A recent survey by Sandvine provided some colour in terms of bandwidth consumption:
1. P2P file sharing applications: 44%
2. Web browsing: 27%
3. Media streaming: 15%
4. VPN: 6%
5. Newsgroups: 6%
6. Online games: 1%
7. VoIP: <1%
Media/video applications acount for almost 60% of the traffic (traffic, not users or time spent). It puts things into perspective and explains why the debate around net neutrality is so important. Just imagine the amount of required investments Verizon, Comcast or BT would have to finance to ensure their networks can support a 100% penetration of video/applications. The issue being that in today's world they can't charge more depending on the traffic type, a byte is a byte...
Also interesting was the relatively high level of VPN usage (more travel? more flexibility?) and the low number for online games. Online games are extremely bandwidth-efficient (most of the processing is done locally and only a limited amount of data is shared with the servers) at the opposite end of P2P applications.
After months of speculation about a G-Phone, Google came out last week - full event script here - with its mobile plans in the form of Android, a mobile Linux OS. It did not go alone though, as the big guys of Deutsche Telekom, HTC, China Mobile, Qualcomm and Motorola joined in for the press conference. They are all part of a new 34 strong industry group called the Open Handset Alliance, also including companies like Telefonica, NTT DoCoMO, Sprint, Samsung or LG.
To sum up, Android is a "software stack" consisting of an OS and middleware - developed by Google - on which customised UIs and applications - developed by Google (Maps...) or others - can be added. It will be made available under an open-source license (i.e. free?) giving handset manufacturers and MNOs the freedom to customise the user experience for their users. In a perfect world it should still enable Motorola to differentiate from say Samsung on the phone UI and Telefonica to customise the user experience and key services offered differently than say T-Mobile. Quite the opposite from the one-size-fits-all approach Microsoft has with Windows Mobile - though it is changing a bit, just look at the customised UI available on Windows-powered phones offered by Vodafone and the Palm 500 in particular...;). In terms of business model, money won't be made on the OS, so Google expects to create value in two ways, directly via some revenue sharing deals and indirectly via increased mobile advertising revenue. Indeed the mobile internet experience is expected to become far better, so more traffic will lead to more clicks on Google ads. Earlier this week, Google also released the SDK with a full YouTube profile and walkthrough.
I have to admit I still sit on the fence on that - sharing the views of most in the sector - for three main reasons:
1. The OHA might not be such a show of industry support as one might think. It is actually fairly easy to join and remain in the loop though not dedicating resources, especially actors such as Motorola (already involved with Windows Mobile, Symbian and its own Linux OS) which are clearly not fully committed. Were it not led by Google, I would already have discarded the whole initiative.
2. First walkthroughs were quite underwhelming, nothing here revolutionary compared to your average Phone OS, definitely not the WOW factor the iPhone delivered when introduced. OK this is still just an SDK, so there is room for progress
3. First handsets are only expected - from HTC - by Q3 2008, almost one year down the road. By that time, tough to say how Android will fare versus latest releases from Nokia S60, Sony Ericsson UIQ or a potential second version of the iPhone...
On paper, Android is definitely on the right track and its willingness to offer a great experience to all users while still enabling differentiation is great. I can only root for any initiative looking to further develop the mobile internet, so I will look with great interest on how the platform develops over the coming months.
Google's business model is assumed to be based on servicing as much of its customer needs as possible, to store the information, datamine it and generate healthy profits through advertising. Incremental cost is close to zero thanks to the "cloud" architecture, though one could argue YouTune or DoubleClick were not free. Hence the need to expand into new services such as email, payments, navigations, office applications, etc... The more your customers remain in this "virtual" walled garden, the more you know about them and can monetize them.
Issues arise when people - and politicians - get wary about privacy, and that the need to expand means conflicting with even more industries/companies, e.g. media companies, Microsoft in software, banks in payments, telecom operators in internet connectivity, etc...
I am really looking forward to seeing how things unfold for Google. They did benefit so far from a perfect storm - smart people, weak competition, booming advertising market - and were impressive in executing their strategy and achieve a $160bn market cap. Curious to see how they would face some downturns - e.g. bearish advertising market, brain exodus, antitrust reviews, copyright lawsuits....
eMarketer recently published worlwide numbers for internet usage and penetration. Though the usual suspects remain in the top spots - US, Japan, Korea, UK, France, Scandinavia - the most interesting insight is the rise of emerging markets in the rankings. China is expected to become the largest internet market by the end of the year - as it already is for mobile telecommunications. Brazil and Mexico numbers confirm an active internet base in Latin America - just in case you haven't been on Orkut recently. India is also expected to grow exponentially - as is currently the case for mobile - and should get in the top 5 fairly soon.
It will be interesting to see how this change of user demographics will impact the internet, its format, content and language - fair to say that so far it is a mainly Western English thing.
I recently bought an internet radio from Acoustic Energy. The idea is to have a stand alone device that can connect to the internet to listen to your favourite radios. In this world where DRM is such a pain for users - though it might be on its way out - the explosion of radios on the internet has been a great event. There are two types of internet radios, one that is actually simply an IP stream of whatever you have on your FM band (e.g. Virgin Radio, CBS FM,...), the other is a new breed of radio only available online managed by independent owners or large groups (e.g. Ministry Of Sound).
There were however two big issues so far with internet radio. First, there was no real and friendly aggregator to get all your radios from one place and it was quite a pain to go to each website and open the Real or WMV stream. Second, you had to use your PC.... This is where the internet radio from AE is a great improvement. You can use a very easy browsing system to choose among thousands of radio (by country or genre), similar to what you would get on a regular RDS-ed radio set - thanks actually to Reciva that finally managed a proper radio aggregator. Also, the device directly connects to the internet, so no need for the PC. You can use the radio wherever you want - in the kitchen in my case. In terms of sound quality, you depend from whatever bitrate the radio is being streamed at. On average it is around 64Kbps, which is perfect for talk shows and OK for music. You also need to compare to alternatives, as FM radio sound quality has never been outstanding, nor is actually DAB's in the UK given the bandwidth limitations.
Thanks to such a device you really have the best of both worlds: (a) you can get all the local radios that you would get from your FM antenna, plus (b) all the internet-only radios meeting specific tastes and last but not least (c) all the FM radios from any country around the world ! This is something I particularly enjoy as I can go back to stations I used to listen when I was living in France, Portugal or the US. People who grew up with France Info will understand ! As we are now in the middle of the French presidential elections, it has become even more valuable !
The AE device stands out from the competition as its sound quality is particularly good - AE is after all a HiFi specialist. Also the setup was particularly easy and the wifi connection to the router a breeze. Finally it can also work as a media extender and stream the music you have stored on your PC, for the days you are fine having it switched on....
For this year's NewsCorp strategic retreat, Rupert Mudorch decided to gather at his Californian ranch his top executives from his print properties - magazines and newspapers. The challenge is to assess how to ensure they remain relevant and profitable in the new world where (a) most of the people are getting their news online and (b) social media are changing the competitive landscape and the attractiveness of the "old media" types.
Looking forward to knowing what will emerge from this strategy review. Should be quite exciting as previous versions resulted in such bold moves as the FIM creation and MySpace acquisition.....