Choice and portability give users control

Yankee Group president and CEO Emile Green, who took the helm 20 months ago at the Boston-based research firm, met with group editor Joseph Waring on an extended sweep through Asia and outlined the concept of the 'anywhere network' and 'anywhere consumer' and their impact on network operators and Yankee's business going forward

Wireless Asia: Convergence in connectivity implies a smooth merging of components. But various technologies and business models seem to be more on a collision course. How does Yankee describe what telcos and networks are undergoing‾

Emily Green: The transformation the telecoms industry is undergoing is nothing short of a revolution. A revolution is a change of the established power structure. The industry is enfranchising parts of the world that haven't been part of the prior technology revolution. It's global and changing power structures in that it's shattering the very cozy, predictable business models of network operators.

The consumer now gets to decide what services are offered. And the transformation is changing legal conventions. I think consumers' reluctance to pay for music stems from their feeling that 'hey, I bought it once why should I have to buy it again.' That is challenging things like digital rights management, IP and what are the economics of providing music and movies. The portability of experiences is another aspect of the revolution.

The third aspect is the impact it has on businesses and their ability to locate anywhere. This accounts for the phenomenal rise in the fortunes of some of the economies in Asia. India wouldn't be growing at 9% or 10% a year if it wasn't for the Internet. It's going to enfranchise other parts of the world as well as technology reaches them. Africa could be the next India.

How is this changing consumer and business behavior‾

In some pretty interesting ways. We're tried to frame our thinking around some ideas, and one is that we're seeing a new kind of consumer. That consumer is what we call an 'anywhere' consumer. They have the sense that their experience should be portable, and that they shouldn't be harnessed to a fixed time or fixed place for the things they like to do. We're staring to be aware as consumers that there's technology emerging that can make that possible, and we like that idea. We're not sure how much we'd like to spend for that, but we definitely like the idea. And that's creating demand that operators and a lot of others will attempt to exploit.

Likewise, it's creating a new kind of enterprise as well - a kind of enterprise that can locate its people and assets anywhere and operate just as productively as if they were at the corporate headquarters. It's not a seamless experience yet, but forward-looking companies are understanding that's an opportunity and are looking for the technologies that allow them to operate anywhere and deal with some of the problems that causes, such as security concerns and cost of duplicating equipment.

You mentioned agile media in your presentation - how is that impacting traditional operators‾

I first used that phrase when I was a cable modem analyst back in '95 and '96 and was talking about how media would need some meta intelligence - some intelligence about where it was, what it was being asked to do and who it was doing it for - and carry that information around and be able to manifest itself appropriately in new places to suit the needs of its user.


That idea was possibly a little before its time because we were dealing with fixed media experiences and fixed locations.

But as we move to wireless broadband and portable entertainment I think the idea of agile media may be coming into its own. There is an opportunity out there for a media experience that can float above and through multiple devices. Now we're talking about watching movies on our mobile phones. But what if we could start watching a move in our living room, suspend it, resume watching it on our mobile phone, then when we get to our next destination, continue watching on a big screen. What if my phone was the vehicle that enabled that to happen‾

Certainly from a technology standpoint it's feasible. Whether or not the network operators will seize the day and work out the rights deals with the rights holders, and whether or not the economic models that are offered to consumer are attractive, I don't know. 
How big of an issue is DRM‾

It's probably the biggest issue. We just wrote a piece called 'Kill DRM', and some of our analysts have come out and said that DRM is going to be the thing that holds things back. If the rights holders can't get over their idea that they have to block every illegal use, they're going to miss the forest for the trees. What's interesting is that it's not the powers that be that adopt change.

What is driving the shift from the network having control to the consumer having control‾

What is changing the power equation is that the user has choice. Now we have forces lining up between people who are the network and see their ability to grow their businesses dependent on their ability to add services on top of providing the network - because once saturation is achieved providing the network access, what else do you sell - and a whole other set of forces who are on the network, who say 'fine, the network is there, I'll provide my services using the network.' So if operators want to subsidize new services to consumers with advertising, they are competing with Google. It wants to be the world's vehicle for advertising, and its interest certainly expands to mobile devices. 

A consumer-centric model is going to happen because the consumer can now navigate away from the operator's set of offerings. That's the same dynamic that hit America Online and CompuServe. The operators can not stay in control of the experience the users is provided. The point is they don't have a captive audience any more.
How is Yankee Group responding to this connectivity transformation‾

For 37 years we've been producing research on communications technology and have been focused on understanding the technologies themselves. Having taken a step back, we are now very interested in the consequences of connectivity change. For us it's not just what will be the prevailing 3G technologies and how quickly will 4G threaten adoption of 3G. It's the so what‾ If that happens, why does it happen and what does it mean for opportunities to provide services to consumers and businesses.

We're moving up the food chain, from maintaining our focus on the technology research but adding work on business models, segmentation of consumers and businesses by behaviors with technology.


This will make us a more powerful research engine. Instead of going off and looking at a lot of isolated and independent issues, we're integrated the research team to say we've got one mission - we're about nothing more, and nothing less, than the implications of connectivity change. If it doesn't have to do with connectivity, we're not going to do it. In fact, we have eliminated some of our coverage of other technology issues that are outside that remit because you have to pick your battles. That's what we know best, and there's an enormous need in the marketplace for that kind of insight right now.

Tell us about your reorganization.

We've adopted a mission, which the company hasn't had in years past. We have one goal that I hope is helping people make intelligent business decisions. We've introduce the mission of being the experts in navigating this connectivity revolution. We're reorganized the research workforce into one lean global group, with one leader at the helm, organized around answering three questions: the impact of connectivity on the network, the consumer and the enterprise.  

We've bought an events company to help us provide a public forum for discussing communications issues. We introduced a new logo and upgraded our website last October. And we've expanded our non-North American quantitative data by 40%, which is result of the fact that this revolution is happening outside the US.

What has been your most unexpected challenge‾

A lesson that I knew and had to learn again is how long change takes. If things were easy, people would have done them already. Things take a long time - and I've had to settle down and recognize that changing a company's strategy isn't done over the weekend. It's a ship you have to turn, and even a firm as modest in size as Yankee Group with 160 people, some of whom have been with the company for 20 years, it means people don't leave the old strategy in the trash on Friday and walk in with a new one on Monday.

It hasn't been that long and I know we're starting to get adoption internally. And in terms of expanding our client base and deepening our relationship with the clients we already have, the shift is proving to be exactly what the doctor ordered.