Google Creating Platform for a New Mobile ECONOMY

16 March 2015

How can Google, Samsung or anyone else ever hope to catch Apple? It depends on what they are chasing!

My view is that Google has just begun a major transformation to the physical (offline) world with Android as the key enabling “platform” (beyond search to orchestration) for a new business network. This transformation involves 5 primary vectors:

  1. Enable Android as the secure platform (SE Linux, Trustzone)
  2. Create participant incentives for commerce “network” to invest and transact on “platform” (Advertiser, MNO, Bank, Retailer, …)
  3. Improve physical world insight/data collection to enhance targeting and attribution
  4. Capture and manage consumer identity
  5. Create/enhance consumer engagement platform for commerce

Mobile Industry vs. Mobile Economy

Apple is the #1 company in the world. (A very BIG period). Apple’s position is well earned through focus and hard work. Operating as a  consumer champion that captures a mind numbing 93% of the mobile industry’s profits.  The most obvious question to address in this blog: what could ANYONE do to dent this? (operating from a basis of under 7%). In other words, what could Google do that would possibly matter?

Answer: The “Mobile industry” is not what Google is chasing (nor are Amazon, FB, Twitter, …). “Industry” is an old world classification that does not account for most aspects of the MOBILE ECONOMY (advertising, beacons, shopping, shipping, social, payment, identity, …etc). The mobile economy is about commerce. Perhaps my favorite “stat of the year” to exemplify the impact of mobile outside of the traditional “industry” came from January in Tech Crunch. Amazon’s business has shifted from 5% mobile to 60% mobile in 5 years!! (see Convergence Blog for more detail).star network

As mobile and IOT encompass ever larger roles/touches which impact our behavior, Google is moving to support both: Android as the embedded OS (connected everything) and Google core as the center of commerce (the orchestrator).  This blog focuses on mobile commerce and I will try to outline a few of Google’s strategic moves that are redefining the mobile economy.

Google’s core is centered on connecting businesses  and consumers, delivering services to all.  At the center of this star network is the indisputable “data” utility which becomes more efficient with every insight they gain on both sides (consumer and merchant).  Today millions of businesses and billions of consumers are investing “energy” to connect to Google (all with unique incentives)

Businesses, Banks and Consumers are all wondering if the beautiful simplicity of Google’s bright shining star [network] is a Faustian Bargain, much worse than Apple’s walled garden. Google’s position today is quite a feat given its humble beginnings as a free Open Source mobile OS that Google bought in 2005.

How is Google building platform and network? Moving to a model of shared incentives and partnerships?  Before we go deep here, let me first attempt to paint the picture of Apple’s dominance (and weakness).


Apple’s success is completely driven by the consumer, logically this means their organization and investment are focused on delivering great consumer products which operate within a giant walled garden. This walled garden works well in a small world (individual’s control: telephone, music, calendar, pictures) where Apple can control, but not very well in coordinating interactions outside of the garden. Stated differently, Apple’s approach of “my way or nothing”, means it has few friends.

As I outlined 2015 Predictions blog, competition is no longer about camera resolution, storage, and screen size, that enable you to manage items in your small world.  The visible (obvious) attributes of mobile competition have become a commodity; as well as the small world problems that your phone solves.  My view is  Apple’s greatest assets are consumer trust and its unique ability to change consumer behavior (see blog Apple and Physical Commerce, and Consumer Behavior). These assets allow Apple to assume a leading role in connecting and orchestrating consumers in the real “connected” world , however they are 5 years behind Google, Amazon and Facebook in their ability to execute here.

Why is Apple falling down in IOT/Connected Commerce? Apple has 4 primary strategic weaknesses: 1) it does not partner well (closed network and proprietary standards) and 2) it relies primarily on hardware for revenue, 3) its entire organizational culture and focus is on hardware 4) it locks consumers into its walled garden. Today pointing out these weaknesses is like telling Peyton Manning that his singing was out of tune, or Albert Einstein’s flaw as dancing. These shortcomings just don’t matter in a world where Apple is 3 years ahead of everyone else in profitability, quality, loyalty, integrated OS and Hardware.

Apple’s business model is perhaps the best example of how closed networks win through the domination of a benevolent “channel master” (see iPhone 6 – Apple’s Strategic Opportunity). Cisco, Microsoft, Intel all operate in this model. Apple’s star network is much smaller (ie connected business) but its bonds are much stronger. However, their success may become a hindrance.. as merchants, banks and others want to “own the consumer” too.

Compared to Apple, Google’s world is much more democratic, it wins by delivering value through customer choice every day (search, maps, mail, play, HCE, …).  Google is a commerce enabling, which tilts toward the consumer (on the phone) and toward the merchant (in advertising). Where Apple has a walled garden; Google is a semi open platform that supports many gardens and clusters.  Where Apple’s business is driven by hardware margin; Google’s is driven by daily consumer and merchant choice. Where Apple delivers value to consumers and itself; Google delivers value to every merchant, bank, MNO and almost every consumer (even on iOS). What other businesses are enablers of consumer and merchant? My list is fairly small…

Apple’s inability to make the iPhone work outside their garden, means that they are dependent upon device only margin (currently a fantastic business model). Critics will point out that Apple runs a fantastically successful App Store Platform that is 8x-20x more profitable than Google’s (with less than one quarter of the handsets).  However this is Apple’s walled garden.. where Apple made 30% from $2B from App store sales benefiting 500k odd top app developers, Google’s US Ad sales last year were $30B driving at least 20% of $185B in US eCommerce Sales. Google’s role was much more impactful to the overall economy (and almost all businesses).

Platform is turning out to be an opportunity lost for Apple. The iPhone 6’s security has made it the first “convergence device” with the ability to broker interaction in virtual world and the physical world (NSA, CIA and everyone else are still working to break industrial grade security). Yet Apple has no plan to leverage this identity management outside of their platform (see Brokering Identity), or even use basic identity information to assist banks with identifying ApplePay fraud (until very recently).

How to combine assets in the new Mobile Economy?

We need collaboration! The last 10 years has seen every major fortune 100 build big data facilities that work with nothing else. Banks, MNOs and others have all invested billions in an attempt to build an advertising business to rival Google’s. JPM Chase has a new data division on par with the investment bank, Verizon has built PMI, Walmart has WMX. All are constrained by their partial views of the consumer. Advertisers are challenged to work within these new proprietary efforts. The market need surrounds incremental insight engaging consumers in the channel which they prefer .. which means combining data.Data options

US MNOs spent over $600M+ trying to make their NFC play work. As my good friend Osama said at a recent MNO event “in order to create value sometimes we must let go of the assets we treasure most knowing that value is only created when they are combined with the assets and interests of others”.

Google provides a massive closed market (Ad Words) with unsurpassed consumer insight and trust. No company can choose NOT TO participate in Google’s economy, after all advertisers and retailers must go to where consumers are (not where they want them to be). Google operates in discovery, awareness, engagement, selection, sales, delivery and support.

Google is perhaps the only company in the world that is both loved and feared by merchants, banks and consumers. Particularly as their traditional open source, closed market, and “do no evil” approaches become more proprietary and less transparent. Google’s insurmountable advantage is in using data and insights within its own organization, where everyone else must be diligent with sharing (externally).

Today that fear is not well placed. Few understand just how myopic Google’s current data dominance is. While Google knows most about you online (search, mail, maps), they know very little about you in the real world. Google indexed the internet to create a common directory of public data, yet it has very little insight into private data (even your actual identity).  Facebook, Apple and Amazon all have far greater consumer identity insight.  Physical world (off line) data is of far greater value than online data, and online eCommerce sales are only $185B (US) comparted to $2.4T in offline Commerce.


Perhaps it’s easiest to start this section by outlining what has changed in the last 12-18 months?Google economics

As stated in intro paragraph, I believe Google has begun a major transformation to the physical (offline) world with Android as the key enabling “platform” (beyond search to orchestration) for a new business network. This transformation involves 5 primary vectors:

  1. Enable Android as the secure platform (SE Linux, Trustzone)
  2. Create participant incentives for commerce “network” to invest and transact on “platform” (Advertiser, MNO, Bank, Retailer, …)
  3. Improve offline insight/data collection to enhance targeting and attribution
  4. Capture and manage consumer identity
  5. Create/enhance customer engagement platform for commerce

Android as Secure Platform

Android is transition from open source Linux to SE Linux (which was oddly enough created by the NSA).  One of Androids major shortcomings was its dependency on OEMs (minimal say on hardware). While Apple worked to create innovations like touch ID that is stored within the secure enclave within the A7/A8, Google had to work with prime OEM vendors like ARM to build the equivalent (both Apple Secure Enclave and Google’s new equiv are based upon ARM’s Trustzone/TEE).  Android is making big bets in security, as managing information (and authenticating consumer) is key to orchestration (see  Authentication – A Core Battle for Monetizing Mobile).

Poor SamsungPay. These guys obviously don’t read my blog or they would have clearly seen the implications of Google’s new MNO deal. SamsungPay will not be pre-loaded onto Samsung’s own phone. Samsung not only lost in payments, but also in owning a proprietary security construct that secured the token (Samsung’s proprietary Arm TrustZone implementation). Even if a consumer loaded SamsungPay onto their phone, it will not work without Samsung leveraging the new Google/ARM firmware for secure credential management.

Apple’s biggest lead (with no apparent threat) is in touch ID. While SE Linux and Secure Storage are important… you must know WHO is coming in the front door. The Android approach seems to be more about behavior and forensic identification than biometric.

Incentives for participation

In 2011, the US carriers wanted an estimated $3B from Google for the “rights” to NFC (and the secure element). Google correctly responded.. “how about we figure this out together and see if we can make it work” (skin in the game approach). Last month we saw Google’s purchase of ISIS/Softcard for $60M with a new strategic partnership, with unknown revenue share, and unknown mandatory Android features (ie Wallet/Play/ ?) with the Carriers that redefines the “secure” standard of a new Android platform.

Whereas Apple has complete control over every aspect of iOS. Google has created a network for revenue/sales. Retailers advertise/engage/create, MNOs rev share, Banks manage payments.  You can only guess which platform Banks and MNOs would prefer to invest. This common platform may be a turning point for collaboration and Commerce 3.0 (my year of partnerships).

Offline insight

Google’s mission is to use the phone to cross the chasm into offline. The reason a new platform is needed has to do with offline data. For example, Mobile advertising will never work without an understanding of intent and behavior. This [private] information is locked up in millions of businesses (with a copy at the NSA).  data evolution

Today’s data business is just insane. Take a look at someone like CVS, Catalina is one of my favorite data companies (along with ADS), and Catalina works well with Nielsen to target and measure television ads. However they don’t work well digitally, thus CVS has to provide Datalogix (now Oracle) will all of it loyalty data (your SKU level purchase data) to play with Facebook (see my blog for background). Can you imagine having all of your data in multiple locations? Trusting these aggregators use it appropriately? Combining is with their proprietary models and other external data sets? What are they “gleening” from this data?

Google’s approach is to own the data and insights created from their services. Google now wants to create mechanisms to “share”.. the problem is that this “sharing” involves giving data to Google and getting customers back. This allows Google to create great experiences, but the price for data owners is loss of control.

Logically, nothing in biology or in capital markets has this amount of centralization. The title of this section is “combining assets”, is the only answer to combine assets giving them to someone else for unstructured use? This is what my NewCo Commerce Signals does: providing the plumbing for federated data where data owners retain the control over their data, determining not only who they should share data with, but also for what use (next blog). I’m fortunate to have a few big retailers, banks and MNOs that share this view (within Commerce Signals).

Capture Consumer Identity

Remember when you purchased that new iPhone? You couldn’t activate it until you created an iTunes account. That iTunes account required a credit card. What a brilliant Apple move!!  This year Google will finally catch up, as I believe a key facit of new MNO agreements is to make the Google Play account mandatory (with CCN/Token).

Knowing the identity of the consumer is important, authenticating them is quite a bit more difficult.  I believe third parties like Payfone will play a leading roll here. Payfone is jointly owned by top 6 US Banks, Amex, Verizon, RRE and a few other investors. They are tying together identity information of carriers, banks and platforms to score transactions and enrollment.

Customer Engagement

Google has many, many efforts here:

Retailers and Banks are loathe to give Google data, or let them assist directly in consumer engagement. However as long as Consumers choose Google’s services first, Google is in the driver’s seat. Companies that share data more effectively with them will reap greater benefits.

Wrap up

EVERYONE works with Google… it is where consumers are. Consumer behavior on mobile is changing much faster than anyone has anticipated. No one company can ever hope to compete with Google, they are moving fast to reshape the mobile economy.. where consumers spend 3 hr/day.


Android is a much easier platform to make investment. It’s a more predictable standards based environment compared to Apple (ex Sapphire glass or that darn lightening connector), with a strong partnership track record. Google’s democratic nature allows for experimentation. The path toward rewiring commerce is much easier in a Google world.

Having Google at the core of data is not without risks. Companies must work with many parties after all. How do you track the interaction between all of your partners today? Who has your consumer data? What will you share with whom? How can you accelerate trials and tests?

How do you combine your assets to create value in this new future? Without loosing control. This is the problem I am focused on.



Apple’s iPhone 6: GSMA’s NFC thrown “Under the Bus”

28 April 2014

I must get 10 calls a week on Apple/NFC.  I’m quite concerned that Apple’s new capability will be completely mis-understood by the press, so i thought I would preempt all the NFC zealots out there with my own tag line.. So far I have a 100% success rate in predicting Apple and NFC (blog). Don’t know if I can keep it up as I read the tea leaves. Let me start with facts, then give you my informed opinion


  • There are 2 aspects to NFC: 1) the communication protocol as defined by the NFC Forum (this stays as is), #2) The GSMA’s construct and standards for how NFC can be deployed in a handset (things like TSM, SE, SWP, …). See
  • Neither Google, Apple, Merchants nor Bank Issuers are in favor of the GSMA’s NFC platform. This is a fact in my mind… particularly in the US.
  • Host card emulation has created a way for all Android 4.4 and above phones, with and NFC compliant radio, to provide application access to the NFC radio. Phones cannot be certified for 4.4 unless they demonstrate support for HCE. See blog HCE – Now the Preferred Contactless Approach
  • The new card present scheme “Tokenization” was announced Oct 2013 at Money 2020, with the specification out last month (see EMVCO details). See my blog Payment Tokenization.
  • HCE and tokenization play together well. Tokens must be coupled with something else (Device ID, Bometrics, PIN, …). For those that have been MIS informed by Gemalto… there is NO NETWORK connectivity requirement for HCE/Tokens. A token representing a card is in software on the phone. It can be stolen.. but it is a worthless piece of information without the other identity/device information. HCE gets around the EMVCo Contactless encryption requirements.. and operates under the TOKEN specification. But there is much grey area here.. as “acceptance” of token is not clearly defined (including pricing). Thus the only “covered” presentment method from a phone to a POS is through a card emulation application. Token acceptance will be coming later, but “assurance levels” are making this a cracy space (tomorrow’s blog).
  • Update – I see that the smart card alliance has already responded to my blog here. The need for a trusted execution environment.. blah blah blah. Did you know that in an EMV contactless transaction that the PAN is sent in the clear? Yep… the need for the TEE is around signing a cryptogram (to verify where the card came from). Obviously I would much rather hide the PAN in a token, and enhance with phone information than give the PAN in the clear and sign something. There is no need for a TEE in payments, just as I access my bank through my browser on my PC without a TEE.. I can also do so with a phone. arghhh…
  • Tokens align well to banks and payment network dynamics and investment. US Banks had been working on a tokenization initiative for the last 3-4 years in the Clearing House (blog).
  • In both HCE and Tokenization scheme, the ISSUER IS IN COMPLETE CONTROL of their card. Issuers generate the token, and authorize the transaction.  US issuers have their own token infrastructure in place from the TCH initiative (above). I wish I could emphasize this more. With HCE, issuers control which application(s) can present a card..  just as they did with within the TSM provisioning model.
  • There are HCE pilots that are live and functional. So much for not being “viable”. The issues are not around technology, but rather validating fraud controls and device ID. Issuers can be up and running with either Mastercard or SimplyTapp in weeks.
  • Perfect authentication and security is a nightmare to Banks.. Banks make money on ability to manage risk. There is no risk in a world of perfect authentication. Or as Ross Anderson says “if you solve for authentication in payments… everything else is just accounting”. See Blog – Perfect Authentication is a Nightmare for Banks.
  • MNO led payment schemes (the GSMA’s platform) are failing in OECD 20 (mature markets, but are leading the way in Emerging Markets). I have seen the transaction numbers… Reasons are multifaceted (see blog for reasons).  The technology works.. it is beautiful.. problem is business/consumer value proposition and consumer behavior.
  • Historically, new POS payment instruments and POS payment behaviors are established through frequency of use. There are 3 categories: Grocery, Gas, Transit. Transit is the global success story (Docomo, Suica, Octopus, …)
  • 4 Party Networks have a limited ability to change rules, Issuers dominate in influence. Amex is 3-5 years ahead of every US issuer in terms of capability, strategy and execution.



  • Apple’s biggest asset is their ability to change consumer behavior (blog).
  • Apple’s iPhone 6 will be coming out in October (my best guess) with payment capability. It will have the capability to communicate in the NFC protocol.. but nothing about the new iPhone will be compliant with the GSMA’s architecture
  • Apple’s new capability is NOT ABOUT PAYMENT, but about Commerce (see blog) as they act as a CONSUMER CHAMPION (see blog).
  • Tokens play very, very well into an iBeacon model. Given that tokens are worthless “keys” that refer to a card.. these keys can be exchanged in the open with BLE. There is no need for near field if the information is worthless.
  • -Update- From my perspective I would not refer to Apple’s efforts as HCE. Where Google’s HCE repurposed an existing chipset to create a new software model. Apple has designed a new hardware model. Apple will be using bank issued tokens. Banks will look at using these delivered tokens in combination with: 1) Apple derived authentication score, or 2) MNO device ID from Payfone, 3) Bank mobile application information, 4) combination of above.
  • Authentication is key to Apple’s role in consumer trust and commerce. Per my blog Authentication in Value Nets, Apple is 3 years ahead of Google and everyone else in integrating software and hardware level security (ex Secure Enclave). Google has a path for a secure execution environment through Arm’s Trustzone, but this is more challenging as Google does not mandate hardware architecture (yet).
  • Apple’s new POS payment method will involve finger print on phone, and token presentment to retailer. It can be transmitted via NFC, BLE, QR Code.. or whatever the merchant and consumer can agree on.
  • How does Apple make money on this? I don’t think they will make money on payment, but rather on #1 Authentication (charging the card issuers for an authentication score), or #2 Marketing (charging merchants for consumer insight/ability to reach consumer).
  • Gemalto continues to cast stones, and miss revenue targets. Mobile Communications revenue of €225mn (-5.7% YoY growth, -1.0% constant currency) came in below consensus of €245mn (2.7% YoY). This is the second consecutive disappointing quarter for Mobile Communications, with revenue down 4% YoY in 4Q13. Why would any MNO invest in a secure vault on a Android handset when any application can go around it. That’s right.. there is no lock on the capability. This tremendously impacts the willingness of MNOs to “invest” in incremental features.. when their “investment” can be used without their permission.
  • What will REALLY impact Gemalto is a VIRTUALIZED SIM. Don’t think this is coming in iPhone 6.. but is it coming (see Viritualized SIM).
  • The next 2 years will see mobile payments as a “1000 flowers blooming”. Top card issuers will extend their mobile banking applications to enable card emulation (BLE, NFC, QR, … whatever).
  • Payment Networks will be working to expand the 16 digit PAN to something much larger to support dynamic tokens. They will be working to transition Cards on File to tokens.. with perhaps a card present value proposition.
  • MNOs will realize that they have a unique ability to create a device ID that competes with Apple’s biometrics. Payfone is the leader in the US, Weve in the UK. Beyond this, they may also begin to realize the $5B KYC opportunity I outlined 5 years ago.

Apple’s Platform Strategy: Consumer Champion

Apple’s Platform Strategy: Consumer Champion

I’m trying to read the tea leaves on Apple and it seems they have devised a unique.. brilliant platform strategy around securing consumer data. I think of it as the anti-Google strategy.  As we see so much commonality between the functionality of IOS and Android.. along with the associated legal wrestling, what could Apple do that would be something Google never could?

Per my previous blog Apple and Physical Commerce, Apple has an unmatched level of trust with the consumer, and ability to change consumer behavior. I also outlined how Apple is completely reworking the role of authentication in the platform (see this great article from Networked World), this work, combined with Apple’s efforts to limit ad tracking are frustrating advertisers (see Tech times ). But there is hidden genius in all of these mechanizations.  Apple seems to be making a bet that there will be a tsunami of coming issues with privacy and anonymity. In this they are turning themselves into the ultimate consumer protector… both online and in the physical world.  They are the gatekeeper… the only entity that can know what a consumer is doing.

How can they monetize this role? In hardware sales…  Don’t look at them as an ad business.. (although they could build it later).. but right now protecting your consumer from data leakage and loss is a VERY big competitive differentiator, a feature that is particularly well aligned to Apple’s demographic. It is also a very hard one for Google/Android to match.



Software Secure Element – HCE Breaks the MNO NFC Lock

Visa and MA have both created HCE Apps which will REPLACE the SE based CARD EMULATION apps. This is a FANTASTIC development for BUSINESS and for Android. Now you can create apps that leverage payment, loyalty, … It is also a fantastic development for CUSTOMERS as you will be in control of the TSM and card provisioning. You will be able to load ANY CARD you want.. not just the Chase and Amex cards that are in ISIS.

News Today – WELL DONE GOOGLE!  (Note good comments below)

In my July post Big Changes to NFC: Payments part of OS I outlined the high level view of what is going on. In order for this blog to make any sense let me be a little less obtuse on the next shoe which will drop: Visa and MA have both created HCE Apps which will REPLACE the SE based CARD EMULATION apps. “Replace” is more from a business context than from a technical one. SE based applications (like a door key, or healthcare card) could still survive.. but why would anyone want to pay the MNOs RENT if you don’t need to.

I don’t have much time to delve into the technical details, but there are 3 core elements to NFC: Radio, Controller, Secure Element. They had been all residing on dedicated silicone from companies like NXP. I discussed in Apple and NFC Part 2 how companies like Broadcom have integrated these separate components into a single piece of silicone. In other words the NFC Radio is just another radio alongside GSM, CDMS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, … With Android 4.4 Google has now made Payments Part of the OS by enabling an application to bypass the SE and use the radio as directed by a OS. Another way of looking at this: in a world of integrated silicone, there is NO dedicated  controller… (the controller is in the firmware/OS).Exposure: 000 : 00 : 00 . 156 %Accumulated%=0

NFC zealots will HOWL that there is no TSM, or security. But SECURITY has DEGREES.. there is no such thing as 100% non-repudiation.  Visa and MA have both developed controls for how this will work, for example having a “token” that refreshes at a given rate based upon where the phone moves and how the phone transacts.

This model also addresses a key FLAW with NFC. HCE will allow for APPLICATIONS to access payment.. yes I am speaking of mCommerce (buying from an app or a web site). No longer will you have to key in your card information. NFC did NOTHING for this.

This is a FANTASTIC development for BUSINESS and for Android. Now you can create apps that leverage payment, loyalty, …  It is also a fantastic development for CUSTOMERS as you will be in control of the TSM and card provisioning. You will be able to load ANY CARD you want.. not just the Chase and Amex cards that are in ISIS.

I believe that banks had very limited view of this development, and that several of them will be calling V/MA to confirm that they are creating an new CERTIFIED Card Present scheme based on HCE. Bank control (push for credit use) has been as much of a drag on mobile payments (at POS) as telecom control. This approach BREAKS BOTH.

Bank Benefits

No one can fix EMV…. there are too many parties. New token rules together with HCE AND Network Enhancements (ex Wallet ID, Phone forensics, ..)  a much finer grain of control than exists today. For example, new structure will allow for any given issuer to turn off all tokens for any given wallet provider. When comparing EMV to HCE++ we can’t forget WHAT EXISTS TODAY (is mag stripe). No one can suggest that HCE++ is less secure than mag. Most banks realize that payments are NOT about security and authentication.. but about Fraud and Risk management. Not just “are you the person that controls the account”.. but “did you just loose your job and about to enter bankruptcy).

The mobile device has SO much more data on which to manage fraud and risk. For example at Citi, SMS PIN code completely eliminated risk in new transactions. When we saw a new payee, we sent the consumer a PIN code to their mobile that expired in 1 min.. In future HCE environment if bank sees risk they can PIN, or ask for finger print scan (from apple).

HCE actually ALIGNS to bank and network (V/MA) objectives: keep intelligence in network and control with issuers. Today big banks differentiate themselves on ability to manage risk. They have made multi-billion dollar investments here. Complete security and authentication in a platform decreases their competitive edge. Perfect authentication is a NIGHTMARE to banks because then anyone could do their job and ID risk would be eliminated (not credit risk)NFC Change

Big Technical UNKNOWNS

  • Tokenization, Network Enhancements, New Card Present Scheme, New V/MA Emulation App, POS Terminals, Fraud Services, Device Forensics, Authentication, all are needed in this future model. Much is built.. but this is not without challenges
  • Today’s NFC requires issuer keys to generate the dynamic codes required in a contactless transaction. IF this is reused, than issuers will be able to prevent HCE from working.
  • Will V/MA attempt to impose Authentication/Fraud Services standards impact consumer experience or conflict with issuer requirements
  • Who will create the HCE standards by which everyone can use? How long will this take? are we back to ground 0?

Other quick thoughts

  • This is not just PRESS.. HCE is actually all LIVE right now with a Canadian Bank.. RBC and SimplyTap (the Rocket Scientists of HCE). In this model an ISSUER has given its “NFC Keys” to the SimplyTap for use in an HCE model that circumvents NFC controller.
  • I expect that Apple’s iOS will also follow model within next 8-12 months.
  • Very positive for V and MA, Google, Businesses that transact with consumers
  • Very positive for mobile POS payment
  • Could create new differentiators for Android if Apple doesn’t follow quickly (I expect they will)
  • Positive for merchants as consumers can now load debit cards on their phones and you can create apps that incent debit card usage
  • Negative for companies that specialize in providing payment services to mCommerce or NFC
  • Negative for PayPal.. why use them at all? your cards are stored in the phone. If you are a merchant with a mobile store front or app you will integrate with 2 payment service providers: Apple and Google.
  • SEs will be going away. Connectivity and Authentication put data in the CLOUD.. not locked in a device with the carriers holding a key.
  • Google has alignment on HCE. Devices from the top handset OEMs announced in the next week+ with no SE on board, like the Nexus 5
  • Next BIG challenge? Certifying/standardizing authentication methods which provide for finer grained control of payments, cloud data, re-issuance of tokens…. 100s of new companies.
  • HCE actually ALIGNS to bank and network (V/MA) objectives: keep intelligence in network and control with issuers. Today big banks differentiate themselves on ability to manage risk. They have made multi-billion dollar investments here. Complete security and authentication in a platform decreases their competitive edge. Perfect authentication is a NIGHTMARE to banks because then anyone could do their job and ID risk would be eliminated (not credit risk).

Appreciate feedback.

BIG Changes to NFC: Payments Part of the OS

What does this all mean? Payment will be part of the mobile platform.. It could manifest itself as NFC, or a QR code, Bluetooth, … or it could be a restructuring of services that that make up payments (authentication, instruction, settlement, confirmation, receipt, …).

26 July 2013

This will be a very short blog. I’m just amazed at how poorly this topic is covered… As I stated in Stage 4 Evolution – Distributed Innovation, the future margin in mobile will be in value “orchestration”.  We can see that phones are “good enough” through current sales (see WSJ article – Wow Factor Fades). How will Apple, Google, Samsung keep their margins moving? Well it certainly does NOT involve turning over the keys to anything (ie NFC, KYC).  Why on earth would Apple want to enable a 3rd Party TSM? They already have your card information, music, pictures, …etc. In an orchestration role, owning the customer is Paramount (identification, authentication, Authorization, access, credential storage, preferences, …etc). Telecos were best placed to take this role.. but have lost it (See ISIS – Platform or Desert)   

I outlined what I believe to be Apple’s hardware strategy in Apple and NFC – Part 2.

Broadcom’s BCM4334 combo chip (dual-band 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0+HS & FM receiver) is already in the iPhone 5, and other versions in  iPad  yet other possibly extending into Mac  success as well. What I find most interesting is the BC 2079x family of “stand alone” controllers.Broadcom has also contributed its NFC software stack to the Android Open Source Project. A generic controller with software stack which manages both secure storage and multiple radios in multiple frequencies. This is NOT the NFC which MNOs and Bank’s envisioned (see SWP).

 Apple’s go to architecture is outlined well in this patent PICApple NFC 

The 12 Party “Mess” of NFC is being simplified as the TSM role is assumed by either the PLATFORM or the “Network” (Payment or Telecom), what was a separate stand along NFC SE is now being integrated into both Software and Hardware. Payment Networks are working feverously to stake out new ground and “certify” these new solutions (necessary to be classified as a card present transaction).  Banks are working to develop their own “tokens”, Visa/MA are also working to develop their own “tokens”.. all of these fold into what was previously classified as NFC.. but is really a much broader category of mobile payments at the POS.

NFC Change

The picture has changed from this



To this

 new nfc


What does this all mean?  Payment will be part of the mobile platform..  It could manifest itself as NFC, or a QR code, Bluetooth, … or it could be a restructuring of services that that make up payments (authentication, instruction, settlement, confirmation, receipt, …).

 The teleco’s seem completely clueless.. ISIS is rumored to have a $200M launch coming up in next few months. Not only will they face challenges in finding phones that support SWP, they will face a future where “platforms” have gone around them completely. 12 yrs of NFC work down the drain…  

Start ups/VCs.. there is a network war going on right now. The payment area is high risk as the platform players make payments part of the OS.

Long term, this is very GOOD news for payment AND COMMERCE Innovation. New payment networks like MCX, RuPay, Alipay, ELO, Sepa DD, can now work directly with a platform to create and certify their “App” that could take on ANY form factor.  Beyond Payment, these platforms have the potential to create/support 1000s of new physical commerce interactions.   



Nokia, Apple, Android, Value Creation and Distributed Innovation

My firm belief is that we will start a mobile “boom” that will dwarf what we have seen with either the internet, PCs or the industrial revolution. How big? Will at the top of my list for calculating the basis of a “New Mobile” TAM is marketing.. With the US alone accounting for over $750B .. how much of that spend is targeted?

10 April

Description: title…? You can tell I’m an engineer)

I was catching up on some reading this Easter weekend and saw one of my old MIT Technology reviews lying around. Article was on Nokia’s new CTO Henry Tirri (Dec 2011). Question came to mind: to what extent does technology influence Nokia’s future success? Is Apple’s current success built on technology?  Of course, although any CTO’s job gets harder when their CEO is forming alliances that are 100% potential and 0% market traction…. Oh I forgot Elop also sold your own OS to Accenture so there is “no way back”. (For more background on Nokia/MSFT see this UK Guardian Article).

What factors will influence success in Mobile? Obviously it is not R&D, as Nokia’s 2.9B EUR ($3.8B) budget was roughly twice Apple’s $2B (see global 2012 R&D Spending report from Battale). Most would agree that Nokia lost in connecting the phone to the internet.. No amount of internal R&D could have led Nokia to build an equivalent network.. yet they did not fully realize the value that consumers could unlock … at least not much beyond e-mail. (RIM suffered from a similar myopia.. security vs usability locked into the corporate environment).  Nokia’s R&D engineers thus toiled away with features they could control and build.. That is what engineers do.. Nokia thought the battle was in feature/function.. and hundreds of specialized designs for many global “segments”. However the consumer opportunity that Apple discovered was not in hardware, but rather in delivering new ways to connect consumers to all things digital… particularly networks (internet, home, social, entertainment, …  and eventually office).

Will “Apps” be the key to unlocking the value of mobile?

In the press last month, we saw the analysis by Flurry that Amazon is kicking Google’s rear in App store revenue (89%), and that Google itself makes 5x more on IOS than Android.  Other recent research from groups like ABI Research reported that mobile app revenue was $8.5B with 39% due to in app purchases (Gartner says $15B). Personally I find both these numbers a little hard to believe, given Google’s Android revenue is $550M and Apple announced back in July that it paid developers $2.5B (cumulatively over life of AppStore). Best guess for Apple’s FY11 Appstore sales is somewhere around $1.6B (see my July Blog)

Total App Store ECOSYSTEM revenue from these Big 3 is therefore approximately

$1.6B + $1.42 (Amazon’s 89% of Apple’s) + $0.55B = $3.57B

Could it be possible that these big 3 contributed less than 50% of global App Revenue? Not likely (sorry Gartner/ABI). As an investor, I’m not keen on Apps as a long lived mobile environment outside of entertainment (subject of another blog). Suffice to say my view is that “apps” are only a temporary technology metaphor for connecting clusters, goods and data. Although not a fan of “apps” I am very grateful that the App environment exists, as it is driving much innovation within a “developer community” (per Platform).  Having thousands of brilliant engineers from around the world work to deliver value benefits us all.  Which brings me to the topic of distributed innovation.

Open/Distributed Innovation

Open Source is a model most of us are well familiar with. (further reading… I ran across a very nicely done paper from 2 MIT students: Implication of Open Innovation and Open source to Mobile Device Manufacturers).  Given that mobile, advertising and payments are all networked businesses… it seems  business models supporting distributed innovation will advance at a faster pace than those where only a single entity controls the entire product or supply chain.  For example, Amazon, Samsung, Motorola, LG, HTC, Verizon, ATT, Vodafone, .. all make much larger investments in the Android platform (than in IOS). (I would love to see an analysis of combined capital investment in android platform)

However, this distributed innovation hypothesis is NOT playing itself out (ie Apple). Apple’s 1Q12 showed iPhone revenue alone was $24.4B, which is bigger than all of MSFT revenue combined.  Analysts have shown that Apple now garners 75% of mobile handset profits, with only 9% of handset market share.  So while Samsung alone has outsold Apple in Units this quarter (41M vs. 32.6M), and Android just topped 50% market share (vs Apple’s 30.2%).. Apple’s handset business PROFITABILITY dwarfs that of all of the competition (COMBINED).

So… What are the factors of competition today? Can someone else change the game?

Most would agree that Apple has won through a focus on design and customer satisfaction. Nothing looks as good, or works as reliably as an iPhone. It brings a consumer’s digital life together; it is also the channel by which we stay connected when we are not at home. Description: C:UserstomDocumentsPersonalblogmobile_os_satisfaction.gifApple’s unique ability to control design and manufacturing quality has obviously provided many benefits (which customers have proven willing to pay a premium for).

The big downside in distributed innovation is complexity, there is a need for a “channel master” or chaos reigns. Many Android users witness this chaos when an app won’t work on a new hardware/OS combination.. Distributed innovation is not something that established businesses are good at. It has proven most successful in product PLATFORMS where the pace of change in each component is changing at a rate where no one company can make the capital investment to remain competitive (ex. Moore’s Law, PC architecture through present day). Intel played a very important role in this process, as it worked outside the scope of the CPU in areas such as: Intel Architecture Lab (IAL, developed common standards like PCI),  stimulated external innovation (developer training, testing, Intel Capital), industry marketing, patent/licensing. Intel defined what the PLATFORM was.. something that is common sense to us today.. but rest assured it was not given to them, rather it was something that they stepped into and took leadership of.

As we look for where the form of mobile competition may change, it would seem to be outside: hardware, software and network bandwith. With respect to hardware, features have recently begun to surpass “good enough” . Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus is an excellent example of how focused hardware innovation has enabled them to surpass the iPhone’s capabilities. If hardware is good enough, and not the primary factor of competition, it must be software, services or data that will drive competition in the next phase…

If platform is decided on software only.. then software platform with most open standard and most users (ANDROID) should dominate as any connected devices (handsets and everything else) have lower cost and more ability to “specialize”, particularly if intelligence is in the network (not the device).  But software is currently not the point of competition either… If not DEVICE software.. then what?

Stage 4 – Shift from Integrated Platform to Value Orchestration

Keeping with the assumptions above:  hardware becomes “good enough”, platform/software become “ubiquitous”, patents are widely shared (ok this is a joke.. checking if you were sleeping), and the mobile phone transforms into the networked device “bridging” the virtual and physical world then value (and profitability) will shift from platforms executing transactions to entities coordinating interactions.  This interaction of entities is what I refer to as Value Orchestration, certainly not a concept I developed. A January 2001 Harvard Business Review Article: Where Value Lives in a Networked World put it this way:

In more general terms, modern high-speed networks push back-end intelligence and front-end intelligence in two different directions, toward opposite ends of the network. Back-end intelligence becomes embedded into a shared infrastructure at the core of the network (cloud), while front-end intelligence fragments into many different forms at the periphery of the network, where the users are. And since value follows intelligence, the two ends of the network become the major sources of potential profits. The middle of the network gets hollowed out; it becomes a dumb conduit, with little potential for value creation. Moreover, as value diverges, so do companies and competition. …. In a connected world, intelligence becomes fluid and modular. Small units of intelligence float freely like molecules in the ether, coalescing into temporary bundles whenever and wherever necessary to solve problems.

This orchestration hypothesis seems to have proven itself in PCs as margin shifted away from the integrated manufacture to component “performance” differentiation (ex. peripheral price/performance) then again to software finally transforming again to orchestrators and “connected” businesses that orchestrate network value (like Amazon, Facebook and Google)…. as hardware evolves into a commodity like business.

The long term investor risk for Apple is that it will not be able to shift to a value orchestration role, and its handset business (while excellent) will no longer garner 75% of industry profits. Where will the high margin businesses develop? If we take a network view, opportunities to create value exist in interaction between clusters (ex. Retailer to consumer, Facebook community to Retailer) and within a cluster (ex Supply chain, healthcare , …etc.).  Within this cluster matrix, l like to take a Clayton Christensen view: “what problems are there that the mobile phone can solve”? which each “opportunity” assigned 5 key measures:

1) TAM (Consumers, $ Volume, Growth, …)

2) Disruptive innovation measure – price/performance (ex. Mobile targeted advertising vs. Coupons)

3) Information Control. Who owns it, how is it obtained, accuracy, privacy,  (impacts pricing power)

4) Key Alliances and stakeholders

5) Execution risk (ex. Compete with Facebook vs. Building a mobile application for a retailer)

Much of Value orchestration is dependent on data. Consumer data is highly fragmented in the physical world, do consumers/clusters want it consolidated? What are the benefits? Where is it stored (node or cloud)?  The HRB quote above painted a picture where “small units of intelligence float freely like molecules in the ether, coalescing into temporary bundles whenever and wherever necessary to solve problems”. Perhaps it is my time as a senior director within Oracle that has ruined my views on data.. but if it floats freely …how on earth can anyone organize it? Doesn’t someone need a directory? for at least one side? How can intelligence be “self assembling” in business?

My firm belief is that we will start a mobile “boom” that will dwarf what we have seen with either the internet, PCs or the industrial revolution. How big? Will at the top of my list for calculating the basis of a “New Mobile” TAM is marketiDescription: C:UserstomDocumentsPersonalblogUS Marketing Spend.JPGng.. With the US alone accounting for over $750B .. how much of that spend is targeted?

Because mobile is at the intersection of both virtual and physical, the network is larger.. it touches every consumer, every business and every “cluster”…  it is therefore many orders of magnitude more complex.  In this dynamic environment, small companies are much better positioned to deliver “focused”, simple orchestrated solutions between clusters.

Examples of Cluster ochestration:

  • Machine-machine interaction (mobile to open hotel room door)
  • Person-Person interaction (health history, alergies to Doctor)
  • Consumer-Retailer interaction (ex Mobile marketing in brick and mortar retail)

As intelligence develops, it will aggregate (ex Google/Facebook). I covered this topic back my December post Building Networks “The network forms around a function and other entities are attracted to this network (affinity) because of the function of both the central orchestrator and the other participants”.  Given that each node and cluster is resource constained.. they maintain connections to a finite number of “efficient” orchestrators/networks. Early networks build very substantial momentum..


Wow.. this went on too long..  They say a blog over 2 min of reading is a looser.. hey.. you get what you pay for.

Given the mobile device’s unique ability to serve as a point of convergence between the virtual and physical world, a Stage 4 evolution will take place where handsets are cheap and ubiquitous and networks are high speed dumb pipes (both low margin businesses). This Stage may be the leverage point where Apple’s competitors gain differentiation. Perhaps if they had some cash.. and a few bright people they could respond. 🙂

There are certainly many scenarios where stage 4 could evolve from. Orchestration requires both back end “cloud” infrastructure and localized intelligence. Both entail a complex interaction of: data, distribution, platform, cluster relationships, business intelligence, control, regulation, trust, … to deliver value. Companies like Google, IBM, Oracle, Facebook…   should be able to succeed in the central function.  If any of them agree with this blog.. they should actively endeavor to build “interfaces” and standards by which small companies can deliver the localized intelligence.. much the way Facebook has started giving some access to data.

Sorry for size

Comments appreciated.

OpenNFC – Game Changer

OpenNFC has a tremendous impact on MNO NFC business models. MNOs invested tremendous effort in developing NFC, now they are having their legs taken out from under them by a contactless vendor and the handset manufacturers. For ISIS to succeed they must run much faster and expand scope from a narrow payment pilot (over next 18 months) to building a platform that can compete AND interoperate against Android

24 February 2011

Monday I wrote about Apple’s “NFC Twist” and how a multi SE environment impacted MNO’s NFC business case. From Monday (I hate to quote myself.. but it keeps from following the link)

The champion of Multi SE architecture is Inside Contactless (OpenNFC).. a very very smart “Judo” move that leverages NXP’s substantial momentum (in integrated NFC/controller/radio) against itself. Inside’s perspective is that there is no reason for the ISO 14443 radio to ONLY be controlled via NFC (treat it like a camera). Inside’s OpenNFC provides for “easily adaptable hardware abstraction software layer, which accounts for a very small percentage of the total stack code, meaning that the Open NFC software stack can be easily leveraged for different NFC chip hardwalet multiple applications and services access it”. Handset manufactures love this model.. MNOs hate it. As I stated previously, closed systems must develop prior to open systems as investment can only be made where margins and services can be controlled. OpenNFC changes the investment dynamics for MNOs, and provides new incentives for Google/Apple/Microsoft, … to transition their closed systems into NFC platforms.

For Banks, Handset Manufacturer and Startups…

I cannot understate the importance of this approach.  My guess is that Apple, Motorola and RIM are all planning to pursue “OpenNFC” .  Multiple applications can now leverage the 14443 radio IN ADDITION TO the MNO controlled (SWP/SE) environment. Applications can then ride “over the top” independent of carrier controlled (TSM Managed) OTA provisioning.

In business terms, what does this mean? ISIS was founded under the assumption that it controlled the radio and all applications accessing it under NFCs  secure element (SE)  single wire protocol (SWP). Nothing could use the radio unless the ISIS TSM (Gemalto) provisioned it. Visa, Mastercard, Amex were all looking at a future where the BEST they could do was exist as a sticker on the back of the phone. In the OpenNFC model, the radio can be accessed directly through the handset operating system (assuming the OS integrates to the Inside OpenNFC controller).  This provides the ability for applications on Android and iPhone to access the radio. In this model, Mastercard DOES have the ability to get PayPass into the phone. My guess is that one driver of MasterCard’s hiring of Mung-Ki Woo from Orange was his unique perspective on how to make PayPass work within this InsideContactless model.

For ISIS? This is a tremendous impact to their business model. Perhaps something they cannot recover from. MNOs invested tremendous effort in developing NFC, now they are having their legs taken out from under them by a contactless vendor and the handset manufacturers. For ISIS to succeed they must run much faster and expand scope from a narrow payment pilot (over next 18 months) to building a platform that can compete AND interoperate against Android. Yeah.. that big. Their advantage is in control, security and provisioning. Unfortunately, because they have focused on the “control” aspect as the centerpiece of their  business model, they have developed no alliances. In this, ISIS may well follow the failure of Canada’s Enstream. A group that got all of the technology right but failed to develop a sustainable business model.


Start building to OPEN NFC. Game IS ON. Assume that Android and iPhone will let you access the radio…. For a fee.

For Consumers

CHAOS. What do you do when 5 applications all want to submit your payment.. .or read an RFID.. which one do you use?  For a view on the mess this will cause, see the Stolpan whitepaper

I believe this approach benefits Apple much more than Google. Apple’s platform “control” and QA testing will be essential to getting this off the ground. My guess is that Apple will have only ONE NFC payment option.. APPLE PAYMENTS. Perhaps a gatekeeper model where multiple cards can be store but Apple collects a fee.

Although Apple has an advantage in control. Google has the opportunity to deliver a much better value proposition to consumers, businesses and application developers. I’ll stick by my Axiom that new networks must start as closed systems delivering value to at least 2 parties. But can Apple compete with its Gosplan (USSR State Planning) like controls against open Android?


NFC Background for non-techies reading the blog, there have been many, many global pilots of NFC.. but no production rollouts. From my previous blog

What is NFC? Technically it operates on the same ISO/IEC 14443 (18092) protocol as both RFID and MiFare so how is it different? I’m not going to get into the depth of the technology (see Wikipedia), but the biggest driver was  GSMA/NFC Forum’s technical definition (UICC/SWP) that ENABLED CARRIERS to control the smart card (NFC element). This in turn enabled carriers to create a business model through which they could justify investment (See NFC Forum White Paper).

Mobile Apps will Die

As Google evolves Android into an open mobile platform, the “app” revenue model will evolve as well. Just as with Apple’s Mac experience, it will be difficult for Apple to attract continued investment. Given the tremendous talent at Nokia, MSFT, Google, RIM.. I’m sure they see the analogy to the 1994 example I have provided above. An “open” mobile browser with enhanced features would destroy the Apple ecosystem. App developers would choose “open” first (IF they could monetize their investments).

16 February 2011

Yeah.. thought the headline would make you read this one. This was the theme of yesterday’s  WSJ article covering a NYC Mobile Monday Confab. I agree with these young CEOs, as I’m sure would James Gosling, Grady Booch, Marc Andreesen, Alan Kay (and the Xerox PARC team). Most of the readership of this blog are business/payments folks, and probably don’t recognize the names or the technical dynamics at play. Objective of this blog is to give a business perspective on a “death of apps” dynamic as these business execs are the ones who actually fund (and take the risk) on these technical approaches.

Let me start off with 2 stories

Story 1 – 1994

A long, long time ago (1994)…  Netscape launched and gave ability to view basic HTML. The experience was rather dry, with even “drop down” boxes a major accomplishment. There was very little transacting, and the internet looked like one big marketing brochure. Early stage corporate use was limited to “employee directory” kind of functions, and interactive employee applications were built on … wait for it… POWERBUILDER, VisualBasic, or … for the more advanced companies… Smalltalk (an excellent language and my personal favorite). IBMs OS2 Warp was easily winning the enterprise war against Microsoft’s 3.1, a release which required a TCP/IP add on (Win95 came the next year in 1995). 

Enterprises had a desktop mess, applications had to be installed with all of their supporting libraries, on multiple machine types, with multiple operating system versions, hardware versions, most of which conflicted. Fortunately internet browsers began to develop more and more functionality, with scripting and embedded virtual machines of their own. “Light” applications began to migrate to the browser with a significant advantage in cost to deploy and a slight disadvantage in functionality. As browsers and standards further evolved, more applications changed their architecture, attracting more top tier developers. Fat client apps became an ugly legacy (for all but Microsoft’s Office applications).

Lessons learned: multiple proprietary architectures won in “functionality” but lost in cost to develop, cost to deploy and cost to service. Greater investment in a “sub standard” approach enabled faster growth, focus and subsequent adoption. Open architectures allowed multiple parties to create profitable businesses, and further invest.

Story 2 – Fat Mobile Applications

I had a tremendous global team at Citi, quite frankly some of the best and brightest people I have ever worked with at any company. As head of channels for Citi Global Consumer, mobile (outside of the US) was in my domain. Banks are highly driven to reduce cost to serve and acquire. Mobile was (and is) a channel with much experimentation. At Citi I took a look at 6 key mobile initiatives within the last 3 years to look for patterns of success/learnings that could be leveraged. We had developed “fat client” mobile applications in US, Germany, Japan, Mexico, AU as well as SMS based applications in PH, SG, IN, Indonesia, … In every case fat client mobile applications failed.  Why? Technology, user experience, cost to deploy, MNO “support”, …  The testing matrix of handset types, OS types, screen size, OS versions, …. was just not manageable.

Perhaps the biggest learning of all.. is how mobile is viewed by the customer. As my head of mobile in HK (Brian Hui) told me “what is so urgent that the customer can’t wait to get back to their PC”? Customers want speed and simplicity in their mobile interactions. For services like “what is my balance”? Fat clients are not needed. Even today, bank mobile applications are largely a competitive “me too”, as deployment costs to support 3 platforms (RIM, iPhone and Android) are much lower than prior “universal” support attempts. Although the statistics are not widely published, more than 3x customers access their bank through a mobile browser than through their bank’s mobile application (not everyone has an iPhone.. imagine that).

Proprietary Closed Systems must go first in NEW markets… then evolve or fail

As I mentioned in my previous blog, history has shown that closed networks form prior to open networks (in almost every circumstance). Closed networks are uniquely capable of managing end-end quality of service and pricing. This enables the single “network owner” to manage risk and investment. How can any company make investment in a network that does not exist, it cannot control, at a price consumers will not pay, with a group that can not make decisions or execute? Answer: Companies cannot, it is the domain of academics, governments, NGOs and Philanthropic organizations.

The principle challenge in evolving a closed business platform is financial. The margins associated with maintaining “control” of a platform are substantial… they are very hard for any company to give up (ie Microsoft, Apple, IBM). Just take a look at today’s WSJ regarding Apple’s subscription service plans. Apple wants to take a 30% cut of everything ever sold to its platform… for eternity. Can you imagine Microsoft asking to take a 30% cut of every fee on any item viewed or played on a Windows PC? How do you think Amazon or the music industry feel about this? Every iPhone App developer? It must feel like a Faustian bargain at best.

Apple’s big advantage today is app revenue, as it provides:

  • Terms and Control
  • In App Billing
  • In App Advertising
  • Consumer Payment Management

Yet I digress…. what about fat apps? This is why I like Google’s model, and why it will be so hard to compete against them. As Google evolves Android into an open mobile platform, the “app” revenue model will evolve as well. Just as with Apple’s Mac experience, it will be difficult for Apple to attract continued investment.  Given the tremendous talent at Nokia, MSFT, Google, RIM.. I’m sure they see the analogy to the 1994 example I have provided above. An “open” mobile browser with enhanced features would destroy the Apple ecosystem. App developers would choose “open” first (IF they could monetize their investments). Every handset manufacture and MNO has incentive to develop and invest in a “kill the app” mobile browser standard to compete with Apple and change the competitive dynamic.

One exception I see is in mobile “secure” applications. In this the GSMA and NFC Forum are absolutely brilliant… they have defined a common standard.. unfortunately the business model to monetize it has not yet developed. They had the right technical team design it.. can they get the right business leaders to make is successful? (see related blog)

Excellent TechCrunch Article on HTML 5  Feb 5, 2011

Nokia’s Opportunity: Building an NFC Ecosystem

Most of you have read Stephen Elop’s scathing internal assessment of Nokia yesterday: “Burning Oil Platform”. Today NFC software start ups are locked in by both handset manufactures and MNOs…. could Nokia leapfrog Apple by enabling companies to invest, and go to market, in NFC?

8 Feb 2011

Most of you have read Stephen Elop’s scathing internal assessment of Nokia yesterday: “Burning Oil Platform”.  Although I will probably get laughed at for this… I’m actually quite high on Nokia. At least the CEO knows there is a fire.. which is the last phase in the Kubler-Ross Five Stages Of Grief ( 1. Denial and Isolation. 2. Anger. 3. Bargaining. 4. Depression. 5. Acceptance). Now what?

Nokia and Motorola are very similar in many respects. Both have heavy (VERY HEAVY) engineering driven cultures. This engineering excellence has led them to their current market position, and these teams are just tremendous. The downside of the engineering focus is that areas like Marketing, sales, and alliances have always taken a seat far in the back of the bus. When handset competition was driven by feature/function this was no issue.. but Apple and Google have changed the nature of handset competition and how consumers perceive value. Beyond the number of apps available to consumers, it is the number of BUSINESSES that are investing in the platform. Google and Apple have created platform ecosystems that enable many businesses to enhance the platform at a pace that a single company can’t match (sorry Apple), in new dimensions (Apps, in app advertising, NFC, …et), with new business models (see previous blog).

Elop has the right background to change this, and has a number of opportunities to put Nokia into a position to uniquely compete. My suggested focus: create a platform ecosystem around NFC, with Europe and a few Asian markets (SG, HK, AU) as the launch pad… Find a model where you make Google a partner. Why? It aligns with your core competencies, and your competitors are failing in the NFC platform. Apple is seeking too much control, and Android has poor focus beyond the broken US market. What if Nokia was Google’s key partner outside the US?

For those outside the MNO world, what I’m suggesting is heresy to many in the Nokia Symbian world. Its like telling the French that they should throw away their dead language and force adoption of English. Elop’s challenge is creating a platform business akin to what he ran at Microsoft. This takes ability to partner…. partnerships mean deciding on WHAT you must focus on. In Smart Phones… where is the competition battle? If it is App Stores can Nokia get a critical mass of developers writing to its platform as it looses the US market?  Where is the revenue opportunity? Is it the handset?

I’m certainly not suggesting that Nokia completely abandon Symbian… but what about providing an option? What if their phones were the only ones that could support multiple OS? Run any application? In the NFC model I’m suggesting, OS should not be the competing factor.. what Nokia needs is other companies investing in its platform. NFC seems to be a key prospect given the trajectories of other efforts.

As an example.. handset manufacturers control the “keys” to NFC’s secure element. Industry insiders guess Apple is planning to keep them from the MNOs.. could Nokia take a more “open route” by creating an global independent TSM… a “java” kind of approach. Today NFC software start ups are locked in by both handset manufactures and MNOs…. could Nokia leapfrog Apple by enabling companies to invest, and go to market, in NFC?

Nokia is not a dumb contract manufacturer. It is one of the best handset engineering companies in the business. WHAT it is engineering to is the operable question. An OS generic NFC ecosystem approach seems to be supported by over 130 NFC Patents as well (second only to Sony). This NFC Communications World article does a tremendous job outlining Nokia’s NFC Platform business model. Beyond the NFC ecosystem, Nokia is already assuming an equally broad leadership role in LTE, a world where all of your consumer electronics will will communicate with each other and your phone. Therefore, I disagree completely with Venture beat that Microsoft is the partner of choice.. Nokia’s plans should be one that makes OS the commodity.. let the customers and the market decide.

NFC Patent Portfolio
NFC Patent Portfolio

The first challenge for Elop is cultural. As a generalization, Motorola is rather hierarchical and autocratic, where Nokia takes on the Finnish consensus driven management culture. Given that Nokia’s primary asset is people, it is very difficult for Elop execute a “Steve Jobs” type of vision and command/control without destroying his organization. Is the burning oil platform analogy the first step in building the case for change? I would expect his next announcement to be a big vision… how will the stars in the Finnish company react?

Thoughts appreciated