. Otherwise, I will be able to keep saying I am the best-looking wireless analyst on this plane and keep getting away with it! And do we really want that?

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Jeff Kagan is an E-Commerce Times columnist and industry analyst following wireless, telecom and healthcare technology. He is also an author, speaker and consultant. Email him at jeff@jeffKAGAN.com

 


   

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/How-IT-Is-Changing-Healthcare-for-Better-and-for-Worse-71729.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/71729.html

OPINION

How IT Is Changing Healthcare for Better and for Worse

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

01/27/11 5:00 AM PT

This is an exciting time of change in the field of healthcare technology. New systems and devices are making it much more convenient for doctors to find and share patient information. However, with this opportunity also comes risk. New technologies sometimes demand greater attention from the doctor, at the patient's expense. And the possibility of data input error is a source of concern.

Healthcare technology has really made incredible advances over the last several years. However, while there is an app for almost everything, much still seems to be stuck in the Fred Flintstone era.

Doctors still carry around thick folders with years of patient history. Yesterday, this was the only way to capture all of a patient's information. However, over the last several years, we are seeing an information technology revolution change healthcare.

Doctors are spending more time with their computers during patient visits. On one hand, this is obviously very good, but now we have noticed there are new problems to be aware of.

Literally a Matter of Life and Death

I recently gave a speech at a medical and heathcare meeting about how this new information technology revolution is changing the medical and healthcare industry. I also had the chance to mingle with many in the industry. They definitely recognize the problem, but they have no answers yet. It's one thing if we are talking about a new music box, but it's an entirely different thing if we are talking about health, life and death.

It's my job to poke and prod everyone in the audience. It's my job to make them feel uncomfortable and get them to think more carefully about these new problems and issues. If I don't get eggs thrown at me (figuratively speaking, of course), I am not doing my job.

The medical community sees the obvious benefit in technology but is not yet aware of what can go wrong with all this IT.

Doctors have always had to sort through mountains of data to find the spec of useful information they need. Sharing this information with other doctors and hospitals was slow and often hard to decipher. And if there were a fire or earthquake, all this information could be lost.

Information technology makes that much easier and faster. IT is protected. It's easy to share. However, it has its own new problems to wrestle with. People in the information technology industry have battled this for years, and it's time to teach the healthcare industry what the problems and issues are and give them tools to bring them up to speed.

Pros and Cons

I am sure you sense these problems when you visit your doctor. Yesterday you would be sitting in the same room, having a brief conversation as they listened to your heart and your breathing and asked you to cough. Then they would write notes in your file, which got thicker every year.

Today, however, the doctor is sitting in front of the keyboard struggling with transforming the way they do business. This early time can be taxing, to say the least, for both the doctor and patient. Doctors are not technology experts, yet they must enter the right information in the right places on the right screens or bad things can happen to the patients.

There is so much exciting news breaking every day. So much is changing in the healthcare and pharma industries. We are seeing "e" in front of many traditional terms. There's an ePharma conference in New York City next week with many big-name companies as sponsors. There are many small companies and new Web sites like www.RememberItNow.com. It's owned by Pam Swingley, who set it up to help her take care of her father and all his confusing medications and is now making this tool available to others.

On one hand, there are new apps we can use on our smartphones to monitor our aging parents' vital signs, or to watch our kids at home while we are at work. On the other hand, how many times have you visited your doctor during the last year or two only to find they were trying to move everything from a paper world to a digital world?

How much of your visit is looking at the back of the doctor's head these days while they are entering information in the computer? Then when they finally turn around to actually interact with you, the visit was almost over.

Looking at You or Looking at a Screen?

This is an exciting time of change. With that comes a set of risks. This is a big and growing opportunity for the nation's wireless industry, both networks and handset makers.

Going forward, innovation and growth in wireless will come from other industries like healthcare. Transforming this industry is an enormous task, but it will be very positive in general for all the players. One area everyone needs to focus on is staying tuned in to the patient.

This change is full of good and bad, isn't it? This is not the way you want healthcare to be. This is not the way they want to provide healthcare, either. Yet this is what we are dealing with today during this transformation period, which just started a few years ago and will continue for years to come.

Are your doctors catching everything they need to with you and your condition, or are they increasingly focused on the screen instead of their patient? They want to be, but technology sucks their attention away.

This is a problem. Going digital is the right thing to do for many reasons. It can speed up the ability to share information. It can improve healthcare for everyone. However, it is not without risk. If the doctor enters the wrong code or number into your record, you pay the price.

When we type on the computer, the spell checker corrects our mistakes, and if you are like me, it corrects plenty. However, there is not spell checker for patient information, and if a doctor enters the wrong information, no one may know until it is too late.

Training may be the answer to help doctors better understand how technology will change their world, for better and for worse. Then again, how do we convince doctors this is important? They are too busy as it is.

While I think "e" technology moving into the medical and healthcare field is a definite plus, and an unstoppable trend, it also comes with risks that need to be managed properly. I don't think they are being managed well enough at this point, but keeping this issue front and center is the right thing to do for doctors and patients.

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Jeff Kagan is an E-Commerce Times columnist and industry analyst following wireless, telecom and healthcare technology. He is also an author, speaker and consultant. Email him at jeff@jeffKAGAN.com.

 


 

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/Riding-the-Wave-to-Success-71688.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/71688.html

OPINION

Riding THE WAVE to Success

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

01/20/11 5:00 AM PT

Companies must realize every hot opportunity they ride is actually a Wave with a limited life span. The Waves have been getting shorter over the last decade or two. That means companies have to manage multiple Waves. They have to create the next Wave before the first Wave collapses -- eventually, it always does.

As I travel and speak at meetings around the country, one of the key topics that has been capturing a lot of attention is something I call "the Wave." This seems to be as interesting to the audience as it is to the executives who invited me to speak. In fact, I am often invited back to spend some one-on-one time with company leaders to discuss it further. I have been speaking for 25 years, and this seems to have hit a chord. Everyone wants to hear more. So what is the Wave to success all about? Let me give you a brief introduction.

You may not realize it yet, but you are already on this Wave right now. So is your company. I think we must be born with an instinctive understanding of the concept. It's a truth everyone knows, but never really thinks about or puts into words. It is something brilliant marketers understand at their core. Most others don't yet understand, but when they hit the ball out of the park every once in a while they want to know how to make lightning strike twice -- and the again and again.

Think of the Wave as a line going from left to right. A line that rises until it reaches the top then comes down the other side. The rise and the fall can be rapid or slow depending on what is being measured, but the rise and fall are always there.

Everything and everyone is somewhere on the Wave. Part of this has to do with the power of branding and how it has to continually be adapted and expanded to be successful on an ongoing basis.

Motorola's Wave

Let me give you an example. Motorola (NYSE: MOT) was a long-time successful company that grew to be No. 1 in the cell phone business through the mid 1990s. It was on the growing and building and exciting side of the Wave. Customers loved the company. Investors loved it. The media wrote stories about all itsr hot new wireless toys. It was an incredible success wave that kept building.

I remember the CEO of Ameritech showed me his brand new StarTac phone the company had just started to sell when I was speaking at one of its meetings in Chicago. It was tiny and hot. The only color it came in was black. However, it seemed Motorola was bulletproof and everyone was tickled.

Then the industry changed. The networks switched from analog to digital. Motorola was analog. The company's leaders never thought the industry would switch without them. They were wrong.

Suddenly the new standard was digital. Motorola didn't understand branding and sub-branding. Bottom line -- it was not able to successfully update its brand. What happened next?

A tiny company called Nokia (NYSE: NOK) saw the opportunity and took it. Nokia built its brand on the digital handset model and became No. 1 over the last decade. I am not sure if Nokia knew about the Wave idea either, or whether it just got lucky.

Now, after a decade in the lead, Nokia is beginning to feel the same pinch Motorola has been wrestling with. Suddenly, the marketplace is changing from digital handsets to super-smartphones, and Nokia just does not have a brand in that area. Can it expand its brand?

After several years, Motorola finally had a comeback with a device called "Razr." That was a popular handset. Reporters were confused when I told them this was great, but it was just one Wave. They thought the company was on its way to repeat its past success, but I kept asking about the company's next Wave? Without a next Wave, Motorola would simply ride its success up, then down, and be back in trouble again.

Unfortunately for the company, that's exactly what happened, and Motorola spent the last several years at the bottom.

Now Motorola seems to have another chance. It has struck gold once again with Google Android and Verizon Wireless. Its success during the past year or so has been inspiring, but once again I ask, what is its next step? What is the next Wave for the company?

Fortunately, Motorola is taking some additional steps. It is now expanding its Android handsets to other carriers. This will help it spread the risk around among different companies, which is good. However, this is still part of the same Wave. Is it enough? This sounds similar to the Razr so far, doesn't it?

Motorola is now getting ready to start another Wave with its tablet computer. If successful, this could become another long-term success. That is the key. It has to make this successful. The category is brand new and seems hot.

So, it has to market an incredible device. Its challenge is to create another Wave in a segment that is brand new but getting crowded. Then, after that, it needs to create another Wave and another. A few months ago, I wrote "The Drivers Steering Motorola's Comeback", which discusses this more in depth.

Planning for the Next Wave

Companies must realize every hot opportunity they ride is actually a Wave with a limited life span. The Waves have been getting shorter over the last decade or two. That means companies have to manage multiple Waves. They have to create the next Wave before the first Wave collapses -- eventually, it always does.

One more corporate example is where local phone lines are on the Wave. Until the mid 1990s, local phone lines were not hot, but when the Internet popped up, they became red-hot. We got extra phone lines to connect to the Internet. However, that Wave crested during the last decade and is on the decline.

We no longer use phone lines to connect to the Internet -- we use DSL and cable TV lines. Wireless phones are growing rapidly. So are other technologies like VoIP, where Skype and Vonage and cable television companies are selling phone lines over the Internet.

So the local phone line business is on the decline now. That's why companies like AT&T and Verizon are now focused on other areas like cellular, Internet and television. The next Wave. And they are still growing.

Here is an example of how the Wave affects you personally. Where are you on the Wave? I am sure if you think about your life, you will remember times when you were in the growing and exciting period. You were unstoppable. Invincible. Then there were also times when you were coming down the other side, not growing.

We as individuals usually have multiple Waves going on at one time. Some are young and growing, while others have passed the peak and are on the decline. Our lives are a mix of ups and downs.

Where are you on your work Wave? What about on your family Wave, or your marriage, health or money Wave? There are so many we juggle every day. That's part of the reason why some days we feel up and positive, and other days we feel down and negative.

It depends on which Wave we are most focused on that day. If we are thinking about our sick child or money lost or an argument with our spouse, we feel down -- but when we are excited about an opportunity we are riding, we feel great.

This is the basic idea of the Wave. This is what I have been spending so much time discussing lately during my speeches, which is becoming surprisingly popular. I want to open as many eyes as I can to this discovery. It's something we all experience but something that is not taught.

Understanding the Wave and the Brand are two important keys to success, whether personal or professional. Everything is either on the growing or declining side of the Wave.

Understanding Your Waves

So where are you? Where is your career? What about your company? Your investments?

What about companies like AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, T-Mobile, Clearwire, Qwest, CenturyLink, Windstream and other service providers? What about mobile platform developers and handset makers like Google, Microsoft, Apple, RIM, HP, Samsung, LG, HTC and Ericsson? Where are they on the Wave?

What about the company you work for? Where is it on the wave? Is it on the early, growing and exciting side, or on the declining side?

What does the next year look like for you and the companies you care about? Some are doing well, while others are struggling. Where each is on the Wave is key to what is coming next for them. What about your children? Do they understand this concept? If so, they could choose the right company from a group of competitors to work for, couldn't they? There is so much about this topic that is exciting and empowering.

As I continue to travel and speak, I have been urged to write a book to discuss the Wave in more depth. I would love to hear your thoughts, ideas and suggestions for companies and individuals and where they are on the Wave, good or bad. Drop me an email and keep an eye on my website  for news about the book.

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Jeff Kagan is an E-Commerce Times columnist and a wireless, telecom and technology analyst, author, speaker and consultant. Email him at jeff@jeffKAGAN.com.

 


http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/4G-Wireless-Truth-or-Fiction-71636.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/71636.html

OPINION

4G Wireless: Truth or Fiction?

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

01/13/11 5:00 AM PT

The problem is that the carriers always advertise and market and use the next G. That puts a false image on the service and in the mind of the consumer. Most customers want something they cannot yet get. It's all about image for the carriers. Wireless is just becoming one big marketing game. In that world, don't honesty and clarity count? Is confusing the customer the only way to win?

Now it's official: All four major wireless networks are now claiming they are 4G. Oh really. Aha. Baloney. I really have learned to admire wireless marketing over the years, but there are a few parts that are just wrong. This is one of them. The wireless industry is crossing the line. If the carriers don't watch out, they may hurt themselves in the long run, when customers and investors will no longer believe the words coming out of their mouths.

At this point, no carrier is all 4G. The media is getting smart on this issue. I was interviewed several times on all this marketing-driven confusion. So who is really ahead with 4G, and does it all really matter yet?

It seems no carrier feels it can survive being left behind in this rapidly changing industry. Why the rush? Remember, Ford once said customers could have any color they wanted as long as it was black. That was fortitude. However, in today's world we see the tail wagging the dog.

Who's Got What

The furthest along with 4G is Clearwire and its partner Sprint (NYSE: S). They have been installing their WiMax in markets over the last two years and calling it "4G." It does provide a faster signal, but it's debatable whether this is real 4G.

Then T-Mobile saw 4G as a marketing opportunity. It got a late start with 3G, so it wanted to jump over that entire mistake and capture attention in this new world. T-Mobile uses HSPA+. There has been lots of buzz about how this is more marketing than reality at this point. Is it?

Verizon Wireless announced its 4G plans a few weeks ago. It uses Long Term Evolution, or LTE. It may have an aggressive plan for rolling out this fast service, but it is just in the beginning, and there's a long way to go. In fact, Verizon has no LTE phones in the market yet -- just cards for laptops. A look at its national advertising shows Verizon trying to claim the 4G spot. Is it jumping the gun?

AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T) didn't have plans to announce its 4G efforts until later in the spring with its own LTE, similar to Verizon's. However, with everyone else talking about 4G, AT&T didn't want to be left behind, so it just announced it is starting with HSPA+, similar to T-Mobile. Do two wrongs make a right?

All these carriers are talking about 4G, but all of them describe it with different technologies and different speeds. Some are only a few times faster than 3G, and others are 10 times the speed. That's a big difference isn't it? Calling it "4G" makes it all OK?

Marketing Gs They Don't Have

Living in the world of marketing can be a very strange place. Who sets the meaning for the terms? The International Telecommunications Union, or ITU, says none of these networks are really 4G. However, since today the competitors seem to care about marketing more than standards, the ITU is a toothless tiger.

So none of these top four networks are really 4G yet. That will change. If we move out a year from now, we will surely see 4G in many markets -- but these claims are really putting the horse ahead of the cart.

When is the right time to start calling yourself "4G"? The wireless industry doesn't transition overnight. It takes years to upgrade a network. Until then, it starts with only a few customers who see the new speed. Then more and more over the next couple years. However, the name suggests everyone gets the benefit now. When over that multiyear period is it the right time for a company to change its marketing messages?

One thing to consider: Do people really want and need 4G today? Well, people get caught up in the whirlwind of all the marketing and always want the next best thing. That is normal. Over the next couple years, as the need for speed increases, it will matter -- but not yet.

Would you be surprised to hear there are still markets around the country that are 2.5G? There are. While the carriers focus on 4G, there are still many customers waiting for 3G. That's just the way it goes.

At any point in time, there are usually three different versions of a network. Today, we are at the end of 2.5G, and 3G is almost everywhere, and now we are introducing 4G. So how can the carriers talk about 4G like it is everywhere, trying to win customers away from competitors?

The problem is that the carriers always advertise and market and use the next G. That puts a false image on the service and in the mind of the consumer. Most customers want something they cannot yet get. It's all about image for the carriers. So customers are always wanting something they can't get for months or years. Is that really a smart marketing move for the long term?

Call It Whatever - Just Make It Fast

Most customers don't really care about these names. They just want to know their carrier is always getting better and faster.

All this chatter about 4G is just for the carriers themselves. They can't feel like their competitor is better, even for a few months, so they all give themselves names that make it sound like they are better then they really are. Sounds like teenage boys in high school, doesn't it?

This same thing happened several years ago as the networks upgraded to 3G. Now we are going through it again. And it seems to be getting worse.

Wireless is just becoming one big marketing game. In that world, don't honesty and clarity count? Is confusing the customer the only way to win?

Will this less-than-accurate marketing messaging send customers toward the doors? No, I don't think so. This is not the first time half-truths were spoken, and they are all still doing fine. However, I am learning this behavior often makes it hard to really trust what the carriers say.

So this is the world we are stuck in, I guess. Unless the carriers finally get a backbone like Ford had and start telling it like it really is. Remember the old saying: You never want to see how a hot dog is made, but you love to eat it. Maybe it's the same thing here. So pass the mustard, please. 

 Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

 

 
Jeff Kagan's Pick of The Week; Verizon Wireless Offering Apple iPhone

AT&T Mobility used to be the only network in the U.S. that carried Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPhone, but Verizon Wireless is jumping into the space in early February.

It will be interesting to see how Verizon Wireless will change the marketplace. What kind of impact will it have on AT&T? How many customers will AT&T lose in the process, and how many will Verizon win?

This is a big win for Apple, which can market the iPhone to millions more customers. This is a big win for Verizon Wireless, since it can now sell the popular iPhone. The big loser in this is AT&T Mobility -- but who knows what it will pull out next and market like crazy?

All the complaints users have had with AT&T Mobility's service may start to diminish now that the pressure is being taken off its system. An interesting question is whether Verizon Wireless will start to face some of the same problems. It says it won't, but that's what AT&T has been saying all along.

The proof is in the pudding, and we will soon see. I hope this Verizon entry will give good quality service for its customers and take the pressure off AT&T so that its customers get better service than they've become used to.

Don't know the answers yet, but having two networks offering the iPhone should be better for the marketplace.

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Jeff Kagan is an E-Commerce Times columnist and a wireless, telecom and technology analyst, author, speaker and consultant. Email him at jeff@jeffKAGAN.com.

 


 

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/CES-Being-There-71581.html

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/71581.html

OPINION

CES: Being There

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

01/06/11 5:00 AM PT

What, there are no cars? You should have booked one months in advance? There are hundreds, if not thousands, of additional cars brought in from Los Angeles and other hot spots, but still no car for you? You are stuck in this taxi line waiting for a cab? Get used to it. That's life for the next few days.

The annual giant Consumer Electronics Show is happening this week in Las Vegas, and once again everything new in the electronics world is on display. I've been to a number of these CES events, and each seems bigger than the last. It is held not only in the very large Las Vegas Convention Center, but also at the Sands convention center and many other casino convention centers up and down the strip, between official and unofficial sites.

In fact, there are countless big tents with corporate logos pitched in parking lots. Maybe it's cheaper than setting up a booth inside -- who knows? Why else would they be outside in the winter? Even in the desert, it gets cold and rains now and then. This year, there's been an effort to curtail the show's growth by cutting down on the vast number of attendees. We'll see what that does.

If you have never been to the show, let me give you a tour. If you've been to any other trade show before and think you understand -- let me just say, no you don't. That was my first mistake.

Line Dancing

First I arrive in town, walk off the airplane and am immediately thrust into the rush of people flowing toward the shuttle to baggage claim. The good part of all this chaos is you don't actually have to walk, because you are carried along. It's like floating in a rushing stream.

You come down the escalators and see the luggage racks, but then you look around and realize there is not any room for another human being down there. Yet your escalator thrusts more folks into the steaming mass. You are one of them. After a while you make it to your luggage rack to wait and pick up your bag. And wait. And wait. An hour later when you finally see it, you grab your bag and rush to the taxi stand.

You're free at last... you think... until you see the line for a cab. You realize this is like Disney World on its busiest day. A long line snaking back and forth and back and forth so many times you get dizzy.

Instead of waiting like everyone else, you decide to call for a limo instead, not thinking this may be their busiest time of the year too. What, there are no cars? You should have booked it months in advance? There are hundreds, if not thousands, of additional cars brought in from Los Angeles and other hot spots, but still no car for you? You are stuck in this taxi line waiting for a cab? Get used to it. That's life for the next few days.

By the time you actually get your taxi it feels like tomorrow. OK you are driving away from this crowd into Vegas. Now you are free at last. The cab driver is nice this time. He's happy because he's finally making some money I guess. Vegas has been slow the last couple years. He gives you the lay of the land. You say you can't believe how many people were at the airport. He laughs and says just wait.

Las Vegas has always been a hopping place until a couple years ago, when the president put a kibosh on the town. Suddenly shows canceled. People stopped coming. Money dried up. That threw this shining city in the desert into near financial turmoil. Tourism is its lifeblood after all. Avoid the town?

Vegas is finally starting to come back from that punch in the gut -- slowly -- but when CES is in town, it's like the good ole days. The good news is many of the big hotels have their SOLD OUT signs lit with pride.

I get to the hotel to relax before getting started, but find another long line to check in. After another long wait, I finally get my room. After checking email and freshening up, I grab my stuff and head out to the show.

The taxi stand at the hotel is just as obnoxious and long as at the airport. So I go to the bus, which will take me there more quickly, I hope.

A Booth With a View

I step off the bus and look around at all the people. There is a sea of people. Attendance at the show is expected to reach 120,000, and this is just the outflow. That's better than the 150,000 who attended in the past, but it's still enormous. There are 2,500 booths and about 1,200 of them are from overseas. This is truly an international show.

I walk in the doors and see the various entrances to the show. I get a map, which will make it easy to find the booths where I have appointments. I look at the map and cry. This is the largest floor I have ever seen, and this is only one of the many different floors where I have to be.

There I stand, in a mass of people, in one of many big convention center rooms, trying to find a needle in this haystack. Then the next needle, and the next.

To make matters worse, my first appointment is in this mass somewhere, but my next appointment is in a hotel up the strip. A short distance typically, but with this crowd there is no possible way to make it all happen. Interview after interview. This is an incredible zoo.

Then an idea pops into my head. Maybe next year, I will have a booth. Yeah -- then they can all break their neck to try and get to me. That's the ticket. But that is next year. For now, I have to battle the crowds like everyone else.

I've learned there are countless limos to take you from event to event if you have the right connections. Fortunately I do, sometimes. That makes navigating the crowd much more doable. Still I'm exhausted by 11a.m.!

When you are reading the stories from all the media covering the show, cut them some slack. They too are numb from the shoulders up trying to survive this massive human thrust, while at the same time trying to write something that everyone else in the world can understand.

We are better off reading the stories for a sense of what is new and what is coming, but not for a real sense of how it will compare, compete and perform in the marketplace. You get too wrapped up in the excitement of the event to be objective. It is too easy to disconnect from the world in your mind while being rushing from news conference to briefing to interview.

CES After Dark

OK, it's the end of the day. The show is over for the day. Thank goodness. Tomorrow is another day. Time to go back to the hotel for a little dinner and a good night sleep. Its 5 p.m. Vegas time, which means 8 p.m. to me.

Wait -- I forgot -- there are still a handful of party events I am scheduled for tonight at some of Vegas' hot spots. Don't get excited, though, these are not typical Vegas parties. They are full of the same dull or crazy people I've been battling all day, only this time we are battling for a crab leg while touring more booths. These can sometimes be interesting as senior executives are often present.

The booths at the show are huge. Actually they are like small cities. Companies like AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, Qwest and T-Mobile are always there somewhere. Now new companies like CenturyLink and Windstream may be getting involved. Google and Apple are now in the cellphone space, so it makes sense to see them there -- but Apple is never at CES. I wonder what it will announce at its show. Booths at these after-the-show events are smaller and more intimate.

Wireless and cellular always plays a role at the show, but this is not a wireless show. That is just one of many segments of the consumer electronics industry represented at CES. This is the place to see it all in action, even before it's in the marketplace.

Telecom -- wireless and wireline -- does play an important role in the consumer electronics industry, since it's the highway the cars ride on.

Now please excuse me while I grab a few shrimp and crabs legs from the table for nourishment. What... this is Vegas. Got a long night ahead looking at all the upcoming smartphones and tablet computers and 3D TVs with built-in coolers so you don't have to walk to the kitchen anymore. What will they think of next?

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Jeff Kagan is an E-Commerce Times columnist and a wireless, telecom and technology analyst, author, speaker and consultant. Email him at jeff@jeffKAGAN.com.