Posts about telco

Rat poison

The Google/Motorola deal is lawyer repellent. Or rat poison, if you prefer. It is a tragic and wasteful by product of our screwed-up patent system. Just this year, $18 billion is being spent not on innovation and invested not in entrepreneurship and growth but instead in fending off lawsuits. Damn straight, we need patent reform.

Having said that, this is good for Google and Android and its ecosystem. That’s why HTC, LG, and Sony all released statements praising the deal. Google isn’t going into competition with them. Google is buying them protection to defend against Apple, Nokia, and other patent holders and legal thugs.

The net result is that Android can now explode even more than it has already. I imagine — I hope — there were other companies in other fields — cars, appliances, TV, devices of all sorts — that were waiting for some security so they could add connectivity to their devices, using Android.

Google wins because, as I’ve been saying, the real war here is over signal generation: Google, Facebook, and to an extent Apple and telcos and others want us to generate signals about ourselves — who we are, where we are, what we want, who we know, what we’re looking for, where we’re going — so they can better target their content, services, and advertising. Mobile is a great signal generator.

But I’ve also been saying that mobile will become a meaningless word as we become connected everywhere, all the time. Who’s to say or care whether we’re connected with a phone as we walk, through our car, on our couch via the TV, in the kitchen via the iFridge, or at the desk (remember that?). Mobile=local=me.

I disagree with those who say that Google had hardware envy vis a vis Apple. Google went into the hardware business and was smart enough to get out. I imagine that Google will operate Motorola as an independent entity; it won’t become Googley. Indeed, I can imagine Google spinning off the product arm, keeping the rat poison.

So this is a good if unfortunate deal to have to be done. That’s my take.

Connected

Just listened to another great episode of Peter Day’s BBC business show, this with Ashraf Ghani, former finance minister of Afghanistan, who said that when he came in, the entire country had 100 cell phones. Today there are 4 million. The telecom industry is the No. 1 producer of tax revenue in the country. It has enabled open markets where buyers and sellers can avoid middlemen, as elsewhere in the developing world. When there was a possible stalemate in constitutional discussions a few years ago, Ghani said constituents used their phones to call their representatives to make it clear they wanted a deal done and he believes this political connectivity helped bring it to pass. And he said that people are simply more efficient because they no longer need to journey three days to go find out whether Mom is fine; they can now just phone home. Connectivity is a platform for society. (If only our phone and cable companies saw it that way.)