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Monday, November 20, 2006

Canning Fok: It's just a flesh wound!

Listening to Canning Fok at the launch of the X-Series reminded me of the Black Knight in Monty Python and The Holy Grail.

Under normal circumstances, the list of woes (late launch, poor handsets, huge subsidies, huge churn, repeated missing of financial targets, failure to IPO Italy) of H3G is longer than any telecoms executive could possibly be comfortable with and yet the attitude of Canning Fok seems to be that “Hutchison looks at the long run and has been proven correct many times before and all the setbacks at H3G should be seen as mere flesh wounds.”

I took the whole X-Series launch event as a complete volte-face for Hutchison equivalent to the Italians changing sides at the end of the Second World War.

It is hardly surprising that the Internet High Command were present and egging Canning Fok on; the presence of Nokia and SonyEricsson would have been slightly more of a concern to the Mobile High Command. The Internet Crowd have been looking for a mobile operator who would allow them free and unfettered access to their networks since the turn of the century. They are doubly keen now that it looks as if Wimax and Muni-Wi-Fi face an uncertain future at best.

The interesting part was that no pricing or forecasts were revealed and therefore it is impossible to calculate the potential damage which will be done mobile industry business models. The comment from the Microsoft representative was intriguing:
Since we switched our Messenger service to the 3 network people are able to message more often and we have seen 100 million Messenger conversations on the 3 platform since August in the UK alone. Every day that is people sending 1 million instant messages to their friends, to their colleagues and as they plan to go out to meet them, go to the movies, have dinner or whatever it is they want to do.
This will have sent shivers down the spine of Peter Erksine. O2 is the 800lb gorilla of UK Text Messaging handling 35% of all text messages. They are developing a next-generation IP messaging platform which I’m sure does not give a prominent place to MSN, Yahoo or Sykpe. Can you imagine the pain if all this SMS traffic moves to MSN? I do not know of one teenager who actually prefers texting to MSN. The functionality is in a different league and in additional the cost equation will probably be compelling.

I am reminded of the Uruk army storming the gate at Helm’s Deep in The Two Towers. Will Gandalf and the Riders of Rohan come to the rescue? The Uruk’s are of course the Internet Barbarians with their scorched earth policy to any telco business. The only way out seems for Arun Sarin and the Vodafone team to buy out the trouble makers from Hong Kong. The X-Series launch may not yet prove to be the decisive battle in the internet – mobile wars.