Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Who owns convergence?

Last weekend I made a convergence discovery at home. We have an IPTV set-top box that includes many things which most are explained in a language that can only be decrypted by a seasoned engineer. I also have a smartphone that supports UPnP, with customer benefits that the manual so clearly manages to explain:
"Your device is compatible with UPnP. Using a wireless LAN (WLAN) access point device or a WLAN router, you can create a home network and connect compatible UPnP devices that support WLAN to the network, such as your device, a compatible PC, a compatible printer, and a compatible sound system or television, or a sound system or a television equipped with a compatible wireless receiver." (Taken from user’s guide)
Putting these two together means that I can watch the pictures stored in my smartphone from our TV screen. Tried that and it worked (well, it was a little bit slow process with constant content refreshes but let’s put that aside).

Understanding that these two devices can co-operate was a pure coincidence, I just happened to be playing with both devices at the same time and during that I got an idea of sharing content between TV and smartphone. How many end users will find this out? In fact, how big a proportion of current smartphone-enabled features are left unused, because users can’t use them. How could they use those if they don’t know they exist? I doubt that reading explanation like the one above tells much to user who don’t already have an idea what UPnP is, for example.

Well, who owns convergence? Which party in mobile value chain educates users and tells them about such new possibilities that require multiple service providers? Device manufacturers? No, they are interested in device sales and will not care about customer complaints about 3rd party services. Operators? No, they will give support only for their own services. Application developers? No, they will do their best when it comes to their own software but don’t care about other’s solutions. Resellers? Certainly not.

It seems that user is left alone with his device.

To highlight the problem, here’s a real life story. A couple of years ago one of our customers had a problem with his terminal’s connectivity. I investigated the problem and understood that this might be network related issue, so we made a call to operator’s help desk. Discussion was something like this:
We: “We can’t make a connection to server xyz through network port xyz. Can you tell us if there has been reconfigurations in your network that could have caused this and if the change is permanent.”
Support:”Which terminal you are using?”
We: “This is Nokia 7610”
Support: “Sorry Sir, we don’t sell that device. I can’t continue this call.”

Life hasn’t become any easier since those days as new services are moving into mobile domain. More services means more service boundaries which means more problems that users must be able to solve by their own. Well, if they have been lucky enough to find the service possibilities.


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