By Martin Geddes
I had a chance this week to catch up by phone with Jeff Popoff, VP of Marketing at equipment vendor Redknee. (Looking at their web site, Jeff’s had a vigorous haircut since we last met. Here in impecunious Scotland they call it “value for money”. Only kidding, Jeff!)
Jeff was one of the recipients of my RFP From Hell when I was at Sprint. Think “IMS for the Web”, and you’re half way there. Anyhow, we’ve known each other from back in the darkest days of the telecom meltdown, when even responding to Martin’s RFP seemed like a good idea.
Apart from all the usual new product stuff that anyone with a browser, one finger and an eye can find, Jeff kept me up to date with where Redknee’s strategy is going. Because Redknee is fairly small, they can’t afford grand visions that play out over long time periods. Most of their products are up in the higher layers of the stack, which is where telcos are most vulnerable. They don’t have a pile of patents on obscure radio technology that they can use to leverage themselves into all sorts of other businesses. They’re forced to iterate quickly, deliver stuff that works and makes money for its owners. So I see them as being the canary in the cold, dark, scary telecom coal mine.
Two themes came out of what they’re up to. The first is what they call “personalisation”, which is a mix of digital identity, and contextually aware services. If “mobility” is the service, how does it adapt to the user’s different contexts? When you’re at work in your home office and have a Vonage phone you might want a different call handling behaviour to when you’re in the airport on their WLAN; and a different behavior when you’re on the plan on the satellite-fed WLAN; and yet again something different when you’re in the corporate office behind a PBX.
As Jeff highlighted, the flip side is no carrier or service provider will do it unless paid. How to reap some value? Can you do it directly, like how MSN offers a premium email bundle? Or does it have to be indirect, the way Google uses your content in Gmail to perform contextual ads both in GMail and (potentially) other Google properties?
Also, people’s expectations changed from 5 years ago. We now have high mobile penetration, a saturated market in most regions, and strong commoditisation. The classic response according to Jeff is to segment and differentiate. This means moving from adding subscribers to stealing them. How do you appeal to these new subs?
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