Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Smart Network, Dumb Codes

Dumb codes + Smart network? Smart codes that allow robust immediate actions and user feedback on the phone? ConnexTo allows you the flexibility to chooseIn a recent discussion an interesting comment was made on the vision of mobile codes in the Content/Services-Operators-Consumers triangle:
"My network is SMART: I can find who are my subscribers (in the case of a brand, who are my customers), and I can make very intelligent decisions in the network. Moreover, the network has more resources and is more flexible to allow changes and new functionality into the ecosystem, which would improve dramatically the value to consumers. Why invest so much in smart codes that do a lot on the phone and rely less on the network?".
Excellent point, I'll say. Network means flexibility and robustness, more value, updates etc. Perhaps even remove the need for a client on the phone (getting consumers to download an application to the phone is about as easy as pulling teeth) or maybe a thin client; if the network takes the action associated with the code then the dependency on the phone's support for various APIs, like multimedia for example, or PIM, is largely removed.
I'll make two points to offer another perspective on this:
  • Physical World Context: OK, so you want to do everything on the network, fine. But think of the consumer: they are in the context of some experience, related to location, time, identity and other parameters that change the way they perceive the value that would be offered to them by scanning the code. If I'm scanning the menu of a restaurant, I might be interested in their dinner or lunch menu, depending on the local time on my phone. Connecting to the network, Smart codes can take samples of local data that indicates the context of the user's world.
  • Offering local, immediate value: I'll take a wild guess here, but I would say that most consumers want immediate value for their interest. By limiting the ecosystem such that valuable feedback or recognition is only given at the network level, the process of getting there becomes longer, it adds user prompts and question marks. With every click, the number of consumers drops. The benefit of smart codes is that even if the value (ringtone, coupon,...) is on the network, you can offer the consumer immediate compelling evidence to give them some assurance that they're on the right track. their willingness to step the extra mile will be different.
  • Evolving ecosystem: As a last comment, I personally think we are all (in this space) "dumb" prophets trying to see how this story will pan out. Will codes get consumers to the mobile web/content/services? Will phones have more services on-board (FM Radio, PIM,...?) or will it all move to the network. One thing is for sure: it will all take time to find out. In the mean time, if you are betting your cards on "dumb codes" that connect to the web to take the associated action, you are limiting yourself from taking local actions today (add a meeting to your calendar), from users who today do not have data plans, and future flexibility options. Is this a bet worth taking?

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