The telecom press normally focus upon consumer based services, such as MobileTV, mobile gaming, or mobile access to MySpace or Facebook. Behind the scenes is the less glamorous but more profitable enterprise communications scene with services such as:
- Visual Voicemail: speech to text (note its recent appearance on the iPhone);
- Unified Business Communications: bringing together many communication services into a single integrated experience;
- Mobile SSL VPN (Secure Socket Layer Virtual Private Network): secure remote access for employees on the road;
- Integrated Enterprise Applications: simplifying the mobilization of multiple business applications;
- Mobile Device Management: simplifying the software and control problems on mobile phones, e.g. encryption and device lock-down; and
- Multi-National Managed Mobile Service: simplifying and lowering the cost of mobile services across multiple countries.
Looking at a couple of these services in more detail. Visual voicemail provides the convenience of accessing voicemail using existing graphical message management user interface. It avoids the hassle of calling and then listening to voicemail serially, enabling simple forwarding, inclusion into to-do lists, data capture into business processes, and recording and search for archiving purposes. SpinVox provides a hosted solution with revenue share. Most voicemail vendors have this feature, but limitations of voice recognition technology have historically limited roll-out. Pricing of SpinVox in the UK is £3.00 ($6 USD) for 10 conversions, £5.00 ($10 USD) for 20, or £9.99 ($20 USD) for 50, with £5.00 the most popular option. SpinVox claim 6 million people will ‘experience’ their service in 2007.
“Business Together”, from Orange Business Services (OBS), is a unified communications solution across both fixed and mobile enterprise devices. It provides a single interface for collaborative work within enterprises by real-time access to companies’ collaborative applications, such as web, audio & videoconferencing, databases, e-mails and instant messages. The solution is available from a PC, an IP phone (Nortel i2002 and Nortel i2004) or a mobile smartphone (Blackberry 8700f, Sony Ericsson P910i, Nokia E61). Features include ‘Click to -call, -conference or -IM'; both instant (presence based) and invited multimedia collaboration, and a unified message store. All provided as a managed service.
Providing an easy to use unified mobile experience is strategically important in meeting the threat posed by Microsoft’s Office Communicator Mobile. Orange is also launching “Business Together with Microsoft,” which will use the Microsoft client. This is a good example of strategy many operators could consider; note Orange launched the own-branded product first. The system is hosted and starts at 15 euros per user per month ($20USD).
The Vodafone Applications Service (VAS) enables mobile users to remotely interact with their business applications (for example, Siebel, Oracle, Remedy, salesforce.com and SAP) from their BlackBerry, Pocket PC or Symbian device from just one client. It’s a hosted solution targeting the SME (Small Medium Enterprise), SOHO (Small Office Home Office) and OPB (One Person Band). Vodafone UK launched the service in April ’07. It’s relatively unique as Vodafone’s competitors (Orange, O2 and BT) have not taken such an integrated and hosted solution. The VAS uses the Dexterra SmartClient that runs on Symbian, Windows Mobile (Smartphone and Pocket PC), BlackBerry and Linux devices to talk to the Dexterra Concert Platform in the Vodafone network.
When examining the enterprise market some factors make it an early adopter of new mobile services:
- ‘Fashion’ is less important, enterprise can enforce handset restrictions that would generally impose significant limitations on a mass-market service;
- Higher propensity to pay, which is also reflected in being able to pay for higher performance devices; and
- Sophisticated requirements: mobile email began in business and we’re starting to see it be positioned as a consumer service.
Now looking at the list and seeing what potential cross-over could exist into the consumer world. Visual voicemail has already started with the iPhone. Integrating all the messages, IMs, voicemails, etc into an easy to use graphical interface such as “Orange Business Together” would definitely meet an emerging market need. As more consumers use services such as family finder, navigator, and local search, it would be nice to have an integrated experience. Rather than jotting down addresses then entering them into the navigator application – if only all mobiles had a simple “cut and paste” function…