The MVNO road is not the one you want

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Blogging Stocks | Google’s one chance for Android - become a wireless carrier

The competitive landscape is so tightly controlled that Google’s mantra of “open access” just won’t sit well with wireless carriers used to telling customers what they can and cannot do with their phones.

This is very true. Time and again, the major US wireless carriers have rejected anything they can’t control. But there are a ton of things wrong with this article. First, Verizon announced last year that it’s opening up its network. I’m sure it won’t be as open as it could be, because Verizon is a bunch of jerks, but it’s still a step in the right direction. Second, I think Google’s name will drive some openness. You know how all the carriers want a piece of the iPhone? Look for that to happen again when a few sexy reviews of Google’s phone operating system start cropping up. Like Apple, Google has a sometimes irrational following. People will assume it’s good just because it’s Google. The article continues to state, “the MVNO model has largely failed in the U.S.”. That’s very true. Amp’d? Helio? Bye-bye. It doesn’t seem to be a sustainable business. Google isn’t really into failing, and they’re not stupid. But the dumbest thing the article says is the final line. Google should buy its own space on someone’s network and “give them anything they want. Like, mobile search results with ads next to them.” This is just a fundamental misunderstanding of some or all of the words in that sentence. I think he means “location-based search”, not “mobile”. I want my phone to do a Google Maps search, and I want the default location to be right where I am, right now. Simply making search “mobile” just means making my computer small enough to carry with me all the time. The real “synergy” of phone and search is that the phone already knows where you are. Now it just has to tell your search engine. It’s nice that Google Maps remembers my default location, but with a location-aware wireless device, there’s so much more it can do. Even worse is the idea that people want ads next to their search results. Search customers don’t want ads. We put up with them because they’re unobtrusive, they’re likely to be relevant to what we’re looking for, and they’re a small price to pay for an otherwise free service. If the ads went away and the search stayed the same otherwise, you would get no complaints from anyone not making money on the ads. I’d like to see Google completely skip the US market. Just go to Europe where the networks are open. Verizon and AT&T; and Sprint will come around pretty quickly when everyone who comes in to buy a phone wonders why they can’t have a Google phone. Well, everyone who isn’t there to buy an iPhone, anyway. Or maybe Sprint’s Samsung Instinct, which is apparently doing really well. Certainly Google has the cash to throw at their own chunk of network. But they didn’t get this successful by throwing money at dumb business ideas. I can’t imagine they’re going to start now.

Posted in: failed business model , Google , wireless