What should tomorrow’s mobile cloud offer?
The IT cloud has taken shape. The next step is to offer a mobile cloud. How will it be different and what should a telco offer? For clarity, mobile cloud applications are combinations between mobile apps and cloud computing and telecom backoffice services, not iPhone or Android apps.
Mobile screens of all colours and sizes…
Where the PC worlds only has a handful of web browsers, the mobile world is completely different. Old mobiles live together with the latest smartphones. Applications can be native or web-based. Screens can go up to 11 inches (28cm) on tablets and even if we consider television screens to 50 inches (1.27m). We can even find mobile applications without screens (M2M) or via very limited character entries (SMS).
Although HTML 5 is bringing a good potential stardard, there are still quite some differences between different mobile browsers. So it will probably take some years before a reliable standard is omni-present.
In the mean time operators will have to offer solutions on their mobile cloud. Applications will have to be available on a wide set of platforms. Any help an operator can bring to developers will be highly appreciated.
Mobile testing nightmare
Having to test an html5 application on hundreds of mobiles is a nightmare. Some companies already offer partial solutions. However providing a solution via mobile hardware virtualization and automated testing would help developers bring apps to market quickly. Testing could be paid for by minute (instead of hours in the IT cloud). Mobile makers and testing software companies could get a revenue share for every developer that uses their virtualized solution. This would release the operator from having to do all the mobile OS virtualization and sensor testbeds themselves. It would be similar to having third-parties selling access to their Amazon AMIs but instead they would be for a Nokia Symbian or iPhone 4.
Mobiles have sensors
The latest mobiles have a long list of sensors (GPS, accerelometer, etc.). Mobile clouds should offer developers help in using these sensors and automating testing. You don’t want to physically move a mobile abroad to test if you get a roaming event, would you? Push notifications to the mobile have to be supported in a uniform way accross different platforms.
Latency and network connectivity can be a nightmare
Content caching on the mobile device is key. HTML5 offers an off-line key-value store but unfortunately not all mobiles support it so custom solutions are necessary.
Advertisment support is key
Offering a ready-made integration with major mobile advertisement solutions is important. Some applications can not be charged for, so advertisement is the only means of income. Inline content sales should be supported and hopefully at more competitive rates than the App Store’s 30% revenue cut.
Telecom assets should be the differentiator
All of the above can be offered by IT and dotcoms. Integration with unique telecom assets is a must. Sending an SMS is no longer a unique asset. Neither is location. They have to be real assets: micro-payments via telecom billing, custom numbering plans, zero-cost call forwarding, voice transcription, quality of service, etc.
Become the Elastic Beanstalk of the mobile cloud, not the Google App Engine
The Amazon Elastic Beanstalk is a service that allows java developers to deploy their applications and instantly benefit from auto-scaling, elastic loadbalancing, etc. However in contrast to Google App Engine, there is no one way of doing things. Developers have the liberty to swap out Amazon’s initial configuration by customized configurations.
Mobile to Cloud and Telco connectors
The mobile app, tablet app, TV app, M2M app should be seamingly integrated with cloud applications as well as telecom services. Having single sign-on via OpenID or getting data from the cloud via oAuth are basics. Setting up a conference call, managing call forwarding, voice transcription, etc. are others.
Selling the mobile cloud via a telco marketplace
Mobile cloud applications are combinations between mobile apps/M2M/SMS/Calls/TV Apps/…, cloud computing and telecom backoffice services. Programmers should be able to add them to a telco marketplace and sell them to different customer segments (consumers, soho, small/medium/large enterprises, M2M, etc.). However offen mobile cloud applications should be given away for free and programmers should get a revenue share on telco assets that are used, e.g. calls made, SMS sent, etc.
Mobile Social Networking
Adding social networking concepts are key. Operators know who you call most often. This information can be key when combined with cloud social networks. As long as privacy and opt-in are used, then users should only see benefits.
The long tail mobile cloud is nearby…
The long tail mobile cloud is nearby and operators can be the key players in it. However they will need to suppress their urges to be greedy. Revenue shares should be inline with the dotcom and IT industry. So should individual mobile cloud application pricing.
Cloud speed in time-to-market is necessary. Operators should not try to build things themselves. Instead they should partner with dotcoms and IT/network providers in real partnerships.
Finally the rules are changing. Old rules can no longer apply. Users need to be able to choose between multiple competing mobile cloud apps. No longer can the operator’s marketing department decide what will be a hit. The user community is the only one with this power. Social CRMs and other long tail support solutions can be used to avoid massive call center calls.
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