09 November 2008

Travel Mobile's Achilles Heel

Mobile and Travel belong together. Natural and synergistic... all those wonderful buzz words that can apply - but it has an Achilles heel. The business model.

I am sure that I will be loudly roasted for taking this position but after 15 years of watching and in many cases trying to break through this Gordian Knot - I can assure you there is not an easy way to make this category a success. It remains stuck in the one place where it needs to be unstuck. The business model.

So what are the obstacles?

Is it the hardware?

Nope - we have some great smartphones and even regular phones that can do just about anything. Great Machines like the iPhone, the Sony C902, The Blackberry Bold and Storm, etc etc.

Is it the client side software?

Nope - smart people have written some great apps that do a whole load of things: Make bookings, Manage reservations, consolidate data, help with trip repair, etc etc

Is it the server side software?

Definitely not - there are some great applications, SaaS and conventional web services. There is a plethora of these out there. Perhaps too many!

Is it the network?

Nope - we have been able to do some incredible things using plain old SMS 140 character limit solutions. There is an issue of unreliable network performance but this will ultimately be resolved. It just doesnt hold up the services though. Using Wifi or Wimax is too unreliable at this stage because of the poor coverage.

So what the FUBAR is the problem?

It is simply that for many applications to work we need to have an "all you can eat model" for communications costs. It must be as easy and at least the same price as a service on the web. So there are too many mouths to feed and the carriers refuse to play ball with this. Google's Android concept should be better at enabling a possible way to leverage cost - but frankly I still don't yet see it. Perhaps Wimax might resolve this? Probably not. So what will work? Frankly it will be competition. Only when we have open access and open competition and both the FCC and the EU Commissions step up to the plate will we have something.

So I hope that the incoming FCC Commission Chairman and both EC ladies Viviane Reding (Information Society and Media) and Neelie Kroes (Competition) get their act together. Not in 2009 or even 2010.

Is there any hope for the future?

I am optimistic - but staying optimistic for 15 years takes either a stupid person or someone who is a few screws loose. I think I qualify in both categories. However for the short term - I will avoid making any near term projections because I don't think we are looking at any near term solution that will break through the current Mobile Operators gravy train. Their argument is that they invested Billions of Euros/Dollars in both the licenses and networks. Frankly that argument doesnt hold up since they already paid the money. Now they need to provide a low cost service that makes sense to the consumer community.

IF only they would see that by enabling a marquee application like Mobile Travel then they would move people to using mobile data services. But this is not happening.

So I am not holding my breath... but just maybe someone will surprise me. In the mean time I will continue to experiment and hope that someone figures it out.

What do you think?

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