Tuesday 10 March 2009

MomoLondon: What have operators done for you lately?

Not quite as snappy and energetic as last month’s event, but still a good evening. I think tonight was missing some demos or video examples to get the crowd excited before the panel session. As it was, it took until the last few questions before we got to the nitty gritty.

O2 Litmus

James Parton, Head of O2 Litmus

James Parton gave a polished presentation about O2 Litmus with lots of pithy quotes. Some examples:

O2’s feedback from the developer community about what was wanted from an operator:

  1. get out of the way
  2. be transparent and honest
  3. show me how to make some money

“Developers can get their app in front of customers in 18 minutes, not 18 months”

“The customer API is the real value”: refine ideas with feedback from real customers

The benefits of O2 Litmus: developers have access to customers; and customers get a voice, early access and rewards.

Operators and Operands, a Love Story

Terence Eden

Terence wanted to get across the network effect — the killer app of a mobile communication device being the people with whom you communicate.

He started by scaling up from the iPhone, selling 20 million worldwide so far. Quite a few people in the audience had one, unsurprisingly. But the largest selling phone across all operators in the UK is the Nokia 6300 — basic mobile web & Java apps only, but used mainly for talking and text. Scaling up still further, the Nokia 1100 sells more than any other phone worldwide, and its greatest feature is a built-in torch!

Operators exist to generate the network effect. The network effect is the real power. What operators really want is for people to say, “I enjoy using my phone, I want to use it more.”

To a certain point, I agree with him. Until you have a certain number of devices in the market, the most important thing is getting people to use more devices. However, we’re long past that in Europe. The latest stats from the UN say that Europe has 111% penetration of mobile devices. That’s more devices than people.

Once you have a network, it’s time to think about how to leverage it more than how to grow it. Treating connectivity as a given has led to most of the exciting and new services and business models of the recent years. Google Docs, Dropbox, Twitter — they don’t exist to encourage people to use the internet; they only exist because everyone is already on the internet.

That’s an area where the iPhone has stormed ahead in mobile. It assumes you’re connected and moves beyond that. Nokia is still stuck on helping you to connect.


  • Chair: Anna Gudmundson, Ad.IQ
  • James Parton, O2 Litmus
  • Steve Wolkak, Betavine
  • Jo Rabin, dotMobi
    • investors include Google, Symbian, Microsoft, etc
  • David Wood, Symbian

How did Betavine begin?

  • Engaging those outside of your workplace (now called crowdsourcing)
  • Thinking of ways that we could encourage the developer community to move towards mobile
  • Any application uploaded to Betavine.net visible on portal in Germany, Spain, UK and South Africa

Where’s it going next?

  • Direct feedback from developer community
  • Feedback from Vodafone
  • Things that the team think are fun
    • at the moment, looking at emerging markets

What is the dotMobi business model?

  • We derive revenue from domain sales, development software and services

Which apps get cherry-picked from O2 Litmus?

  • We use “endorsements” — not just downloads, but feedback on forums etc
  • Not just O2 staff that make the decision, but real customers
  • Once app is endorsed, then

Why would you develop on Symbian?

  • Since open sourced, trying to encourage a wider community
  • Now want to make developers have a great experience so that the platform as widely used as possible

Why is there fragmentation across operators?

  • JP: fairly happy if a developer joins O2, works with customers to develop an app, then leaves and sells the app on Orange or Voda
    • customers have had the experience, which is what counts
    • challenge to JP to make Litmus a place to stay, but of course it won’t be exclusive
    • Litmus is part of the marketing strategy — not led by the tech department
  • DW: if you allow customers the freedom to move away, they’re more likely to come to you in the first place
  • JP & SW: we meet up for coffee, it’s all good :-)

The iPhone question: How are you planning to get more user-centred design into your process?

  • DW: Set up four councils, including one on UI. This one has been disappointing — no take up from members of Symbian Foundation.
    • but can you really design an interface by committee
  • SW: put up betavine.mobi on redesignme.com for suggestions, but appreciate that iPhone was driven by one man’s vision
  • JR: iPhone was executed well on all axes. Interestingly it was a vertically-oriented experience that didn’t have a parallel in the existing mobile landscape…

That sounds good, but what about reality? Isn’t there a £1000 fee to have a game listed on O2 Active?

  • JP: Direct access to real customers from self-registration on Litmus
    • I sit here as an operator and know that we’ve screwed things up previously
  • SW: Again, you can upload an app and see it on portal

What is customer experience?

  • JP: Selecting customers who have all you can eat data service and latest phones
    • No point selecting customers just for numbers’ sake

What about app discovery?

  • DW: Symbian won’t be running an App Store, will be running a warehouse that can be queried by lots of different app stores
  • SW: From portal: Home > Mobile Apps > Free Apps
  • JP: Don’t need to be a member to browse the catalogue, just to download

Do operators have a role in educating the market and if so, how? (Patrick from GetJar)

  • Terence Eden: Putting apps front an centre on Vodafone Live. Homepage Beta is encouraging people to upload web widgets.
  • JP: Not going to be placing TV ads — too broad. Instead targeting specific customer segments

How much money is actually going to developers?

  • JP: we paid our first developer last week!
  • Terence Eden: it’s all very well providing you with a connection to our customers, but what you really want is a connection to their wallet!
  • JP: really want to create incentives for customers — Mob4Hire doing that

How many customers are you seeing?

  • JP: email campaign to a selective audience: normal open rate is 10%, but 27% rate for Litmus email
    • typical market survey 5,000 customers, and already well in excess of that

How do you expect to protect your customers against viruses?

  • JP: moderators check submissions for viruses
  • SW: betavine the same

Clarify going from free to paid:

  • JP: within Litmus, you can sell at different price points. While in Litmus, you can control that
    • if you want to go outside Litmus (to 260 million Telefonica customers) you still have to talk to O2 commercial team

Jo Rabin’s wishlist

  • What I’d really like to see is a way of monetize mobile web services rather than apps


  • April’s event: how to finance your business during a credit crunch…
    • Not on a Monday and in the middle of April
  • May: mobile marketing/media

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