There are several long tail sales channels that are currently showing results. Clear examples are Amazon, Netflix, Google, etc. However there is a key area that is currently not resolved: long tail post-sales support.
In the telecom world, operators are not launching long tail applications because they can not offer post-sales support. A lot of small innovative solutions are not meeting the public because the operator can not afford consumers or small businesses to call massively their call centers. Every call-center call costs €1 or more and training call center agents on thousands of niche applications is virtually impossible.
A director in a tier 1 operator told me the other day that what we are missing is the container for long tail post-sales support. His logic was that the second biggest invention after the Internet was the container and the pallet. They allowed goods to be shipped cheaply all over the world. The Internet accelerated the purchases but the container made it possible that China and others produced it and the rest of the world consumed it.
We need to find the container for long tail post-sales support. The simple solution that allows people to understand which services and solutions have a best-effort, basic or top-class support and to get their problems resolved in the shortest and easiest way.
What is the problem? An individual programmer can build a very successful application, launch it on a telecom cloud and get virtually overnight thousands of customers. This programmer would be totally overwhelmed with bug reports, feature requests, integration needs, customization needs, training needs, etc. from thousands of consumers and small businesses. A business can not afford a critical service not to be available during hours or even minutes or seconds. A single programmer might be a guru in building an innovative application but might lack basic skills in supporting it.
The same would be true if we talk about niche solutions, open source solutions, general solutions with long tail plugins, telecom PaaS platforms, etc.
So do I know what the container is? Not yet but I am actively reviewing different solutions. If you are interested in participating then drop me a line: maarten at telruptive dot com.
Google is preparing to launch Google TV together with Sony, Logitech and Intel. Details about how the service will work and what will be in the Set-Top Box or Sony TVs are not very clear yet. However Google has been one of the few companies that is really driving the long-tail content and advertisement market. When Google TV is discussed then people are always talking about which content will be offered for what price…
What if content was free?
Or at least there would be a cheap all-you-can-eat price? Impossible? Why? Youtube is able to show personalized advertisement per viewer based on what you watched previously, how old you are, where you are, etc. So if a movie can be paid for by broadcast advertisement then it can probably also be paid for by personalized advertisement. Additionally knowing your content preferences allows for other up-sells, e.g. merchandising.
How much is Google going to pay for movies?
Perhaps nothing. Why can’t they do revenue sharing with content providers? This would allow for a long-tail content delivery market that is currently unheard of. Content providers would get a share of the advertisement revenue. Block busters would generate a lot of money whereas home bloopers or specialized documentaries would not. According to the Long-Tail theories however 98% of all content would be viewed at least ones a month. So Google might be able to make more money with the old-time classics, funniest amateur clips, etc. then with the Hollywood blockbusters.
The big losers?
Some startups that wanted to enter this space will probably die. Content generators would make the same money. Some studios might have to do with less. However telecom operators would have a large load on their network without any guarantees they get any extra cent…
We have gotten accustomed to having to choose between 5 to 10 tariff plans. However what would happen if we would have liberty to define our own tariff plans. A simple application with sliders could allow everybody to build their personalized tariff plan:
- Which hours in the day you want an all you can eat and which hours you want to pay per minute or second?
- How many minutes, mega-bytes, SMS, MMS or video calls you get included in your tariff plan?
- Do you prefer a low call set-up fee and higher tariffs or the reverse?
Moving the sliders will have an impact on what you pay fixed per month.
However why stop with the personalized tariff plan? Why not allow users to define lists of friends, family and colleagues and have their own short code dialing plan for them (VPN)? Of course also here we can add a personalized dialing plan for friends, family and colleagues…
To really hit the long tail we need an infinite list of services users can pick from. In previous posts you can read about Net App Stores. They are stores that sell telco network-based applications. With an open market for these net apps, there could be thousands or even millions of them. Since the long-tail says that 98% of the applications will sell at least once per month or quarter, operators should try to have the most extensive library possible…
Google has changed very little to its basic architecture building blocks over the years. Everything runs on top of the Google File System and Bigtable. Except for Google Instant which is reversing Map-Reduce usage, new services have been reusing their existing architecture.
Similar observations can be made for the rest of the main players. So why is it that Telecom operators have not invested in one architecture to launch multiple services? No idea.
One architecture for VAS
The concept is simple. Create one common architecture. This architecture should have multiple components:
- A high-available real-time data store – stores all application and user data
- A right-time data analytics service – allows collective intelligence and data mining
- An asset exposure layer – applications can re-use network assets and get isolated from internal complexities
- Presentation layer – facilitate mobile GUI and Web 2.0 development
- Application Engine – allows applications to run and focus on business logic instead of scaling and integration
- Continuous Deployment – instead of monthly big-bang deployments, incremental daily or weekly releases are possible, even hourly like some dotcoms.
- Unified Administration – one place to know what is happening both technically and business-wise with the applications.
- Long-Tail Business Link – all business and accounting transactions for customers, partners, providers, etc. are centralized.
Having such an architecture in place would allow telco innovations to be brought to market at least ten times faster. Application and service designers would have to focus on business logic and not on the rest. Administrators would have one platform to manage and not a puzzle of systems. Integrations would have to be done ones to a common integration layer.
Building such an architecture should be done in the dotcom style and not a telco RFQ. Only by doing iterative projects which bring together the components can you build an architecture that is really used and not a side project that starts to have its own life.
It even makes sense to open source the architecture. Telco’s business is not about building architectures hence having a common platform that was started by one would benefit the whole industry. It even would give a competitive advantage to the one that started the architecture for knowing it better than any competitor. Of course for this to happen, a telco has to recognize that their future major competitors are not the neighboring telco but a global dotcom…