“Stephane Richard, CEO of France Telecom (Orange) has invited the heads of Deutsche Telekom (T-Mobile), Telefonica (O2) and Vodafone to discuss potentially making their own mobile operating system,” IntoMobile reports. “The view, from the operators, is that operating systems like Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS are a ‘Trojan horse’ that steals the relationship with the customer from them and gives it to outside software vendors and service providers.”
It seems like there is an avalanche of stuff today revealing large cracks in the ecosystem of smartphone OS and the companies that sell access. The carriers are afraid that their relationship with their customer will be stolen. Too bad. I think they are right but it will be because the customers ran away screaming rather than being somehow kidnapped.
I think most customers shudder when thinking about a relationship with a carrier. But it explains why the carriers want their own OS to muck around with as much as possible.
So we will see a highly fragmented world, where each carrier sells Android-like phones but with their own OS bell and whistles, their own App store, and their own interface. You will not be able to move easily from one carrier to another, nor will you be able to use your old phone, because the OS will be different.
Meanwhile, Apple has shown us what it will do to get around the need for carriers. What do the carriers provide? Access to cell networks based on certain protocols used by each carrier, mostly permitting voice but having some data capacity.
But the FCC is about to open up the so-called ‘white space’ to WiFi technology, permitting signals to penetrate walls and carry over much wider distances. It provides a way to get free, high speed broadband Internet access to large parts of the US. It may become very easy to access the Internet without needing any cell access – no need to access the cell networks of any carrier for data.
Think about watching streaming movies or TV from anywhere? That is the sort of data that can be pushed through.
As for voice, what has Apple just come out with, that it is putting on every mobile device and possible every hardware device it has – FaceTalk, the ability to carry on voice conversations with video over WiFi! It is based on an open standard that may appear on almost every mobile device.
So then why would you need the cell phone carriers at all? I could do everything a cell phone does for less money and with greater speed using an iPod Touch. Why would Apple need to work with ATT ever again? Heck, it could even deploy some ‘White-Fi’ networks itself and circumvent Verizon totally. Would I pay a small monthly fee – say $10 – to access the Apple WhiteFi network, one that would me to do voice, data, movies, music, etc. from almost anywhere? Yep.
I would expect cell phone carriers to try and be part of the deployment of these technologies, but their relationship with their customers will be quite different than now, where they pretty much control all access.
Apple may have just demonstrated how customers can route around the phone carriers, getting around their slow data systems and their fragmented marketplaces where the companies really care more about their own profit than their customer.
I can get everything I might possible need for a mobile device simply through WiFi access. With WiFi access pretty much ubiquitous, why would I want cell, which would be slower and more costly.
In a few years, it may be very likely that the use of WiFi ‘White-Fi’ systems will negate the need for ANY cell phone carrier, at least the need for the specific handsets to use on specific networks. These open standards would negate much of the mostly unfair competitive advantage of the wireless companies. Selling hardware for specific access to specific networks will be a thing of the past. We will buy the hardware we like and it will be able to access the networks that we need to provide us with the data and content we want.
The iPod Touch would be able to do more with less cost than any smartphone now sold by a carrier.
And then we will be able to use the devices without ANY relationship with a wireless carrier. I’d like that.
Expect some huge lobbying efforts by these companies as they try and hold onto the last vestiges of their business models.