The wireless carriers in this country face a daunting challenge – finding ways to charge for more and higher value data services fast enough to offset the deteriorating demand for high margin voice services – while simultaneously turning in positive earnings. It’s a difficult trick to pull off.
Today there are a couple ways to do this; convince you to pay more for services on devices that you currently own (e.g. your phone) or get you to pay for services on new device types (e.g. iPad).
Given the focus of this blog, it won’t surprise you that I’d like to focus on the second approach, because it is here that I think a significant opportunity exists. If you do a quick inventory of devices available on any of the carriers’ web sites you’ll see only a handful of device types available. Obviously, the phone is the overwhelming focus – feature phones, multi-media phones, smart phones, etc. You’ll also find a smattering of netbooks, wireless picture frames and USB modems, but that’s about it. Your choices are pretty limited.
Now compare this selection to what’s available in any of the popular app stores. I’ll use Apple’s because it’s the most famous. Today you can avail yourself of over 250,000 applications organized loosely into 20 categories, and it’s still growing rapidly! In this world, you have an entire universe of choice.
The explosion of software applications for the mobile world is testimony to the fact that, for the most part, the cost of innovating in software has gone to zero. You, as a software developer, can get all the tools you need to create mind blowing new applications for no charge. The results of this fact speak for themselves.
Now compare this with innovating in hardware. Well, there is no comparison. Today it is incredibly complicated and expensive to bring new wireless hardware devices to market. In fact, it’s so hard that only large, well-financed companies can do it, and few of them well. But does it HAVE to be this way? No. But changing how it all works will take time, energy and the participation of key industry players. Which is why…
… I’m very happy to announce that we’re adding another, large, influential member to our growing community of open hardware advocates – Verizon Wireless. It may come as a surprise to you that a company that is so often vilified for being closed is teaming up with Bug Labs, a company that is defined by its openness. I was skeptical at first too. But over the past several months the teams we’ve worked with at Verizon have demonstrated time and again their commitment to supporting our mission. Their press release announcing our partnership (came out today) says it best. And we’re on their website here!
Why is Verizon interested? Because of the challenges I mentioned in the first paragraph. They can do two things – deal with the status quo or change the game in the hopes of inspiring whole new categories of wireless device developer. And why is this good? Because it will lead to greater choice for us, the customer (both business and consumer). And who knows – five years from now it may not seem weird at all to have a “Gadget Store” filled with 250,000 different wireless devices to choose from. Stranger things have happened.
I’m thrilled to have them as a partner and look forward to telling you all about our progress.