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Neil Enns - Isn't Microsoft at a cultural disadvantage in the cell phone market?

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The Japanese and European cell phone users are seen as far more advanced than those in the United States. So, we wondered if that put Microsoft at a disadvantage, because Microsoft's headquarters are located in the United States.

Neil, a program manager on the SmartPhone team at Microsoft, answers that their developers actually did most of their research in Europe and Japan. Plus, he has an funny story about a taxi driver and why he has three cell phones.

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  • sbcsbc GW R/Me
    I wonder which country has the most coverage? Perhaps the UK (over 98% I think). Also the home of Vodaphone (quite big world wide I gather - this is illustrated by the fact they were considering buying AT&T Wireless, the second biggest mobile operator in the US, and they also have a 45% stake in Verizon, the biggest operator in the US)
  • Yep. Nothing helps you understand a market than living and working in it. When I worked for MS (in the UK, developing for phones), they (the people from Seattle who came over) were so full of their ideas that they couldn't absorb what we were telling them about the UK and european markets. The result was that the sales guys pitched completely wrongly, the PMs tried to leverage Redmond's ideas where they didn't fit, and the whole thing was a disaster.

    Ironically I went on to work at a company doing largely the same thing as MS were doing here 4 years ago and who are making a huge success of it. I don't think that just the time was wrong.

  • NeilNeil Neil
    sbc wrote:
    I wonder which country has the most coverage?


    Some of the nordic countries get up to right near 100%, I believe. I'm asking some of our market research guys, if I find out I'll post back.

    Another interesting number to look at is number of cellphones per capita. I believe there are some countries where the number is greater than 1!

    Neil
  • I'm pretty sure here in the UK we have something like 62m phones with a population of (around) 58m.  That's more than 1! I know lots of people that have more than 1.  My best friend has two at the moment, one personal and one for business.  It's pretty common over here.  I just have the one though Wink
  • it depends how you count
    phones people own (including those which are not used) or only those phones which are used


    i currently own 3 cell phones but i use only one because i've got only one sim-card and one phone is enough for me
    the Moto MPx200 Wink (but i still have Win02 on it, can't get Win03 for the phone, anyone an idea?)

  • Grr, this is what I was talking about in my last post. Ignorance of the European mobile markets! Smiley In Finland it was common three or four years ago for people to carry around - if not two phones - then two SIMs. This is because the carriers had such wildly confusing and different tariffs that it was a real moneysaver to actually switch to a different SIM card / tariff at different times of the day. Benefon actually released a phone which had two SIM card slots, though I can't imagine them making a great job of the UI. I don't know if the situation persists, so I guess I'm the ignorant one now. Smiley Come to think of it I think Nokia were considering - or actually got around to - releasing a dual SIM phone.
  • I work for Vodafone UK... I have to say some of the attitudes of the Americans are very confusing!

    Paying to receive a call...? WTF?  That's just asking for trouble! 

    Not having a seperate "area code" for mobile... They're mobile - not tied to your state!

    Complete underuse of SMS.  I SMS my boss to let him know he should be in a meeting Smiley

    Push to Talk.  What the hell is that about?  We keep trying to roll it out here but it isn't as quick, convenient or as usable as SMS.

    Chosing 1900MHz as your GSM standard... When the rest of the world uses 1800.

    I still can't beleive your interconnect agreements.  OK, we were a little slow interconnecting between UK Operators, but almost any service launched now has European coverage from day one... Yet I still can't reliably send SMS to the States!

    Whew! Rant over Smiley

    As for me, I have a work phone/Blackberry, a personal phone and whatever phone I'm testing.

    Terry

  • Jeremy WJeremy W that blogging guy
    I have to say that so far Neil is by far my favourite interviewee. When are we going to see Zoe and Gretchen get interviewed? Wink
  • Frankie FreshFrankie Fresh .NET Developer and so much more.
    Welcome to the wonderful, confusing world of the American Cell Phone Market. I used to live in Germany and was blown away by the quality of the network, designs and pricing plans.

    First of all, we call them Cell phones, which confused my European friends right away.  Overseas, they're "Mobile Phones." This is just the start of confusion.

    Sim Cards

    SIM cards and GSM cards are new to the US and were virtually unheard of when I went to Germany in 2000.  I was totally amazed that the chip contained the phone number, stored contacts, and even provided for security. You could switch phones. One time, in a club, a friend of mine's phone died. She put her chip in my phone (which had a full charge) and made a call.  I was amazed again.

    Paying for Incoming Calls

    WTF, indeed.  Well, there used to be a good reason for this.  Back in the 80's when cell phones were the size of small laptops or were installed inside cars, the "over the air" network was not fully developed.  So, the concept of "air time" originated when you paid for the call plus the use of the radio waves transmitting your call.  At the time, car/cell phones were a luxury for a chosen few.  Top of the line Doctors, high powered lawyers, and stock brokers had them to stay "connected" and "reachable" at all times.

    I got my first cell phone in 1994 just as it was becoming mainstream.  Air time seemed like a "fair" concept to me then.  THe only thing I didnt like is that I did not whom was calling.  So, my cell phone number became a closely guarded secret. Wink 

    As cellular networks became more advanced and could handle more traffic, air time became less and less of a scarce resource to metered out. I was surprised when I got my second phone in 1998 that it was still in use.  I thought it should be more like a traditional phone, where you pay only for outgoing calls.

    In 2000, I moved to Germany and much to my delight discovered that cell phone service there was light years of the US.  Keep in mind that I came from New York City, hardly a backwater city where you'd expect spotty coverage. I had a Motorola Tri-band GSM phone, which worked just about everywhere I went --the US included.  The phone also had WAP functionality. Something that my friends back home were fascinated with. I told them WAP was a cool concept but with a 1 inch square monochrome screen, it was not a big deal.

    When I came back to the US in 2001 and realized that I was staying "in country" for a while, i got a new cell phone.  The nice salesperson behind the Verizon counter failed to tell me that incoming calls still cost me.  A $500 phone bill and a month later I stormed back into their local store demanding to know WTF was going on.  I was shocked to see we, as the world's only superpower, still had this outdated concept.

    SMS

    ANother thing I learned what that I was charged $0.02 per SMS received and $0.10 per message sent.  At first you could only send messages to people on the same carrier, then it was expanded to all carriers in the USA.  After a $15 surcharge on more than one bill, I cancelled the service.  I got hooked on SMS while in Germany, but I could see now that clueless wireless carriers in the US charged way too much for the service.

    Push To Talk
    Push to talk is something very useful. I have Nextel now, largely becuase I get free incoming calls, and now my cell phone number is prominently on my business card. Wink  As a .NET consultant for hire, I'm highly mobile and need to be reachable from anywhere.  The Push to Talk feature is included in my plan and lets me keep in touch with other team members.  It's better than voice mail and faster than a traditional phone call. Think of it like Voice-SMS.

    Cell Phone Portability
    Carriers in the USA knew they had their customers by their *ahem* sensitive parts, becuase once you distribute your phone number, you are very reluctant to change your service and lose your number.  Recently the FCC demanded that phone companies allow customer to take their numbers with them.

    This has stimiluted massive amounts of competition. You now see each phone carrier actually innovating and coming up with all sorts of gimmicks to get people to switch over.

    Conclusion

    Wow, that was a long post. If you've read this far, stand up, stretch, and then pat yourself on the back. Wink

    Seriously, though, I hope I've cleared up some confusion for the folks in Europe about the odd state off affairs in the US's very unusual telecom market. I also hope that I've inspired my fellow Americans to demand more of their Wireless carrier.

    Can you hear me now? Wink

  • NeilNeil Neil
    Jeremy W. wrote:
    I have to say that so far Neil is by far my favourite interviewee.


    Oh dear! I think you're just saying that because I laugh like an idiot Smiley

    Neil
  • Holy cow! Paying for incoming calls. *LOL* !!

    /Lars.
  • NeilNeil Neil
    lars wrote:
    Holy cow! Paying for incoming calls. *LOL* !!


    For what it's worth, Americans think the notion of paying per minute for land-line local calls is wacky Smiley

    Neil
  • Jeremy WJeremy W that blogging guy
    Neil wrote:
    Jeremy W. wrote: I have to say that so far Neil is by far my favourite interviewee.


    Oh dear! I think you're just saying that because I laugh like an idiot Smiley

    Neil


    It's entirely possible. I do as well. Especially on Fridays. I barely survived today with my bladder intact Wink
  • Jeremy WJeremy W that blogging guy
    Neil wrote:
    lars wrote: Holy cow! Paying for incoming calls. *LOL* !!


    For what it's worth, Americans think the notion of paying per minute for land-line local calls is wacky Smiley

    Neil


    I was going to mention that. That said, their long distance pricing in Europe, specifically on cell phones (erm, mobiles), specifically internationally is amazing.

    A mate of mine in England can make an international call to Canada on his cell (off peak) for the same cost as calling London (he's in Brighton). So, he'd stay up late to watch Leafs games and we'd chat during the game Wink
  • This is changing very quickly. In the younger generation having a land line at all is no longer taken for granted. Having broadband and a mobile works just as well. Here in Sweden they scrapped long distance a few years ago, so now it's the same rate for any domestic call. And flat rate for off peak is available.

    Using three mobile phones is nothing unusual. I have one for work, one private, and one prepaid. The third one is for things like if I need to register on a web site to get some free service, or if I don't want to bring my more expensive phone along to the pub. Like a "Hotmail phone". My wife has a phone of her own of course, and one for work.

    I think Microsoft will have to do it's homework very well to compete in this market. Slow interfaces, battery hungry phones, and instability just isn't an option. And I'm pretty sure this is one platform people won't accept having to run a virus scan and update every week.

    /Lars.
  • In Norway there are 92 active mobiles per 100 inhabitants, and 10% has two phones....

  • Frankie FreshFrankie Fresh .NET Developer and so much more.
    prog_dotnet wrote:

    In Norway there are 92 active mobiles per 100 inhabitants, and 10% has two phones....



    I wonder what the stats are for the US.

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