December 6, 2010 09:12 dmercer
Two thirds of people who are thinking of buying an iPad in the next 12 months are expecting to pay less than the current lowest retail price, according to the latest research from our Tablet and Touchscreen Strategies service. 66% say they will pay less than $500 or €500, and half of those say they want to pay less than $300 or €300. We surveyed nearly 5000 consumers across the US and 4 major European markets. These findings won't concern Apple too much as there is enough momentum from early adopters to support growing iPad sales for the next few months. But they should serve as a clear warning that today's price points are unsustainable in the longer term. Already we are seeing a proliferation of (mostly Android-based) tablets arriving on retailers' shelves, often at iPad-undercutting prices. Staples is offering a 10" Viewsonic, Android 2.2 device at $400. I am awaiting delivery of a £150 7" Android 2.2 tablet from UK electronics specialist retailer Maplin. Clearly these devices will not match Apple in every respect; many observers doubt whether the latest versions of Google's OS are up to the job. But then the question is what "job" tablets are expected to carry out. iPad behaviour so far has been truly multifunctional, with a mix of games, browsing, video, communications, and the huge variety of apps which are impossible to categorise. I overheard one potential tablet buyer in Staples inquiring (of the Viewsonic device) whether it was good for reading books, and specifically whether it could do "things like Kindle". Unfortunately she happened to address the question'to a sales assistant who claimed to be "still training" on these devices and so couldn't commit to an answer. But the fact that customers are inquiring about specific capabilities suggests that all-round superiority may not necessarily be a requirement for tablet market entrants hoping to eat into Apple's dominant market position. That's not to say that device implementations shouldn't pass the bare minimum of usability requirements. There are still too many early Android devices floating around which really are not fit for purpose, even if they are practically being given away. Consumers want to pay $300 or $400 but they expect something that does at least a few things reasonably well. The sooner Android matures and its partners introduce devices to undercut the iPad, the better for the tablet market as a whole. Client Reading: Apple's iPad: Users, Buying Intentions and Price Expectations Add to Technorati Favorites

December 1, 2010 13:12 dmercer
As I prepare to chair a panel discussion on television advertising at this week’s Future TV Advertising conference, I thought I would dip into our consumer surveys to see what people are telling us about their attitudes towards advertising. For reference, our survey was based on a weighted sample of 2803 online respondents across France, Germany, Italy and the UK, and was fielded between July and September 2010. One of the issues often discussed at such conferences is the degree to which viewers enjoy advertising on television. Our survey found that only 7% of Europeans strongly agree that they “enjoy watching and listening to well produced and informative commercials on television”, and another 26% somewhat agree. But 23% strongly disagree that they enjoy watching commercials, and another 16% somewhat disagree. This gives a negative “balance” of -6% overall on the question of how much people say they enjoy watching TV ads; you are three times more likely to find someone who dislikes TV ads as someone who really enjoys them. The irony is that Europeans do appreciate that advertising plays an important role, even if they don’t like watching the ads. 51% somewhat or strongly agree with the statement that “advertising plays a useful role since it pays for the cost of providing entertainment”; only 31% disagree. There is even stronger agreement for the idea that all television should be “free” at the point of consumption: 65% of people somewhat or strongly agree with the statement “No one should have to pay for television; all programmes, including all sports and movies, should be available to everyone and supported by advertisements or public funding”. Only 24% disagreed with the idea that all television should be free. Not surprisingly (given that pay TV is most successful in the UK) the strongest support for this idea came from viewers in continental Europe, with 72% of French respondents in agreement. UK respondents are markedly different in their atttitudes towards free TV: 49% agree it should be free, but 32% disagree, giving a net balance of only 17%, compared to 58% in France. We found similar love-hate attitudes towards advertising in online television. People are very resistant to the idea that they could pay in order to avoid advertisements, but they also don’t like the fact that they have to watch adverts before an online TV show starts, and they think there are too many short adverts in online video content. So the challenge for advertisers appears to be the same as it ever was: getting a message across and engaging with viewers who are generally resistant to commercially motivated communications. Whether technology and innovation can help ease that process over the years ahead remains to be seen. Client Reading: Global Advertising Market Forecast Add to Technorati Favorites

November 4, 2010 12:11 dmercer
Having tested Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect for the last few days I can confirm that it has the elusive wow factor. Controlling on-screen icons and menus with a wave of the hand is the first sign that this stuff is definitely not of the old generation. Seeing your own avatar mirror your movements introduces the real sense of spookiness which only comes with genuinely ground-breaking technology. And when you are first signed into the service simply by entering the room, the realisation dawns that the age of intelligent technology may finally be upon us. My other conclusion is that if you are not physically fit before you buy Kinect, you certainly will be after a few sessions of gameplay. Microsoft is very clear that the initial raft of Kinect games titles are aimed at its “non-traditional” audience (implying, not entirely accurately, spotty teenagers shooting each other from the comfort of oversized armchairs) and involve varying levels of energy expenditure from a standing position. You may or may not be relieved to know that there is at least one application which does not require you to abandon the sofa: VideoKinect is the built-in video communications service, allowing Kinect games players to take a break to share their exhausting exploits with friends and relatives around the world. As for the games themselves, we found the bowling and track and field in Kinect Sports a lot of fun. Bowling illustrates the strengths of gesture-based gaming because the system appears to recognise genuine bowling actions which are impossible for any controller system to replicate. Track and field includes a variety of athletics events, and, yes, the 100m dash involves running on the spot as fast as you can. Microsoft told me that an elderly 80-year old lady in Australia had enjoyed some of these sports. I would like to see this. Children will love Kinectimals, the classic cutsey furry animal petting game. Choose your favourite cub, cuddle it with your virtual hands, and watch it mimic your actions and learn tricks. Parents of young children should avoid installing this game on their main TV as they will never get to watch TV again. Kinect Joy Ride didn’t work as well for me. This is the main racing game available at launch, and, yes, you have to pretend to hold a steering wheel. I would love this to have worked more effectively, but this is the point at which virtualisation just doesn’t seem to make any sense. Try it at home: See how long you can keep your hands spaced the same distance apart while moving them around in a circle, changing direction frequently, and leaning your body one way or the other to perform tricks. Sorry, but holding a real steering wheel has just got to be a better experience. Microsoft hope that Kinect will help it to “more than double” the number of Xbox 360s sold worldwide so far, which is more than 42 million. Our own core scenario forecast is that Microsoft will fall slightly short of this objective, selling a cumulative 79 million 360s by 2015. Our analysis did allow for further upside to 360 sales as a result of a successful Kinect launch, so we will be tracking its near term progress and impact on core console sales before updating our scenario models. We should also be clear that Microsoft, along with other platform vendors, tends to talk in terms of cumulative sales. Our analysis also takes account of console retirement and replacement, and this could be a critical issue as we begin to understand Kinect’s impact on wider 360 ownership. It is, after all, being offered for sale as a peripheral to existing 360 owners, as well as packaged with a complete 360 console system. Again, the mix between these two packaging options will be important in determining the real impact on the 360’s overall performance. Sales to existing 360 owners may extend the life of the system in those households but will not help to widen the audience. Microsoft’s primary interest will be to increase sales of the 360 itself to new owners. Will Kinect succeed? As always, it will depend on how we define success. Kinect is certainly innovative, and as such it will appeal to existing 360 owners who want to explore the new technology for its own sake or find the new games appealing. Kinect should also bring the 360 more forcefully to the minds of existing owners of other consoles who may be tiring of their current platform. The obvious target is Nintendo’s Wii, global sales of which, as we predicted, are declining by more than 20% this year. While Nintendo works out its post-Wii strategy, Kinect has a window of opportunity of maybe a year to tap into demand from lapsed Wii users. In spite of the enthusiasm indicated above, Kinect is not without its challenges. The biggest concern for many potential buyers will be the space required in front of the TV. Our system is installed in a traditionally small English cottage, and there is just about enough space to use Kinect for the few games we have tried. Demonstrations of some games I have seen suggest that Kinect owners will need clutter-free floor space of three feet by six feet (1m x 2m) at a minimum distance of six feet (2m) from the sensor in order to get the maximum benefit. Xbox actually recommends a distance of 8-10 feet (c. 3m) from the sensor. It goes without saying that this space must be free of all obstacles, alive or dead, if minor injuries are to be avoided. Other commentators have noted the potential for lag in motion sensing. The movements in the self-image window or the avatar certainly appear some fractions of a second behind actual motion. The critical question is whether this has an impact on usability, and so far, in an admittedly short series of tests, I have not noticed any significant negative impact on gameplay. There have been occasions when voice recognition and motion sensing do not appear to function perfectly, but I would not draw any conclusions regarding weaknesses in the technology versus the need for familiarisation. Only time will tell whether these are persistent issues which need to be resolved by further technology enhancements. Kinect’s success will hinge on whether “really clever stuff” is good enough to drive sales, and whether its integration into games is perceived as ground-breaking. Xbox is also taking a risk in focusing Kinect purely on the “active gaming” sector. Nintendo did break new ground with motion control, but Wii games did not always require players to stand up or indeed move around. Microsoft says that developers can deploy Kinect in more “subtle” ways, supporting sit-back gaming. Until such games appear the first titles risk being positioned as a niche market. But overall Kinect is an impressive attempt to take the TV games console industry in a new direction and we believe it will have the initial positive impact on the 360 business which we predicted earlier this year. Judgment on its longer term success will have to wait a few more months once the novelty has begun to wear off, but it would be very surprising if Kinect’s arrival does not push development of games and other TV-based applications in directions we can today only barely imagine. Client Reading: Taming the Waves: Games Console Life Cycles and Platform Competition Add to Technorati Favorites

October 25, 2010 20:10 bpiper
Already heated tempers reached a boiling point last week in the current mêlée between Fox's parent company, News Corporation and New York-based Cablevision. At issue is the question of "retransmission," the fees cable companies must pay networks to carry their programming in the line-up. In the latest salvo, News Corp elected to deploy a "nuclear option" of sorts--blacking out not just Fox channels, but also Cablevision subscriber access to sites such as fox.com and hulu.com. The access blocking, while short-lived, sent a clear message-Fox holds the cards. Was this move a shot across the bow of `traditional' cable, as some have suggested, or rather a shot in the foot for News Corp?

This Whole ‘Cord Cutting’ Thing?  Yeah, it’s Here to Stay

Dismissing or minimizing the severity of cord cutting has been de rigeur of late in the analyst community.  Many service providers and industry pundits alike have effectively buried their heads in the sand for the past 18 months over the issue, writing it off as “over hyped phenomenon.” Survey research we just fielded suggests that doubters might want to rethink their position.  According to the survey of 2,000 Americans in late Q3’10, 13% intend to drop their pay TV subscription in the upcoming year—and not replace it with another one.  We have long held that cord cutting is a very real problem, and what we’re seeing now is likely just the tip of iceberg.  What happens when today’s teenagers start controlling the pocket strings in five or ten years?

120 Channels and Nothing On

The average US household receives nearly 120 channels, though many would argue that they watch only a handful of those. Our survey found that, when asked to rank their five "must have" channels, Pay TV consumers chose the four "free networks" (CBS, ABC, NBC, FOX) as the top slots. ESPN rounded out the top 5. This is rather astonishing, and adds further credence to the notion of cord cutting.  After all, if  four of the top five channels an individual watches are available for free (either online or over the air), why on earth would one pay upwards of $70/month for a subscription?  Force of habit?  Because the cable company told you to?  To avoid having to switch an “input” button on the remote control?

Not the End for Pay TV—But Maybe Pay TV As We Know It

To be clear, we are in no way predicting the imminent demise of pay TV.  There will always be a market for premium content, and that customers will continue to be receptive to paying for content relevant to them. Rather, we believe that service providers must rethink business models. Some have already begun to do this, through initiatives like TV Everywhere.  That, however, solves only the where part of the problem.  Next to tackle is the what. A la carte?

October 19, 2010 11:10 dmercer
I never thought I would hear it, but the buzz on the streets of Essex, that trend-setting county just east of London, is that Research in Motion (RIM)’s BlackBerry handsets have now replaced Apple’s iPhone as the gadget of choice. I should immediately qualify this “finding” as purely anecdotal research, based on a conversation with my 13-year-old niece this past weekend regarding her latest phone, acquired because, as all parents will recognise, “all her friends have got one”. It doesn’t seem five minutes since she was demanding the latest iPhone, hence my surprise that the BlackBerry has risen so rapidly in the teenage desirability league table, at the expense of the apparently unstoppable iPhone. My colleague, Andy Brown, our resident RIM expert, assures me that the Canadian company has been promoting the BlackBerry as a consumer device for some years, largely by advertising it in the hands of celebrities. In spite of those efforts I would argue that it is still commonly perceived as a business-centric device. Nevertheless, consumer sales of BlackBerrys have been rising rapidly, contributing to RIM’s impressive overall performance in the mobile phone market. I was obviously keen to learn why today’s younger teenagers are apparently bucking the accepted trend towards using touchscreen, button-free devices. The QWERTY keyboard, according to my niece, is in fact one of the appealing features of the BlackBerry, since typing messages is so much easier. And it turns out that messaging appears to lie at the heart of RIM’s success in this segment: the ability for young friends to send each other messages using RIM’s BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) service, completely free of charge, has huge appeal to the device’s owners as well as their parents, concerned at rising monthly bills. So the obvious question is, what happened to the apparently eternal appeal of an unlimited choice of apps, as well as 4” touchscreen displays? At least for this small sample, it seems they are now considered of secondary importance. For my niece and her group of friends, the ability to stay in touch via near-constant, rapid messaging, and at zero additional cost, is what matters most. Whether that will be the case as they get older remains to be seen, but it’s a reminder that one device format is unlikely to suit the needs of all segments, however successful a particular product may appear. “With iPhone, every handset works the same,” said Apple’s Steve Jobs during yesterday’s results call. Yes, Steve, they do: and it seems, amazingly enough, that some people really don’t need it that way. Client Reading: RIM Announces PlayBook Tablet and Multiplatform Strategy Add to Technorati Favorites

October 14, 2010 14:10 dmercer
Hidden away in the depths of the European Commission’s latest household communications survey is a finding that should scare the 4X out of the cable industry: the percentage of EU27 households using cable TV fell by 4% between 2008 and 2009, from 34% to 30%. To put this in context, that means the cable industry lost around 8 million TV household customers in the space of just 12 months. The biggest winner has been digital terrestrial television. The share of households using digital terrestrial rose from 12% to 23%, while the proportion of those using analogue terrestrial fell from 41% to 34%. Satellite also made gains, increasing by 2% to reach 24% of households, and IPTV rose from 2% to 4%. Observant readers will have noted that we have reached a total of 115% of households. The survey allowed for multiple answers because some hosueholds use a combination of different TV access services, usually because they have terrestrial TV (analogue or digital) for one TV set, with cable or satellite piped to another. Cable’s decline has been little short of dramatic in Benelux. For years, visitors to those countries were told that the “only” way to receive television was through a cable network. Even though cable TV penetration strictly speaking never reached the 100% mark, it was certainly in the 90%+ range for many years. Now, according to the viewers themselves at least, cable is used by only 69% of Belgian households, a decline of 18% in one year. This was mirrored precisely by the increase in digital terrestrial usage over the same period. In the Netherlands, cable usage fell to 75% of homes, with digital terrestrial at 21% by the end of 2009. This is not the “cord cutting” which American cable operators are currently fretting over. Stateside, the hot issue is whether cable (and satellite) customers will switch to internet-delivered, OTT TV. In Europe, the threat from digital terrestrial television is currently much greater and already having a marked impact. Where cable used to provide the de facto option for “free”, commercially funded TV channels, it is losing ground rapidly to over-the-air services. The latter, of course, are genuinely free of charge (except for public service TV licence fees in some cases), in contrast to the “basic” fees cable operators have always charged. Here is yet another indication of the huge structural differences between the US and European markets, which strike me every time I travel between the two regions. A couple of days ago, during a meeting with a well-known US software provider looking to enter the European connected TV market, I saw another sign of how US companies can struggle to appreciate these variations when they visit Europe. It may have been more or less abandoned in the US, but free-to-air television in Europe is alive and well. Client Reading: Global Digital Television Forecast: 1H'10 Add to Technorati Favorites

October 14, 2010 09:10 dmercer
The excitement around 3D has been palpable over the past year, beginning with the numerous announcements, roll outs and demos at CES.  The momentum continued through the spring and summer, with more service providers putting stakes in the ground, and carried over to this year’s IBC show, where Strategy Analytics hosted an analyst breakfast on the topic with Sky 3D head, Brian Lenz.  The verdict? Excitement and hype levels were skyrocketing.  The question remains, though, whether or not anyone can spin this into a viable and profitable consumer offering. Over the summer, we fielded a 4,800 respondent survey  in five countries (France, Germany, Italy, UK and US), asking individuals about their understanding of, interest in, and willingness to pay for 3DTV.  The results are covered in detail in report we just published last week.  Here are some highlights:

Translating 3D Excitement into 3DTV Viability is Challenge

Over 70% of those who have seen 3D in the movie theater are impressed by its quality, but only 55% of those same individuals say they’re interested in watching 3DTV at home. How can Service Providers translate the cinematic excitement around 3D into a viable residential business? We found a few barriers standing in the way, including a dearth of content in 3D, luke-warm consumer interest in paying, hardware issues (the need to wear glasses), and widespread market uncertainty.

Market Uncertainty is a Barrier

Respondents were asked a battery of questions around their perceptions of 3DTV, including availability, hardware requirements and potential health and safety issues.  While overall awareness is quite high, with 94% saying they believe it’s possible to see 3D films in a movie theater, on other questions, the market uncertainty is substantial. The most surprising, and most critical finding to both vendors and service providers alike, is the uncertainty surrounding perceived health risks. Overall, 70% of respondents said they were either unsure or believed that watching 3DTV causes damage to the eyes. We believe that this perception issue, which proved to be common across the five countries surveyed, is a key hurdle standing in the way of widespread adoption of 3DTV. Regardless of the validity of the belief, customer perception is what matters, and such widespread uncertainty could prove disastrous if not addressed appropriately.

Perceived Health Risk by Country (“3DTV Causes Eye Damage”) N=4,803

HealthRisk Source: Strategy Analytics

Target: Cube Tubers

3DTV, at least in the short term,  will be largely a niche application, attractive to only a subset of the general population. Through our survey work, we have isolated and identified this demographic as the “Cube Tubers,” and suggest that they should be viewed as a key target market for service providers and equipment vendors. These individuals represent between 8%-10% of the overall population, and are unique in their intentions to purchase a 3DTV in the upcoming year, and to be active premium/HD customers.  Cube Tubers,  who are predominantly young, educated married males, are nearly twice as likely as the average Joe to expect to pay for 3DTV.  Willingness or expectation of paying hits on an issue that many in the industry seem to be overlooking.  Few question the “wow” factor of 3D.  Rather, the question is, how do you make money at it? Client Reading: 3DTV: Will Consumers Buy It? Add to Technorati Favorites

October 13, 2010 17:10 dmercer
I was speaking on the panel at the OTT 'mashup' eventat Ogilvy's London Docklands headquarters last night, alongside Turner Broadcasting's Casey Harwood and Anthony Rose, CTO at the BBC's Canvas (now YouView) project, amongst others. As a first-time masher-up and intrigued at the possibilities for the format, the event turned out to be organised along relatively familiar panel debate lines. Casey and I began with introductory comments, and were followed by critiques from the other contributors. The session was then opened up to debate, including audience questions. All the time, running on a display behind us, was a Twitter feed of comments from participants in the twittersphere, as well, presumably, as a few of the 100 or so people who joined us in the traditional, physical fashion. The only problem was that the panelists had to turn away from the audience to see if any particularly fascinating Tweets had appeared, and if they ever did, it was noticeable that the physical audience's attention would be diverted to the ominous gap between the panelists and away from the speakers. The one recommendation I would make is that questions and comments from the virtual audience could have been added to the debate; it did rather feel at times as though we were being Tweeted at without right of reply. Nevertheless it was an interesting evening and I hope the audience found the debate valuable. my own contribution centered on a few relevant datapoints from our recent survey of UK TV and online TV viewers. In particular I referenced the fact that 13% of UK people are currently watching TV on the internet at least on a weekly basis. So we needed to bear in mind that the OTT phenomenon is still restricted to a relatively small proportion of the population, and most of that activity is taking place on the PC. The number of people accessing web TV on their TV set is of course even smaller: 6% of people are connecting a PC to a TV, and 4% now claim to use a dedicated internet TV device. Having said that, our work with early connected TV adopters within our Digital Home Observatory suggests that television behaviour can change rapidly once viewers have access to some of these emerging technologies. This segment is motivated by a desire for greater viewing flexibility and access to preferred content. They also still see weaknesses in current connected TV solutions, especially in the field of control devices and interfaces. The panel also touched on the issue of business models, and in response to the question of how things might look in three years I replied that the basic alternatives would not change greatly: television in the UK will still be funded by a combination of public service licence fees, advertising and customer payment of one sort or another. The mix may change slightly, and we may see greater variety in pay business models. But it’s important to remember that customers are very sensitive to their monthly bills. The impression is often given, especially by new entrants, that new payment models can somehow overcome consumer resistance to the size of the overall television bill. The reality is that 80% of UK customers check their bank statements every month, and a similar proportion prefer predictability in their monthly payments. 69% would agree to pay only for the shows they watch, but only if it reduced the overall monthly bill. All in all I agreed with Anthony Rose’s comment that too little emphasis in connected TV discussions has been put on live, scheduled television. The assumption seems to be that this traditional model will break down rapidly as various on-demand options become available, but this trend is likely to happen only slowly over a long period of time. Even for early adopters, scheduled broadcasting remains an important part of the overall mix. The overall message is one of increased fragmentation of delivery models and audiences. Client Reading: Profiling the Connected Media Consumer - UK Add to Technorati Favorites

October 6, 2010 17:10 bpiper

Cisco today unveiled its long-awaited consumer Telepresence product. A smaller and scaled-down version of the company’s enterprise-grade TelePresence system, “ūmi” (‘you-me’) comes with an HD camera, a console and a remote. The idea of the videophone is far from new. Children of the 60s and 70s may recall George Jetson getting chewed out by his boss, Mr. Spacely, over videochat. In fact, the technology, is older than that, and was conceptualized as early as the late 1800s. The German Bundespost offered (albeit short-lived) commercially-available service the1930’s. AT&T announced its Picturephone product at the 1964 World’s Fair, though the service never quite took off, reportedly maxing out at 500 subscribers nationwide.

This time it’s different…

What makes this time different? According to Cisco’s VP of Consumer Marketing, Ken Wirt, three things are different this time. The quality and ubiquity of HD displays, the increased average household bandwidth, and exponentially increasing processing power have converged to create a ‘perfect storm’ for telepresence.

With apologies to Elvis Costello

Writing about telepresence is like dancing about architecture

Or was that Frank Zappa? In any case, as with HD or 3D, trying to explain telepresence to someone who hasn’t seen it is akin to trying to explain the color blue to a blindfolded person. You kind of have to see it to understand it. I had a chance to test drive the product last week before the official product announcement, and must say that—even as a professional skeptic--I left the demo thoroughly impressed. The so-called “immersive” effect (allowing you to ‘see what others are feeling’ ) is quite noticeable, and is what distinguishes it from a garden-variety Skype video or web-based video chat program. There is near perfect synchronization between audio/video, and people appear life sized on the screen. Ken Wirt cited a study showing that 55% of all conversation is non-verbal. It’s no surprise that it is our body language, the nods and raised eyebrows, shaking heads, smiles and smirks, that distinguish a phone call from a ‘carbon-based’ face-to-face meeting.

The Uncomfortable Topic of Money

The price tag is steep, at $599 for the unit, plus a monthly fee of $24.99 for unlimited ūmi calls, video messaging and video storage. The system will be sold through Best Buy/Magnolia Home Theater stores, bestbuy.com and on the cisco website. The service requires a minimum of 3.5 Mbps to work in 1080p, though it can be optimized for use at lower speeds, as low as 1.5Mbps for 720p. This means that the service will largely be limited to those with cable broadband or FTTx. Cisco believes that 34% of US households have this type of upstream capability—which is in line with Strategy Analytics’ own estimates.

The Network Effect

Back in the early days, the phone company sold “telephone pairs,” with the understanding that the value of the network lies in the number of nodes. A telephone network with one phone is not terribly valuable. Nor is a telepresence unit if there’s nobody on the other end. Cisco has partially circumvented this problem by providing interoperability with Google video chat, though if you’re spending $600 on a unit, you probably want the “real thing.” The real value of telepresence will be realized when there is a robust network of equipped households. While family video-calling seems the most obvious use-case, its utility seems rather limited. How many times do we really want to videochat with Grandma each month? Unless and until the network reaches critical mass, the appeal and draw of video calling will be very limited. Rather than a consumer mass market play, the real opportunity might very well be in the Business to Consumer (B2C) space. If private industry can help subsidize and drive the technology more mainstream, it could hit the critical mass it needs. Cisco talked about a number of other potential applications, three sound like potential winners in driving telepresence forward. These include

Financial Services: A $600 upfront investment and $25/month is a drop in the bucket for a company trying to prove its value to high net worth clients. For the cost of a few steak dinners, a Financial Services company could equip a client’s living room and increase the frequency of “touch points.”
Health Care: While the chatter around Telemedicine never seems to cease, this is one application where it actually could make sense. An insurance company might find it financially beneficial to subsidize a unit for a patient requiring regular and routine examinations, or for medical compliance monitoring (“Did you take your pills Mrs. Smith?”)
Distance Learning: How about tapping into the multi-billion dollar distance learning market in the US.  Equip every “Phoenix” with a system? That’s what I call scale.

I want one… but not for $599 plus $24.99/month

Many who experience the technology firsthand will want one for their own living room. It’s cool. It works well, and the potential applications are only limited by the imagination. It’s light years ahead of pc-based chat. On the flipside, the price is high. Too high. And when you add on the 24.99/month fee, it starts to feel like another cable bill. Survey research conducted by Strategy Analytics in Q3’10 shows that 30% of Americans showed some interest in a service of this type. Importantly, though, 46% of those interested said they are often concerned about their ability to afford regular household bills, 45% said they worried about signing up to new fixed term contracts when buying new products and services. TELEPRESENCE_INTEREST

Adoption Will be Slow But Steady

Cisco would certainly admit that the $599 price point is untenable for the long run, and as volumes slowly ramp up, we should expect to see price points come down. If Cisco is successful in getting private industry into the game, and a subsidy model takes hold, we could see adoption speed up. The other barrier standing in the way of rapid adoption is broadband. While today only one-third of households have the minimum required bandwidth to support the system, this will certainly increase going forward. We estimate that by 2015, over 60% of all US households will have at least 1.5 Mbps upstream capabilities. Stay tuned…we’ll be putting out a Telepresence report in the upcoming


September 29, 2010 17:09 dmercer
Lack of ambition would presumably not be the most obvious failing of a new company which styles itself under the label “Everything Everywhere” (EE for sake of brevity). The name was chosen to represent the combined UK operations of both Orange (France Telecom) and T-Mobile (Deutsche Telekom), which now form a 50-50 joint venture and which announced their first results at an investors meeting in London yesterday. It would be a tad unfair, given the company’s core network technology assets, to assume that EE would be branching out into home pizza delivery any time soon, even though casual observers might assume “everything everywhere” might encompass all manner of exciting goods and services. Nevertheless, it was perhaps a little disappointing to discover from EE’s tagline – “Creating a new mobile champion” - that the network will apparently only serve network-based communications and applications to customers who happen to be moving around at any given time. Taglines are tough to get right, of course, and inevitably cannot please everyone. As the management presentations progressed, it became clear that mobility was not after all an absolute requirement for any future products and services which EE may choose to emphasise. Indeed, although they remain well hidden beneath the inevitable deluge of mobile phone and wireless network-centric commentary, fixed broadband and IPTV (for big screens) are very much alive and kicking as key elements in EE’s strategy. Executives even went as far as to designate IPTV as a “key part of a converged play” and that fixed broadband was “strategically hugely important”. This should come as a relief, perhaps even a surprise, given that fixed networks have played no part in T-Mobile’s UK business to date, and have been losing money (£80m in 2009) from the few customers Orange alone had managed to acquire. Given this performance the new venture might have been forgiven for abandoning fixed network businesses altogether as a lost cause. Instead we were assured that Orange’s broadband profitability was “already improving”, and that the recently announced deal to outsource network, IT and customer service to BT will have the desired impact of returning “Home” EBITDA to positive territory by 2012. Specifically EE will increase targeting of home broadband to its existing Orange mobile customers initially, and also introduce it to T-Home customers during 2011. Marketing will also encourage take-up of fixed voice by Orange and T-Home customers, since EE claims that the BT deal means that acquiring fixed voice customers would no longer have a negative margin impact on overall performance as was previously the case. The company is planning for 80% of new broadband customers to include fixed voice as part of their package. Potentially even more significant will be EE’s plans for IPTV, once they are finally confirmed. The company announced that it is looking at IPTV opportunities, including Canvas, the BBC-led over-the-top initiative. It would not join Canvas as a shareholder, but is considering affiliate membership. Whatever decision is eventually made on IPTV, EE will not become a major content player, which will come as a relief to shareholders and a disappointment to content rights holders looking for new competitors in the distribution market in order to boost values. EE even has the UK’s long-awaited fibre rollout on its radar. Its agreement with BT allows for access to the new fiber network by EE, although no specific plans have been agreed. Other emerging opportunities on EE’s radar include M2M (machine-to-machine), in which the company includes connected home devices and home automation as specific “high growth” verticals. M2M is a broad concept which may certainly one day lead to services and applications which approach “everything everywhere” capability. In the meantime, EE has probably has enough on its plate just to meet its growth and profitability targets in its core mobile and broadband businesses. Client Reading: Global Broadband Forecast 1H2010 Add to Technorati Favorites