What's In The Cards For Wireless Carriers and Handset Makers

An article published at the Register by “Wireless Watch” proved to be a good read for us here at Techdirt, and we recommend it as a catch-all for many of the shorter discussions we’ve had at TD. The crux of the article is that handset frameworks like BREW, Series 60, SavaJe, WIPI, and ELIPS will make it easier to customize and rapidly design handsets to meet customer tastes. Thanks to these frameworks (or platforms) carriers are able to become more involved in handset design based on their specific customers’ needs and the carrier desire for differentiation, and that carriers will increasingly turn to ODMs to manufacture these frameworked phones, and will buy less from top vendor brands like Nokia. This is consistent with my posts regarding the rise of ODMs in Aug. 2003 Wireless Watch goes on to say that the top vendors had better get used to shrinking margins and smaller sales volumes, and either adjust (Nokia with series 60) or get out (Siemens). But the article then goes on to argue that once such phones are based on relatively open platforms that take advantage of IP (Internet Protocols), then the carriers will enjoy just a short-lived brand resurgence where their walled gardens fare well (Vodafone Live!), but thereafter those walls will erode as customers demand access to a full range of IP content, whatever the source (whether Live!, Yahoo!, Wanadoo, Skype, etc…) This last bit is consistent with what Mike often writes regarding walled gardens, and although it may be inevitable that carriers’ walls fall to the larger WWW, I have been warning the carriers not to accelerate the process when it comes to core services. Good article, good tea leaf reading, and tasty food for thought. This is the sort of scenario planning that vendor and carrier executives should be doing as well as putting out the day-to-day fires.

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