Telco killers killed at birth

I  have been meaning for a while to write some posts about all the companies that are going after the bread and butter of mobile operators by targeting their core services of voice and data, using IP as the Trojan horse.  Hotxt, Mabber, Nimbuzz and … Berggi.  The mobile telco killers.

A particular virulent post and response from mobilecrunch seems to be attempting to kill one of the telco killers before it’s killed anyone, poor Berggi being the victim.  Readers, check out this title: "a business built on bad due diligence".  Wow!  That’s blogging for you !  I don’t disagree with his comments on a weird pricing strategy, but some of the more generic comments deserve scrutiny.

Oliver focuses on the key issue faced by all of the disruptive mobile players: the need to download.  The issues range from custom API settings to poor install methods to the inability of most phones to run apps in multithreads (meaning you have to shut down the application on all but the high end to run another service).  Olivier is generally saying: if you ain’t preloaded and you ain’t marketed, you ain’t mass market.  In my experience, 70% of mobile downloads fail.  His conclusion is that:

I have never. I repeat, I have NEVER seen an application that was not on a single carrier deck get the kind of massive broad based adoption that would make it a success of the kind necessary for Berggi’s VC’s to feel like the investment was a good one.

Measure, if you will, the distance between MobileCrunch and TechCrunch.  All the complexity and frustration of mobile is in these lines.  Mobile operators, fleecing their customers on excessive voice and SMS roaming charges, are operating in an environment of such complexity that off portal just cannot threaten their core business in the way Skype did in online.

I hope that view is wrong.  It would not be good for innovation in mobile.  The recent success of shozu shows large levels of downloads can be achieved for the right app.  To confirm or dispute what Oliver says, I will start with covering hotxt through a little chat with Carl Uminksi.

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