|Issue:||Asia-Pacific II 2008|
|Topic:||Connected lifestyle, connected life|
|Title:||General Manager, Communications Sector, Asia-Pacific|
Sandi Thomas is the General Manager for Asia-Pacific, for Microsoft’s Communications Sector. Ms Thomas, based in Singapore, oversees the sales operations across ten countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Ms Thomas is a Microsoft veteran of over 14 years; she joined Microsoft as group product manager for Microsoft Works, where she was responsible for product planning and marketing. Sandi Thomas has dual BA degrees in Political Science and African/African-American studies from Stanford University.
The number and types of devices – PCs, laptops, smartphones, etc. – are growing and so is connectivity and usage. In the near future, all media and entertainment will be software driven and ‘service connected’. The focus will be upon being more user-centric. Telecom service providers, equipment manufacturers, software developers, systems integrators – among others – already form a complex ecosystem that provides support for telecom service providers and, more importantly, to users of the services that create connected lifestyles.
Checking e-mail, watching a video or surfing the Internet, people do this not only on their PCs or laptops, but they are also increasingly using their smartphones to access this information. Such has been the development in telecommunications that it is almost unimaginable being without access to the Internet or e-mail. Staying connected is no longer only possible with a wired line, but through a plethora of wireless means as well. Today, people are tapping the networked world for everything, from remote access to business e-mail, to shopping and research to watching a movie or catching up with friends. People want to stay connected with each other and to information, anywhere and at any time. The connected lifestyle presents a world in which information and entertainment can flow to the consumer or business user, where, when and how they want it. We are already seeing this happening in the Asia-Pacific region. According to an Ernst & Young report on the Asian telecommunications industry, the region is leading global expansion in mobile subscribers and infrastructure, as a result of low fixed-line penetration and strong mobile take-up. Mobile dominates the telecom landscape in the region – in 2006 there were one billion mobile phone subscribers in Asia – Ernst & Young anticipates that over half of the world’s mobile subscribers will be in Asia by 2010. That said, the digital divide still exists in the emerging markets, especially in rural areas, and telcos need to understand how best to bridge this gap. Users want connected services Having access is nothing without the magic of software. In the converged world, traditional telecommunications services such as voice, video and data are being integrated with innovative Web services to create myriad new combinations of services. Microsoft founder Bill Gates noted in his keynote speech at the 2008 International Consumer Electronics Show that all media and entertainment will be software driven. The second digital decade would be focused on connecting people and being more user-centric. What this means is that all devices will be ‘service connected’, whether it is via a PC, mobile phone or a handheld device. This will allow people to get the latest software, browsing applications and data easily and also allow them to personalise content to their specific interests and lifestyles. In addition, they will be able to choose how they want to receive and view this content – be it on a television, PC, mobile phones or portable digital players – anytime, anywhere. In order to achieve a win-win situation for telcos and subscribers, telcos need to find ways to monetise demand for connected lifestyles by delivering greater value to their customers. Service providers today are focused on when, where and how content is to be delivered to consumers; the next step is to embrace the principles of Web 2.0 and capitalise on existing assets to deploy a range of ‘managed network mashups’. Telcos would then be able to offer hundreds of services that bring together different applications and content, from a variety of sources, to form composite services; in this world, the combinations of potential new services are nearly limitless. This is what we call Telco 2.0 In order for telcos to succeed in this Telco 2.0 era, new forms of partnerships need to be forged. For this next generation of innovation, there is a need for close relationships between content providers and the content delivery mechanisms (service providers). In addition, the key to delivering the unique, highly personalised services consumers want in a connected lifestyle, is the combination of telecommunications infrastructure, service integration, and the magic of software. To this end, service providers rely on software and hardware suppliers for key components – service delivery, services, screens and devices. They rely on their partner ecosystem to deliver a broad range of services to enterprises, SMBs and consumers, and this helps make Telco 2.0 a reality. Service delivery It is essential for service providers to efficiently – and cost-effectively – develop and deploy new services, to further the development of Telco 2.0. Just as the IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) controls connectivity at the network level, the service delivery platform manages connectivity of services on the network and their delivery over the network infrastructure through broadband, mobile and fixed access to screens and devices of all sorts. A connected services framework is an integrated server-based solution that allows operators to aggregate, provision and manage converged communications services for subscribers, regardless of the networks or devices used. For example, operators can deliver IPTV together with a range of other communications and entertainment services, such as instant messaging, e-mail, voice and gaming, efficiently over the same infrastructure. Worldwide, more than 20 telcos, including Chunghwa Telecom, Celcom and Beijing Mobile, have selected this type of integrated server-based solution as their service delivery platform. A connected services ‘sandbox’ is a proof-of-concept and integration environment. It allows independent software vendors (ISVs) systems integrators (SIs), network equipment providers (NEPs) and telecommunications service providers to develop and test new communications services and, ultimately, bring them to market. A ‘sandbox’ encourages the creation of ‘managed network mash-ups’ in which Web services are combined with traditional telecommunications offerings, and then can be offered through the Software as a Service (SaaS) model and delivered across virtually any type of network or device. Services The services layer is where traditional telecommunications services, hosted services and Web services such as eBay, Paypal, Amazon and Google co-exist together. Software, services and solutions providers, enable new revenue-generating opportunities for service providers through solutions that include service provider-hosted business and consumer services. In addition, by combining server and client-side software assets with services to deliver an end-to-end offering, in a ‘software + services’ package, customers get the best of both worlds. Using a software + services approach and a pay-as-you-go model, telcos can offer enterprise-class software bundled with connectivity solutions to small businesses that do not have dedicated IT resources. This means that SMBs can enjoy the same experience as large enterprise customers without the heavy initial investment. Some of the leading telcos that are offering such services include AIS, SingTel and Tata Communications. Screens and devices At the end of the converged IP network for fixed and mobile networks are the screens and devices that we use in our connected lifestyle. On this front, we provide the operating platforms that deliver a common user experience, whether on a PC, a TV or a mobile device. Looking ahead In the days to come, the connected lifestyle will encompass services using a wide range of devices. Beyond just telecommunications, such full-feature devices will open a window into a world of rich content and entertainment with seamless access. Telcos have the relationships, infrastructure and foundation services to succeed in the converged world. Today, the leading Asia-Pacific services providers – Beijing Mobile, Chunghwa Telecom, Japan Telecom, KT, Reliance, SingTel, Shanghai Telecom, Softbank and Telecom New Zealand – are already working with us to achieve this vision of a connected lifestyle. There are exciting prospects arising out of the collaboration with service provider partners. Combining expertise, a focus on software + services, and a strong partner ecosystem of NEPs and ISVs lets service providers adapt to the changing technology landscape and deliver services that are useful and relevant to their subscribers. This not only opens up additional revenue streams and increases profitability, but also enables them to develop strong customer relationships in the connected world.