Geoff Thomas is the General Manager for Asia Pacific, Greater China, India and Japan within the Communications Sector at Microsoft. He is responsible for sales and marketing, business development, consulting and support services for leading telecommunications companies, service providers, and media and entertainment companies in Asia. Mr Thomas is a Microsoft veteran of over 17 years; since joining Microsoft in Sydney as an account manager in 1991, he has held various positions in Asia Pacific and the US, spanning the enterprise, SMB and channel segments. Geoff Thomas holds a Bachelor of Business degree from Kuring-gai College of Advanced Education in Sydney, Australia, majoring in accounting and finance.
The ‘connected lifestyle’ depends upon user-centric s voice, video and data services integrated into innovative Web services, available on a wide variety of fixed and mobile devices, that expand and facilitate the user’s personal business and social lives. Such services will help service providers attract and retain individual and enterprises subscribers. Increasingly, these services will be resident on the Web, - the ‘cloud’, not the device, as software as a service (SaaS); and operators will offer a combination of software plus services.
The trend towards a connected lifestyle is already a reality today - people are tapping the networked world for everything, from remote access to business email, to shopping and research, to watching a movie or catching up with friends. They 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 user, where, when and how they want it. We know that traditional telecommunications services such as voice, video and data are being integrated with innovative Web services to create myriad combinations of services. Service providers are also beginning to deliver connected services over a wide range of devices, to further drive demand. To succeed in this connected age, service providers need to focus on connecting people and being more user-centric. What this means is that all devices must be ‘service connected’, whether it is a PC, mobile phone or a handheld device. This will allow people to get the latest software, browsing applications and data easily and, as well, allow them to personalize content to their specific interests and lifestyles. In the highly competitive telecoms market, innovative services will be a key differentiator to help service providers retain and attract subscribers. The key to delivering these unique, personalized services is software, and service providers will increasingly rely on the magic of software to deliver a range of services to large enterprises, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and consumers. We envisage operators offering 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. We see the telecommunications industry continuing to evolve and service providers adapting new ways in which they approach the services’ marketplace to expand their offerings to end-users. Services in the Cloud Vanson Bourne Ltd conducted a global study in 2008 to look at how small businesses use and manage their IT, as well as their attitudes toward hosted IT services. The study took a snapshot of small business IT behaviour in 11 countries worldwide - Australia, China, Japan, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Russia, United Kingdom, Canada, and the USA. The results showed that SMEs in the Asia Pacific have a good understanding of IT and how to use IT in their business. Most businesses in China, Australia and Japan (83 per cent, 60 per cent and 55 per cent, respectively) agreed that IT was important for most small businesses. They currently used mobile email services, and recognized software as a service (SaaS) as a cost efficient way of getting business-class communications services without large investments. Not only did these SMEs believe that buying software on a subscription basis reduced the reliance on IT skills and offer enterprise-class security protection, they also felt that SaaS allowed them to focus on their core business priorities. These findings were reinforced by a recent IDC report that anticipated cloud computing services to increase in 2009. The firm also anticipated that services in the cloud will form a quarter to a third of all incremental global IT spending by 20121. Cloud computing is a general concept that incorporates SaaS, Web 2.0 and other recent, well-known technology trends using the Internet. This mode of acquiring and consuming IT services on a subscription basis has become ever more apparent at this time of global economic uncertainty. Software-plus-services As businesses become more Internet-literate, and the case for using online software will drive strong demand for service providers, we can expect an increase in Software-plus-Services that will bring together a set of both on-premise and service-based IT capabilities, enabling service providers to optimize the portfolio of software and services across their network infrastructure. For example, SingTel and Telstra have chosen to broaden their service offerings in the SaaS space. SingTel’s Hosted BizExchange service, a hosted messaging and collaboration solution offers subscribers all the rich features and functions of a corporate mail system. Telstra is working to bring together business software applications, mobile services and devices, and integrated computer and telephony services over Telstra’s Next IP™ and Next G™ networks. The alliance will enable Australian businesses and government organizations to access business software applications hosted ‘in the cloud’ and made available through a simple per-user subscription service; access corporate-grade, secure all-in-one mobile email, calendar, contacts, web browser, business software and mobile phone solutions; and integrate telephony services with familiar email applications. The first solution from this alliance is the Telstra Mobile User interface. It will give Australian customers simple ‘one click’ access to the applications and services they regularly use via a set of touch-enabled menus and scrolling applets that users can flick across their home screen. The interface will bring the most popular applications to the home screen, including address book and email, mobile office applications and Telstra’s mobile services including Big Pond, Mobile FOXTEL from Telstra and Sensis Search. Customized touch applets such as Picture Show, World Clock and Tasks will also be available on the new interface providing targeted information to Australian consumer and business customers. In India, Bharti Airtel launched an online desktop that gives access to a personal virtual desktop from any computer connected to the Internet, allowing users to rent software per month. This initiative will pave the way for easy and affordable access to computing and broadband in India, and will be available to all Airtel broadband customers across 95 cities in the country. Next generation services To make things even more exciting for operators and mobile users, services recently announced at the Mobile World Congress will enable people to access, manage and back up the personal information on their devices to a password-protected Web-based service. With automatic syncing and backup, users can ensure that their contacts, appointments, text messages and other information are up to date and easily restored should they lose or upgrade their phones. Consumers will also be able to automatically upload photos and video from their phones directly to a Web-based service, making it simple to preserve content that, in the past, would have lived and died on the phone. In addition, consumers can easily find, install and experience applications that fit their needs and make the phone truly personal using Web-based services that provide rich, integrated, sites for searching, browsing and purchasing mobile applications from mobile phones or from PCs. A service ecosystem is needed to create and bring to market the most compelling services, to bring together service providers with independent software vendors (ISVs), developers, system integrators and network equipment providers. Such an ecosystem will establish a global marketplace for services where developers and other players can collaborate to drive innovation. The SingTel-sponsored Mobile Connected Services Accelerator is one such initiative. ISVs were shortlisted to incubate, and ultimately commercialize, new types of consumer, business and mobile services for smartphones and mobile broadband PCs. As a result ISVs, V3 Teletech and Formotus, developed two new mobile LBS applications for the logistics and transportation sector. Celcom in Malaysia is also participating in a programme to incubate and nurture Malaysian mobile application developers, and provide them with compelling business opportunities. The way forward Service syndication seems the most logical and sustainable business opportunity to address growing demand for more easily consumable services. Syndication describes the business agreements between the various providers and vendors in the services supply chain that come together to provide a service. These agreements provide a definition of service, utilization of the service, commercial agreements, and any applicable service level agreements resulting in a seamless end user experience.