Following a session on ‘Mobile First: Anytime, Anywhere’ at the HubForum in Paris on 10-11 October, Nicolas Petit sat down with L’Atelier to take a look at the opportunities 4G will bring and at the extremely competitive environment in the mobile sector.
L'Atelier: How do you see the current competitive environment in the mobile market?
Nicolas Petit : It’s a bit like the Wild West. We’re out on the far edge with the pioneers who are waiting to pounce. We’re now on the verge of the new digital world. And this is not just about the way we do things, about tablet and mobile device penetration; we’re talking here about a real paradigm shift. It’s about hyper-personalisation and multi-device. The new frontier is certainly multi-device but it’s also about being able to offer a world of products and services that really meet the needs.
But doesn’t the arrival of more and more players, very often low-cost entrants, pose the threat of market saturation?
I don’t think so, because the opportunities are endless – for three reasons, in my view. Firstly, the advent of 4G, which is a truly disruptive technology. It’s comparable to the move from a 56K modem to ADSL. The impact is similar, it’s all about transforming people’s habits on the one hand by enabling the fusion of fixed and mobile connections, and on the other by taking advantage of the second aspect – namely the revolution in hardware. With our mobile devices we now have access to truly amazing data processing power. Networks and hardware combined add up to making everything superfast. This revolution is nothing new, but things are happening at exponential speed. In addition, software has never been so important, as demonstrated by the Cloud phenomenon. The fact is, people no longer accept that their universe has any limits. This means we have to be much more flexible, as users expect to be freed from network constraints and limits on their ability to engage. In a world that is more transparent but also much more volatile, the brand is now set to win out over legacy loyalty – which is after all a kind of limitation in itself. The prize is what lies beyond the frontier, that new universe which everyone expects to find there. The only task left for us is to provide the right type of spades and pickaxes for those who want to come and explore it with us.
How is 4G going to change the scenario?
4G basically means two things. Firstly it’s about the return path. 4G boosts networks downstream but first and foremost it provides upstream communications – a return path – which simply didn’t exist before. With 4G you won’t necessarily need a second screen to work on raw data, edit a photo or upload a film. This will transform the way we express ourselves, but it’s also going to shake up whole industries in terms of their working tools, immediacy and availability. On a daily basis digital tools and the return path will enable very different interaction from what we have today. The second aspect is of course higher speed, greater convenience, but this comes from the enhanced downstream network. In fact a small improvement in network speed will make all the difference. Very often just a 5% improvement can make the difference between a service that works well and one that doesn’t.
What’s the strategy for penetrating this new market?
It’s a matter of potentiality. It’s essential to have the capacity to make 4G available everywhere. As far as Microsoft is concerned, we hope to continue to spread the use of 4G, to make it available to the largest possible number of people. Company market positions can change very rapidly, and we’ll have to be able to respond to needs where and when they arise. We must not restrict ourselves to one singIe platform. Instead we must retain the ability to meet the needs of users who have chosen to go with the competition, by for instance offering Microsoft Office on other platforms. As a product provider we need to keep questioning our own assumptions and keep listening to the users.