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Jeff Kagan

Technology Industry Analyst

Industry Analyst  Tech Analyst Wireless Analyst   Telecom Analyst

Columns ~ 2014

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E-Commerce Times       




Jeff Kagan is a Tech Analyst, Consultant and Columnist.

He writes a column for both E-Commerce Times with ECT News with 6 million readers and is carried on thousands of web sites, and for..., a Global Financial Community magazine and now web site started in the 1950's.

Pick of the Week, is part of most columns and highlight a company or technology or something new, interesting and exciting that Jeff Kagan discovered and wants to share with you. 


As a nationally and internationally recognized industry analyst Jeff Kagan is also a highly sought commentator, columnist, speaker, author, professional agitator, opinion-ator and provocateur.


"Jeff Kagan became the single most widely quoted analyst in the telecommunications industry"

Dick Martin, Executive Vice President of Public Relations at AT&T (retired) said this in his book "Tough Calls: AT&T and the Hard Lessons Learned from the Telecom Wars"


 Analysis of high tech products and trends and the changes that are reshaping the industry


To learn more about Jeff Kagan visit


COLUMN TITLES (columns below)


Jeff Kagan: Verizon Slowing Wireless Data Speeds

Jeff Kagan: Wireless Industry Wave Changing Industry

The Slow but Steady March to the Cloud

Jeff Kagan: Comcast Gives Self Black Eye with Poor Customer Service

Are You There Corporation? It's Me, Customer

Jeff Kagan: Whatís Next for Aereo and TV?

Will the Smartwatch Finally Get Hot or Not?

Shame on Facebook

Jeff Kagan: Status Report of Sprint Network Upgrade

Will NEST Get Too Nosy?

Jeff Kagan: Aereo Lost, But Broadcasters Should Not Think They Won Either

How Will Regulators Chaperone the Big Merger Dance?

Jeff Kagan: Will Fire Phone Be a Success?

Apple's Crucial Marketing Challenge

Jeff Kagan: Netflix Says Verizon Slowest of All ISPs

EU Smacks Google Upside the Head Over Right to Be Forgotten

Jeff Kagan: Whatís Special About Samsung Curved TV?

Destination Cloud: Are We There Yet?

Jeff Kagan: Hedge Funds and Investors Want to Know Whatís Next

AT&T Catches a Wave

Jeff Kagan: Next Wave in Mergers and Acquisitions Has Begun

Pulling Google Back to the Right Side of the Privacy Line

Jeff Kagan: Is AT&T-DirecTV the Next Big Merger?

New Car Tech: Smartphones In, Privacy Out

Jeff Kagan: Companies Are Rushing to the Cloud

AT&T In-Flight WiFi Could Soar

Jeff Kagan: 3D Printing is Huge New Opportunity

Is Square Mobile Payments in Trouble?

Jeff Kagan: AT&T, Verizon, Sprint Connected Car Opportunity

Jeff Kagan: Why Did Google Disappoint and Whatís Next?

The Ultra High-Speed Internet Race Is On

Which Wireless Network Is Best for You?

Jeff Kagan: Microsoft, Yahoo, Sony Follow Netflix Into TV

BlackBerry's Coca-Cola Moment

Jeff Kagan: Status Report on Vonage VoIP

HTC Needs to Turn Up the Heat

Jeff Kagan: Every Company Rides Growth Wave Up and Down

Jeff Kagan: Cloud Based Computing Winners and Losers

Why Didn't Fliers on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 Call or Text?

Jeff Kagan: Sprint Chairman on Ultra Fast Internet and T-Mobile Merger

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: False Hope in the Sound of Ringing Phones

Jeff Kagan: Can Radio Shack Recover Before Itís Too Late?

Sprint Softbank's Jockeying for the Inside Track

Comcast-Netflix Deal: Watershed Moment for Web Content

Jeff Kagan: Will Facebook WhatsApp Voice Calling be a Winner?

Comcast-TWC Merger Is All About Investors  

Cable TV's Chilly Customer Relationships

Jeff Kagan: Sprint, T-Mobile Deal Fading - Whatís Next?

The New Wireless Wave: Prices Falling, Cloud Rising

Jeff Kagan: Why Does Lenovo Want Motorola?

AT&T's Gently Simmering Vodafone Ambitions

Jeff Kagan: When Will Apple Start to Grow Again?

Wireless in Autos: The Delicate Balance Between Change and Choice

Jeff Kagan: Will Aereo Win at Supreme Court?

T-Mobile, the Rip Van Winkle of Wireless

Jeff Kagan: Is Cable TV Winning Again?

CES 2014: Wireless Digs Deeper Into Our Lives



Jeff Kagan: Verizon Slowing Wireless Data Speeds

By Jeff Kagan

July 28, 2014 1:22PM   

Tickers Mentioned: VZ









Verizon slowing data speeds, wiresless data, AT&T Mobility, C-Spire, T-Mobile

Verizon Wireless (VZ)  is going to start slowing data speeds to the heaviest wireless data users. I have been warning about this for years. Itís the price we may all have to start paying as the spectrum shortage really starts to impact the marketplace. So what is the real problem and what solutions are there?

In the good ole days, wireless was all about making a phone call from a cell phone. However ever since the first Apple (AAPL) iPhone and Google Android hit the marketplace a few years ago, wireless is increasingly all about wireless data.

Wireless data is all the apps we use on smartphones. Everything from email, text messages, surfing the web, using Facebook (FB), LinkedIn (LNKD), and Twitter (TWTR) and a thousand other apps.

Actually itís more like a million other apps. Thatís right, the app marketplace has exploded in the last few years, from a few hundred to roughly a million in just the last few years. And there is no sign of that growth stopping.

Using these apps requires spectrum. Wireless bandwidth. Spectrum is the on and off ramps of the wireless information superhighway.

Itís what the carrier owns and users interact with you so you can use these wireless data services.

The big problem these days is we have a limit on the wireless data spectrum and usages continues to grow.

This is not new. We have had this shortage problem over the last several years. It potentially impacts every wireless carrier including AT&T Mobility (T) , Verizon Wireless, Sprint (S), T-Mobile ($TMUS), C Spire, US Cellular and more.

And that means it impacts every wireless customer as well. Anyone who uses apps may be affected.

What Verizon is doing is limiting the amount of wireless data their largest customers use at high speeds. They are doing this to make sure all their other customers donít get degraded service.

This is not new. Verizon has been doing this for awhile already. I guess they are just making everyone aware of this latest move so there are no big surprises when the door shuts.

This makes sense. Their heaviest users wonít like it much since they will get their usage limited. But thatís the real world problems we must deal with.

Large national carriers and smaller regional carriers all face the same potential problem. They need spectrum. This is vital for their survival and growth going forward.

However, there simply is not enough spectrum to satisfy every carrier. So itís time carriers learned to start working together. To share spectrum. Because without spectrum, carriers cannot stay in business.

Without carriers working together, I am sure the government will step in and start to direct. That overkill is something that every player wants to avoid.

I have read where larger, national carriers like AT&T are working with regional carriers, providing them access to spectrum so they can also continue to grow and be competitive.

Thatís exactly what has to happen to keep all competitors healthy.

However the next question is simpleÖ is that enough?

The simple answer is, no. As we go through the years, more customers sign up and use more wireless data. That means the limited spectrum will start to pinch everyone.

One answer is, as the technology advances, we will be able to use more wireless data services over existing spectrum.

Another answer is carriers getting their hands on more spectrum wherever they can find it.

However, there is no real long-term answer today. That means working together is the only way forward. Either carriers work together and share spectrum voluntarily, or wait for the government to step in.

And when the government steps in, they usually create more problems than they solve.

So we have no real long-term solutions. All we are doing today is just buying more to find a real, long-term answer.

The spectrum shortage is an industry wide problem that is growing. To date each carrier is trying to get their hands on as much spectrum as they can.

Companies who do get spectrum will have the ability to service customers. Those who donít wonít. So for now, sharing spectrum is the only real answer.

DISCLOSURE: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors, and do not represent the views of Readers should not consider statements made by the author as formal recommendations and should consult their financial advisor before making any investment decisions.

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Jeff Kagan: Wireless Industry Wave Changing Industry

By Jeff Kagan 

July 25, 2014 6:00AM   

Tickers Mentioned: BBRY   NOK   AAPL   GOOG   TMUS   S   T

Blackberry, Nokia, smartphones apps, Apple waves, Motorola, Samsung tablets

The wireless industry has grown and changed many times over the last few decades. In fact, every five to ten years there is a major transformation that changes the trajectory of the industry. Growth continues, but on a new track. And this kind of change is starting to happen again.

The last major shift was to super smartphones and tablets that we all take for granted today. It was only a few short years ago this wave of change occurred. The iPhone was introduced in 2007, and the iPad in 2010.

All this dramatic change we have been experiencing with smartphones, tablets and a gazillion apps is only a few years old. Thatís incredible to stop and think about.

Until that point Blackberry (BBRY)  and Nokia (NOK) lead the wireless handset space. There were only a few hundred apps. However once the iPhone and Android were launched, they ravaged the status quo.

Previous leaders like Blackberry and Nokia suddenly had the rug ripped out from under them.

Today leaders in the smartphone and tablet space are Apple (AAPL) , Google (GOOG) , and Samsung with the vast majority of market share in every new category. And there are roughly one million apps.

I was recently interviewed by the Wall Street Journal and said that I think Apple will remain a powerhouse because of itís market share, but it may not see another growth wave as big and bold as the last several years with their iPhone.

Look at the iPad as an example. Successful, but not as successful as the iPhone. In fact I could add one more thought. Just as Blackberry, Nokia and Motorola lead the last wave, itís possible a new idea could transform the industry once again.

Thatís right. There is nothing keeping another breakthrough idea or company from changing the marketplace again. And the next idea may come from a newcomer to the space the same as Apple was.

That threat should keep todayís leaders like Apple, Google and Samsung awake at night.

Riding the Growth Wave

Everytime a company grabs the golden ring we think tomorrow will always be better. Well that hope does not always pan out. Typically a company rides a "Wave" to success. A product or a line rides a Wave. But remember every Wave rises, crests, then falls.

Apple has had several Waves including the iPod, iPhone and iPad. Each rides itís own path. Each rises, crests, then falls.

Apple has not introduced a new growth Wave recently, have they? The iPod is no longer growing. The iPhone is still the strongest and still growing, but not as rapidly. The iPad has shown rapid growth, but that growth is also slower than the iPhone. But nothing since.

Each rides itís own wave. Thatís why Apple must create the next growth Wave to ride.

And in fact that lesson should be learned by every company. There is no such thing as guaranteed long-term success. Today success is a very short-term thing. And it must be renewed year after year.

If a company does not introduce new Waves of growth, they will start to slow down. Once that slowdown happens itís tough to start the growth engines once again. Just look at companies like Motorola, Blackberry and Nokia as recent examples.

The wireless industry as a whole has gone through several different growth waves as well. Every five to ten years there is an event that takes the industry in a new direction of growth. The last was the Apple, Google and Samsung growth wave with smartphones and tablets.

And the next change Wave in wireless is starting now.

Over the next several years the wireless industry and all the competitors will change. They will continue to grow, but on a new path. They will grow, but they will look different going forward.

The wireless pricing model is one area of change. The way companies compete will also change.

There are fewer new customers to win today. That means companies must win customers from each other and hang on to the customers they already have.

This is good news for customers. This means quality, customer service and customer care will continue to improve. This means pricing will drop. This means new innovation and new thinking in the pricing models will transform the industry.

Wireless Industry Evolving

The first companies into this new space are AT&T (T) Mobility and T-Mobile (TMUS) . They are transforming their business models and changing the economics of their business. They are offering lower prices, promoting pre-paid and seeing growth.

AT&T earnings report shows they added more than one million post-paid subscribers during the second quarter. They said this was their strongest performance in five years.

I think their low churn rates are also impressive. If you are an AT&T customer you have to think thatís incredible. Thatís why you stay with AT&T keeping churn rates low.

Verizon (VZ)  also showed very strong smartphone performance this quarter. However Verizon is not changing anything yet.

Sprint ($S) is in the process of creating an entirely new network experience for their customers.

T-Mobile is also a player in this wave of industry change. They are not yet as large or as important as AT&T or Verizon, but they do have a very high profile and are driving attention of customers and the media to this industry change. Thatís good.

I expect this transformation in pricing to occur over the next several years. It may have started with AT&T and T-Mobile, but I think will spread to the rest of the industry as well.

How will the industry players compete going forward with fewer new customers and very low churn rates? Thatís the challenge.

Pricing may be one answer. Quality of service is another. Innovation is another. Weíll start thinking about wireless differently. Using wireless differently.

There are many areas where we will see competition going forward. Today AT&T and Verizon are both strong companies, but are on different tracks. AT&T drives industry change. Verizon follows a few years later.

I would say both Sprint and T-Mobile look very promising going forward. Sprint is in the process of replacing their entire wireless network for better performance and T-Mobile continues its recent growth wave.

These two companies may play a role in redefining competition going forward after their wave of transformation is complete.

I expect pre-paid to continue. I expect quality to improve. I expect low churn rates to continue.

This spells a very healthy industry. However investors always look to make money so we will continue to see innovation change the industry. That means change in strategy to keep growth levels high.

I think the next few years will be very exciting as the wireless industry emerges from its cocoon and comes out a butterfly. Not every company will be a winner, but the opportunity is there for all. The next Wave of change is just beginning.

DISCLOSURE: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors, and do not represent the views of Readers should not consider statements made by the author as formal recommendations and should consult their financial advisor before making any investment decisions.

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The Slow but Steady March to the Cloud

The cloud rollout will be a long-term process over many years, but I think it's unstoppable. It's important to recognize that the cloud is more than just electronics. It's also people who understand how to operate in this new world. Executives and workers must understand. That's part of the process that slows down adoption -- people learning new skills.

By Jeff Kagan

07/24/14 6:12 AM PT

The cloud is an idea that actually has been with us for many years before we gave it the name "cloud." All of a sudden, it is growing into a large and important space. Most companies are dipping their toes in the cloud -- however, many corporate customers are going only so far. Why the delay?

Fear of the unknown is one reason. No doubt the cloud is going to be the way we do things in the future. However, the road to that future is full of bumps and turns. There is also an important element of trust that is just not there yet.

Stormy Weather

There have been high-profile problems with the cloud in recent years from big brand-name players. Sometimes cloud services go down, in part or in whole. Sometimes outages affect all of a company's stored information and other times just part of it. Sometimes they affects users' ability to access their data.

There are also security threats that companies are concerned about. These factors are creating the element of fear they have in jumping all-in to the cloud.

The areas where companies are testing are less vital areas of their business. However, key parts are still cloud-free and staying that way for a while.

We will see the cloud space continue to grow, but only for less sensitive areas of a business' operations. That's why the cloud rollout will continue in fits and starts over coming years. Parts of a company will go online while other parts stay far away.

We are seeing the cloud space really start to grow with competitors like Oracle, Salesforce, SAP, Microsoft, HP, Amazon, Cisco, IBM and many others.

The competitors in this space will continue to grow and change as this industry segment does. Leadership also will change over coming years.

Don't think today's leaders will be tomorrow's leaders. It is very early in this new cloud game, and like any horse race, leadership changes time and time again. That will make this an interesting market to follow.

There will be several brand new players in this space that will grow rapidly but are not yet even on the radar. That's the way business works. Suddenly newcomers with big ideas will challenge the industry and take us in new directions.

As security improves and innovation continues, expect to see more companies jumping further into the cloud space. Eventually, bit by bit, companies will start to put key applications online.

The Cloud's Learning Curve

There are different types of clouds. There are public, private and hybrid clouds. They each have their own unique security and operational challenges.

Companies will first put their most critical information in a private cloud. Then, when they feel it is safe, they will go hybrid, intermingling with the public space.

Companies in some industries will be first while others will take longer. Companies are already doing business without the cloud, so they have no real need to rush into the space.

The cloud rollout will be a long-term process over many years, but I think it's unstoppable.

It's important to recognize that the cloud is more than just electronics. It's also people who understand how to operate in this new world. Executives and workers must understand. That's part of the process that slows down adoption -- people learning new skills.

That's why educating and training the workforce to implement the cloud will be important going forward. Today it's an edge for an individual -- but tomorrow, it will be expected.

Many executives fear that if one of their key suppliers goes down, then that will shut them down as well, since they are all connected in the cloud space.

This is a real concern.

However, some companies are always first to the table. They are the early adopters. They take advantage of the benefits and wrestle with the problems first.

Then, over time, other segments start to jump in as well. This is how the cloud will expand over the next several years.

All of this and more explain why the cloud is the future of business -- but it also explains why the rollout will take time. Since this is such a large and important transformation of the business community, it's important to take things slow and get it right. 

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


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Jeff Kagan: Comcast Gives Self Black Eye with Poor Customer Service

By Jeff Kagan 

July 17, 2014 1:16PM   

Tickers Mentioned: CMCSA   TWC   LUV

Comcast poor customer service, comcast cancel service, comcast investors, comcast digital

Why does Comcast (CMCSA)  keep punching themselves in the gut with poor customer service? With competition increasing and new choices popping up all the time, they should be trying to improve customer relations. Instead they are embarrassed by a customer care representative that simply wonít do as the customer asks and cancel service.

Is this any way to win in an increasingly competitive playing field? This customer service disaster was recorded by the customer and went viral this week. This real life scenario will hurt Comcast in their efforts to improve service and customer relations.

The problem is Comcast Ė along with the entire cable television space Ė has a well earned, lousy customer care reputation. Faced with new competitors, new technology and innovation the industry continues to lose customers and market share.

Thatís why the entire industry has embarked on an effort to improve their customer relations. Smart, since thatís exactly what they need to do in order to remain competitive and viable going forward.

Is it working? I have noticed an improvement over the last few years; however that improvement is only marginal. It is not strong enough and they have not done it long enough to make an impression on the customer yet.

This is the customer service time bomb they are trying to disarm now that it suits them. The bomb the industry created itself by not caring about the customer.

The problem is it takes a quantum leap improvement over an extended period of time, and efforts to date are simply not there yet.

I do believe if they continue this, they will improve over the course of the next decade, but thatís a long time. And until then, these customer service disasters only reinforce the poor reputation in the customers mind.

An apology from an embarrassed Comcast corporate headquarters is helpful. Itís better than ignoring this disaster. But itís not enough.

Real improvement in service and reliability and pricing is what will turn the tide. And that, while better, is still a long way from being goodÖ forget about excellent.

Digital Switch Still Hurting Customer Relations

Another recent problem is their transformation from analog to digital network design. This caused customers to have to lease monthly boxes for every television so they can watch TV. That increased customer costs.

Often one or more of these boxes simply lose signal. You then have to call customer service and they walk through a series of steps and often get you back online.

This problem is new and occurs on a regular basis. It causes affected customers to call Comcast time after time.

To the customer this says that Comcast is more concerned with making their investors happy than their customers. This may be good if you are investor in Comcast, but not so good if you are a customer.

Customer care reps always seem to be good natured and helpful. This is welcomed since customers often call with an attitude since this kind of problem keeps occurring. However a good attitude does not solve the problem.

Neither does PR. They run television advertising to improve their image with the customer. One TV commercial shows a ticked off customer with a Comcast service rep in a Comcast van. It starts with the customer hating Comcast customer service, but ends 30 seconds later ends with him changing his mind because of what the Comcast rep says.

If only life were that simple. The problem is after that commercial the customer still must deal with regular outages from one or more of their converter boxes on an ongoing basis.

Time Warner Cable (TWC) made the same switch from analog to digital. And customers have the same problem with the converter boxes.

However at least Time Warner Cable left their analog signal on so customers with service problems could at least fall back on a service that worked.

Comcast didnít. Comcast turned off their analog signal forcing their customers to deal with regular service outages.

This is the difference between a company that only focuses on the investor like Comcast, and another company who focuses on both the customer and the investor like Time Warner Cable.

Cable: Take a Cue From Southwest Airlines

Fortune Magazine called Herb Kelleher, past CEO of Southwest Airlines (LUV)  the best CEO in America. One thing Kelleher was famous for saying was simple. Take good care of your workers and they will take good care of your customers. Then the investors will be happy.

That makes so much sense if the cable television industry will just listen and learn.

Comcast does offer fast Internet service, but they also have many service problems to deal with. If Comcast is successful with their Time Warner Cable acquisition, customers will have to learn to deal with these problems as well.

Cable television is an industry we have all grown up with. They never faced competition before so they never cared whether the customer was happy. They only focused on the investor.

However, now that the industry is being challenged by new thinking, new competitors and innovation, the cable television industry had better start focusing on improving customer care or else it will turn around and bite them in the real end. Just like this embarrassing customer service disaster.

DISCLOSURE: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors, and do not represent the views of Readers should not consider statements made by the author as formal recommendations and should consult their financial advisor before making any investment decisions.

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Are You There Corporation? It's Me, Customer

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

07/17/14 6:19 AM PT


Companies used to come out with updates and upgrades that made our lives easier and better. Today, too often, they make our lives harder and more aggravating. Companies no longer think about the user. That's why they continue to take two steps forward and one step back with their updates and upgrades. They continue to slap their customers in the face, yet expect good results.


Why do so many companies keep slapping their customers in the face and expect them to stick around? Remember the good old days, when an update or an upgrade was good news? It solved problems. Today, updates often create new problems in their wake. Today, updates are two steps forward and one step back.

Updates and upgrades used to be welcome news. They used to build a company's brand. Today, however, they often negatively impact the usability of products and services -- and that hurts the brand.

Think I'm crazy? Let me run through a list of a few updates and upgrades that may open your eyes.

Good-bye Traffic Reports, Good-bye Surfing

Toyota and Lexus make great cars. I have been buying them for years and have loved them. Recently, though, their upgrades to the navigation and electronics systems have been two steps forward and one step back.

The navigation used to work with Sirius XM radio, and it provided live traffic conditions, but only on the major highways. That was an excellent product, which built the Toyota and Lexus brands.

However, they are now moving away from Sirius XM and changing to HD signal. This provides much better traffic and weather coverage where there is an HD signal. It shows traffic on more streets in the city.

The problem is, it drops traffic coverage altogether where there is no HD signal. So Toyota says to connect your smartphone to its app to continue to get traffic and weather coverage.

That works -- sometimes. When it does not work, you get no live traffic, even on the interstates. That means you do not get traffic coverage on some highways that used to be covered by Sirius XM. This is hurting the Toyota brand.

What Toyota should have done was adopted a scaled approach until the new HD service was proven. It should start out with HD signal. When no HD signal is present, it should utilize its smartphone app. If no service is available there, it should revert back to the Sirius XM signal.

The bottom line is that customers always should be able to access the information they need -- and used to be able to get. The problem is, they can't.

Every company should think about this from the customer perspective rather than a corporate perspective. Toyota is damaging its own brand by moving two steps forward and one step back.

Comcast and Time Warner Cable are two more examples. Users were happy being able to hit their channel up or down button and surf to find the show they want. Since we've been forced to update to a digital signal, however, it takes longer to change channels -- so there is no more surfing.

In addition, there are often problems with the new digital signal, which means users have to make regular calls to customer service to send refresh signals. Sometimes that works, and sometimes it doesn't. The bottom line is that these companies are damaging their brand relationships with their customers by thinking from a corporate perspective rather than a customer perspective. Two steps forward, one step back.

Hello, Service Bills, Hello Aggravation

What about all your home appliances? Yesterday your refrigerator, stove, oven and dishwasher used to last a good 10 to 15 years without service. Today you're likely to have service issues every year or two. Over the course of the next 10 years, your service bills may equal what it would cost to buy brand new devices instead.

Of course, that's not an option, because the new devices will have service problems every couple years as well.

So, companies like Frigidaire, Whirlpool, Maytag, Hotpoint and others are damaging their own brands with the customers who used to love them.

You would think Apple was bulletproof. It used to be -- but not anymore. Today, it screws up just like the rest of corporate America.

Remember a few years ago, when Apple wanted to move away from Google Maps for navigation? Its iOS update offered a new version of Apple maps and navigation. Do you remember reading the horror stories?

What about last year's iOS update, which changed the look and design? Did this do anything new or better? I don't think so. It was just different. Why?

People have their own lives and don't have time to relearn operating systems for no good reason. These updates damage Apple brand relationship with its customers.

Microsoft is another problem. Every time it upgrades its Windows operating system, it forces customers to figure out how to use the software. This is a time-consuming aggravation that most customers hate.

Microsoft should update and upgrade its software -- that's what customers expect. However, customers don't want to spend time every couple of years going through a learning curve.

So, Microsoft should keep its OS working the same so customers are not inconvenienced. The changes should be made behind the scenes. However, that means thinking about this from the customer perspective, and Microsoft is another company that doesn't do that. Instead, it thinks about it from the corporate perspective.

This hurts the Microsoft brand with its customers. In fact, every move described above hurts the company's brand relationship with its customers. Is that really what these companies want? I can't imagine that. However, they keep heading in this same direction, year after year.

Enough examples? Convinced? I hope so.

Corporations vs. Customers

Companies used to come out with updates and upgrades that made our lives easier and better. Today, they don't. Too often, they make our lives harder and more aggravating. The problem is that companies no longer think about the user.

That's why they continue to take two steps forward and one step back with their updates and upgrades. They continue to slap their customers in the face, yet expect good results.

Companies have executives, and they are people too. They should understand how much of a pain in the neck it is dealing with the products and services in their lives.

I see no solution. Every company must understand the problem and be concerned with solving it -- be concerned with the customer reaction. Every company should be concerned with building its brand, rather than causing harm to it.

Companies should be interested in taking two steps forward -- period. It's that one step back that will eat away at their brand relationships with customers.That's the last thing any company should want. 


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


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Jeff Kagan: Whatís Next for Aereo and TV?

By Jeff Kagan

July 10, 2014 3:31PM   

Tickers Mentioned: CMCSA  TWC  T  VZ  CTL

Aereo television model, Aereo television legal, don't count Aereo out, AT&T Uverse

Weíve watched Aereo challenge the traditional television model. However now that the Supreme Court struck down their business model, many think this newcomer will simply fade away. I donít. I think Aereo will surprise us once again with a new business model and continue to compete. Just wait. Youíll see.

I will bet that both Barry Diller and Chet Kanojia are busy rethinking Aereo. And to tell you the truth I would not be at all surprised to see Aereo come back with a slightly different and new business model that keeps them just inside the line of the law.

Maybe it wonít be as profitable, but it will be legal. The next question is can they still challenge the industry?

Aereo was a dynamic idea trying to provide television service without paying a traditional fee to the television networks. If this was something that Aereo could do, I am sure others like Comcast (CMCSA) and Time Warner Cable (TWC)  would be very interested as well.

However the Supreme Court said no. Since that time, reporter after reporter who contacted me thought that was the end for Aereo. I think that my response shocked most of them when I said donít count Aereo out. Not yet.

I say the nation's television model is broken. Customers pay too much and costs keep rising every year. In fact what customers pay for cable television roughly doubles every decade. Thatís insane.

A la carte has been kicked around for more years than I can remember, and still has not become an option. Strange.

Customers would love to choose the channels they want and pay less in total. The average customer may have access to hundreds of channels, but still only watches their same favorite five, ten, or 15 channels.

Telephone companies like AT&T (T) Uverse, Verizon (VZ)  FiOS, and CenturyLink (CTL) Prism use IPTV. They deliver television over the Internet connection. In markets where they offer service and compete with cable television, they are gobbling up market share.

I remember AT&T saying at their annual meeting a few months ago they had a roughly 50 percent market share in the Dallas area. Thatís powerful competition.

The only problem is telephone company IPTV is not everywhere yet. So cable television still has a strong hold.

However that may be weakening. Cable television companies are losing market share for the first time because their prices are too high and competition is growing.

Today customers have choices. Tomorrow they will have more choices.

Customers can actually get quite a few channels for free over the antenna today. And the quality is excellent. They can also use services like Netflix,, Hulu and countless others to watch more television and movies over the Internet. And that cost is very low.

As competition increases and technology explodes like the Internet, companies with the thinking of Aereo are going to keep bursting onto the scene, changing the customer opinion of where they get television from.

If the traditional cable television model wants to survive, they must offer low cost choices to customers who want it.

So this entire television space is broken. We need to destroy it and update the model going forward. That means what customers pay their service providers, and what they pay networks and content providers.

The marketplace will continue to get crazier over the coming years as we keep trying to squeeze the new marketplace of tomorrow into the tiny model from yesterday. It just wonít fit.

I look forward to seeing the rebirth of Aereo and root for reinventing the television model that we all grew up with, but which is so outdated.

What I want to see is choice. I want every competitor to have the fair chance to compete and to win. And I want to see every customers have the choice they want for low cost service with excellent quality.

Is that too much to ask?

DISCLOSURE: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors, and do not represent the views of Readers should not consider statements made by the author as formal recommendations and should consult their financial advisor before making any investment decisions.

By    Jeff Kagan   +Follow          July 10, 2014 3:31PM 

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Will the Smartwatch Finally Get Hot or Not?

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

07/10/14 5:46 AM PT

The Apple caterpiller may be getting ready to come out of it's cocoon as a butterfly: a new Apple brand and image. Imagine that. Will Apple start to position itself as a luxury brand going forward? Will it create a new industry segment -- something like tech jewelry? It would give Apple a chance to lead a young industry segment once again. It would be so Apple.


We've been hearing all about these amazing new smartwatches. They are the remote control for our smartphones. They make doing regular tasks quicker and easier. They are said to be the most exciting new product since the smartphone. If that's the case, then why have they not taken off yet?

Ah, the million dollar question: Are smartwatches going to be hot like the smartphone and tablet, or will they simply fade away like the netbook?

Yes, I see how potentially exciting the smartwatches from Samsung and LG are. Yes, I see why Apple and Motorola and countless others want to jump onto this space as well. The opportunity is huge -- but is it a sure thing?

The question is simple: Will smart watches finally get hot or not?

Smartphone or Netbook Path?

The wireless PR machines are all running at full strength, so you would think the answer is a resounding "yes!" Then again, we thought success would come to the netbook a few short years ago, didn't we?

If you recall, the netbook -- which is still around actually -- never really became a top seller. However, right after the netbook emerged, Apple's iPad became very successful, followed by Samsung's Galaxy Tab.

The netbook missed, but the tablet hit it out of the park. So what can we expect next?

Today's smartwatches are good -- just not different enough from smartphones. That's why only the very early adopters are buyers today. In addition, the current smartwatches are just not fashionable. They are not jewelry, like watches often are.

Some people do like to wear a nice Rolex on their wrist, not a mini smartphone. That means the market is much smaller than the traditional watch market.

However, the next generation of these smartwatches may surprise us. They will do more, and they also may be more fashionable. I see all the manufacturers and networks revving their engines.

If you recall, the first iPhone was exciting -- but compared with today's version, it's a real yawn. The first Android smartphone, offered by T-Mobile, was so boring it put most people to sleep.

However, every year smartphones improved, both in design and technology. So, could we be in for a sequel with the smartwatch? The first versions are not very exciting, but as the first few years and generations pass, will the smartwatch get better -- and even fashionable?


Samsung's newest smartwatch is better than the first. It still has a long way to go before it starts attracting users in droves, but it is getting better.

Apple is not in the smartwatch business yet, but we are expecting its iWatch launch later this year. Apple may upset the apple cart with its smartwatch introduction.

Apple just hired Patrick Pruniaux who was Vice President for sales at luxury Swiss watchmaker TAG Heuer.

Apple has very recently hired Angela Ahrendts, previous chief executive at Burberry, to head its new retail and online sales.

Apple also has Paul Deneve, former leader of French fashion brand Yves Saint Laurent.

All of these are a major coup for Apple as it prepares to enter this new smartwatch space, and beyond.

Tech Jewelry

The Apple caterpiller may be getting ready to come out of it's cocoon as a butterfly: a new Apple brand and image. Imagine that.

Will Apple start to position itself as a luxury brand going forward? Will it create a new industry segment -- something like tech jewelry?

It would give Apple a chance to lead a young industry segment once again. It would be so Apple. It would separate the Apple brand from the growing list of competitors.

Will Apple's smartwatch be marketed as a fashion statement? Or will it be another electronic device? Or perhaps a little bit of both in the tech jewelry space?

There has been an extraordinary amount of attention being paid to the entire smartwatch segment, and quite a bit of money and manpower spent as well.

There are no real segment leaders today, simply because there is really nothing that excitingÖ yet.

The first efforts, by Samsung and LG, have been innovative, but are still a yawn. Apple and Motorola may enter the spotlight next.

Will the smartwatch become hot or not? As we get ready to enter the second year of this story, I get the gut feeling that things are starting to gel.

If smartwatch makers get this right, the segment could be as important as the tablet segment. Then, as these different devices sync and work together, they will attract a stable customer base for each handset maker and network.


It's important to remember that this industry continues to grow based on innovation. If we listen to the hardware makers and networks, the smartwatch is next in line.

Then the question will be, what comes after the smartwatch? Stay tuned.  

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


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Shame on Facebook

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

07/03/14 1:50 PM PT

Go ahead, Facebook -- your future is up to you. Keep abusing your users. Keep invading their privacy. Keep breaking the trust of the marketplace. You eventually will pay a very high price: government control. Imagine getting into bed each night with the government right next to you. Talk about cold feet. Facebook, your future is being written by no one other than you.


Do you remember those snotty little kids who didn't seem to understand the difference between right and wrong? You know, the little brats who thought the rules didn't apply to them. The kids who thought they could get away with whatever they wanted -- rules were for somebody else. Well, that seems to be a fitting description of Facebook, as it repeatedly breaks customer trust and invades its users' privacy.

This is not new. I remember other occasions in recent years when Facebook has invaded our privacy. Everyone seems to hate this betrayal. What I don't understand is why Facebook continues to get away with it.

The most recent invasion came to light last week, with publication of a report that Facebook had manipulated users' News Feeds to determine whether they would make positive or negative posts based one what others already had posted.

That's an interesting question. However, answering it is not worth the cost of invading the privacy and breaching the trust of customers. There are certain lines we don't cross. This is one of those lines. We simply don't hurt people to get an answer. Who the hell does Facebook think it is?

When in Doubt, Agree

Why do Facebook's leaders think they can continue to break the common sense rules of doing business -- over and over again -- and get away scot-free? Well, one reason is that nobody slaps them down when they go too far. So they keep doing it, over and over.

Facebook's excuse is that it didn't know its research methods would pose a problem. Also, those methods were allowed under the terms and conditions everyone clicks on to start using the service. That's right. You gave Facebook permission to walk all over you when you agreed to those terms.

However, if you asked all Facebook users, I am certain you would find the vast majority never read the terms and conditions. They just clicked to start using. That's the problem, right there.

That problem is magnified by companies having terms and conditions that are much too long and much too confusing.

There are many reasons users don't read terms and conditions. Some simply don't care. Others care, but don't have the time. Terms and conditions are often too long to read. Others don't understand them, because they're often written in legalese. In fact, most users never read the terms and conditions they agree to in order to use any online service.

Why? They never expect in their wildest dreams that they will be abused. After all, they are the customers. Who would hurt their customers? Well, Facebook, it seems.

For one reason or another, the vast majority of users never read the terms and conditions -- and this is a problem with many services, not just Facebook. It's a problem that we can and should solve now.

Something has to happen, right? Facebook can't continue with this kind of user abuse, can it?

Perhaps the law should be changed. What about publishing terms and conditions in larger print, easy-to-read English, and keeping them very short? A simple paragraph would do just fine. Just get to the point, mister.

Doing the Two-Step

As it stands now, terms and conditions set up most users to fail. They are too long and too complex. That's why Facebook is not scared of the courts -- but it should be scared of the growing unease among its users.

Many companies are guilty of similar despicable deeds. It's just that Facebook keeps breaking the rules in a very flamboyant way. It catches our attention.

So what's the answer? There are two options.

Step one is user control. Simply leave Facebook. That punishment from the user base will make Facebook realize it stepped over the line.

The problem is that most users don't pay attention to the news. Even if they did, since there is no other Facebook in the marketplace, there is no other place to go. So it's unfortunate that users don't use their power.

In fact, most simply don't care -- until they get burned, that is.

That leads us to step two. If people don't protect themselves, getting the government to step in is typically required. The government has stepped in before -- many times, in fact. It steps in any time it considers a company or a monopoly to be abusing its power.

This is not perfect either, since the result is not good for innovation.

However, as Facebook dominates social networking and continues to grow in importance, and as it continues to abuse users, I think we are getting closer to the point where the government will step in and start to put significant controls on the company.

When that happens, Facebook will be pinched. It will cry out and look for support from the community. However the community will be full of people it abused on its way up. That's when Facebook finally may realize the extent of the damage it has done.

However, then it will be too late.

So go ahead, Facebook -- your future is up to you. Keep abusing your users. Keep invading their privacy. Keep breaking the trust of the marketplace. You eventually will pay a very high price: government control. Imagine getting into bed each night with the government right next to you. Talk about cold feet.

Facebook, your future is being written by no one other than you. So when the government steps in and clobbers you, remember you'll have no right to complain. It's just the next natural step in this game you started and are playing against all of us, every day. Good luck. 

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


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Jeff Kagan: Status Report of Sprint Network Upgrade

By Jeff Kagan  

July 1, 2014 2:18PM   

Tickers Mentioned: S T   TMUS   VZ

Sprint, Sprint Wireless, Softbank, T-mobile merger, AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless

One of the more interesting stories this year is about the transformation the Sprint (S)  wireless network is going through. After Softbank acquired part of Sprint last summer they started pouring in billions of dollars ripping out the old network and installing brand new gear. So what is the status of the new Sprint update? Letís take a look.

Sprint held a conference in Chicago June 23 to update the community. While initial views of many going into this meeting were mixed, most were impressed with what they saw and heard.

So far, I like what I am seeing and hearing.

Sprint is continuing the build out of their new Network Vision and Sprint Spark. Based on what I am witnessing, I think things should continue to improve for the nationís number three wireless carrier in coming quarters.

At the meeting were CEO Dan Hesse, Chief Network Officer Dr. John Saw and others Sprint executives. Saw gave a rooftop cell site tour where he shows the Sprint network in action. He pointed to various features for voice and data for each Network Vision station.

It appears that in downtown Chicago, Sprint has consistently fast LTE upstream and downstream speeds. If this represents what Sprint will look like going forward, I think they could turn into a real competitor once again.

This was impressive. The next question I have is how quickly can they roll out this faster and better service to all their customers over their entire network?

Sprint Has Accomplished Much this Year

I would say the Sprint rollout will look similar to what we see with AT&T Mobility (T) , Verizon Wireless (VZ)  and T-Mobile (TMUS) . Carriers seem to start out in the center of cities then build out to cover the entire market area around each city.

With that said, when will you see service improvements? It depends where you live and work and spend time. Some cities will be earlier and others will be later, but the entire Sprint network is heading in the right direction. This entire build out should still take several quarters.

Itís important to keep things in perspective. Sprint and Softbank had a long road ahead of them when they started this journey less than a year ago. So far they have shown significant improvement in certain markets. However there is still much work to be done.

So if this meeting were a status report, Iíd say Sprint is doing the right things and getting better, faster and stronger, quarter-by-quarter.

We are starting to see the promise of what this new Sprint network will deliver to the industry meaning customers, partners and investors.

The network appears to be fast, it is high quality, it is clear, it is secure and it can handle quite a bit of voice and data traffic without getting bogged down.

Building From the Big Cities Out

This Chicago event said nothing about the potential T-Mobile merger. Instead it did shed light on where Sprint stands today and the direction they are heading in.

Sprint was impressive in Chicago.

There is still quite a bit of network build out that has to occur. Sprint will start offering this new service in the downtown areas of cities nationwide. Then they will spread further throughout the cities over time.

We must evaluate Sprint like we do AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile. Every wireless carrier takes time to continually upgrade their networks. No carrier updates the entire network all at once. They update bit-by-bit over several years.

Thatís what the build out from 2G to 3G to 4G and beyond is all about. Every carrier today is completing their 4G build out, but they still have plenty of locations on a variety of technologies including slower speeds in pockets around the nation. Thatís the way wireless builds out.

Itís the same with Sprint. Over the next few quarters we will start to see them offer this powerful and fast network in more locations around the country.

As customers use this service if the quality and speed and reliability continue to be as good as Chicago, things could start to improve pretty rapidly for Sprint.

DISCLOSURE: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors, and do not represent the views of Readers should not consider statements made by the author as formal recommendations and should consult their financial advisor before making any investment decisions.

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Will Nest Get Too Nosy?

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

06/26/14 6:29 AM PT

Users should make sure companies stay on the right side of the privacy line -- or leave until they correct their mistake. If users don't hold a company's feet to the fire, governments will have to step in as a last resort -- and that's something no one really wants. The problem is that users almost get hypnotized. They love technology -- so they may complain about its abuses, but they don't leave.


Nest Labs may offer cool technology, but do we really want Google or anyone knowing everything that goes on in our homes? Home automation may indeed be a double-edged sword. Today, like children, we are excited and amazed at how tech can accomplish simple tasks. Will we still be happy down the road, when it crosses the line and invades our privacy?

This is the stuff that spooky sci-fi movies have been made of for years, but this is not fiction. Tech titillates us in the beginning, so we gobble it up. Only later does it start to invade our privacy. It starts out harmless and beneficial but, over time, it crosses the line. By then, it's too late. There is no turning back.

No, I am not warning that technology companies will take over our world. That's science fiction, or at least we hope it is. Who knows what the future holds?

The Boiling Frog

Not all companies or technologies are threats, but threats do develop over time as tech continually upgrades. We should start worrying now about what some companies will do with all the personal and private information they are gathering about us and will have at their disposal.

Everything starts out happy and exciting and innocent and helpful in a blissful la-la land.

Then, as technology improves and upgrades, at some point it may cross the line and start to invade our privacy. By then, users are already so entrenched, they don't leave. It happens little by little. It's like the allegory of the boiling frog -- if you turn up the heat on the stove gradually enough, the frog doesn't know it's getting cooked.

That's the problem. If customers fled when their privacy was invaded, then companies would think twice. However, users stay put. They complain, but they don't leave. So companies keep going further and further. Bit by bit, they turn up the temperature until we are cooked.

Just think about the increasing number of companies and cases in the news over the last few years. They are really starting to add up to a frightening story.

It's even getting to the point where governments are starting to push back. For example, the European Union recently ordered Google to delete links to personal or private information that hurts users, on request.

Facebook is another example. It started out as a way for friends to keep in touch, but over time many have complained about the ways it invades their privacy. People say terms of use have changed, allowing private information to become publicly available.

I am not saying Google and Facebook have no place. Actually, I really like them. They do provide excellent service and help users get information and stay in touch. But when your big, lovable dog nips at the neighborhood kids, it's up to you to do something.

There is always a line that should not be crossed, and users should make sure companies stay on the right side of it -- or leave until they correct their mistake.

If users don't hold a company's feet to the fire, governments will have to step in as a last resort -- and that's something no one really wants.

The problem is that users almost get hypnotized. They love technology -- so they may complain about its abuses, but they don't leave. Step by step, companies cross over more and more, until we are cooked.

Is Google's Nest another example?

A Spy Among Us?

Nest Labs makes smart home technology, and I love the idea. The company started with a smart home thermostat. It watches and learns and then programs itself so your house is comfortably heated or cooled whenever you're there. It also saves you money when you're not there.

Sounds great, right? It makes perfect sense. It lets technology solve problems and improve our lives.

Then what's the problem? Well, all advanced technology starts out that way -- making something about life better.

Nest was acquired by Google in February. Now Nest has announced a new collaboration with Google that may be the beginning of its learning even more about us.

Is it crossing the line yet? To some, the answer is yes. To others, not yet -- but it is right up to the line. The next step may be too far.

Would you want your thermostat learning about you and sharing that information over the Internet with Google or any other company? I can't imagine you'd say yes if you think about the next step, then the next.

Matt Rogers, a cofounder of Nest, said Google will start to connect some of Nest's app data so it knows when users are home, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Does that really sound OK to you? This is just the beginning with Nest. While innovation is key, invasion of privacy should always be guarded against -- and that is what is being ignored.

Rogers says Nest is not becoming part of the greater Google machine.

However, I would say that may be true today, but what about tomorrow? We have always learned the hard way that here are never any guarantees.

Bit by bit, we get cooked.

It's time to recognize that every technological breakthrough is a two-sided coin.

One side is an amazing technology that takes our breath away.

However, the other side takes our privacy away and leaves us as exposed as the naked king in the old Hans Christian Andersen story, The Emperor's New Clothes.

So who is in control? Is it us -- or are we getting cooked, bit by bit?   

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at



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Jeff Kagan: Aereo Lost, But Broadcasters Should Not Think They Won Either

By Jeff Kagan  

June 25, 2014 1:32PM   

Tickers Mentioned: CMCSA   AAPL    AMZN   NFLX

Aereo Video, Comcast, cable TV losing, Time Warner Cable, Netflix, Broadcast televsionThe idea of a small upstart called Aereo challenging the traditional television and broadcast model was struck down by the Supreme Court. However broadcasters and traditional cable TV companies shouldnít think the battle is over. In fact the battle has just begun, and is already raging.

The customer is now aware of new ideas, innovation and ways to cut costs. Competitors with new ideas are also coming to market. These are threats to the traditional business model we all know so well. Whether they like it or not, things are changing.

The next two questions are what will Aereo do next, and how will traditional TV answer this call?

We donít yet know what the future holds for video-sharing platform Aereo. Do they have a plan B? Will they pay licensing fees, stay in business and grow or will they just close up shop?

Regardless of whether Aereo is a competitor going forward or not, the door is now open and other new ideas and competitors will start coming through, one after the other in a relentless battle for the customer and market share.

Some ideas will be competitive and others will be cooperative. That means companies will start doing business with other companies and competing with those same companies on other fronts.

This makes for a confusing, but rapidly growing and changing marketplace. We have seen this in several other industries over the years. Broadcast television and cable TV is next.

Aereo Defeat Does Not Mean Cable TV is Problem-Free

So whatís the problem with the television broadcast and cable TV model? There are many. These problems came from the way the industry was set up a long time ago. Back then there was not the new technology or competition we see bursting out today. So while there were problems, there was no competition and no threat yesterday.

Prices continue to rise, year after year. Customers pay roughly twice as much this year as they paid ten years ago. The problem comes from the cable television industry, who users are customers of, and the networks and broadcasters who cable TV is a customer of.

The pricing model is broken and the industry keeps finding new ways to raise prices year after year. Thatís fine for customers who donít mind paying more, but many do have a problem.

Unfortunately that segment of the user marketplace keeps getting run over year after year by the runaway television bill.

Thatís one of the sources of customer demand for lower priced services. Innovation is another source. Cable television companies like Comcast (CMCSA) , Time Warner Cable (TWC) , Cox and others never really innovated. They never had to. They had no competition.

However now they are starting to see competition. Now cable TV is losing customers. Now they have to reinvent how they do business. They must improve customer service and customer care. They must improve reliability of their service. They must be innovative with new services so they can compete with the newcomers.

Traditional television and cable TV will both compete with and cooperate with others in the field like Apple (AAPL) TV, Google (GOOG) TV, (AMZN)  TV, Netflix  (NFLX) and countless other smaller, but rapidly growing companies.

The Door is Already Open for Change

The television world is changing. In fact if we look backwards a decade we can see it has changed quite a bit. And if we look forward another decade it will be unrecognizable. Weíll be watching live or taped television on all our devices including television, computer, tablet, smartwatches, screens on our refrigerators, car dashboards and more.

Weíll still have geographic restrictions for some tech like TVís in our homes, but a national ability to watch on our mobile devices. Things continue to change.

This is the fast changing and growing world in which Aereo was a player. Will they still be a player under different rules going forward? Weíll have to wait and see.

Either way however the door is opened and new technology and innovation and competition is coming.

In this new world the traditional businesses like television networks and broadcasters as well as traditional cable television companies face a big threat. These industries will be forced to reinvent themselves just to stay relevant going forward.

Who will be the winners and losers long term are impossible to say today. Letís just keep our eyes open as the ride will be fast and rapidly changing.

By    Jeff Kagan   +Follow          June 25, 2014 1:32PM   

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How Will Regulators Chaperone the Big Merger Dance?

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

06/19/14 6:37 AM PT

Whether all the now-pending mergers will be approved depends on how regulators view the big picture. Do they want to keep things as they are, or will they unleash the forces of change and let mergers reinvent their industries as they did 10 years ago? I believe the chances are much stronger today than six months ago that regulators will recognize the growing pains of a changing industry.


SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son may have new hope for a Sprint, T-Mobile merger. After SoftBank merged with Sprint last summer, Son set his sights on T-Mobile. There was early resistance from regulators, but that may be softening, with Comcast-Time Warner Cable and AT&T-DirecTV having joined the merger dance.

Trying to understand and predict what regulators will do is always a challenge, and merger activity may influence their decision making. Sometimes only two companies want to merge, while at other times several mergers are in play. The ways regulators decide whether to approve them can be very different.

There's been a recent change in the merger climate. It started with SoftBank wanting to merge with Sprint. Done. Next Sprint wanted to merge with T-Mobile. Pending. Now there are three mergers pending.

Single mergers and multiple mergers often are judged differently by regulators. When multiple mergers are in play, regulators often pull back the camera and look at the industry from a longer-term, historic perspective.

The key question is whether these mergers will transform the industry or just the companies.

Is a Merger Wave Building?

The last time the telecom industry went through this heavy-duty period of mergers and transformation was roughly 10 year ago, with deals like Comcast acquiring AT&T Broadband; SBC acquiring AT&T, BellSouth and Cingular; and Verizon acquiring MCI.

Those deals not only transformed the companies, but also the competitive playing field.

Before then, we had to deal with different companies that competed only in their own sectors -- like local, long distance, wireless, Internet, television and so on.

With the mergers, the companies became larger and began operating in multiple sectors, so we could get all or most of our services from one company and say goodbye to the rest. Although companies competed in multiple sectors, they still did not compete nationwide.

I think that kind of transformation is what we are starting to see. Mark my words, if these mergers are approved, I expect to see many more in the very near future.

More Competition Benefits Consumers

The industry is entering a transformative period. As companies expand, they can offer more services to a larger region. Regional companies will remain regional, but their regions will expand.

Comcast, for example, will be able to market in Time Warner Cable's region but not nationally. With DirecTV, AT&T will be able to market television nationally, but not its landline business.

As companies merge, they will become more national in scope, and more companies will start to compete. Companies that never competed before will go head to head. That's good for the consumer.

Everything changes. Think back 10 years ago. Local telephone companies did not compete with cable television companies. Now they do.

That's why I think regulators will say yes to an AT&T-DirecTV merger. It will allow AT&T to compete with the cable television industry outside its region, on a more national scale. Since it is not in the same business, the marketplace won't lose anything. DirecTV growth down the road would be limited without AT&T.

A Sprint-T-Mobile merger looks more likely today than it did last year. A combined Sprint and T-Mobile would still be No. 3, but it would be much closer in size to both AT&T Mobility and Verizon Wireless.

Comcast and Time Warner Cable may be the hardest to predict, since their merger would let Comcast grow to be the largest cable television company in the country. We'll have to wait and see what happens next with that one.

Regulators generally don't have a problem with one company expanding its region, but they may have a problem with one company controlling so much of the market.

Take a New Tack or Stay the Course?

If these mergers are approved, I think we will see others -- like Verizon or CenturyLink -- jump into the merger game as well. They are very similar to AT&T, and all companies need to continue to grow to keep shareholders happy.

Whether all of these mergers will be approved is still the question. I believe the chances are much better with multiple mergers on the table compared to just one.

However, it depends on how the regulators look at the marketplace. Do they want to try to keep things as they are, or will they unleash the forces and let them reinvent their industries as they did 10 years ago?

I believe the chances are much stronger today than six months ago that regulators will look at the bigger picture and recognize the growing pains of a changing industry.

If that's the case, I think all these mergers will be approved. However, we'll just have to wait and see what happens next. 

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


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Jeff Kagan: Will Fire Phone Be a Success?

By Jeff Kagan

June 19, 2014 6:30AM   

Tickers Mentioned: AMZN  T   NOK (AMZN)  announced they are getting into the smartphone business with their new Fire Phone. This is big news for, AT&T Mobility (T)  as the exclusive carrier, and the wireless marketplace as a whole. However after the excitement of the announcement passes, the single question we all have is simple. Will the Fire Phone be a success?

Let me first answer the question, then explain why.

Itís important to note that this Fire Phone does not have to win the competitive battle with the Apple iPhone or Samsung Galaxy. Thatís not its purpose. Its purpose is simply to give customers more ways to buy stuff from, like the Kindle does.

So even if the Fire Phone only sells a fraction of what Apple and Samsung sells, it can still be very successful for The reason is they use it, like the Kindle, to get customers to buy more stuff on Period.

Looking at it through that point of view you can see how successful they really can be without having to sell a gazillion devices. Of course if they could sell a gazillion devices they would not complain.

Amazon is successful with their Kindle tablet, which they have sold tens of millions of devices over the last several years. That does not mean they have tens of millions of separate customers, since customers will typically upgrade devices over time. However itís still a big number.

Fire Phone Will Succeed Where Facebook's Didn't

A percentage of the Kindle users will be interested in seeing and trying this Fire Phone. Thatís why I think will be more successful than the Facebook smartphone flop from last summer.

However there are no guarantees. I have not seen or used this Fire Phone yet so I canít offer any insights yet. I will after I get one to use.

Success in smartphones is much different than success with tablets. So just because you are a success with one does not mean you will be a success with the other.

You have to effectively market smartphones. Smartphones are a very hot device. They are the center of the universe for users and carriers. However they are also one of the most hotly marketed and advertised devices we have ever seen. Success means you understand what your customers want and give it to them.

AT&T Mobility will be the exclusive provider of wireless service for the Fire Phone. This is good news because they have quite a bit of experience with these kind of launches. Remember, AT&T Mobility was the exclusive provider for the Apple iPhone for three years. And they havenít lost their customers since that time.

Of course they were also the exclusive provider for the Facebook smartphone flop, but that was Facebookís fault. It was a boring device that could not connect with users.

There are many smartphone makers, but there are only really two big success stories in mobile, Apple (AAPL)  and Samsung. The others are a very small slice of the pie, even Microsoft (MSFT) with Nokia (NOK)  which is number three.

Amazon Phone Looks to Reward Loyal Customers

So with this high level of competition in smartphones, why do I think could be successful with their new Fire Phone? Two reasons. One, they already have experience with devices like their Kindle. Two, they donít have to score as big a hit as Apple, Google, or Samsung with their devices to be successful.

In fact is not getting into the smartphone business to do better than Apple and Google. They are simply getting into the smartphone business to sell more of their online stuff. Thatís the point of the button to call up on screen.

Itís not about numbers of customers. Itís all about loyalty for Itís all about Prime. Itís all about keeping customers happy and getting them to spend more money on

So as exciting as this smartphone sounds, it is less about the device and more about another technology to let customers shop on

Amazon says they have tens of millions of Prime customers. They say they have tens of millions of Kindle customers. Those are the customers they want to get a Fire Phone. They want to cement the relationship. has a universe of customers they can sell this device to. The next question is can they sell more to expand their universe? Weíll see.

CEO Jeff Bezos doesnít have to worry about competing with Apple and Samsung. He just has to give the customer another channel to shop on And thatís exactly what this Fire Phone will do.

So will the Fire Phone be a success? Donít know yet. Weíll have to wait and see. However looking at it from this perspective, I think the chances are strong it will indeed be.

By    Jeff Kagan   +Follow          June 19, 2014 6:30AM 

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Apple's Crucial Marketing Challenge

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

06/12/14 6:50 AM PT

What's the difference between Apple and BlackBerry? Well, Apple users are fiercely loyal. They are addicted to the devices and technology. They can't wait to see the new devices and updates as soon as they come out. Wait, that sounds just like BlackBerry -- and that's my point. Why did BlackBerry fail? Why did it lose vast numbers of customers? Why is it a shadow of its former self today?


Apple grew from a small Microsoft competitor in the 1990s, to the tech giant of the 2000s. However, since Steve Jobs' passing a few short years ago, Apple has changed. At the same time, the industry has changed. Today, Google and Samsung offer strong competition. Apple now has to do something it never had to do before: market.

Let's roll the camera back for a minute. This sounds familiar -- like the same problem BlackBerry started having when the iPhone was born. I warned BlackBerry of the coming disaster, but its leaders thought I was crazy. If only they had listened.

This is actually similar to the way Barnes & Noble and Borders gobbled up the small booksellers in the 1990s. Remember the movie, You've Got Mail with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan? That played out this business story on the silver screen.

Today, however, Barnes & Noble is struggling, and Borders is closed. Today, Amazon is king of the booksellers.

That's the story of the wave. A wave always rises, crests, then falls. Always. Waves of change are often larger and longer than we think -- but don't be fooled. They always have a life span.

Revving the Growth Engine

BlackBerry was different right? But think about it -- how different was it? Its customers absolutely loved its devices and technology. The customer relationship was beyond words. Customers were BlackBerry addicts. Remember the website for avid BB users?

All this was before the recent smartphone revolution. All this was before the first iPhone was even a twinkle in Steve Jobs' eye. Remember, this smartphone revolution is only a few short years old. That's it.

There were so many stories from so many different angles. BlackBerry was forever, we once thought. Yes, the addictive and seemingly unbreakable relationship that BlackBerry customers had was incredibly strong -- and it stayed that way until everything suddenly changed.

So what's the difference between Apple and BlackBerry? Well, Apple users are fiercely loyal. They are addicted to the devices and technology. They can't wait to see the new devices and updates as soon as they come out.

Wait, that sounds just like BlackBerry -- and that's my point.

Why did BlackBerry fail? Why did it lose vast numbers of customers? Why is it a shadow of its former self today?

Most importantly, what can Apple learn from BlackBerry? How can Apple avoid the BlackBerry pit? Coincidentally, they are both named after a fruit, and every fruit has a lifespan.

If I were having lunch with Apple CEO Tim Cook, I would simply tell him that he and all Apple execs must learn how to use marketing in order to see Apple continue to grow.

It's all about marketing. Period. It's actually more than ordinary or traditional marketing, though. You must get under the skin of the typical Apple user, investor, worker, competitor and partner -- just the way you always did over the last 10 years.

However, during the last 10 years you never really had to worry about marketing, did you? Good things just seemed to happen. Good for you, Apple -- but it's over. Get over it.

Now you have to change. You must quickly become an excellent marketer. Can you do this? It's not easy, but it's the crucial part of the puzzle.

Apple grew incredibly fast and large over a short period of time -- basically, since the iPod, iPhone and iPad changed each space. That was under Steve Jobs' reign.

Under Tim Cook's reign, there have been no earthshaking new product launches. Apple has done nothing to transform another industry or segment.

It has not used marketing well to retain and grow its position. That's the problem.

GE or BlackBerry?

When Jack Welch took the helm as CEO of General Electric, he transformed the company. Any business GE could not lead as No. 1 or No. 2, it exited. Period.

That was just one of the things that created an incredibly strong company in GE going forward.

Apple does not have forever to jump-start its growth engine once again. The longer it waits, the closer it gets to the BlackBerry moment.

Apple still has plenty of time to repair and start to grow and change a new or different industry segment, just like the good old days.

The big question is, will it? And if so, when?

BlackBerry lost its way because it never had to worry about marketing. However, that was wrong. It did have to be concerned about it -- the company's leaders just didn't know it yet.

Now Apple faces the same choice and challenge. Apple never really had to market before. It grew and was wildly successful without marketing. However, that was back in the growth days under Steve Jobs.

Now, under Tim Cook, Apple needs to restart its growth engine. It needs to focus on marketing -- that means advertising, public relations, media relations, analyst relations and all the other customer touchpoints.

I have worked with and watched many different companies over the last 30 years. Some are still around, strong as ever and growing. However, most are gone. They either have been acquired or, sadly, disappeared over time.

I hope Apple not only survives, but can start another growth wave. It is still one of the strongest companies, and it still has time. It is in an innovative space and has customers who love it.

However, it doesn't have forever. It needs to adapt and change -- like GE and IBM -- and not deny and follow the wrong path of a BlackBerry or a Palm.

Don't laugh. Nobody thought they would implode either -- yet they did.

It's time Apple had its GE moment. It's time Tim Cook had his Jack Welch moment. It's not too late -- not yet, anyway. 

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


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Jeff Kagan: Netflix Says Verizon Slowest of All ISPs

By Jeff Kagan

June 10, 2014 6:01AM   

Tickers Mentioned: NFLX  CMCSA  T  VZ

Now, now boysÖ calm down. Netflix (NFLX)  is complaining about how slow Verizon Internet speeds are. How it takes their customers so long to download movies and TV shows. In response, Verizon (VZ)  sent a cease-and-desist letter to Netflix. They apparently donít like when their weaknesses are pointed out. You canít blame them, but how far will this blood fest go before both companies realize they are hurting their own brand and just fix this problem?

Netflix Publicly Shaming Verizon, Hurts Both

Netflix works with many of the major Internet competitors like cable television companies and telephone companies, nationwide. They do this because this is how they deliver their programming to customers.

So apparently Netflix is a good judge of speeds between companies who offer Internet services. They say Verizon is slow. Granted, this perception is not good for Verizon, their brand or their image in the marketplace. This is harmful, but whose fault is it?

Perhaps Netflix wants to embarrass Verizon so they will speed things up. Or perhaps Netflix simply wants to let their customers know the frustrating delay is not their fault.

Whatever the reason, the customer is being hurt. That means the brand is being hurt. Both brands actually.

If the customer doesnít get fast Netflix service, whether itís because of Netflix or Verizon, the customer is dissatisfied. Thatís what needs to be fixed, quickly. Customers have very little patience today. Delay means both companies get hurt.

Result of Netflix Transition from Mail to Internet

This was never a problem until recently. Netflix used to be a smaller company competing with Blockbuster and Hollywood Video rental business, except they mailed videos to customers. The marketplace continues to change and the video rental marketplace has changed. Netflix won. Retail competitors disappeared.

At the same time Netflix has grown and changed as well. They are becoming a much larger and much different kind of company. They are creating their own content and shows.

Today Netflix delivers content over the Internet. And they use whatever connection the customer contracts for. So Netflix has suddenly found a fountain of youth. They can send tons of movies and television shows over the Internet, and not have to pay the US Postal Service to mail their DVDs any longer.

This is great for Netflix, but terrible for ISPs. This is the wave of the future, but at the same time this also changes the economics of the industry. And that is something that Netflix is fighting. Netflix wants things both ways.

Netflix Consumes Vast Majority of Bandwidth

As popular and successful as Netflix is, there is the other side of the coin. Netflix is responsible for roughly one-third of all downloads on the Internet every night. Thatís an incredible amount of data as they ship movies and TV shows over the net. This is more than any other single company by a long shot.

So there are two parts of the puzzle. One is Netflix, and the other is the Internet Service Provider or ISP. These are often telephone companies like Verizon, AT&T (T)  and CenturyLink (CTL)  and cable television companies like Comcast (CMCSA) , Time Warner Cable (TWC)  and Cox.

These ISPs must continue to invest in their networks so all their customers get fast Internet. Something that is threatened by Netflix dominance. Netflix can suck a network dry if not paid attention to.

If Netflix continues to try and squeeze as much out of each ISP without being a partner and helping with the investment, they will eventually pay the price. Just like the problem they are having with Verizon.

The way each ISP runs its business is different. However Netflix should be a partner with each since they use the vast majority of their bandwidth every night.

Netflix is a different kind of company, which uses more bandwidth than any other company. So the rules must be different for a company like this.

Netflix: Grow Up

However, Netflix does not seem to get that point, and thatís the problem.

So come on Netflix, grow up. You have customers and investors and workers who will all be hurt if you donít solve this problem and simply keep pointing fingers at each other.

And come on Verizon as well. Fighting this out with legal threats is not the answer. If you both continue down this path you will hurt your own brand in the marketplace and that is worse than this spat.

Long after this spat is over and done with the damage to the brand will last. Is that what you really want?

Itís past time for Netflix to financially and structurally work with every company that helps them deliver service to their customers. These should all be partners, not adversaries.

Come on you two, play fair. Everyone is counting on you. And everyone is watching.

By Jeff Kagan   +Follow          June 10, 2014 6:01AM 

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EU Smacks Google Upside the Head Over Right to Be Forgotten

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

06/05/14 5:00 AM PT

I would love to be able to feel sorry for Google; however this suffering is self-inflicted. If it didn't cross the personal privacy line, and if it respected the rights of users worldwide, then it wouldn't be faced with this big problem. Don't worry, though. This is not the end of the line for Google. This issue will play itself out over the coming quarters, and other countries likely will jump in as well.


I think the European Union often goes overboard, and I typically don't agree with its rulings. However, when the EU declared Google invaded privacy, it seemed to have struck a nerve. Countless users worldwide agreed. So, what impact will the EU have on Google with respect to a citizen's right to be forgotten?

This struggle is all about protecting privacy online. It's about residents of the European Union being able to request that Google exclude links to certain information about them from its search results.

Wouldn't you love to be protected like that? The EU just slapped Google down for not respecting the privacy and personal information of users and companies.

That Wiggly Line

True, Google does not create information. It only points to content published on other sites. While many users don't mind, many other users do -- and that is the crux of the problem. Google did not respect the concerns of users who wanted to be more private.

I can't say I disagree with the EU. To set the record straight, I love Google. I love its innovation and creativity. It has rewarded investors and users worldwide, and it continues to push the envelope.

That does not mean Google is perfect. There are areas where the company crosses the line and goes too far.

Invasion of privacy is one of those areas. Google has the attitude that all information should be easily findable. Plenty of users agree with that take. However, plenty others don't -- and Google does not seem to care about that sector.

People are different. Some like one thing, others do not. So companies always have worked hard to attempt to please everyone. That provides them with the biggest market to sell to.

Google doesn't play by those rules, though. It wants to find and make available all information with just a few clicks on a keyboard. That crosses the line of personal information and privacy for many users.

Not everyone wants everything out in the open. People are different. There are always people who are completely open about everything in their private lives. However there are also plenty of people who don't want to share anything.

Both are right -- neither is wrong, and this is the line Google crosses. It doesn't respect the position of the people who want to keep their personal and private information private.

Google Brought This On

Typically the EU is overprotective and tends to tie the hands of companies that would rather be innovating. However Google is one of those companies, and people both love and hate it.

I would like Google to keep growing and innovating and transforming industries. However I would also like Google to respect the privacy of those who want it.

What's next? Google has to work on developing a way to automate the process of eliminating certain links and information at users request. Toward that end, it just launched a request form on its Right to be Forgotten Web page.

However, this also opens all sorts of new doors and raises plenty of questions.

I would love to be able to feel sorry for Google; however this suffering is self-inflicted. If it didn't cross the personal privacy line, and if it respected the rights of users worldwide, then it wouldn't be faced with this big problem.

Don't worry, though. This is not the end of the line for Google. This issue will play itself out over the coming quarters, and other countries likely will jump in as well.

Although this won't kill Google, the problem could grow and become a much bigger thorn in Google's side. That would not be good. Google is too valuable and too important. We want Google. We need Google.

That said, we want Google to play by the rules when it involves personal and private information of people and companies. That is the fair thing to do. 

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


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Jeff Kagan: Whatís Special About Samsung Curved TV?

By Jeff Kagan   

June 5, 2014 6:00AM   

Tickers Mentioned: BBY

I remember when Samsung (SECL) introduced their new curved display, big-screen TV. It sounded new and innovative and exciting. However as time passed and the more I thought about it, the more confused I got. Whatís the point of this curved screen anyway? What does it do that our flat screen TVís donít do, and will it be successful?

Now donít get me wrong. I like Samsung. I think they are one of the most innovative and rapidly growing industry leaders in several different industries. They hit home runs more often than Willie Mays.

But with all that behind them, I just donít get whatís the big deal behind a curved screen TV. Will customers and investors like this? Will it be successful?

Curved Screen TV vs. Flat Screen TV

I visited Best Buy (BBY) , several times in fact, and talked with assorted sales reps. I wanted to check out the new devices. They are great, high performance, high quality TVs. Iíll give them that. However whatís the point behind the curved screen?

There were several different curved screen TVís sitting right next to regular big screen TVís. The picture was the same and the quality was the same. They both looked gorgeous.

In fact a salesperson told me the two I was comparing at the time were the same television. So, I said, these are the same TVs except for the curved or flat screen? The answer was simply yes.

I simply said, ďI donít get itĒ. Why then would people spend more to buy the same television set, and one that is more delicate? They couldnít answer me.

Curved screens are more expensive. Curve screens are more delicate. However, after all is said and done, curved screens may be a big hit. Just know that from what I could see, curved screens donít do anything special compared to flat screens.

Luxury vs. Everyday Purchase

So whatís the point? Ah, the question no one is asking. Is this all about marketing and positioning? Perhaps.

Maybe itís like the difference between buying a Chevy and a Cadillac. I donít know for sure. Every person I have asked simply has no answer to what makes a curved screen different or better or worse than a regular flat screen TV.

Both Chevies and Caddies drive, but there is a difference, right? Maybe itís the same here. Maybe curved screen TVís donít do anything special. Maybe itís just that curved screen TVís are more expensive and can be a bragging purchase. The way some people buy a Rolex watch and others buy a Timex.

However, letís imagine what the future holds for these curved screen TVís. Is it about more than just high priced bragging rights? There has to be some innovation that we are not aware of yet. Doesnít there?

Perhaps Samsung has something up their sleeves down the road. Perhaps they are simply paving the road before they start rolling out more advancement available only on this curved screen TV.

You know, like good ole Doc Brown on ďBack to the FutureĒ said, ďRoads, where weíre going we donít need roadsĒ.

However, for today, we still need roads. And in this world there really doesnít seem to be any advantage of a curved screen versus flat screen TV. So for now I guess all we have to focus on are bragging rights for those who want to pay the extra dough.

The curved screen TV from Samsung is an incredibly good quality picture with all your favorite features. In fact itís the same as some of their most popular flat screen TVs, just more expensive.

Vertu vs. Samsung Galaxy S4 Smartphone

There are companies that develop luxury versions of every day devices. Consider Vertu who makes smartphones at close to ten thousand dollars and up. I donít think these devices do anything more than a standard Samsung Galaxy S5 handset, but itís made of luxury fittings and has a luxury price tag too.

So whichever you choose, keep your eyes on Samsung and other TV makers to see if this curved screen world is a big success or a big flop. Stay tuned.

By    Jeff Kagan   +Follow          June 5, 2014 6:00AM   

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Destination Cloud: Are We There Yet?

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

05/29/14 6:50 AM PT

The cloud may seem confusing, but as we become more comfortable with it, it will make more sense. The good news is, you don't have to jump in yet. Those who want to already are experiencing both the wonder and the problems. The cloud will only get better as time passes. Most are still holding back, but mark my words, you will be a cloud customer some day. In fact, you may already be one.


There is growing interest in the cloud. It sounds absolutely perfect for both consumers and businesses. Some are jumping in -- so why isn't everyone? There are many pros and cons. Many use it successfully to build and manage their growing business, but many others fall victim to problems.

What, exactly, is the cloud? That's the first problem. "The cloud" is a general term that means many different things. The cloud actually has been around for years.

Back up your computer to Carbonite or Mozy? You use the cloud. Store e-books on Amazon? You use the cloud. There are countless other examples. The cloud is growing -- and we are using it, although we may not even realize it.

Today, people use the cloud as their hard drive. Instead of storing data to the hard drive of a device, they store it to their cloud account. You can set up a cloud account with a variety of different providers including Apple, Google, Amazon and many others.

Security and Reliability

The cloud is online. That means you need to have a live Internet connection to store and retrieve your info. No connection, no access to data -- that's one problem.

On the other hand, you can choose a cloud service that lets you save your information to your device, but then regularly backs it up whenever you're online.

That's what services like Apple's iCloud do. You can start something on your laptop, for example, and then later resume working on it on your tablet or smartphone.

This sounds great, but there is another problem: security. When you store your information on someone else's server, how secure is it? All cloud services are not created equal. Some are very secure, while others are pretty much wide open.

Even the very secure sites have problems. You may remember stories about problems that large, respected companies have had with their cloud business over the last couple of years. There are other cloud services experiencing worse issues, seemingly on a regular basis.

So, outages and security are two big areas of concern, whether the cloud user is an individual consumer, a small business with a dozen users, or a large business with tens of thousands of users.

Although the cloud has been around for at least a couple of decades, the way we are using it today -- as a virtual hard drive for individuals or companies -- is brand new.

Any time we are talking about anything brand new in the tech world, it can be both innovative and wonderful, but it often is like Swiss cheese -- full of security and reliability holes.

Early adopters take the arrows. They get the benefits of new technology, but they must deal with all the problems as well.

That's where we are today -- we are still in the time of early cloud adopters. The companies that are using the cloud typically are the first to jump into everything.

Over time, the next wave jumps in and then the next. As the months, quarters and years pass, we identify weak links and strengthen them. That means for everything -- like staying online and staying secure.

I have heard that many companies that use the cloud today actually use several different cloud services and technologies. They know things can go wrong, so they are hedging their bets.

This is exactly what happens with every good, new technology as it goes through the wringer. Over time, it gets better, more secure -- and less expensive.

Early Adoption vs. Wait and See

So what kind of customer are you? Whether you are an individual or a company, are you an early adopter willing to take the arrows, or are you more conservative -- preferring to wait a while before jumping in?

We all own and use many different devices, such as desktop computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones. We like to have access to our files no matter which device we're using -- and that's true even if we are using a computer that is not ours for a one-time purpose.

Most of us, whether individuals or companies, still store our information the good old-fashioned way -- on our devices. Then we can sync with our company servers.

Some cloud services are open to the public, and some are owned and operated by individual companies for their use. When you own and operate your own cloud, it sounds perfect and private -- but it's up to you to make sure it's always on and always secure. That's a large commitment of manpower and money.

There's a growing number of cloud services available to store your information -- like Apple's iCloud, the Microsoft Cloud or Amazon Cloud Drive. Or you can buy an inexpensive Chromebook that stores data to Google's Cloud rather than on the laptop, a clever new idea.

Going forward, the meaning of the term "cloud" likely will expand to encompass more things from more companies, solving more problems.

Ready or not, we have to get up to speed on what different cloud services can do for us.

Every cloud service is not created equal. This new area will be confusing in the early years, but as we become more comfortable with it, it will make more sense.

The good news is that you don't have to jump in yet. Those who want to already are doing so and experiencing both the wonder and the problems. The cloud will only get better as time passes.

Most still are not using the cloud yet -- but mark my words, you will be a cloud customer some day. In fact, you may already be one.

Do you use iCloud to back up your iPhone, iPad or MacBook? Do you use a Kindle or a Google Chromebook?

They, and many others, are examples of the cloud. You may already be in the cloud and not even know it. 

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


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Jeff Kagan: Hedge Funds and Investors Want to Know Whatís Next

By    Jeff Kagan   

May 28, 2014 1:37PM   

Tickers Mentioned: T  CMCSA  TWC

My phone has been ringing off the hook lately. Assorted investors, investment companies and hedge funds are looking to better understand the changing telecom, wireless, television and Internet marketplace. They are not looking for investment advice, which I donít give, but they are looking to better understand the changes that are occurring.

Letís take a quick look at how these different industry segments are changing and the opportunities and risks they present for workers, customers, competitors and of course, investors.

From Competition to Mergers and Acquisitions

Twenty years ago, in the 90s, there were a variety of competitors in each of these spaces. They were smaller companies and didnít compete outside their region or specific product mix.

Ten years ago, in the 2000s, the companies had changed. There was a wave of M&A activity and the result was fewer and larger companies that competed more nationally and in more segments. Example: the Baby Bells didnít just sell telephone, they also sold high speed Internet, and wireless services.

During the 2010ís we are going through another wave of change, which will transform the industry once again. We will end up with even fewer and larger companies, competing even more nationally and in more segments.

Taking the example one step further, there are fewer Baby Bells, they are even larger, they offer more services in a bigger geographic footprint. Now they are even selling television and competing against new companies like the cable TV industry and Internet based competitors for voice and data services.

Next Wave: The Biggest Companies Head-to-Head

Now we see the next wave starting. More consolidation. This will mean fewer actual companies, but it will allow more of them to compete more nationally for the first time.

Consider AT&T (T)  as the most recent example. They want to acquire DirecTV. The reason is they will be able to compete for television on a national scale and not just in their region of the country. This will give them a much bigger growth opportunity. That means they will be able to compete against companies like Comcast (CMCSA) , Time Warner Cable (TWC) , Cox and more.

A few months ago Comcast said they wanted to acquire Time Warner Cable for similar reasons. Size. And a few months before that Sprint said they want to merge with T-Mobile for similar reasons. Size.

They say size will let them compete much more effectively. This is what regulators are wrestling with right now.

The reason all these companies are changing and expanding is simple, growth for the investor. They need to keep growing to keep the investor happy.

How Will this Affect the Intersection of Investor and Consumer Needs?

Investors are only concerned with one thing. Profits. Consumers are concerned with a different thing. Good quality, and innovative and affordable service.

So expect this wonderful world of wireless and telephone and Internet and television to continue to grow and change over time. Companies need to continue to grow. Itís like taking their next breath. That means they will continue to merge and eventually become national competitors.

I cannot predict which of these mergers will be a grand slam home run, and which will be strikeouts if any. What I can say is this is the next step in the evolution of these industry segments and because of that regulators will likely approve some or all of them.

Investors will love this because the company and their investments should continue to grow.

Consumers will love this as well. As these companies become more national in scope, they will compete more intensely. In that world, increased competition should mean prices should come down and innovation should go up.

And after all, as a consumer, wouldnít you prefer it each year not to get your notice that your cable television prices are going up again, year after year. We can only hope.

By Jeff Kagan   +Follow          May 28, 2014 1:37PM 

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AT&T Catches a Wave

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

05/22/14 6:36 AM PT

Mergers do put pressure on the existing framework. While that is a challenge to traditional competitors, it is also a good thing. That pressure typically results in better quality, happier customers, lower prices and more competition. The companies under the most pressure going forward seems to be the cable television companies like Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cox.


Change is good. Industry consolidation seems to come in waves, and the next wave seems to be starting. Together, AT&T and DirecTV will be a strong new competitor in the pay-television space. That's great. Unless traditional cable-TV companies get their act together, this merger could be another nail in their coffin.

This is a busy time in the industry. If we pull the camera back and take a longer-term look, however, we see a much clearer picture. In the 1990s, cable television companies, telephone companies and wireless companies were smaller, and they competed in different sectors. There were many companies, and they all had different footprints. Competition among them was not robust at the time.

Then, in the mid-2000s, we saw a wave of consolidation begin when Comcast acquired AT&T Broadband and went from being one of the smallest cable television companies to becoming one of the largest -- even bigger than Time Warner Cable.

We saw other mergers -- like SBC, a small local phone company from San Antonio, Texas, acquiring AT&T, Bellsouth and Cingular. It grew from one of the smallest to the largest on the telephone side, almost overnight. There were several other mergers of small and large players that reshaped the industry.

The Heat Is On

This time around, the wave began with last year's acquisition of Sprint by Softbank. Next, Softbank would like to merge Sprint with T-Mobile. Then came the Comcast, Time Warner Cable deal. Now AT&T is merging with DirecTV -- and more are coming.

Which companies will merge is the question? Another question is will all of these mergers be approved? We don't know yet. However, typically when there is this kind of wave, approvals are given, if for no other reason than to level the playing field.

The question is always whether a particular deal will be good for the marketplace, customers, investors, prices, innovation and so on. That's what the regulators will be mulling over the next year.

Mergers do put pressure on the existing framework. While that is a challenge to traditional competitors, it is also a good thing. That pressure typically results in better quality, happier customers, lower prices and more competition.

The companies under the most pressure going forward seems to be the cable television companies like Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cox.

The latest American Customer Satisfaction Index, released earlier this week, shows that in the customer service area, the cable television industry's performance is pretty darn bad.

Companies like Comcast and Time Warner Cable are improving, but they still have a very long way to go in order to make customers happy.

That means this AT&T-DirecTV merger could put significant pressure on the traditional cable television industry. While the companies might not like it, customers will.

A National Platform

One of the main reasons for this merger is to keep investors happy. It will be another growth engine, which will keep stock prices high. That's all investors care about -- and this, in fact, is one of the main reasons any merger is undertaken. Growth keeps investors happy.

This will be a real growth opportunity for AT&T. DirecTV is a satellite television company, but it has no real broadband operation, so it can't compete moving forward into a broadband-centric world.

AT&T has broadband and is a successful marketer of a variety of different service platforms. It already sells U-verse television, which is IPTV. In the markets where it competes with traditional cable television, it is very strong. In the Dallas area, for example, AT&T U-verse has captured roughly 50 percent of the market.

I hope that is what we can expect going forward with DirecTV in many more markets nationwide.

The problem is that U-verse is not available to all AT&T customers. DirecTV may be. DirecTV will open up a national marketplace to AT&T, which is a huge growth opportunity.

I expect to see DirecTV's traditional service continue for those who want it. However, I also expect to see AT&T supercharge its service offerings with DirecTV as part of a bundle for those who want more.

Customers like to buy in bundles -- deal with one company and pay one bill. DirecTV will help AT&T build its bundle and make it even more attractive to customers.

The race is not over, however. This merger will help AT&T compete on a national scale in some service areas. However AT&T -- and in fact, all telephone companies like Verizon and CenturyLink, and all cable television companies like Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cox -- are still not national companies.

So I expect to see more mergers and more waves of change in coming years. The industry looks very different today than it did 10 years ago, and it will look just as different 10 years from now. 

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


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Jeff Kagan: Next Wave in Mergers and Acquisitions Has Begun

By Jeff Kagan 

May 22, 2014 7:00AM   

Tickers Mentioned: S  CMCSA  TWC  T  DTV  CTL  WIN

The next merger, acquisition and consolidation wave looks like it is beginning once again in telephone, television and wireless. The industry and its different segments will all grow and change once again. This is the next step toward moving to a national scale. If you pull the camera back you will see this has happened before.

This time it may have started with last yearís deal between Sprint Softbank. At that time we were not thinking the next acquisition wave was beginning. We just thought Softbank was jumping into the US marketplace and Sprint (S)  was rebuilding their networks. We just thought it was a Sprint and Softbank story.

However since then the waters have been starting to churn. Now Sprint and T-Mobile want to merge. Comcast (CMCSA)  and Time Warner Cable (TWC)  want to merge. And finally, AT&T (T)  and DirecTV (DTV)  are set to join forces as well.

To tell you the truth, I think this is just the beginning of this new wave. We appear to be entering the next wave of mergers and acquisitions.

That means I expect to see more mergers being brought to the table. And there are still plenty of other companies who want or need to grow, and acquisitions are one key way to make that happen.

The Acquisition Wave is Just Beginning

I think the more of these mergers and acquisitions that are announced, the more likely they will all or mostly all, be approved.

Single mergers are looked at on an individual basis. However with groups of mergers like we see building today, regulators must look longer-term and at the changing marketplace. They wonít let one competitor have a giant edge over others. They try and keep everyone of similar size and scope.

Thatís why I think approvals are more likely the more mergers are brought to the table. However they will all take time and require companies to jump through hoops.

Mergers donít seem to happen all the time. However when they do happen, it seems there are quite a few that happen. Itís like a wave. It grows, crests, and then falls over a few short years. Then things calm down for a few years before the next wave starts.

The last wave may have been roughly ten years ago. Prior to that there were many more, smaller companies competing in different geographic sectors.

SBC was the smallest Baby Bell headquartered in San Antonio Texas. They acquired AT&T, Bellsouth and Cingular within a couple short years. They then took the name AT&T, and reinvented themselves. They became the largest competitor in their space. Others Bells merged as well.

Time Warner Cable was the largest cable television company and Comcast was one of the little competitors. Then Comcast acquired AT&T Broadband, which was the largest in the United States. That turned Comcast into the largest cable television company in the country.

So both SBC and Comcast went from being among the smallest competitors to the largest in their segments. They did not really compete at that time however. They were both starting to roll out their high-speed Internet, but there was no fierce competition.

Companies Joining Forces to Get the Competitive Edge

Over the last decade they have started to compete fiercely. The marketplace is changing. However these wire line competitors are still regional so mergers make them more national in scope as well as bigger. And national in scope is the goal of every company.

Companies like AT&T, Verizon, CenturyLink, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cox operate a wire line network, which is limited by region. They are not national. Mergers will help them move closer to national.

Competition on the wireless side of the house is national. AT&T Mobility and Verizon Wireless (VZ)  do compete nationally with other wireless carriers like Sprint, T-Mobile, US Cellular and C Spire Wireless.

This is the direction I see all competitors moving in. We will eventually end up with huge, national providers, and many smaller and regional providers as well. And both large and small will continue to do strong business with different focuses.

So if we pull the camera back we see that this merger wave happens from time to time. Each wave makes the competitors larger and more national.

And timing is everything. I think we are seeing the stars start to line up once again. The same kind of industry reshaping mergers and acquisitions could be getting ready to happen once again.

There are many reasons companies merge. However one of the primary reasons is to keep investors happy. Investors only care about making money. That means companies must grow. Thatís why these companies are so focused on this acquisition game.

Mergers and acquisitions are one of the fastest ways to grow. With that said, there are plenty more companies like Verizon, CenturyLink (CTL) , Windstream (WIN) , US Cellular and many more who may jump into this game sooner rather than later.

This is a huge new opportunity for the investor. Keep your eyes open.

By Jeff Kagan   +Follow          May 22, 2014 7:00AM 

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Pulling Google Back to the Right Side of the Privacy Line

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

05/15/14 5:13 AM PT


Should the EU be focusing on Google as the only problem? No. There are countless sites that Google points to. If Google should be responsible for not violating privacy by pointing to other sites, shouldn't those other sites be responsible for taking down data? Of course. That's where this whole EU argument get's very sticky and much more complicated.

I don't usually agree with the European Union. However, it has demanded that Google help to protect the privacy of citizens rather than exposing everything, and I tend to agree. The latest EU ruling doesn't solve the whole problem, though. In fact, it raises more questions -- but it is a good start.

Remember a few years ago, in the very early days of Google, when we were having the raging debate about how Google was violating privacy? Well, this week's EU court decision is all about privacy.

We have been losing our privacy bit by bit over the last few decades, but Google seems to have upped the ante. Its purpose seems to be to expose everything about everyone. It crosses the line, in many people's opinion.

Restarting the Fire

This was a heated debate a few short years ago, but people have a tendency to get tired of fighting and just give up. If that should happen in this case, Google would win, even though we might not like it. However, this EU decision could rekindle dying embers.

Don't get me wrong, I think Google is a great company and has created many great products -- like its search engine and its Android mobile phone operating system. However, every great company has areas where it may cross the line and go too far.

Google thinks it has the right to do whatever it wants with people's private information -- and that is, very simply, none of its damn business. What gives it the right to impact and affect everyone's lives, without permission? And why is it allowed to get away with it?

This EU decision will be hated by Google and other search engines but loved by end users. If this happens, I can see other countries jumping on the bandwagon as well, creating a very difficult playing field for Google.

Where the Data Lives

This won't hurt Google, but it will feel a pinch. However, it's really Google's own fault since it decided it was OK to breach privacy. So it should be responsible for fixing the problems that resulted because it crossed the line.

That said, I'm afraid just forcing Google to conform to new rules might not be enough.

First of all, there are other search engines. More importantly, Google doesn't create the data -- it just links to it. It is simply a search engine. The problem data exists on other sites that Google just points to.

So should the EU be focusing on Google as the only problem? No. There are countless sites that Google points to. If Google should be responsible for not violating privacy by pointing to other sites, shouldn't those other sites be responsible for taking down data? Of course.

That's where this whole EU argument get's very sticky and much more complicated. It raises some very important questions. If we pull back the camera, we see there are many more layers that need to be addressed.

So good job, EU, but this is only a first step in a much longer journey. 

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


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Jeff Kagan: Is AT&T-DirecTV the Next Big Merger?

By Jeff Kagan 

May 14, 2014 6:00AM   

Tickers Mentioned: TWC  T  VZ  CTL  CMCSA

The next wave of mergers and acquisitions is trying to begin once again. First Comcast (CMCSA) and Time Warner Cable. Now it sounds like AT&T (T) and DirecTV may join the party. So will these mergers be approved and what does this next wave mean to the investor and consumer?

First we should pull back the camera and take a look from a longer-term historical perspective. Mergers tend to happen in waves. Then after that wave there is quiet for several years until the next wave starts. We are seeing this next wave try to start once again.

A decade or two ago there were many smaller competitors competing in smaller geographic areas. Then there was a wave of consolidation and those smaller regional players became much larger providers. This next wave will make them even larger and even closer to national.

Is there any reason these mergers should not happen? Not really, as long as there remains competition and available resources like spectrum, we should let companies get larger and stronger. That will mean they will invest more, offer better quality, more innovation and competitive pricing.

This will make their investors happy and thatís an important piece of this puzzle. Keeping consumers happy is a different question. However if a company can do both, a merger is generally a good thing. If it canít, well thatís where some problems arise over time.

We are moving toward a world of larger and national competitors. Itís important to note that size is not the only signal for success. There is still plenty of room for smaller providers to do very well in smaller footprints. There are many smaller firms who are really kicking butt and doing themselves proud.

However, for larger companies to keep their investors happy itís important for them to continue to grow. Thatís one important reason. Another is to have more scale and spend more on innovation.

In fact if these two mergers are approved I see others jumping in as well. Companies like Verizon (VZ) , CenturyLink (CTL) , Cox ($COX), Windstream, tw Telecom and more.

Will regulators approve is the next question? Generally speaking, mergers are easier under a Republican President. So under a Democratic President it will be more difficult. Not impossible by any stretch, but it will be more difficult.

So thatís why today in 2014, I think more will be required of companies who want to merge. There is less to be concerned about with an AT&T-DirecTV merger than a Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger simply because they are in different businesses.

However, I have a feeling that if one is approved, the other will be as well. Likewise if one is blocked, the other will be as well.

Investor Perspective

Investors generally think these mergers make good sense. They will reward the companies. Turning both AT&T and Comcast into larger and more national companies would be a home run.

Customer Perspective

Generally speaking, the AT&T DirecTV merger would make sense. It would let DirecTV customers see much more innovation. And AT&T would be able to bundle more together making customers happier. Since these are not the same kind of company I donít see any negatives.

Comcast and Time Warner Cable customers may be a different story. Comcast seems to pay more attention to their investors than their customers and that could be a source of friction.

One example is when Comcast upgraded to a digital network and put digital converter boxes on all televisions, they then turned off the analog network quickly. Time Warner Cable also upgraded their technology to digital and put boxes on all televisions, but left their analog signal on.

What that meant was customers who had problems with the digital boxes could just go back to analog on Time Warner Cable and stay happy. Comcast customers did not have that escape hatch.

So customers who have problems with digital boxes, like many do especially in the early days of this transition are taken care of better by Time Warner Cable than they are by Comcast.

Based on this it seems Time Warner Cable cares more for the customer than Comcast does.

With all that said, I think Comcast will have a higher price to pay than AT&T in getting their merger approved. They have already said they would so some. It will be interesting what more regulators will ask.

At this point the chances of winning approval for both mergers are 50Ė50, but I tend to think they will both go one way or the other. If one is approved I think the other will be approved as well.

We just better get used to a world with larger and national providers. However if you donít want to stick with a huge national company full of innovation and loads of television commercials, there are always smaller competitors who take great care of customers just waiting for your business.

As long as we have real, strong, vibrant, competition, where everyone has access to the same spectrum and technology, I think these mergers may indeed be approved.

By Jeff Kagan  May 14, 2014 6:00AM   

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New Car Tech: Smartphones In, Privacy Out

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

05/08/14 6:39 AM PT

My previous Toyotas always provided live traffic info without a smartphone connection, but the 2014 Highlander seems to require one, at least some of the time. When I drive around my home town, the system seems to work fine with no smartphone connection. However, once I drive outside of the metro area, the live traffic signal and weather data simply disappear. Not good.

While the new 2014 Toyota cars have a lot to love with their advanced technology and navigation, there is also, very surprisingly, something to hate. This tech comes at a high price: loss of privacy. Toyota knows exactly where you are at every moment of every day -- period. Is that what we want?

Don't get me wrong -- I have been a big fan of Toyota for many years. It has always been rock solid and very reliable. Toyota cars are full of modern technology, and they make driving fun.

However, the latest version of its tech often requires a smartphone data plan to work.

There are two problems with this:

ēOne, only half of us have a smartphone. That means many won't be able to use the technology. Also, many smartphone users don't have an unlimited data plan -- so they might be hit with overage charges every month.

ē Two, Toyota knows exactly where we are at all times.

Unanswered Questions

The 2014 models have been rolling out, and I have been driving a brand new Highlander. I have been very happy with the major changes.

This is a powerful, smooth-riding and quiet vehicle, loaded with room for passengers and stuff in a very attractive package, inside and out. The Highlander sits lower -- more like a car. It's easier to get into because it sits on a car frame. The 4Runner is roughly the same size, but it sits higher and is on a truck frame. I really like most features of the Highlander.

Much of this advanced tech comes from Lexus, which is Toyota's luxury brand. Lexus is similar to Mercedes Benz and Cadillac. Lexus does offer more features; however, it costs more as well.

The new technology in the 2014 Toyota Highlander and many other next-gen cars is truly amazing. Some of the new tech is the information on the dashboard. There is a speed limit graphic on the dash, which changes to a new number every time the speed limit on the road changes. Very cool.

The advanced navigation system provides traffic information not only on the main streets and highways, but also on many secondary roads. It also predicts what is coming, so you can see what the traffic will look like in the next hour or so.

Live weather reports are available for many cities around the country, with information from the Weather Channel. You can view a map to check the weather in front of you or anywhere in the country.

The radio and entertainment system lets you replay the last minute or so of what you just heard on the radio, which is helpful. However, the same system accommodates only one CD or DVD. You can watch a movie, so that's a plus.

All this new technology -- and much more -- makes this Toyota a vehicle to die for.

However, this advanced technology doesn't come without a price. There are lots of hiccups and questions that no dealer has been able to answer -- not so far anyway, and I have asked many dealers to date.

That is part of the problem with this new technology. No one at the Toyota dealerships seems to have the answers. This is a problem Toyota needs to fix. It must train its dealers better.

It also should provide a toll free number and website with live chat to answer confused customers' questions.

New technology is great, but it generates tons of simple questions. Answer these questions quickly for your customers, and you continue to build the brand relationship. Confusion will negatively impact that customer relationship.

The Privacy Dilemma

So how does this new navigation system work? While previous versions always worked with live traffic and no smartphone connection, this new version seems to require a smartphone connection, at least some of the time.

When I drive around my home town, the system seems to work fine with no smartphone connection. However, once I drive outside of the metro area, the live traffic signal and weather data simply disappear. Not good. In previous versions, the traffic information never just disappeared from the screen.

When the system seems to work well without a smartphone, I've noticed there is an HD connection indicated on the screen. So maybe the car receives an HD signal from Toyota in certain places, like inside metropolitan areas.

However, as soon as I leave the metro area and lose the HD signal, I lose the ability to receive live traffic and weather.

With my smartphone hooked up, the live traffic and weather reappear, although it takes several minutes. I imagine this will eat up data allowances, so make sure you have an unlimited plan on your smartphone before you jump in.

If you don't have a smartphone, you may not be able to get this live traffic and weather information. Too bad Toyota does not allow you to fall back to the old system in this case.

Another problem is that once you are connected with your smartphone and need to make a call, you must talk over the car speakers. Sound quality is often distorted. You can disconnect your smartphone to make the call, but when you turn the connection back on, it does not always reconnect.

In that case, you are out of luck until you stop and turn the car off and then on again. This same problem exists when you dictate an email or text message, or use a service like Apple's Siri.

So how does Toyota connect to your car? It appears it uses multiple ways. It uses the HD signal in big cities, but in other areas, it uses another technology -- some other wireless network, like AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless or Sprint, or maybe a satellite radio signal like Sirius XM, or maybe a lesser-known wireless network.

There is one big issue that seems to be ignored: invasion of privacy. Remember when I described how the speed limit icon on your display changes as soon as you cross into a different speed zone?

On one hand, this is great. On the other -- how does it know exactly where you are to display new information? Good question. Apparently Toyota knows where we are every minute of every day, period. Is that good? Neither I nor the people I have asked think so.

However, we are losing privacy in all aspects of our lives -- from our smartphones to our cars, so this is just part of our future. What's next?

This new Toyota technology -- and in fact, tech from other carmakers as well -- is rolling out, and it takes your breath away. You'll love what it does for you.

Just remember a piece of advice offered by my grandparents when dealing with the loss-of-privacy issue: Keep your nose clean, and don't drive to or park anywhere you wouldn't want to be seen if your picture should show up on the front page of the local newspaper.  

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


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Jeff Kagan: Companies Are Rushing to the Cloud

By Jeff Kagan

May 8, 2014 6:00AM   

Tickers Mentioned: GOOG   AMZN    HPQ    MSFT

Youíve heard of the cloud and how it is going to change everything. How it will impact every company, every corporate customer and every consumer over the next several years. So what is the current state of the cloud? Itís changing. Letís take a look.

It started out with lots of small companies competing in the space. Then during the last couple years we have seen some big name companies moving into this space as well. Companies whose well-known brand names get lots of attention. Companies like Google (GOOG) , (AMZN) , Microsoft  (MSFT) , Hewlett Packard (HPQ) , Facebook (FB)  and more.

I see this cloud opportunity evolving similar to the way we watched the Internet grow and change since the mid 1990ís. Back in those early days the big companies selling access to the Internet were actually smaller, growth companies like AOL, Earthlink and Mindspring. They were tiny, often started on the kitchen table, but very rapidly growing.

However when the technology was advanced enough things started to change. The telephone companies starting selling DSL and cable television companies started selling their high-speed access as well.

Then they started selling access to the customer. Once that happened, they quickly became the leaders and things have not changed that much ever since.

Today while the leaders are telephone and cable television companies, the old leaders are still around, but not as important a piece of the pie. Smaller companies have remained that way.

The cloud is similar. It started with lots of smaller or lesser-known companies offering cloud based services. They have been growing as the cloud is an important growth sector.

However we have seen other big name companies enter this cloud space and things are changing. Today cloud leaders are no longer the smaller, lesser-known companies. Today they are the big guys. And more big companies are moving into this space as we speak.

Donít be surprised to see many more big name companies jumping into this cloud space. We are still in the very early innings of this new game.

HP announced earlier this week they are launching their HP Helion Portfolio of Cloud products and services. That is their brand name for this opportunity. HP says they will offer cloud products and services that enable organizations to build, manage and consumer workloads in hybrid IT environments.

One question. What the hell does all that mean anyway?

And thatís part of the problem. The mysticism around this entire cloud opportunity is hard to put into regular words so regular people can wrap their mind around it and really understand it.

Yet putting into understandable English is key because regular executives, customers and investors have to have a solid understanding going forward to make this whole thing work.

HP says they are investing more than one billion dollars to support and deliver new open source cloud products and services.

While thatís great, itís important to realize that competitors like Google,, Microsoft, Facebook and others may be investing much more than that. In fact each may be investing that amount every quarter.

Any way you slice it the cloud will be an important part of our future. And it will be huge. However there is no single cloud leader today. Thatís the target however for all these big name companies.

I think the marketplace will grow over the next several years and new ideas will drive more growth. The direction is always the question. Just like with the Internet, itís impossible to see clearly years down the road.

Who will lead in the next few years is less important because this is still the very early days of the cloud.

We have to hope there are plenty of companies, big and small, who are in the mix and continuing to stir things up. Thatís will keep this new segment growing.

I donít believe anyone knows exactly what the future of the cloud opportunity will look like a few years from now. But thatís OK because we really didnít know what the Internet opportunity would look like in the mid-90ís.

The technology and new ideas will continue to change the map. However companies who want to be leaders tomorrow must plant their flag in the ground today. Thatís what these companies are all doing.

The cloud is not perfect. It may never be. Once your information is out there it is vulnerable. However you can also do so much more in a cloud based world than we ever could otherwise.

So as the next few quarters pass the cloud will become increasingly robust and secure. Until then letís keep our eyes on the cloud opportunity and watch the direction that these different companies want to take us.

Just like the Internet was back in the 90ís, the cloud is just that exciting.

By    Jeff Kagan   +Follow          May 8, 2014 6:00AM 

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AT&T In-Flight WiFi Could Soar

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

05/01/14 6:16 AM PT

AT&T has not provided details about its in-flight WiFi plans, other than to say it will do it much better and faster. That's all fliers need to hear. If it works well, it could be a huge success. I imagine GoGo won't take this new threat in stride, but its stock price has fallen, and it is definitely in a weakened position. Its choice is simply to improve and compete -- or say "bye-bye."


AT&T just announced it will be getting into and improving the in-flight WiFi business. It will be next year before this service is available, but if it's better than the current GoGo WiFi service, I think it will be a big success.

Back in the days before in-flight WiFi, stepping onto an airplane meant we were pretty much cut off from the rest of the world until we landed. It was quiet and peaceful, and it gave us a rare chance to think, read, sleep or watch a movie.

Then Apple and Google changed everything with the iPhone and Android. Today we are always connected. When we are not, it's like we are holding our breath. The problem was that there was no good-quality WiFi connection up in the air.

In recent years, a company called "GoGo" brought us in-flight connectivity, which sounded great. Unfortunately it didn't work great.

I have used it several times and have never had a good quality signal -- and the countless people I casually ask all say the same thing.

Gotta Be a Better Way

First, you have to choose which device you want to use. Will it be your smartphone, tablet or laptop? You can choose more than one, but you are charged for each.

Second, no matter which you choose, the signal always fluctuates. I get several hundred emails every day. So when I try to download my current batch, the signal is always lost and the process has to restart.

Restarting means I end up with many duplicate emails, since those downloaded before the signal faded will be downloaded again at the next attempt. Talk about frustrating.

Third, the speed is agonizingly slow. Remember the 1990s with dial-up? GoGo does let you surf the Web at a slower speed, and at least that's something -- that is, until the signal is lost.

So, as you can tell, I have not had a good experience yet with the GoGo service.

That leaves a huge opportunity for a company like AT&T to do it better.

GoGo Gone?

AT&T has not provided details about the technology or the cost or the speeds or the connection, other than to say it will do it much better and faster.

That's all fliers need to hear. AT&T is planning a next-generation in-flight broadband service. If it works well and satisfies the user, it could be a huge success.

I imagine GoGo won't take this new threat in stride, but its stock price has fallen, and it is definitely in a weakened position.

Its choice is simply to improve and compete -- or say "bye-bye." I have not yet heard what its plan is going forward.

This should be very fertile ground for AT&T. The marketplace is full of countless users who really want and need good quality high-speed WiFi broadband in-flight -- the kind of service they always wanted, but just have not been able to get.

Any way you slice this, you have to admit competition is a good thing, don't you think? 

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


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Jeff Kagan: 3D Printing is Huge New Opportunity

By Jeff Kagan 

May 1, 2014 6:00AM   

Tickers Mentioned: ONVO   GE   HPQ


Every once in a while we see a new market created. 3D Printing is one of those markets. We are still very early in the lifecycle, but there are so many brand name companies and exciting ideas around you just have to take a serious look.

Weíve all heard about 3D printing, but most of us donít really have a good understanding what this new industry is all about and how it will grow and impact the world. However when Meg Whitman CEO of Hewlett-Packard (HPQ)  talks about 3D printing on CNBC as a potential growth industry they are focusing on, weíd be foolish not to listen.

3D printing is moving from talk to prototype and now itís start toward actual production. This is where the rubber meets the road. The 3D market is rapidly growing and is expected to reach more than $10 billion over the next decade. Thatís a huge growth opportunity.

3D printing has a lot of different meanings. It will make or print actual, very complicated parts for a variety of business and industries around the world. This will impact every industry from wireless to telecommunications and cable television and the Internet. 3D will also impact the health and medical field. Donít forget electronics, manufacturing, automakers and much more.

In fact 3D printing, if it works the way the industry promises, will impact nearly every industry and every business, worldwide. Thatís the enormous size of the opportunity.

However we still have a big crevice ahead between prototype and actual production. Will we build a bridge over that crevice or will we fall in as the industry collapses? That is the million-dollar question.

At this point I am very impressed with what I am seeing and hearing. So far I have confidence in this new space. I think we can indeed print a 3D bridge over that crevice and get to the other side safely.

When we do that, we will see an explosion of companies and ideas and technologies enter the space in high gear. We will see countless workers moving to this exciting new space with new companies, or existing leaders. We will see countless investors jump into the space, still having little real knowledge of the industry itself.

Remember, 3D printing is a brand new space so there are no real regulations in place yet. So, like the Internet of the 1990ís, 3D printing is the next Wild-Wild West. And all of us will suddenly be very interested in this complicated space.

In the early days every company will grow and look very innovative. Every company will attract workers and investors. Over time, many smaller companies will be acquired by larger firms. Many will make it and others will fail.

Choosing correctly is always important. Years later we become smarter about this potential opportunity. As we work our way down the funnel we will get pickier on the companies we actually invest in, work for or partner with.

3D printing is actually a great idea. It letí you create, very inexpensively and very quickly a model to see whether something works or needs changing. Then finally when we are ready, we can send it to the printer for manufacture. This will help create better products more quickly and more economically.

Perhaps we wonít 3D print toaster ovens, but we will use it to build computers or make customized medical devices for each patient, or parts of a body, as companies like Organovo (ONVO)  are working on. Say you need a new artery or organ because yours are damaged or clogged. Just 3D print it.

There will be countless very complicated and also very simple things that 3D printing will be able to do for us. It will be faster and cost less money. It will provide solutions that simply are not available today.

Hewlett Packard, General Electric (GE) and so many other companies are entering this space. There are also a wide variety of mid size and small companies in the space. And there are always a wide variety of smaller startups.

That means an entire industry is being created as we speak. This is a very exciting opportunity for the future.

I will be writing more about this 3D opportunity because I believe in its potential to turn the world on its head, for the good of all mankind. There are countless companies and ideas that are trying to break through the noise of a chaotic industry.

Weíll work our way through the noise and find some of the interesting stories. More to come.

By    Jeff Kagan   +Follow          May 1, 2014 6:00AM 

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Is Square Mobile Payments in Trouble?

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

04/24/14 6:37 AM PT


Success in the financial sector is tough. While Square may be available everywhere, that does not automatically make it successful. It takes time for customers to understand and develop trust. Square lost around $100 million in 2013 -- more than it lost in 2012. Square says it is not in acquisition talks, but how long can an upstart keep this up?


The story of Square mobile-payments may surprise you. Imagine swiping customer credit cards on your iPhone, iPad or Android. We have all heard the magical stories about a brilliant idea sketched on a napkin that turned into the next big success in business. While these things do happen, more often the bubble bursts. It's just a matter of when. Is that what is starting to happen with Square?

Much too often, short-term brilliant ideas seem to fade and long-term success is fleeting. Square is a great idea. It seems to be available everywhere and has an incredibly strong and well-known founder and business backers. It solves a problem by letting small businesses take credit cards, quickly and easily.

If you are a business, all you do is buy one of those square card readers and slip it into the port on your iPhone, Android or iPad. Then, when you want to ring up a sale, you simply launch the Square app and swipe the customer card. The receipt is emailed to the customer. It's as easy as that.

Early Innings

The system actually works well. It should be a big hit. Square was going to rewrite the model of how we pay for things. This was a bigger-than-life goal, but the company had many heavy hitters behind it. So what's the problem?

Losses are widening, and cash on hand is slipping through Square's fingers, according to a report this week in The Wall Street Journal. So Square has been discussing a sale to more robust competitors. That's a big surprise to many.

Apparently, companies like Google, Apple and eBay already have talked with Square about this opportunity. However, one has to ask why Square seems to be in such poor financial shape when it seems to be such a success.

Jack Dorsey had the original idea for Square. Dorsey is also the cofounder of Twitter. I remember a couple years ago when Dorsey and Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, first appeared on CNBC talking about this incredible Square opportunity. That really helped put Square on the map. Now you see Square everywhere.

They talked about walking into a Starbucks store and paying for your cup of coffee with Square. Since then, the WSJ reported, Square has been having rough financial times. Starbucks, on the other hand, is in the process of reinventing itself. It is working with a variety of different payment systems.

You can download a Starbucks app and assign your credit card number to it. That way, all you do is swipe your smartphone in front of the electronic reader to pay. It is actively looking to expand into other new areas as well.

Is this part of the problem with Square? If it were the only choice, that would be one thing. However, there are lots of choices.

We are in the very early innings of this brand new game. Ideas are coming at us faster than you can imagine. Many are good ideas, however each only seems to carve out a small slice of the pie. No single idea seems to be running away with the market yet.

In addition, users are confused by all the choices. They don't yet feel comfortable setting up these strange new systems. So if they do anything, typically they choose one new way to pay and stick with it.

However, if you recall, the same thing happened when the ATM cards issued by our banks were introduced. It takes us a while to develop a high-enough comfort level. We have to trust when it comes to our money. That takes time.

Today, ATM cards are wildly successful. Will the same thing happen here? I think so -- but it will take time.

This new competition seems to have caused tough times at Square. After all, there is only one Twitter. There are other social sites, like Facebook, but they are all different -- and that has kept each doing strong business.

With financial tools like Square, however, the rules seem to be different. One issue is time. Another is increasing competition in a space where there is not one really strong success story.

Wait and Watch

Success in the financial sector is tough. While Square may be available everywhere, that does not automatically make it successful. It takes time for customers to understand and develop trust. Square lost around $100 million in 2013 -- more than it lost in 2012, according to the WSJ. Square says it is not in acquisition talks, but how long can an upstart keep this up?

Over the years, I have been briefed by many banks and wireless carriers getting into this business. The idea always sounds great. However, the results are still not strong enough.

Now we see new ideas, like Google Wallet, trying to break in -- but even the "Google" name is not enough for rapid success in this space. It is struggling for growth in this area as well. Of course, Google has the financial strength to perhaps be more patient than Square.

So, the bottom line is this: I think, long term, this will eventually be a good area. It will be a successful sector of the financial world. However, when that will happen is the question. Another question is how many great ideas will we burn through before we get there?

Will Square be among the winners? Good question. I like Square. I hope it sticks around. I think it is a good product with a strong management team and a well-known brand because of that team. However, even that may not be enough to guarantee success in the business world. We'll have to keep our eyes on Square and see what happens. 

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


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Jeff Kagan: AT&T, Verizon, Sprint Connected Car Opportunity

Jeff Kagan 

April 22, 2014 3:55PM   

Tickers Mentioned: VZ  S  T

We have watched the wireless space grow and change over the years, and change other industries as well. Healthcare, for instance, and especially automotive. AT&T ($T), Verizon ($VZ), and Sprint ($S) see this as a huge, new opportunity. The next question is when will other wireless carriers stick their toes in this water? Now is the time.

The AT&T Drive Studio is under their Emerging Device Organization. At Verizon itís called Verizon Telematics after they acquired Hughes Telematics, a competitor to OnStar. Sprint Velocity is handling their connected vehicle platform under the Sprint Enterprise Solutions business.

AT&Tís looks like they are in the lead with a current lineup for connected cars including Volvo, GM, Audi, Tesla, BMW and the Ford Focus Electric. They also have SiriusXM for their mobile connectivity with Nissan and Audiovox for their Car Connection Elite telematics device.

Verizon currently works with carmakers such as Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz. They provide assorted services like emergency services, navigation and remote vehicle diagnostics.

Sprint says they provide a solution for auto OEMís including the telematics platform, development and integration of complex components. They currently partner with Chrysler supporting their Uconnect Access service.

This is such an exciting new space, and we are still in the very early stages. The connected car is one of the greatest growth opportunities for the wireless carriers.

Glenn Lurie, President of Emerging Devices at AT&T Mobility says, once you add high speed broadband, wirelessly to cars, the car becomes a smartphone on four wheels.

And that says it all when it comes to this brand new, enormous opportunity for both the wireless and automotive space.

Cars will be able to automatically send data and download updates to its software. That means the car will always run better and the customer doesnít have to take the time to drive to the dealer. Customers love this. So do the automakers.

The connected car also provides all sorts of user features like live traffic, weather, email, text messaging, finding destinations, surfing the web, watching live television or downloaded movies and so much more.

The mobile Internet in the connected car is the birth of an entirely new growth segment. By the end of this decade we are expecting to see 65 to 75 percent of all new vehicles to be connected. It will start as an add-on feature with some carmakers for higher end vehicles, and then over time become standard for most.

Itís about automotive performance and communicating with the factory. Itís about next gen infotainment. Itís about working together with smartphones. Itís about automotive apps. This is the exciting new world that lies ahead.

This is all an enormous opportunity for the wireless industry and for the automotive industry.

Expect to see marketing and advertising in the auto sector start to change. While we are used to seeing them talk about safety, power or gas mileage, they will start to talk about being connected and how that will change our lives.

It will create a desire in the marketplace for the connected car. Something the average user has no idea about yet. However it will hit them right between the eyes in coming quarters.

However along with this opportunity there is also a risk. This connected car is one more area where the automakers must continue to hit the nail on the head. They must connect with the customer and give the customer what they want and need, even before they know it.

They must improve their conversations with the customer. There will be lots of home runs and lots of strikeouts. Live traffic reports and weather on the dash are winners. Self-parking cars, not so much.

Remember however that this is a brand new sector. We are still in the crawling stages. Just wait for this kid to get up and start to walk and run. Watch out. We still have to build the entire industry segment. It will take time. Yet it will be rapid growth.

Either way I think itís important to keep your eyes on this space. We will see enormous growth in this space for both the wireless carriers, and the auto industry. It will start with the high end cars then move into the mass market.

This is a long-term growth opportunity that will continue to change over time. And this is the kind of change that we can see the wireless carriers like AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and all sorts of smaller companies really sink their teeth into going forward

Jeff Kagan    +Follow          April 22, 2014 3:55PM 

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Jeff Kagan: Why Did Google Disappoint and Whatís Next?

By Jeff Kagan   

April 17, 2014 2:35PM   

Tickers Mentioned: GOOG  AMZN  FB  T  VZ

We knew it had to happen. Google Inc. ($GOOG), one of the tech industryís largest and fastest growing companies, missed Wall Street expectations. So what went wrong? And should we expect more disappointments, or is this just an occasional blip on the long-term radar? These are important questions whether you are an investor, worker, or partner with Google.

You notice I didnít mention customers. Thatís because customers continue to be blown away by the tech giant. Users and customers still love Google. However, this miss could make others queasy.

To answer the question quickly, let me start by saying I donít worry about Google. Not yet anyway. I simply see nothing wrong that hasnít been there for a long time. They are still a rapidly growing company that is changing industry after industry.

Google is not like other companies. Google does not just have one target product or one target audience. They may have started out as a search engine, but Google is so much more than that today. They ride multiple waves.

They are into so many different industries and business that is can make your head spin. Think of Google as a special kind of company who throws lots of ideas against the wall, quarter after quarter. Whatever falls away they forget about.

Whatever sticks they build into a powerful business. And the successes are typically new sectors with little in the way of real competition, at least in the beginning.

Google ideas are not typically in traditional sectors. They like to play on the edge. They like to build new sectors. They like to change things. Create new growth paths. And they are not alone. ($AMZN) and Facebook ($FB) do the same thing. If you recall started selling books online in the 1990ís and Facebook was a social messaging service until a year or two ago.

Today however Google, and Facebook lead the transformation of the entire tech sector. They all keep acquiring other companies and adding to their power base.

One important thing to know is all these companies continue to throw stuff against the wall. Itís a messy practice, but it works. Whatever sticks they build into new business segments and they lead.

They seem to be transforming the every slice of the tech sector, one by one. How long can they continue? Thatís the question that no one has an answer to. Eventually they will reach their peak, but that does not seem in sight yet.

Slowdowns do happen to every leading company. Just look at all of yesterdayís leaders who are struggling or even dying today. New competitors, new technologies and more change the space and take over the leadership.

Today that is Google, but for how long?

Sure, there are other companies as well who fit into that mold. Many started out doing the same thing then fell aside. Plus many other leaders of tomorrow arenít on the list yet. This is part of a very robust business economy in the tech sector.

Thatís what makes this so exciting to be part of. In that world, we canít be concerned with any particular quarter. We canít really think like day traders. Google, and Facebook are three examples of hot tech companies, which will continue to grow for many years to come.

Remember, Google is into not only search engines, but different search engines in different businesses or sectors. Some work and continue and others fail, but they keep growing as a company.

Example, I remember Google Health, which was a health care search engine. It made so much sense, but it is now gone. It didnít stick to the wall. So Google closed it down. Not everything works.

However plenty does work. Google is also in the smartphone and tablet business with their Android operating system. Not only do they make their own handsets, but they also are the operating system on a variety of competitors devices like the Samsung Galaxy.

Google is also many other businesses like Google Glass, smartwatches, apps like Google Maps, Gmail and countless other businesses.

In fact Google Fiber is also building one-gigabit high-speed data networks in what looks to be a growing number of cities competing with companies in this sector like AT&T ($T), Verizon ($VZ), CenturyLink ($CTL), Comcast ($CMCST), Time Warner Cable ($TWC) and Cox ($COX). This is another brand new sector for them.

AT&T (T) , Verizon (VZ) , CenturyLink (CTL) , Comcast (CCS) , Time Warner Cable (TWC) - See more at:

AT&T (T) , Verizon (VZ) , CenturyLink (CTL) , Comcast (CCS) , Time Warner Cable (TWC) - See more at: This is another brand new sector for themWith all these growth opportunities, I see Google still on the solid growth track, even though quarters can vary.

So Google is not slowing down. Instead they are accelerating. And I expect to see this continue for many years to come based on what I see so far. No matter what happens in any particular quarter.

That is until the time comes when, like Apple, they change from a growth company to just a very large and successful non-growth company. Unfortunately that does happen, but I donít think Google is anywhere close to that yet.

By    Jeff Kagan   +Follow          April 17, 2014 2:35PM 

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The Ultra High-Speed Internet Race Is On

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

04/17/14 12:07 PM PT

We are in the very early stages of an ultra high-speed Internet revolution that will benefit everyone: carriers, cities, companies and customers. Cities want it because they see it as a way to attract companies. That means they increase their tax base and have a strong growth economy. Companies want it because they see this as a competitive advantage, at least for a while, until everyone has it.


Want to watch a new tech race? Keep your eyes on the new 1 Gbps ultra high-speed Internet race. Over the next few years, this will continue to grow and become one of the hottest races around. So who will the leaders be? Today, entrants like Google, AT&T, C Spire and CenturyLink already have started their race for the gold.

First, it's important to understand this race, so let's pull back the camera. We can see that this race actually has been running for quite a long while. It is not new. Every year, local telephone companies like AT&T, Verizon and CenturyLink continue to increase Internet speeds. So do cable television companies like Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cox.

However, as fast as these speeds are -- and they are extremely fast -- Google wanted more. Google pointed to other countries where Internet speeds were even faster. Google wanted to speed up the process. So in typical Google fashion, it entered the race in Kansas City with its 1 Gbps service and challenged the existing providers.

Trend in the Making

Google did not do anything the others weren't already moving toward. It just turned up the competitive heat. Remember, the other competitors have huge national infrastructures to maintain. They each spend many billions of dollars upgrading their networks and increasing their speeds. All of that takes much more time than rolling out service to just one city, like Google did.

Kansas City was a success. Customers loved it. The media loved to write about it. Kansas City gained a competitive advantage, and suddenly many other cities wanted to be next on the list.

Over the last few quarters, we have seen a handful of other big-time companies jump into ultra high-speed race:

ēAT&T announced it would bring GigaPower to its first ultra high-speed city, Austin Texas;

ēCenturyLink announced its first ultra high-speed service in the Las Vegas area; and

ēC Spire jumped into the race by offering its Fiber to the Home ultra-fast Internet service in several Mississippi cities to start.

However, many competitors -- including Verizon, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox and others -- havea been silent. Will they eventually join the ultra high-speed race? I would hope so, since this is the future.

However some companies are leaders and others are followers. In this case, the leaders are Google, AT&T, CenturyLink and C spire. The others fall into the follower category -- hopefully, anyway.

The excitement is far from over. A few weeks ago, Google announced expansion of its Google Fiber to a few other cities. That news started getting lots more cities interested. Last week, AT&T announced its moves in North Carolina. It will roll out its ultra high speed U-verse Internet service with GigaPower to six communities in the Research Triangle and Piedmont Triad regions of North Carolina. It will begin as soon as it gets final approval.

What's next? AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said they would roll out this service to markets around the country. What this says to me is stay tuned, there is much more to come from AT&T. I would say AT&T looks like it is about ready to put the pedal to the metal on growth in this area.

So today it looks like AT&T and Google are the two largest and most aggressive players in this new race.

Here is a nagging Google question. Will it stay in this game as a player? I don't know. Initially I thought it wanted to use Kansas City as a showpiece to help jump-start the industry to a much faster speed. However it is now expanding.

Will Google Fiber stay in the competitive game to keep others building faster, or will it jump out at some point? We'll have to wait and see.

I also watched how Mississippi cities did their research, wrote their proposals, and created compelling arguments to win the first cities in the C Spire region for ultra high-speed service.

What this says to me is ultra high speed, 1 Gigabit Internet service is going to be one of the strong growth engines going forward.

Which Companies Will Catch the Wave?

Cities want it because they see it as a way to attract companies. That means they increase their tax base and have a strong growth economy. Companies want it because they see this as a competitive advantage, at least for a while, until everyone has it -- that will take years. Consumers want it, because they will be attracted to ultra high-speed cities for work and as great places to live and raise their families.

The first stage of this new growth opportunity looks like it will be individual companies moving into individual market areas. I don't yet see multiple operators competing in the same space yet. It will likely be this way for several years, until at least the first wave of cities have one ultra high-speed provider. As the future unfolds, we will see more companies moving into each market space.

That could mean prices for this service will start out higher. However, we can't blame companies for trying to recover their very high build-out expenses. This is the way it has always worked over time. Eventually, as competition grows, prices will come down.

Do you remember how expensive cellular phone service was 20 years ago? I predict the same thing here.

It looks like we are in the very early stages of an ultra high-speed Internet revolution that will benefit everyone: carriers, cities, companies and customers. It seems like everyone will win in this new environment.

Everyone who is a player will win, anyway. That's why sooner or later I see every service provider moving into this ultra high-speed race. It will be interesting to watch other companies jump in and join the fray -- and it also will be interesting to watch the companies that don't.   

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


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Which Wireless Network Is Best for You?

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

04/10/14 6:28 AM PT


The top two carriers today are very different from the bottom two. Each is different -- that's why choosing the right carrier for you is so important. Whichever you choose, make sure it offers a strong signal, fast speed, and good-quality voice connections where you spend time. If it doesn't, don't wait. It may be time to ask for a refund and try the next network on your list.


Every couple of years, it's time to buy a new wireless phone -- and every couple of years, we go through the same decision-making process. What should be the most important part of that process? The answer is not in the advertising. It's not about choosing a phone. Rather, it's choosing the right network -- and there is a difference between major carriers.

The four largest U.S. wireless carriers are AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile. Which is best for you? When it comes to quality, strength of signal and network footprint, you may be surprised. They are not all the same. There is quite a bit to consider.

Top Dogs

AT&T Mobility and Verizon Wireless are at the top. They are not the least expensive, but they do have the most customers. That fact alone speaks volumes. They have the widest national coverage and fastest networks in more locations. So, is either AT&T or Verizon right for you?

Remember, a wireless handset is nothing more than a paperweight unless it's connected to a network. So having network connection where you spend time is first and most important on the list of things to consider when choosing a carrier. While AT&T and Verizon are not perfect, they do offer the largest network footprints in the U.S.

There is also a difference in the quality of connections. You want a strong connection with four or five bars of network coverage. Having only one or two bars of coverage can cause quality and speed problems.

Generally speaking, both AT&T Mobility and Verizon Wireless have the broadest network coverage for voice and high-speed data in more locations. However, they have different hot spots. They don't offer exactly the same strength in all locations.

There are plenty of locations where one has much stronger coverage than the other. Make sure you choose the strongest connection where you spend most of your time. AT&T is better for some and Verizon is better for others.

In addition, AT&T and Verizon use different network technologies. They both have strengths and weaknesses, but one of the most important that I hear about is AT&T lets you talk and surf the Web and use wireless data services all at the same time. Verizon does not. With Verizon, you have to hang up a call to use the Internet, and so on.

On the innovation side of the coin, AT&T is strongest. It tends to try new things first. There is a reason its leads the change in the industry. One example is that it was the only carrier to offer Apple's iPhone for several years.

Let's say several networks offer you strong, high-quality connections. Lucky you. What is the next step in choosing the best network for you?

Fast Speed, Wide Coverage

Based on their television commercials, they all seem to offer the best quality with the most coverage and highest speeds, right? What each is saying may be accurate based on the words they carefully use. However, that's not the way to choose which is best for you.

Generally speaking, all networks offer good quality and high speeds today. However, some offer more than others. One test is how many of their customers would admit to having great wireless service. That's the real question.

The answer depends on where customers spend time. Network coverage is key to this part of the decision. Generally speaking, both AT&T and Verizon offer the fastest speeds in the widest coverage areas. Sprint and T-Mobile are fast too, but in fewer locations.

If you are in the middle of a city, that may not be an issue. Many carriers will do just fine. However, if you are located in the suburbs or travel between cities, this often becomes more of an issue.

AT&T and Verizon have the most-extensive network coverage. That means they offer the best quality calls and highest-speed wireless Internet in more areas.

While Sprint is not up to that point yet, it has been acquired by Softbank and is undertaking a multiyear upgrade that will transform its network.

When Sprint is done, it will have the newest network in the industry offering all sorts of new services. This is great news for Sprint customers. While it sounds very exciting, it's still down the road over the next couple of years.

Until about a year ago T-Mobile was struggling for its life, but it has been turning things around during the last year and actually is seeing growth. That's the good news. It has a new CEO and is marketing differently. It offers lower cost plans and markets directly to the youth of America.

While T-Mobile does have a few great spots in its network, its coverage and speed are not yet equal to competitors, generally speaking -- not yet, anyway. It is building and working to improve.

So, today AT&T and Verizon offer the widest network coverage, fastest service and best quality. They also impose higher costs, but based on their success in the marketplace, that does not get in their way.

In addition, they both continue to invest billions of dollars, year after year in their networks. Things are always getting faster and better.

But Wait, There's More

Wireless is only part of what AT&T and Verizon offer. They also offer telephone, high-speed Internet and television services, with their IPTV-like Uverse and FiOS. They are both heavily into other areas, too -- like healthcare and automotive, for example. They are strong competitors to cable television companies like Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox and others.

So, the very large AT&T and Verizon are in a completely different league than standalone wireless carriers Sprint and T-Mobile.

Over the last several years, both Sprint and T-Mobile were struggling in third and fourth place. However, both have started repairing during the last year. If that continues, I expect to see both growing as meaningful wireless competitors over the next few years.

The top two today are very different from the bottom two. Each carrier is different -- that's why choosing the right carrier for you is so important. Whichever carrier you choose, make sure it offers a strong signal, fast speed, and good-quality voice connections where you spend time.

If it doesn't, don't wait. It may be time to ask for a refund and try the next network on your list. Just remember, you only have a few weeks to return a phone. Make sure you ask about return policies before you walk out of the store.

I wish there were an easy way to choose the best carrier for you. Sorry -- it's not about watching a television commercial. It's all about where you spend time -- that's the secret sauce that really matters. 


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


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Jeff Kagan: Microsoft, Yahoo, Sony Follow Netflix Into TV

By Jeff Kagan

April 9, 2014 6:00AM   

Tickers Mentioned: AMZN   MSFT   YHOO   NFLX

Television seems to be turning into the new competitive playing field. Iím talking about the kind of TV that you suddenly find offered by Netflix (NFLX) , (AMZN)  and HULU. Companies like Microsoft (MFST) , Yahoo (YHOO)  and Sony seem to be next in line. Television is changing. What can we expect?

Iím not talking about cable TV, satellite TV or even IPTV from the phone companies, but Internet based television. This is either a brand new sector or a reinventing of the entire television space. This will either threaten or work with traditional television leaders.

We are still in the very early innings of this new ballgame so there is no way we can say who the winners and losers will be long-term. All we can do is stare with awe at the changes that are sweeping across the screen. And those changes will continue. We are still in the very early stages of a very different television industry looking forward.

First we have to understand this new industry. What the sectors are and who is playing in which. We have to ask whether these new companies are in the delivery business like cable television and IPTV companies. Or if they are more like the networks who create programming. Or perhaps like independent producers.

At this early stage itís hard to tell. Consider Netflix as an example. They are changing.

Netflix has been in the more simple delivery business for most of their lives. First they mailed DVDís to customers. Now they stream movies over the Internet. That means they are in the delivery business.

They are not cable television or telephone companies with IPTV, but they still deliver programming over the Internet connection most customers buy from these other companies. So will they eventually be a competitor or compliment existing services?

However today Netflix is expanding and creating new programming. I am talking about the highly successful ďHouse of CardsĒ series. This is not released on a more traditional model like we are familiar with on traditional TV.

This is a big first step for Netflix, which seems to be successful. So what is Netflix? Do they deliver movies to customers over the Internet? Yes they do. Do they create their own programming? Yes they do.

And they do all this without the traditional television model. Thatís the change agent.

While I cannot tell you exactly what the marketplace will look like ten years from now, I can say this. It will be different. Very different. It changes on a regular basis and will continue to do so.

That could mean more traditional companies will acquire or partner with some new companies. Or it could mean the more traditional model will have a larger competitive challenge.

Which companies will continue to lead and which will fail is the big question.

So while no one knows what the future will look like, it is advisable to buckle your seatbelts because the road ahead is not paved. Like when we created the commercial Internet in the 1990ís, the bumpy road will cause many companies to fail for every one that succeeds.

As excited as we can get over this new space, and the companies that are paving the new road, we must be careful choosing the right companies to invest in and work for and partner with. They wonít all be successful, but the ones who are could become very successful indeed.

By    Jeff Kagan   +Follow          April 9, 2014 6:00AM 

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BlackBerry's Coca-Cola Moment

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

04/03/14 9:41 AM PT

Coca-Cola did something very unusual for a corporate giant. Its executives said they were wrong. They admitted the customer knew best. They apologized for screwing around with the brand, and they brought back the good, old-fashioned Coca-Cola recipe. Those executives gave in to mounting customer pressure. If they hadn't, that may have been the end of the company.


BlackBerry CEO John Chen is trying to turn the company's fortunes around, and something it has in common with Coca-Cola could help. This is something very important, if BlackBerry realizes it. It's something that if done correctly could help the company succeed once again.

I have followed BlackBerry for many years, watching its ups and predicting its downs. I believe that if its leaders are alert -- and if they can learn -- the company can recover.

Coca-Cola has been around forever. It has been one of America's best-known and most loved brands for more years than most of us have been alive. It inspires a special emotional connection with customers, sort of like Apple does.

However, in spite of all its success -- which took decades to build -- Coca-Cola execs almost flushed it all down the drain overnight. A company's path can change directions, from success to failure, in a heartbeat.

Eve of Destruction

Remember several years ago, when Coca-Cola executives thought they knew the product better than the customer? They changed the recipe. They thought they were making a big move -- and it was indeed very big. It was one big punch in the nose.

Coca-Cola had been around forever. It had been on many consumers' taste buds since they were kids who walked to the corner store for a bottle of pop. It was part of America.

Many adults knew and loved the classic taste of Coke. It brought back memories of childhood, and they wanted to extend that relationship to their children. That nostalgia was something that benefited both the family and the Coca-Cola brand.

The customer feedback on the recipe change was immediate, negative and intense. Customers did not like anyone messing around with the Coca-Cola they loved. Customers wanted to know who those executives thought they were.

The bottom line was that Coca-Cola owned the secret recipe and could do anything it chose. However, that didn't mean customers would buy the new Coke. The change was a disaster.

That was the colossal mistake Coca-Cola's execs made. The feedback it generated may have been the worst any company has ever received -- to date. The executives were stunned. They didn't know what to do. They were like deer frozen in the headlights as traffic approached. If they stayed rooted to that spot, they would have been mowed over, and that might have been the end of Coca-Cola.

However Coca-Cola did something very unusual for a corporate giant. Its executives said they were wrong. They admitted the customer knew best. They apologized for screwing around with the brand, and they brought back the good, old-fashioned Coca-Cola recipe.

Those executives gave in to mounting customer pressure. If they hadn't, that may have been the end of the company. That move not only saved it, but also propelled it forward once again.

Coca-Cola's customer relationships were very close and special lifelong bonds. They took years to build, but they were almost destroyed overnight.

So how does this fit in with BlackBerry?

Batter Up

BlackBerry's story is so similar it is scary. Initially, customers loved the company, and it grew. It had a very strong brand and a special relationship with the customer. BlackBerry led the smartphone sector for years.

Then the marketplace suddenly changed. Apple debuted the iPhone, Google introduced the Android operating system, and Samsung took over leadership almost overnight, neck-and-neck with Apple. It happened so quickly BlackBerry didn't see ut coming.

BlackBerry was not the only company struggling to survive this change. Palm died. Nokia was pummeled. The entire industry changed over the last few years.

The call for new leadership and new vision came. Long-time BlackBerry CEOs who founded the company were forced to resign. A new CEO came in with radical ideas that looked as though they could be successful. However, when BlackBerry 10 launched, it was a dismal failure.

BlackBerry changed leadership once again, and now John Chen is at the helm. So far, I like what I see. However, there are still many questions. Will he take the company in the right direction?

Chen didn't immediately steer away from BlackBerry 10. To my way of looking at this situation, BB10 was a disaster. I have been saying since the beginning that the company should pull the new devices and go back to the old, faithful and successful design of BlackBerry 7.

It would have to update the software and operating system and speed of the devices, of course, but if it did, I believe it could continue to win and grow.

So my recommendation to BlackBerry is to do what Coca-Cola did. Say you are sorry. Say you now understand BB10 is a disaster. Say you will go back to BlackBerry 7 and keep improving that operating system and the devices that run it -- just like Apple, Google and Samsung do every year.

Is this what John Chen is finally starting to do? It's not clear, but I sure hope so.

Coca-Cola won in the end. So can BlackBerry, if John Chen understands and takes the right next steps.

BlackBerry, turn this into a big marketing and public relations event. Say you were wrong, and that you are listening to your customers and going back to BlackBerry 7, the software your customers really liked, modernizing it to keep it fresh. Then, maybe, just like Coca-Cola, you can hit a home run.


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


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Jeff Kagan: Status Report on Vonage VoIP

By    Jeff Kagan   +Follow          April 2, 2014 5:00AM   

Tickers Mentioned: GOOG   TWC    VZ   VG

Vonage (VG)  is one of the older VoIP companies that entered the scene more than a decade ago. At the time we didnít know whether or not they would become a long lasting option. Now a decade later they are bigger than ever on the consumer side and making aggressive moves into the business side of the market. So what can we expect Vonage going forward? You may be surprised.

When Vonage started about a decade ago they were, well, an annoying little company buzzing around the faces of the major Baby Bells, offering a new-fangled ďvoice over the InternetĒ service. Quality was so-so. Customers signed up for the service to cut their phone bills a bit, but it was a trade-off.

I met CEO Jeffrey Citron at a trade show and we spoke about the future of the industry and the future of Vonage. He saw Vonage as a glowing success story, which it was as an investment, but at the time it also had loads of quality issues and problems. I liked his spirit, but thought it would be a while before Vonage would ever grow into a meaningful competitor.

However as VoIP improved over the years, so did Vonage. Sure they still have problems, which I will discuss, but as years passed the problems had less to do with Vonage and more to do with limited bandwidth of some customers.

The question back then was simple, was it worth the savings if you didnít have a good quality call? Today I still get many calls from reporters using a VoIP service. Sometimes the quality is good. Sometimes it is terrible. None are ever as good as a local phone line.

I learned VoIP quality issues came from two areas. One was the VoIP provider and the technology they use, and two with the slower Internet connections many customers use. This Internet connection does not come from Vonage.

Some customers have a very fast, very high quality Internet service. Others have a much slower and less expensive service. The more expensive and faster service is better for VoIP. Slower, less expensive service can cause real quality problems with VoIP.

In recent years as Internet connections sped up from all the phone companies and cable television companies, things did get better. And as speeds continue to increase, things should continue to get better.

Certain VoIP services that had better quality began to stand out. Vonage was one of them. Not all competitors are. Today Vonage continues to grow. Perfect? Of course not. But they are better than ever and improving every year.

So VoIP, while not perfect, is going to continue to be a growing part of the market. Not every VoIP carrier has the same quality problems.

Cable television companies like Comcast ($CMCST), Time Warner Cable (TWC)  and Cox offer great quality VoIP services. So do the telephone companies like AT&T (T)  Uverse, Verizon (VZ)  FiOS and CenturyLink Prism who also sell VoIP services in addition to their regular telephone lines. They also combine television, Internet and phone.

These big competitors offer excellent quality VoIP telephone service because they offer their own high-quality and high-speed Internet lines. That can make the different between a poor or good quality call.

Vonage is not a cable television company. Vonage is not a telephone company. So Vonage does not offer high-speed Internet lines. Yet they require high-speed lines to operate with good quality.

Where do you get this high-speed connection? Thatís up to the customer. Customers with good quality and fast connections have better quality VoIP calls. Customers with poor quality or slower connections often have worse quality calls.

So when you complain about a lousy connection, first try and decide if itís the VoIP service, or the high-speed connection. 

Vonage has worked to improve their quality over the years and has had success. Not perfect, but better every year. If a customer has a fast and good quality Internet connection, then Vonage can be a good choice.

And as Internet speeds continue to increase, things should continue to get better for companies like Vonage.

Today we are starting to see companies offering ultra high-speed Internet connections like Google (GOOG) , AT&T, CenturyLink, C Spire and more. This will make a big difference as well.

Now Vonage is getting into the business side of the marketplace. This is helpful to them because most businesses do have a more expensive, better quality and faster connection than most consumers. They do this because quality and speed are a reflection on their business. They also have multiple people who use the service.

So when Vonage business service is hooked up to a business, the majority of their customers are still small and mid size businesses. Thatís good.

So having enough bandwidth is still key to a good quality call for consumers or business customers. Thatís where this ultra-fast Internet will be very helpful as it begins to roll out.

With all that said, Vonage Holdings Corp. acquired a company called Vocalocity in the Atlanta area last year for $130 million. Now Vonage is also a business services company.

Vonage is growing. Their new Business Solutions (Vocalocity) is staying put in Atlanta. They are hiring and rapidly growing. Atlanta has a powerful high tech business community.

The opportunity is huge in the business market on a nationwide basis if they do things right going forward.

Marc Lefar is Vonage CEO now. I knew him back in the Cingular days. Cingular today is called AT&T Mobility. He still lives in Atlanta and commutes to the New Jersey HQ of Vonage. Now Lefar has a reason to spend more time in Atlanta. They are rapidly building out this business solutions segment.

They must continue to work to improve and solve the VoIP problems, the need for high-speed network connections, and build their brand both on the consumer side and the business side of the fence.

VoIP is a large and growing business segment. It is full of large companies and small companies. So if Vonage can continue to build its brand, there is an opportunity. Of course this same opportunity is there for all Vonage competitors as well. There are many, small companies in the same space like RingCentral, 8X8, Jive,, Magic Jack and more.

So in this space full of small companies competing with each other and bigger competitors like the baby bells and cable television companies, building a competitive service and well known brand name and relationship with the marketplace is key.

This means VoIP is in flux, as always. However Vonage seems to remain on the growth track. Weíll keep our eyes on them and see how well they all do going forward.

By Jeff Kagan   +Follow          April 2, 2014 5:00AM 

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HTC Needs to Turn Up the Heat

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

03/27/14 5:58 AM PT

There are two key ingredients to success in the wireless space -- the steak and the sizzle. Both have to be perfect. The steak is the actual technology, and I think HTC has a great steak. The sizzle comes from the marketing, advertising, public relations and brand. This is HTC's weak area. I hope the company has learned some from last year and is more successful this time around.

HTC this week announced the HTC One M8, a new model of its flagship smartphone. When the HTC One made its debut last year, AT&T Mobility sent me one to test drive. I thought it was very well designed. However, what it had in substance, the HTC One lacked in brand recognition, marketing, advertising and public relations. Let's face it, HTC is not a well known and loved brand that customers walk in and ask for. Will it be different this year?

HTC is trying once again. Will it be more successful this time, or will it continue to be invisible in the marketplace? Just think about what HTC has done during the course of the last year to build its brand and name recognition... . OK, I can't think of much either. That could be a problem. Sure, it's a correctable problem, but it's still a problem.

HTC makes good Android smartphones. In fact, the HTC One -- both last year and this year -- is a solid device capable of doing anything an Android user wants.

So why didn't it succeed last year? Simple. It could not make a dent against the marketing and branding power of Apple's iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy. That is one hell of a wall to climb. So what will HTC do differently this time, and will it matter?

Where's the Brand?

The HTC One is now available at AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless and Sprint. T-Mobile and others will get it over the next several months.

This could give its marketing, advertising and PR more focus. Lack of focus was a problem last year, since the phone was introduced at different times by different carriers without a big coming out party.

The HTC One's marketing was weak last year. Advertising, marketing and public relations are all key to success in the wireless business. I have not seen much on the M8 front yet.

HTC makes very good devices, but it has struggled with building its brand, marketing and advertising. I am not quite sure the company really understands the importance of this part of the business.

Brand-building is key to success, and branding is something that HTC simply does not yet have. It could remedy this, by spending enough time, money and energy to build the brand. It needs to create a special halo over its head, which it could do very quickly if it does it right.

Not Sizzling Yet

HTC is up against two heavy hitters -- Apple and Samsung. These two capture most of the attention and soak up most of the oxygen in any room.

In addition, there are other companies that are trying very hard this year to make a dent in the marketplace and raise their own brand recognition: Microsoft, with its Nokia Lumia; Google, with the Nexus 5; Sony, with its latest Xperia; Motorola; LG; BlackBerry; and many more.

I hope HTC understands the marketplace and the importance of marketing and building its brand. I would like to see it succeed going forward. Meeting that challenge is up to the company.

There are two key ingredients to success in the wireless space -- the steak and the sizzle. Both have to be perfect. The steak is the actual technology, and I think HTC has a great steak. The sizzle comes from the marketing, advertising, public relations and brand. This is HTC's weak area.

I hope the company has learned some from last year and is more successful this time around. Let's hope it really can make some progress this year. One thing that's good is that it launched the HTC One M8 prior to the Samsung Galaxy S5 hitting the streets. Stay tuned. 

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


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Jeff Kagan: Every Company Rides Growth Wave Up and Down

By Jeff Kagan  

March 27, 2014 5:00AM   

Tickers Mentioned: AAPL    NOK   GOOG

Growth companies are always the place to be. However it depends where they are on the growth wave. Companies ride the wave up, then it crests, then it falls. Every company is somewhere on the growth wave. The only question is, are they on the way up, or the way down? Knowing this makes all the difference whether you are a worker, partner or investor.

To make my point let me share some examples.

Apple (AAPL) is the first. In the 1990ís Apple was not a rapidly growing success story. They had computers like the Mac, but their growth was not stellar. Then in the late 90ís they came up with their first growth wave, the iPod. The iPod changed the direction of the entire company.

Then before that growth wave crested and fell, they created the next growth wave, the iPhone, and then the next, the iPad. So Apple was growth company through the 2000ís.

However we havenít seen anything new in the last few years from Apple. That means the growth company has slowed. It wonít start its growth engines again until it creates new products or new categories.

So Apple is a great illustration of the course of a company on the growth wave. They created several and they continued to grow. Until they stopped creating the next wave, then they stopped being a growth company.

AT&T (T) is another great example of a company transforming and creating the next several growth waves. However, they are a bit more complex than Apple.

AT&T was a growth company through the 1990ís. It rode the growth wave and looked very strong. Then it lost its way, crested on the wave, and started a rapid drop.

It eventually spun off the AT&T Wireless business. It sold off the cable television business to Comcast ($CMCST). Then it lost its consumers to the ďBaby Bells.Ē What was left after a few short years was a much smaller and weaker and dying business services companies.

Thatís when SBC, the Baby Bell from San Antonio Texas acquired AT&T and took the name. At the same time SBC also acquired BellSouth and Cingular. That changed everything.

SBC executives now ran AT&T. Over the next several years they did a great job of integrating all these companies into the new AT&T. They updated the image and shined up the tired old brand.

Today AT&T is one of the fastest growing industry giants. This is a huge success story. Sure there were bumps in the road, but after the acquisitions they started a new growth wave which they are still riding today.

The local phone business and the long distance business days were numbered. Sure they are still around, but they are not the growth parts of the business.

Today the growth parts of AT&T business are wireless with AT&T Mobility (previously Cingular), broadband, television with IPTV and new services like wireless security and home automation, wireless healthcare, wireless automotive, and helping other industries use wireless to meet the future.

So AT&T is a company who continues to ride wave after wave. They donít wait for the first wave to crest and fall. Instead they continue to introduce new waves to the mix. AT&T continues to grow.

Motorola is another example. Motorola was the first, best and biggest in the handset business, for generations. Then they missed the move from analog network to digital. Nokia (NOK)  took over the lead for the next decade.

Motorola, which had been riding their multi-decade long wave up, had crested and was now on the downside of the wave. Finally after years they came up with the Razr. This should have been the beginning of their recovery.

Instead the Razr was a one hit wonder. It was a wave they rode up, then when they had nothing to replace it with, Motorola started to fall once again. Then the company was a mess for years to come.

Finally Motorola got together with Verizon and marketed the Droid wireless phone. This kept them alive. Then the company split up. They were eventually acquired by Google (GOOG)  not long ago. Now Lenovo wants them.

I hope they can ride the growth wave once again, but who knows what the future of Motorola is at this point.

Apple, AT&T and Motorola are just three examples of the wave. Itís important when choosing a company to work with, partner with or invest in, to find one that is on the growth side of the wave.

Unfortunately most people just look at the brand name and the products in the market today and that is simply not enough. Sometimes it takes a bit of time for reality to catch up and bite you in the rear end.

Choosing the right company on the growth side of the wave is always a much better place to be, hands down.

By Jeff Kagan     March 27, 2014 5:00AM 

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Jeff Kagan: Cloud Based Computing Winners and Losers

By Jeff Kagan

March 20, 2014 7:30PM   

Tickers Mentioned: T







Cloud based computing is getting lots of attention lately. It is one of those brand new technologies that is very chaotic. There are winners and losers and they will continue to change. However it is not really new. What we see now is new thinking, new ideas, new technology and expansion in new areas. Today, only some companies seem to be doing well in this space.

Cloud computing itself is not new. Companies have been using it for many years letting their workers log on to the network. Data and software are stored on the network. Users simply log on and work.

The cloud is also not new in the open consumer marketplace. There are countless examples, but just think of (AMZN)  and Carbonite (CARB)  to understand. These are e-commerce and automatic backup services. And there are many more.

The cloud has been with us for a while, but now it is growing and changing and expanding. As an example, think of the smartphone side of the wireless business. Smartphones have been around for a couple decades already. Think Blackberry and Palm. However the smartphone segment changed and expanded rapidly a few short years ago when Apple iPhone (AAPL) , Google Android (GOOG)  and Samsung Galaxy hit the streets.

The entire smartphone segment rapidly changed. Carriers now focus on providing fast access to data and apps. And the app market has exploded from a few hundred to nearly a million in just a few short years. So smartphones may have been with us for a while, but this new expanded smartphone market changed everything.

Thatís what is happening with cloud computing. There are well-known, older companies and technologies that are trying to ride this wave and continue to lead. At the same time there are brand new ideas and companies whose technologies are dramatically changing the world.

Not every company in this space does well. During the last few years, anything having to do with cloud computing seemed to be a hit. However now it seems things are shifting. Many older and more established companies and ideas are having a tougher time staying in the sweet spot.

The real hits seem to be the new ideas and companies and technologies. Some of these come from new companies who want to change the world. Others still come from existing players.

Today some existing brand name players seem to continue hitting home runs, while others are struggling.

So what is the cloud? Itís actually many different things depending on the company, the technology and the marketplace they serve.

The cloud can be software as a service. Rather than buying software at a store on a disk, you just log on and use it. It is always updated automatically.

Or the cloud can be a platform as a service. Think of the Apple iCloud where users store all their data on the iCloud rather than on their devices.

Or it can be infrastructure as a service. This is a wide-ranging offering.

And that is just today. The cloud continues to expand. What will the cloud be in the next few years as it continues to grow and change and expand?

Today there are private cloud and public cloud services customers can use, plus there are hybrid cloud offerings as well.

Some of the bigger names in the cloud space are, Google, Oracle Cloud (ORCL) , Microsoft Azure (MFST) , Salesforce (CRM) , Zoho and many others.

There are also service providers who I believe will be important players in this cloud space like AT&T (T) , Verizon (VZ) , CenturyLink (CTL) , Sprint (S) and C Spire on both the wireless and wire line side. This is also an opportunity for companies like Windstream (WIN)  who are service providers and already have the kind of corporate customer that can use the cloud.

Thursday a company called Q2 went public. CEO Matthew Flake said in an interview on CNBC that Q2 is a smaller and newer company breaking into the rapidly growing and changing cloud space. They seem to see a very bright future.

At the same time consider Oracle Cloud. Oracle is a well-known, long time brand name yet it seems to be struggling in this cloud sector currently. Can they recover? Yes of course. ďWill they?Ē is the real question.

What this means is there are no guarantees. Some well-known brand name companies will do well while others will struggle. And many newcomers have the chance to rattle the cages and really breakout in this new and fast growing space.

So who will lead? Will it be smaller and newer technologies who are the nimble ones? Or will it be existing brand name leaders who either continue to grow or successfully regroup and recapture their growth waves?

Good questions. The answer is some companies from both groups. All I can tell you right now is the cloud is the future. There will be public and private and hybrid clouds that will touch every aspect of our business and personal lives.

The cloud is one of those spaces that is young and developing and changing. Often it takes small and nimble companies to make sharp turns and continue to open markets. Then again look at how well established companies like AT&T Mobility and Verizon Wireless have done with their cloud offerings supporting the new smartphone world.

By Jeff Kagan   +Follow          March 20, 2014 7:30PM 

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Why Didn't Fliers on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 Call or Text?

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

03/20/14 5:00 AM PT

If there were no messages received, does it mean the plane experienced a sudden catastrophe? Based on the latest news accounts, the answer seems to be no. The plane flew off course for several hours. So why didn't anyone send messages? Were they unable to? Were they unconscious? There's speculation that a sudden elevation change could have knocked everyone out quickly. Is that what happened?

There has been quite a bit of media speculation on the loss of Malaysia Flight 370. However, many important questions simply are not being answered yet. One that many people are wondering about is this: Why didn't anyone on board that plane call or text message anyone?

During the last week I have appeared on many news shows -- NBC, CNN with Wolf Blitzer, FOX News with Megyn Kelly, and an assortment of other shows on national networks. The same questions repeatedly come up, but there are no answers.

One I've been pondering is this: Why didn't the passengers on Malaysia Flight 370 call, email or text any messages?

Deceptive Ringing

Some family members have been upset because when they called the cellphones of their loved ones on the flight they would hear several rings before the call attempt would fail. Unfortunately, that means nothing. If you're calling a landline, when you hear it ring, it is ringing.

However, cellular calls don't work that way. When you dial and press send, you start to hear ringing -- but that does not mean it's ringing on the other end. It simply signifies the network is searching for the phone you are dialing.

If both phones are on the same network in the same country, the connection can be made on the first ring. If there are two different networks involved, it can take another ring or two. If the two networks are from different countries, the number of rings can stretch out longer.

To give you an example, my wife and I use two different wireless networks. When she calls my wireless phone from her wireless phone, she often hears several rings before I hear it ring once. Hearing the sound of a phone ringing on the other end means nothing, unfortunately.

If a plane is flying high, or over the ocean or a non-populated area, there are likely no cell towers to log onto. If a wireless phone is not logged on to a cell tower, it's not connected. If it's not connected, then it's no better than a paperweight. It simply won't work.

There are other ways to message, however.

Sat Phones and WiFi

There are phones in many planes today. These are not traditional cellphones. Instead, they connect to the airplane, then to a satellite, and then to the ground. These are expensive, but a great way to call from the air.

Were phones like these on the Malaysia Airlines plane? If so, were they used? Why has there been no answer to this question as yet?

What about WiFi? Many U.S. domestic flights offer Internet access through Gogo In-flight and other services, allowing users to send email and chat messages.

Was WiFi available on Flight 370? Were any messages received? Why no answer to this question yet?

If there were no messages received, does it mean the plane experienced a sudden catastrophe? If you believe the latest news accounts, the answer seems to be no. The plane flew off course several hours. So why were the passengers not sending messages? Were they unable to? Were they unconscious?

There's speculation that a sudden elevation change could have knocked everyone out quickly. Is that what happened?

Then there is cellphone jamming technology. Sure, it's illegal, but so is hijacking a plane. It could have rendered every phone and computer on the plane unable to communicate.

I'm raising questions, not suggesting answers. I have no answers. I am not an aviation expert, but I have been following wireless technology for decades. Someone must have at least some of these answers, right?

Malaysia Airlines should answer these questions. Did this plane have wireless phones or WiFi for fliers to use? Families and international searchers need answers.

Sat Tracking Overdue

For the future, we can learn many lessons. One thing we must do going forward is make sure every plane that flies has every bit of technology help available.

For one thing, it should not be possible for pilots or anyone on a plane to turn off its tracking technology.

Every plane should be equipped with satellite tracking technology. U.S. planes will have it -- but possibly not until as late as 2020. The timetables for other countries to adopt this tech is unknown.

We need Malaysia to be more open with the world so we can fill in the blanks. Let's start with whether this flight was equipped with satellite phones or WiFi service. 

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


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Jeff Kagan: Sprint Chairman on Ultra Fast Internet and T-Mobile Merger

By  Jeff Kagan 

March 12, 2014 6:00AM  

Tickers Mentioned: S




Masayoshi Son was not on anyoneís radar a year ago, but he is punching his way onto the US wireless map these days.

He is the new Chairman of wireless carrier Sprint (S) . Son was on CNBC the morning of March 11 talking with reporter David Faber, and had some very eye opening and industry reshaping things to say.

Son says wireless Internet speeds are too slow and too expensive. He says he wants to change that in the USA. He says other countries are faster and less expensive and wonders why this is not the case here as well. He has a plan to remedy this situation.

Son is head of Softbank, a very large and successful wireless and technology company in Japan. Softbank acquired 80 percent of Sprint last summer. Now he is Sprint chairman and Dan Hesse is Sprint CEO. Son flies to the US on a regular basis and meets with Hesse and other execs and plan their strategy.

First Hesse says they are ripping out every last piece of equipment on the Sprint wireless network and replacing it with brand new technology that can handle much faster speeds and much more innovation. This will take a few more years to compete, but they are moving very rapidly.

Next, Son wants to merge with T-Mobile (TMUS) . US regulators are not so excited about this idea. They already said no to AT&T (T)  a few years ago. What will they say to Sprint?

The question is simple. Will the US marketplace remain with four top competitors, AT&T, Verizon (VZ) ,Sprint and T-Mobile, or will he make his case and we will have three major competitors?

There are good points on both sides. I guess itís a matter of which way the US regulators want the wireless industry to develop going forward. And even if the answer is no today, Softbank could still win T-Mobile under another government administration a few years from now. So either way this is not a short story.

This is the case Masayoshi Son is making to the American people. Of course the American people donít vote one way or the other. Thatís the job of regulators like the DoJ and the FCC. However Son wants T Mobile and is willing to take his story to the people of this country and try and win support.

The more I see Masayoshi Son, the more I like him. He may be the wealthiest man in Japan, but he also has what it takes to shake things up in the US wireless industry. Whether he can persuade US regulators is another question. Weíll see.

One example he discussed on March 11 was how in other countries the wireless Internet speeds are getting faster and price is falling. This is the typical technology path by the way. The longer something is in the market, the better and faster and cheaper it typically gets.

Son says it does not work that way with wireless Internet in the USA. Here our Internet speeds are still slow and prices continue to rise compared with the rest of the world. He says in the US market the price keeps going up.

When we say Internet, itís important to realize there is more than one kind. There is the wire line Internet from the phone company or cable television company, and there is the wireless Internet provided by wireless carriers. Son is talking about the wireless Internet where speeds are slower and more expensive than wire line.

However, with or without Son I would say that this whole space is beginning to change. Example, ultra high-speed wire line Internet is starting to expand around the country. We see large and small companies stepping into this new space.

Wireless carrier C Spire is building and will roll out ultra fast, wire line Internet in cities throughout Mississippi. This is very interesting, a wireless carrier moving into a wire line space.

Ultra high-speed moves from a growing list of companies like AT&T and Google is very exciting. And we are still on the very early steps of this very fast new world.

Masayoshi Son and Sprint want to be part of this world. They want to drive it. They want to bring this ultra fast Internet to the wireless world as well. He says in the USA, wireless Internet speeds are in the 5 Ė 10 megabits per second. Landline broadband is 20 Ė 30 mbps.

He then says they would like to provide up to 200 mbps speeds. Thatís the target they have. He did not mention price, but either way thatís pretty impressive.

He says in Japan they already have 20 Ė 60 mbps and they are testing in Tokyo a speed of 700 mbps on the street. He says nationwide coverage at this speed will take several years.

So one way or another, tomorrow will be very fast indeed because as I mentioned above, we already see competitors jumping into this same area on the wire line side.

Son says he is throwing a stone into the pond. The wake-up call. Will he be successful? Who knows. Weíll just have to wait and see. But tomorrow seems very exciting indeed. Stay tuned.

 By  Jeff Kagan   +Follow        March 12, 2014 6:00AM 

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Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: False Hope in the Sound of Ringing Phones

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

03/11/14 9:13 AM PT  

If the calling phone and the receiving phone are on the same network, the call can connect more quickly. If they are on two different networks, it can take a bit longer. If the two networks are in different countries, it often takes even longer to connect. When you hear the sound of a phone ringing several times, that does not mean it is ringing at the other end.


I received a call from NBC News on Monday about an interesting angle on the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 mystery.

Relatives of passengers on the missing aircraft apparently said they had dialed the cellphone numbers of loved ones on the flight and reported that the phones rang -- several times in fact. Then the calls were terminated. What could this mean?

Nineteen family representatives signed a statement affirming that when they dialed their loved ones, their phones rang rather than immediately going to voice mail, according to a report published in That has raised quite a few questions.

Many Variations

We all know that sometimes a call goes directly to voice mail. Other times, the network says the party you are calling is unavailable. There are all sorts of possible responses or messages, depending on the network and the circumstances. There is no common way every network handles every different attempted call.

This has caused confusion among friends, family and others following this event. I am sorry to say that when you hear ringing, it means nothing.

The way the wireless industry works is that each cellphone carrier simply chooses what happens when a call is placed. It is often different depending whether the calling party and receiving party are on the same network, on two different networks, in the same town or in different countries.

The missing Malaysia Airlines plane was flying over open water, far from any towers transmitting cellular signals. Smartphone batteries typically don't last several days -- however, the batteries in ordinary cellphones can last up to a week or so.

Many cellphone carriers worldwide have set up their systems to start the ringing sound immediately after the caller dials the last number and presses send. The idea is to signal that the call is being connected.

What happens next is that the network tries to find the phone being called in order to complete the connection. This lasts several seconds, during which the phone may ring several times. If the party you are dialing is found, the call is completed. If not, the call is disconnected.

No Connection

When my wife calls me, she says it rings several times before I answer. However, when my phone starts ringing, I pick it up on the first ring. That difference is the time is takes the two different networks to talk together and connect the call.

If the calling phone and the receiving phone are on the same network, the call can connect more quickly. If they are on two different networks, it can take a bit longer. If the two networks are in different countries, it often takes even longer to connect.

The reason I'm writing this is just to provide clarification about what can be a very confusing process. When you hear the sound of a phone ringing several times, that does not mean it is ringing at the other end.

This missing Malaysia flight is one of the biggest mysteries we have ever seen. How does an airplane simply vanish? My prayers are with the travelers and their families who are anxiously waiting to learn what happened and what happens next. 

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


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Jeff Kagan: Can Radio Shack Recover Before Itís Too Late?

By  Jeff Kagan   +Follow        March 7, 2014 6:00AM  

Tickers Mentioned: RSH   EBAY   BBY    S

Radio Shack (RSH)  said on Tuesday they will close roughly 20 percent of their stores. What does the future hold for this long time electronics giant? Weíve seen this story before. Best Buy (BBY)  is just one of many examples as they struggle to recover. Circuit City wasnít so lucky. So what is the future of Radio Shack?

We all know how the Internet has changed everything. Companies like (AMZN)  and eBay (EBAY)  grow like crazy, eating everyoneís lunch, while it seems more traditional retail stores struggle and even disappear one after the other.

This has been a story we have been discussing for 20 years. The Internet started its mainstream push to reinvent the entire retail establishment, worldwide around that time. There were plenty of Internet failures, but there were also plenty of successes and they are changing the way people compare and shop.

We continually watch big name retailers lose, one by one to the Internet giants. However not all lose. There are also plenty of traditional retailers who are still growing like crazy and doing strong business. These come from every corner of the marketplace serving both the high and low end.

So what is the problem at the companies like Radio Shack who struggle? And what can they do in order to recover?

Thatís the million dollar question and the answer is not all that complicated. Find the right leadership who understands the new challenges and opportunities, and who is willing to change the company thinking and update the brand image in the marketplace.

Let me give you one clear example. AT&T (T)  and the Baby Bells were the leaders in the telephone business for well over 100 years. AT&T handled long distance nationwide and the baby bells, local phone service in regions. Of course they had no competition so it wasnít as difficult to maintain that position.

Then the world changed. Competition came. First it was companies like MCI and Sprint (S)  on the long distance side. They were tiny competitors aimed at AT&T. The baby bells saw this and in the early 1990ís decided to prepare. So they focused on improving their relationship with their customers and freshening their brand and offerings. It worked. Today they enjoy a much stronger customer relationship.

AT&T decided since it was going to go into competition with the baby bells they had to change as well. However they changed by modernizing their offerings. They didnít focus on repairing their relationship with customers and refreshing the brand. That was the mistake.

Through the 1990ís, AT&T was under attack, yet it still got into other businesses and continued to grow. They got a new CEO, became the largest wireless company and the largest cable television provider when they acquired TCI out of Denver. This helped them compete with the brand new Americast television service from the Baby Bells.

We thought things looked good. Then the Telecom Act of 1996 set up the rules for competition moving forward. It said both AT&T and the baby bells would be able to sell the same local and long distance services and compete with each other.

That was the world we thought was coming. That was before anyone knew the Internet and wireless revolution were about to transform the entire industry virtually overnight.

We all thought everything was looking good at AT&T until we suddenly realized it wasnít. AT&T was failing. Losing to the Baby Bells. So over the next few years they spun off their wireless business, which then became Cingular. They sold their cable television business to a small cable TV company called Comcast. They lost consumers to the baby bells as well.

So all that was left at AT&T was a small, business services company. The company had failed, had shrunk, and was now lying on its deathbed. It was a sad and depressing time.

Actually it was sort of like the Radio Shack story today. What happens next to Radio Shack is what is most important.

In AT&Tís case, one of the small Baby Bells, SBC out of San Antonio Texas decided to make a play. They acquired the failing AT&T, but they didnít stop there. They also acquired BellSouth and Cingular over a couple short years. They seemed to transform from the smallest to the largest of the Baby Bells.

What happened next was a stroke of genius. SBC changed its name to AT&T. It changed the Cingular name to AT&T Mobility and kept the headquarters in Atlanta. It moved the San Antonio HQ to Dallas for more good workers, more growth potential, and then it started to rapidly grow.

AT&T CEO Ed Whitacker retired and was replaced by another SBC fire starter Randall Stephenson who has grown the company to incredible heights during the last decade. He updated and refreshed the brand and the entire experience with the customer. The two of them transformed AT&T from dying on the vine to one of the two largest and most powerful companies in the United States.

So a weakened company lying on the deathbed does not mean itís over. It just means itís time for some major changes. Itís time to transform the company to compete and win going forward before itís too late.

Look at Best Buy as an example. Best Buy has too many very large stores. They must shrink their store footprint and increase sales. Something they do indeed seem to be making progress at. It takes too long, but they are heading in the right direction.

The same solution could work at Radio Shack. Except they have small stores. So they have to increase their tiny store sizes. Which means they may have to close more, smaller stores and replace them with fewer, larger stores. And reinvent their Internet and online presence. Then they can grow from there.

Is Radio Shack finished? No they are not. Not as long as they believe they are not finished. Not yet at least.

It all depends on what they do going forward. They still have one of the oldest and best-known brands in the business. Just like AT&T did. However it needs to be updated and refreshed, just like AT&T did.

Radio Shack tried to become the number one retail environment in the wireless space. It didnít work. Customers didnít know that. Customers follow their marketing noses. And Radio Shack simply never busted out above the ambient noise of the industry.

They can do it. It takes new and fresh thinking. New ideas. They must modernize the brand. They must become important to the customer for some strategic reasons. That means they have to spend to reinvent. And they must be bigger and bolder and louder than the industry noise so they can be noticed.

So can they do it? Of course. The real question is ďWill they?Ē

By  Jeff Kagan   +Follow        March 7, 2014 6:00AM 

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Sprint Softbank's Jockeying for the Inside Track

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

03/06/14 6:15 AM PT

A Sprint T-Mobile merger may appear almost impossible because of early regulator pushback, but I expect Softbank's Masayoshi Son to pull out all the stops as he continues to work with regulators. I am not saying the deal will absolutely get done. However, Son has demonstrated that he is willing to bend until he wins approval. I think that's exactly what's happening behind the scenes right now.


What is going on with Sprint Softbank? What will the company look like when it finally emerges from its cocoon? Who else will it merge with? Where will it be based? There has been quite a bit of transformational work going on.

Sprint and Softbank won U.S. government approval after months of vigorous debate and got together last summer. It once seemed doubtful the merger would happen, yet it did. Then Sprint Softbank went quiet. It started rebuilding the Sprint network. It said that it would emerge as one of the industry's leaders.

In addition to rebuilding Sprint's existing network, Softbank seems very interested in making other acquisitions in the U.S. marketplace. T-Mobile may be a target, although no official offer has been made. So far, it appears T-Mobile would be a willing participant in such a deal. U.S. regulators, though, are another story.

Give In Until You Win

Today, U.S. regulators seem opposed to a Sprint, T-Mobile merger. That typically would be enough to convince most companies to drop the idea and move on. However, that's not what I think will happen here.

The same kind of negative talk surrounded the Sprint, Softbank merger. No one thought it stood much of a chance -- yet it did happen. Why? Masayoshi Son, CEO of Softbank.

Faced with regulator push back once again, Masayoshi Son, the man who doesn't know the meaning of the word "no," is about to make his case directly to the American people, business community and regulators. His mission: to convince everyone that further consolidation would improve the wireless industry.

Son has met with pushback before and has won. He painted such a rosy picture of the future of the wireless industry that it became very persuasive. Although he has not been shy in painting Softbank as the leader of that new world, Son understands the importance of getting the deal done. He is willing to bend in ways most CEOs aren't. The bottom line is that often surprisingly, he gets deals done.

The T-Mobile deal may appear almost impossible because of early regulator pushback, but I expect Son to pull out all the stops as he continues to work with regulators. I am not saying the deal will absolutely get done. No one knows what the future holds. However, I have watched Son in the past, and he is willing to bend until he wins approval. I think that's exactly what's happening behind the scenes right now.

With or without a T-Mobile win, Softbank will be on the hunt for the next acquisition. Son's success in closing the deal with Sprint set Softbank on a new course in the U.S., targeting the No. 1 position. Son wants to reinvent the entire wireless industry in the U.S., and he wants to win.

Expect Softbank to be an important player in the U.S. market going forward.

Out of the Gates

Son takes a very long-term view of the industry. By "long term," I don't mean quarters or even years, but decades -- many decades.

Today, Sprint is a million miles away from AT&T and Verizon; however, Softbank wants the new Sprint to lead the next wave of wireless growth. Softbank is investing billions to update the Sprint network. It is working hard behind the scenes right now to reinvent the company.

Sprint is going through a complete reinvention, said Sprint CEO Dan Hesse, during an appearance last week CNBC's Mad Money with Jim Cramer. It is ripping out every component of its existing network and replacing it with brand new technology. This is very costly and takes time, but what Sprint ultimately will have is a very fast, very reliable and very competitive wireless offering.

Over time, I have learned not to dismiss what Dan Hesse says.

Like AT&T and Verizon, Sprint is moving rapidly into new areas of wireless -- areas like mHealth, automotive, retail and many others. There are plenty of growth opportunities in the wireless industry, and Sprint Softbank wants to take advantage of all of them.

Ultimately, the deal depends what regulators have in mind. Sprint has argued the deal would transform the industry into one with a three top competitors. That may be the only reason I think it has a chance -- and with Masayoshi Son and Dan Hesse leading the charge, this deal may indeed stand a chance.

The question then boils down to the regulators' vision of the industry. Is it one with three big competitors, or do they see two big ones and two smaller, yet rapidly growing players, possibly leading to a big four?

There's a lot of speculation about whether Sprint will move to California's Silicon Valley. Sprint and Softbank have been meeting in Silicon Valley on a regular basis to report and plan. That will continue.

However, I don't believe Sprint will leave Kansas City. Moving the headquarters to California and going through the massive chaos dealing with people is just not likely to happen. I have followed Sprint forever, and I can almost guarantee it will stay put.

I can't tell you who will lead the wireless industry five or 10 years from today. No one can. No one can say what the industry will look like that far out. Remember, the iPhone -- which transformed the entire industry -- is only a few years old. However, a real horse race has begun.

The exciting part of this story is that this is just the beginning. Stay tuned. 

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


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Comcast-Netflix Deal: Watershed Moment for Web Content

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

02/27/14 5:00 AM PT

The average customer may not notice a difference resulting from the Comcast-Netflix deal. However, the companies that are involved in providing services to those customers surely will notice. The entire economic model of the industry is being rewritten, to a certain extent. The opportunities are incredible. This deal may even have an impact on the Net Neutrality tug-of-war.


The Comcast Netflix deal represents a completely new and refreshing direction for the industry. It clears away much confusion and illuminates a clearer path for growth for all companies in the battle. This deal represents a watershed moment for Web content providers.

Congratulations to both Comcast and Netflix on reaching this agreement. It may indeed play an important role in jump-starting the next wave of change and growth in the industry, setting new standards and perhaps helping to resolve the Net neutrality debate that has been raging for years.

Netflix has grown rapidly over the last few years. It started out as a competitor to companies like Blockbuster renting video DVDs. It mailed them to customers, sending the next rental in the queue whenever the one outstanding was returned. It was an interesting model early on.

Today Netflix is an entirely different company. Growth in recent years has come from its direct online connection to customers. For a monthly fee, Netflix makes its movies and TV shows available through a direct streaming connection over the Internet. Those shows can then be watched on a Web-connected TV like regular television shows, or on a computer, tablet or even smartphone.

Begin the Beguine

However, Netflix's rapid growth caused some problems. Along with success came far greater bandwidth requirements. In fact, Netflix is responsible for roughly one-third of all U.S. Internet traffic every evening. That's incredible for any one company.

Netflix never paid a toll to ride on the information superhighway. As it continued to grow, it must have known this deal would not last forever. When the Net neutrality decision recently fell on the service provider side, that gave Comcast some room to make a point.

Netflix couldn't afford to have its streaming content delivered slowly. That was something it wanted to avoid at all costs. The party was over. The need for high-quality performance brought Netflix to the table.

Comcast was just the first. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings likely is having conversations with every other major Internet service provider as well.

Netflix currently does business with other companies that put their stuff up on the Web. This deal with Comcast means it can work directly rather than through a middleman of sorts.

Of course, that will still be the rule in markets other than Comcast's, but new deals likely will change things in the next few quarters.

I see Netflix striking similar deals with every Comcast competitor, including other cable television firms, satellite-TV providers and telephone companies. Time Warner Cable, Cox, AT&T, Verizon, CenturyLink and many smaller companies are likely to be next.

Netflix won't be the only one paying for high performance -- other companies with high bandwidth requirements will be jumping into the fray as well.

Change Is the Only Constant

Remember, this whole Internet world is brand new. It was only 20 years ago, around 1994, when consumers started sending email and surfing the Web in droves. Service at the time was very slow, and video was sparse. That was back in the days when AOL and Prodigy were the two big ISPs.

Two decades is just the blink of an eye for a major industry, but even in that short time, the structure of the Internet has undergone radical changes. It's always changing. Who deals with whom is changing. At this early stage, the very heavy hitters are running the show, but over time the industry will expand to envelop everyone.

The average customer may not notice a difference. However, the companies that are involved in providing services to those customers surely will notice. The entire economic model of the industry is being rewritten, to a certain extent.

The opportunities are incredible, as industry after industry adopts the Internet and it changes their basic operations. We are just in the very early stages of this new world -- and this will encourage more change. It may even have an impact on the Net Neutrality arguments and help to settle the issue one way or the other.

So expect this new agreement Netflix struck with Comcast to be the first of many similar agreements -- and expect other content providers to jump in to forge deals as well. Expect the world to keep changing. 

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


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Jeff Kagan: Will Facebook WhatsApp Voice Calling be a Winner?

By  Jeff Kagan   +Follow        February 27, 2014 6:00AM  

Tickers Mentioned: FB   VZ   TMUS   S    TWC

Last week Facebook (FB)  made news with their announced acquisition of WhatsApp. Then at the Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona a few days ago they announced WhatsApp would start offering a voice service. What impact will this have on the telephone industry?

As an industry analyst I have followed this space for decades. I have watched consolidation, changing regulation, new technology and new competitors change the space, time and time again.

This industry has changed and continues to change both rapidly and dramatically over the years. So can WhatsApp make a dent in this robust industry?

Bottom line, while Facebook may see WhatsApp as some sort of Holy Grail, and while it may have a positive impact for them, I donít see this changing the direction or leadership of the industry.

Telephone was a growth engine until around the year 2000. Then with new regulation, new competition and new technology from things like wireless and VoIP, plain old telephone service or POTS started to decline from all the major providers.

This was simply innovation at work. We see providers like AT&T (T) , Verizon (VZ) , CenturyLink and many other smaller telephone companies losing traditional market share. So they started expanding and growing into other areas. Today they are the leaders in wireless, Internet and more recently television with their IPTV offerings called Uverse, FiOS and Prism. They are also moving into other segments as well like home security.

Over the last ten to fifteen years, other companies have entered this voice space as well. Companies like Comcast ($CMCST), Time Warner Cable (TWC) , Cox and other cable television providers sell their VoIP telephone service over the Internet. Other VoIP providers as well like RingCentral, Skype, Vonage and others. Plus the wireless industry is exploding with many competitors to choose from like AT&T, Verizon, Sprint (S) , T-Mobile (TMUS) , US Cellular, C Spire and many others.

Facebook has been interested in entering and reinventing the wireless space for a while. Their first attempt a year or so ago was a complete flop. They introduced their first Facebook phone, which only lasted a few months before it was pulled.

Facebook sees mobile as important for their future so expect to see more movement. Their Apps are successful, and now with WhatsApp they should be more successful in theory.

However where does WhatsApp fit into this new voice world? They are not a phone company. They have no experience with telephone or VoIP service. They will be competing with many companies who have plenty of brand recognition. So what kind of opportunity will they really have?

The plan is during the second quarter of this year, they will add a free voice-calling feature to its text-messaging app for both the iPhone and Android. Next will come Blackberry and Windows Phone if all works well.

They say this voice feature will be free and let people talk all over the USA and in fact the world. They see this as the next step.

While it is impossible to say what the world will look like five or ten years from now, and while this all sounds good and may indeed be a growth platform for WhatsApp and Facebook, I donít see it having any kind of major impact on the telecom market.

Today there are many competitors in this space. Some are doing very strong business while others are not, but the marketplace is bustling with competition. In that space what kind of impact can a new competitor have on the industry?

While this is a growth opportunity, it wonít impact the industry.

So I would like to congratulate Facebook on doing this deal, which they think is important for their growth going forward. And I would like to congratulate WhatsApp on the deal of a lifetime. And I would also like to congratulate both on adventuring into the wild world of voice communications.

While this may be a growth opportunity for Facebook and WhatsApp, I donít think it will impact the competitive lineup of the telecom industry. If it is successful it will just be one of many players.

By  Jeff Kagan   +Follow        February 27, 2014 6:00AM 

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Comcast-TWC Merger Is All About Investors  

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

02/20/14 5:00 AM PT

In order to be successful going forward, cable-TV companies must become customer-focused. Any company that is unloved by its customers will surely die. So, is the cable television industry becoming lovable to its customers? Not yet. At this point, the Comcast, Time Warner Cable story is less about the customer than the investor. It's about making Comcast larger and stronger.


What's most unexpected about the acquisition of Time Warner Cable is that the buyer is Comcast. Will the regulators give their blessing or block the deal? If approved, what changes can we expect as investors, customers and workers? If it is not approved, then what comes next?

The cable television industry is completely different today from 10 years ago. This business model originally was set up with one company offering service in each market. There was no competition -- the same way the local phone business was operated.

Over time, several serious problems developed. One was that customer care was terrible. Without the risk of losing customers, cable television companies didn't take good care of them, and service was terrible.

Do you remember the old TV comedy Laugh-In, with Lily Tomlin playing Ernestine -- a telephone operator with a sour attitude? She would sit in front of a terminal and dial up customers -- "one ringy dingy, two ringy dingys."

Most phone customers could relate -- they'd had their own unfortunate experiences with phone company employees like Ernestine. The Baby Bells had a lousy reputation -- and did we ever complain about phone service. Back then, they faced no competition, though, so they didn't care.

In fact, one of Ernestine's favorite lines was "we don't have to care -- we're the phone company." Well, that's the line cable television employees could be using today.

Merger Madness

Then change came. In the early 1990s, the telephone companies woke up. They saw competition coming, and over the years, they transformed themselves. Today's phone companies take great care of their customers. Are they perfect? No -- but customers today are very happy with most telephone companies' service.

The cable television industry is following the same path. Cable companies are beginning to recognize there is a customer care problem. They are improving their relationships with customers, but they have a long way to go.

Companies like Comcast, Time Warner Cable and others are losing customers and market share to the new competitors like AT&T U-verse, Verizon FiOS, CenturyLink Prism, and satellite-TV players DirecTV and DISH Network.

As the cable television industry tries to deal with this new competitive pressure, merger mania has begun. Ten or 15 years ago, the cable-TV industry was full of small competitors. Then Comcast acquired AT&T Broadband, the largest cable TV company in the United States.

Today there are fewer and larger cable television competitors. However, they are still losing business and market share -- and the merger wave continues.

The Comcast, Time Warner Cable deal is attracting a great deal of attention because these companies are No. 1 and 2, and the deal affects so many customers and investors.

Regulators still have to weigh in. One line of thought was that Comcast never would be allowed to acquire Time Warner Cable. No. 1 acquiring No. 2 is never allowed. On the other hand, these two companies are not really competitors. They operate in different markets.

So a merger may not change the competitive landscape. It could, however, change the power structure going forward.

Perhaps regulators will approve this merger. However, Comcast would have to agree to concessions -- and that's the sticky part.

Investors Rule, Customers Drool

Among those conditions might be a requirement to take better care of all customers -- not just the top-of-the-line customers who buy all the new services, but all customers -- even basic service customers. The company would have to increase lower-cost options and let the customer choose.

The cable television customer pie has many slices, and each slice wants something different. Some want everything and are willing to pay for it, while others want a basic package and want to pay less. Some simply can't afford to pay much each month for cable television.

I don't know if senior management at Comcast understands how unhappy many of its customers really are. Then again, it may not care.

Comcast does not focus on the customer -- it focuses on the investor. So, investors are happy, while many customers are not. That's the reason so many leave and go to competitors like the local phone company's IPTV television service.

The cable television companies either can react by becoming more customer-focused or by trying to shut down the competition. Unfortunately, they are trying to shut down new competitors like Aereo.

In order to be successful going forward, however, they must focus on the customer. Any company that is unloved by its customers will surely die. So, is the cable television industry becoming lovable to its customers? Not yet.

At this point, the Comcast, Time Warner Cable story is less about the customer than the investor. It's about making Comcast larger and stronger.

Time Warner Cable customers already use the same services as Comcast customers. The services just have different names. After the merger, they all will be called "Xfinity," but very little will change for the customer.

Prices have been rising steadily in this industry, year after year. Every 10 years, we pay roughly twice as much. That won't change. I don't necessarily see this merger causing prices to rise faster -- but Comcast is not shy about increasing prices as fast as it can.

What will Time Warner Cable customers get that they don't already get today? Not much. As the industry continues to grow and change, all competitors move in the same direction.

Does Comcast need to acquire Time Warner Cable? Well, since it is the largest cable company and also the owner of other channels and networks, like NBC, the answer is no.

Perhaps it would make more sense for Time Warner Cable to merge with and strengthen another cable television competitor.

Many expected Liberty Media CEO John Malone to jump in and acquire Time Warner Cable. If Comcast does not win regulator approval, Malone may be waiting in the wings. This story is not over. 


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


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Cable TV's Chilly Customer Relationships

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

02/13/14 5:00 AM PT

Many customers cannot fire their cable television company and move to the competition yet. Too many can't get AT&T U-verse, Verizon FiOS or CenturyLink Prism in their homes. That is one of the reasons cable TV does not really care about the customer relationship. Whether the cable television industry does well or fails tomorrow depends on how it takes care of customers today.

Quality and reliability problems have been increasing with the new digital services from the cable television industry. I am a customer of both Comcast and Time Warner Cable and have noticed the issues, and it's safe to assume other cable-TV providers are having similar problems. This may cause further harm to the cable TV industry. Can it fix what is broken in time?

First, it's important to separate the investor and the customer. My focus here is on the customer -- and generally speaking, the customers I have talked with are not happy with cable television since the switch from analog to digital.

As an industry analyst, it's interesting for me to watch cable-TV challenges. For example, Comcast acquired the service a decade ago from AT&T broadband, which years earlier acquired it from TCI out of Denver. At that time, service was analog, not digital, but it was good quality. That was before digital cable, and before phone company services like AT&T U-verse, Verizon FiOS and CenturyLink Prism started competing with IPTV.

After Comcast took over from AT&T, its service was actually pretty good as well. Now things are changing. It recently upgraded from analog to digital, and since then quality and reliability have suffered.

The upgrade from analog to digital is a problem not only for Comcast, but for Time Warner Cable as well -- and in fact, many other cable TV companies.

Competitors Gaining Traction

Having made the digital conversion, Comcast has stopped the analog signal in the Atlanta suburb where I live, so I have no alternative there. At another home location, though, Time Warner Cable has not yet turned off the analog network. All I had to do there was pull the digital boxes out and plug the TV back into the wall to restore good service -- for now, anyway.

Why do companies put their customers through such pain? If a company cares about its customers, it gives them options. In this case, based on what I have seen and experienced, Time Warner Cable is offering a choice, but Comcast is not.

There is a disconnect with how the cable companies interact with their customers. Sure, they are better than before. They do try. However, the bottom line is that problems do not go away. Old service is cut off, and that leaves customers high and dry -- and that hurts the brand.

Today, growing competition from the telephone companies with IPTV, satellite television like DirecTV and DISH Network -- as well as others like Aereo, Netflix and Amazon -- have caused cable television to lose market share. In order to better compete, the cable television industry has been trying to improve the way customers see it.

That's one reason it is upgrading its analog customers to digital. While that sounds great in theory, the reality is it causes quality and reliability problems. In addition, it increases the price customers have to pay.

In recent years, IPTV services from the phone companies have been rapidly growing. Suddenly, AT&T U-verse, Verizon FiOS and CenturyLink Prism are in direct competition with cable television providers like Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox, Charter and so on.

At a recent analyst meeting, AT&T gave an example of how its U-verse service in Dallas had already won roughly 50 percent market share competing with cable TV. That's incredible -- and it speaks to the problem customers have with their cable television services and the threat to the cable-TV industry in general.

Failure to Communicate

Another problem the cable TV industry has is in communicating with the customer. For example, even after I've scheduled an in-person appointment to fix a problem, I never know if anyone will show up. The company may fix the problem a few blocks away but not get around to filling me in until a few days later.

That means I must stay at home, even though no one shows up. That is a lack of care and courtesy toward the customer. That means the company doesn't respect my time. That further hurts the brand.

Cable television companies also warn customers they will be charged to fix problems under certain instances. That's an uneasy feeling for a customer, since the company controls everything.

If that's the case, then customers should be able to charge the cable-TV company for wasting their time and not showing up, don't you think? After all, courtesy is a two-way street.

Another problem: When I call Comcast for service, the appointment typically is more than a week out. Enduring for that length of time with a service problem is unacceptable.

These are some of the reasons cable TV companies are losing business to new competitors. Their customers are screaming for someone to take better care of them. That's why competitors like telephone companies actually are doing strong new business selling IPTV.

Unfortunately, competition is not everywhere yet. Even though customers I've talked with sound happier, too many customers still cannot get AT&T U-verse, Verizon FiOS or CenturyLink Prism in their homes.

Many customers cannot fire their cable television company and move to the competition yet. That is one of the reasons cable TV does not really care about the customer relationship.

Whether the cable television industry does well or fails tomorrow depends on how it takes care of customers today. Companies that focus on keeping their customers happy would never force those customers to a digital option, then cancel the analog escape hatch.

These problems are souring the cable-TV brand relationship and causing customers to leave in droves. This is countering the benefit the cable television companies were trying to achieve with this digital conversion.

Disaster is what the cable television industry is experiencing right now with lost market share. This problem will continue to grow until the cable television industry starts focusing on the customer and delivering great quality service and customer service -- something I hope it can do before it's too late. 

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


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Jeff Kagan: Sprint, T-Mobile Deal Fading - Whatís Next?

By Jeff Kagan

February 12, 2014 6:00AM   

Tickers Mentioned: VZ   TMUS   S

As the last few weeks have passed it appears the stars are not lining up for the potential Sprint (S)  Softbank merger with T-Mobile (TMUS) . And it hasnít even been officially proposed yet. We have heard from several US government regulators, and not one sounds like they would give it thumbs up. So whatís next for these three companies if this deal does not happen?

Let me start by saying the deal is not dead. It could still be approved. After all the same anti-acquisition talk was happening before Softbank eventually acquired Sprint and that deal still happened. So it is still possible for this deal to be done.

I have learned not to underestimate Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son and Sprint CEO Dan Hesse. All that has to happen is for US regulators to explain what the problems are, and for them to agree to terms that would satisfy everyone.

However a similar merger between AT&T (T)  and T-Mobile was denied because regulators wanted to keep four major competitors in the space rather than three.

And since regulators donít see the need for this more sizeable competitor, I donít think they will bend and agree to this deal either for the same reason. However, things have changed in the past so we should be aware it could happen.

If the deal does not go through, then what can we expect next?

Sprint (with Softbank behind them) wants to create a new kind of wireless company. Sure, they want to be a successful wireless competitor with smartphones and tablets. But they also want to transform the entire wireless space. They want to provide a variety of innovations that the wireless industry does not yet do.

To do this, they will need to first transform their company from the inside and out. Softbank sees an enormous opportunity in the United States market. I think the Sprint acquisition was just the first step of several.

As of right now, Dan Hesse is the CEO of Sprint. I think Masayoshi Son, CEO of Softbank will use Hesse as he builds a new kind of company, with Sprint as their main wireless network component.

Donít think that we understand wireless. We donít. We only understand where wireless has come from and where it is today, but we have no idea what wireless will turn into over the next few years. Itís a rapidly and constantly changing industry.

I hear this same story from AT&T and Verizon (VZ) as well. Expect industry wide reinvention.

As far as T-Mobile, I am convinced their CEO John Legere is positioning the company to be acquired. That does not mean it will happen. So as a fall back he is also strengthening T-Mobile as a stand-alone competitor.

In fact, if T-Mobile is not acquired, they may be on the hunt for smaller carriers themselves. This is one way to strengthen and grow the company.

Whatever happens and whoever Sprint, Softbank and T-Mobile decide to merge with, donít forget the US regulator has to agree and that can be the tough part. Regulators agree to more mergers when there is a republican President.

However I think a US regulator would more readily approve an acquisition involving Sprint or T-Mobile with a smaller competitor.

I think Sprint and Softbank want to remain in the driverís seat. However, I think T-Mobile would be just as happy being acquired and having their senior executives stepping aside.

So what can we expect next? The first option of Sprint acquiring T-Mobile isnít even on the table yet. That has to play itself out one-way or the other.

If not approved, donít expect any of them to sit quietly. I would expect to see them all make another move pretty quickly. With whom is the next question.

Either way, consolidation in wireless will continue for years to come. And more than that, transformation of the wireless industry will continue among all the players including AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless and all the networks, handset makers and other industries like automotive, healthcare, retail and more.

The writing is on the wall. We expect to see growth from AT&T and Verizon. Until very recently we didnít expect to see growth from Sprint and T-Mobile. However that may be changing.

The next few years will be defined by change and transformation. Who will lead going forward is the next question. It just depends who will get together. So letís keep our eyes open.

By Jeff Kagan   February 12, 2014 6:00AM 

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The New Wireless Wave: Prices Falling, Cloud Rising

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

02/06/14 5:00 AM PT

The wireless industry is going through another transformation. Last time it was the smartphone revolution. This time it's about prices coming down and data from multiple devices going to the cloud. AT&T jumps on industry changes more quickly than either Verizon or Sprint. That does not mean it will have the edge forever, though -- just for a while, until everyone else decides to get on board.

I get a kick out of reading the media coverage of news events in the wireless sector. Sometimes reporters understand what is happening -- sometimes they don't. AT&T Mobility just reduced the price of its Mobile Share Value Plan. Many wrote about it, but few really understood the issues involved.

This is more about a broad industry shift than a single company's strategy. Every five to 10 years, there is a major transformation in the wireless industry. The last major change occurred around six or seven years ago when Apple unveiled the iPhone and Google launched the Android operating system. They changed the smartphone sector -- and in fact, the entire wireless industry.

Now after several years and much heated competition, almost everyone who wants a smartphone has a smartphone. So what comes next?

The wireless industry is shifting once again. It started a couple of years ago and now is picking up steam. It's not being driven by any one company. Rather, as always, it is a natural reaction to a changing environment.

AT&T Leads the Way

Price is one thing that is changing. As technologies age, prices come down -- and that is what is happening in wireless. Both smartphones and monthly plans are more affordable.

Yesterday customers were interested primarily in postpaid plans, but now they're increasingly attracted to prepaid options for a number of reasons, not the least of which is to save money.

T-Mobile was struggling until the last few quarters, so it decided to change things up. It dropped the contract model and ramped up its prepaid offerings. This strategy seems to be successful, as it's now in a long-awaited growth cycle. It is still No. 4 among U.S. carriers, but it is attracting a lot of attention.

The top three -- Verizon, AT&T and Sprint -- are increasingly courting the prepaid market as well. Walk into any of their stores and you will see plenty of postpaid and prepaid choices. This is all good. The marketplace wants something different.

Typically the two largest carriers, Verizon and AT&T, charge the most. Smaller competitors including Sprint and T-Mobile must charge less to be competitive.

Smaller companies are often the ones to initiate sweeping market changes, but it's the top guns that have the greatest impact.

AT&T senses the industry is ready to change, and it cut the prices of its Mobile Share Value Plan in response to those signals. I expect Verizon and others eventually will follow. They always do.

This shift is a win-win for customers and for the companies.

Everyone Goes to the Cloud

The transition to the cloud is another big change for the wireless space.

Apple has its iCloud. It encourages customers to sync all of their devices -- iPhone, iPad, Mac -- and save all of their information in the iCloud rather than on their hardware. That way they can easily access their information no matter what device they happen to be using.

The cloud is the next big revolution in wireless.

Google is making it easy for Android users to store their data in the cloud. Samsung offers cloud services for its customers as well.

Microsoft is heading in the same direction. It's in the process of acquiring Nokia and eventually wants to connect its Lumia line of smartphones with Surface tablets and other devices running versions of the Windows OS. Users of any of these products can store their information in Microsoft's cloud.

More and more companies are jumping into this space.

Lenovo last week said it wanted to acquire Motorola Mobility from Google. It wants to have a brand-name wireless phone to offer alongside its laptops, tablets and smartphones. Lenovo wants its users to store their stuff in the cloud as well.

The cloud is also available through carriers like AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless and Sprint.

Further, there are plenty of third-party cloud services customers can sign up for -- or you can store your information in your own company's cloud.

The cloud is not going to attract every wireless player. Verizon and AT&T will offer a wide variety of services for customers to pool together, but smaller carriers like Sprint and T-Mobile likely will limit their offerings.

First-Mover Advantage

However you look at it, wireless is changing. Prices are coming down, bundles are being promoted, and the cloud is conecting devices and information.

Carriers love this, because a customer who uses multiple devices and services under one account is less likely to switch to a competitor.

The future looks very good both for consumers and business customers.

There's more, of course, but you get the point. The wireless industry is going through another transformation, just like it does every five to 10 years. Last time it was the smartphone revolution. This time it's about prices coming down and data from multiple devices going to the cloud.

AT&T jumps on industry changes more quickly than either Verizon or Sprint. That does not mean it will have the edge forever, though -- just for a while, until everyone else decides to get on board. This does give AT&T a first mover advantage, though, which the company seems to like.

Going forward, expect more focus on the cloud, on reduced pricing, and on bundling services into one account. These approaches are good for both customers and companies. This is a good wave of wireless industry change. 

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


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Jeff Kagan: Why Does Lenovo Want Motorola?

By Jeff Kagan 

February 4, 2014 6:00AM   

Tickers Mentioned: MSFT   GOOG    AAPL    NOK

I think Lenovo wants to get their hands on Motorola because it fits their model for the future of their company and the industry. What do I mean? Itís all about the cloud. Itís what the wireless and computing industry will look like going forward. Letís pull the camera back and take a close look at this industry and how it is reshaping itself. You may be surprised.

The last major transformation of wireless happened roughly seven years ago with the Apple (AAPL) iPhone. Now the iCloud letís users store all their information on the iCloud and access it on any Apple device like the iPhone, iPad, Mac and so on. Apple is one of the leaders redefining this new cloud space.

Google (GOOG) Android is doing this same thing. Google makes the Android operating system that many phone makers like Samsung use. Look at what Samsung is doing with their Galaxy S4 phones and Galaxy Note tablets. They let users buy multiple devices and store information on the cloud as well. Google does not seem to have as much success with hardware as they do with Android.

Now Microsoft Corporation (MSFT)  is heading in the same direction. They are acquiring Nokia (NOK) phones and are offering their bundle of laptops, wireless Lumia smartphones and Surface tablets with information stored on the cloud.

Getting a clue to what the marketplace is going to look like going forward? All about a variety of handsets, which share information and store it on the cloud. This is an opportunity for both networks and equipment makers.

Lenovo sees this as well and wants to be a player in this space going forward. They want to sell computers and laptops, tablets, smartphones and store all the information on the cloud. And they want to be a leader in this new space.

This is the same direction many other companies are thinking about right now. A few I mentioned above. Others will be announced going forward.

Wireless as an industry transforms every five to ten years. The last major transformation was when the super smartphone revolution started with the Apple iPhone and Google Android, roughly seven years ago.

This next transformation started last year and is picking up steam now. Itís all about having a variety of devices, which work together and store information on the cloud, not on the device itself.

Thatís the world that Lenovo wants to be a power player in. Every time the industry shifts, new leaders rise to the top. This time is it about the networks and about the handset makers. The networks offer their cloud based service and putting all devices under one account for better management and other important features.

Itís also a new opportunity for handset makers and computer makers trying to lead in this new space. What links all these devices together? The wireless cloud. Storing online instead of on the device.

Customers are not all familiar with the cloud and those who are, still are not comfortable with it yet. However this will pass and the companies getting an early start could be the early winners.

Thatís what Lenovo wants with Motorola. Motorola is an older and tired brand, but it is also the oldest and best-known brand in the business. If they can refresh their brand they could indeed be one of the success stories in this next wave of wireless innovation.

So I think Lenovo wants to create hot new smartphones with the Motorola brand, and link it together with the Lenovo computers and tablets, and store all the information on the cloud. The cloud will either be sold by Lenovo to the customer, or it will be sold by the wireless network, or perhaps a third party cloud service used by the company.

However, first this merger must be approved. Will it? Thatís the million-dollar question. The US Government has issued strong warnings to American wireless companies in recent years about security threats posed by Chinese owned companies which make handsets. Will this be an issue?

On the other hand Lenovo is already one of the biggest and strongest brands in the computer space. And Lenovo is already all over America. If that is the case, adding wireless phones should be no big deal right?

However I canít say which way the winds will blow so weíll just have to wait and see. But Lenovo wants Motorola because of the well-known brand. That will mean a lot to them as they grow in this new area.

Either way, this is the new direction the wireless and computer industry is moving in. We already see several heavy hitters moving in this direction. I expect to see many more. Who will lead in this new space?

The current leaders are obvious front-runners. However we also see leadership change at times like this. Remember when Motorola led in the 1990ís? Remember when Nokia and Blackberry led since then until the Apple iPhone and Google Android were born roughly seven years ago?

So what will happen next? That is the big question. But this move illustrates the playing field the game will be played on.

By Jeff Kagan   February 4, 2014 6:00AM 

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AT&T's Gently Simmering Vodafone Ambitions

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

01/30/14 5:00 AM PT

Will AT&T eventually acquire Vodafone? I would think if we can read the leaves correctly, the desire is there -- however the timing is not right now. Just because the answer is no today, don't think AT&T is not interested. I think AT&T is interested in doing business in other countries. Whether AT&T will make a move on Vodafone after six months is unknown today, but we should keep our eyes open.


AT&T just said it would not bid for Vodafone -- at least not within the next six months. Over the years, we have seen the wireless and telecom sectors change dramatically in wave after wave of mergers and acquisitions. As U.S. carriers look for new areas of growth, will they start looking to expand overseas? I think so -- and not just AT&T, but Verizon as well, and then others. So what will this mean?

First of all it is important to recognize that change is good. Growth is good. Change creates a playing field that encourages growth. Growth helps companies, investors and workers. It boosts employment, taxes, and pretty much everything else.

Telephone, wireless, cable television and other carriers in the U.S. have not yet moved aggressively into outside markets. That's largely because until recently, it provided an enormous growth opportunity. However, investors demand ongoing growth, so as it slows inside the U.S. because of a maturing marketplace, companies will look to new areas.

It's a Small World

Investment in other countries happens all the time. Many companies headquartered outside the U.S. already do business across their borders, including in the U.S.

A few examples:

ēJust look at the recent merger between Sprint and Softbank from Japan. Softbank is not done yet, either. Expect more mergers.

ēLook at Vodafone, a British company that owned almost half of Verizon Wireless until Verizon recently acquired its share, as another example.

ēOr look at T-Mobile USA, which is owned by Deutsche Telekom from Germany, as another.

So countless companies are already doing multinational business. Many U.S. companies already have an international presence, but now more U.S. companies appear to be getting very close to jumping into the global marketplace as well.

There are huge international opportunities they want to take advantage of. If they are competing with foreign companies in the U.S., they of course want to compete with them in a larger playing field.

Right now, they may walk through a global orchard full of ripe, red apples yet they're able to pick only from certain trees marked "U.S." Today, American companies are waking up to the huge opportunity to pick from the entire global orchard.

Global expansion may not have made sense yesterday, when these companies were regional, but now it no longer makes sense to wait. Today these companies are national players, and there is no reason they shouldn't be on the global playing field.

I think rather than just jumping in, American companies that never really did this before want to make sure everyone is on board and supportive in the idea of global expansion. They want everyone -- from investors and regulators to workers, customers and everyone else -- to buy into this growth plan. That's why we are hearing more talk about this next big move.

Going Global to Grow

So, who will be successful right out of the gate? In the early years, companies like AT&T and Verizon will start to compete in other countries and make acquisitions. They likely will hit the ball out of the park in some instances and struggle more in others -- but it is all one big learning experience, and that's the important part.

Will AT&T eventually acquire Vodafone? Perhaps. I would think if we can read the leaves correctly, the desire is there -- however the timing is not right now. Just because the answer is no today, don't think AT&T is not interested. I think AT&T is interested in acquisitions and doing business in other countries.

Whether AT&T will make a move on Vodafone after six months is unknown today, but we should keep our eyes open. Other interested companies, both in the U.S. and abroad, could make a similar move.

Vodafone will be one target, but many other companies in other countries will be sought after as well. It won't just be AT&T -- Verizon will on the move as well. Perhaps as they succeed, we'll see smaller competitors jump into the global marketplace. There are plenty of others: Sprint, T-Mobile, CenturyLink and Windstream to name a few.

Don't forget the cable television industry, either. Companies like Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cox may be players as well, as the global marketplace grows and changes over the next several years.

This kind of expansion could make a great deal of sense for U.S. companies. The U.S. market is becoming much more competitive, and that is why carriers like AT&T and Verizon are looking for new ways to grow.

In fact, I see the U.S. industry being split into two sides. One side is the global players, and the other side is domestic-only competitors. That list will change over time.

Many other countries have wireless voice and data; however, the data portion is generally not as fast. While U.S. residents have 4G in most markets, most other countries still use 2G and 3G. This is another source of growth opportunity for U.S. firms.

Growth is on everyone's mind -- especially as growth in the smartphone sector starts to slow. Just look at the iPhone results in Apple's earnings report earlier this week. If a slowdown is threatening Apple, I think we can assume it will threaten other handset makers as well.

That's why wireless carriers like AT&T Mobility and Verizon Wireless are helping other industries -- like healthcare, automotive, retail and more. That's the same kind of hunger that will drive global expansion.

The wild growth curve that wireless has seen in recent years may be tapering, but that does not mean growth will slow. I don't see growth slowing at all -- just changing. Growth will come from other areas, like helping other industries go wireless, from international and global expansion, and much more. So keep your eyes open for AT&T's Vodafone interest to increase over time -- and expect other deals as well.  

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


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Jeff Kagan: When Will Apple Start to Grow Again?

By Jeff Kagan   

January 29, 2014 6:00AM   

Understanding Apple Inc. (AAPL)  used to be easy. Customers upgraded to the newest iPhone every two years and Apple remained a growth company. That meant each quarter they sold more than expected and the stock price kept rising. This world made sense, in an Apple sort of way. Suddenly things have changed. So what can we expect moving forward?

Apple is still a winner, but it is becoming a different kind of company. It used to be a growth-oriented company. They innovated and created new categories, which grew like wildfire and which they led in for years. Think iPod, iPhone and iPad.

Apple will compete with Google (GOOG) Android the same way Apple competed with Microsoft (MSFT) over recent decades. Microsoft had a larger market share, but Apple customers loved them. Microsoft was for the thinker and Apple was for the more creative type. I think we will see this same competitive nature unfold going forward as well.

Today Apple is transitioning. They are now becoming less of an innovator and more of a product replacement firm. What does that mean? For one that means they are no longer introducing breakthrough new products and creating new categories.

Product replacement firms can also be very popular and successful, but their day is spent making the next better version of existing technologies and keeping customers happy. Think SONY WalkMan from the 1990ís. Itís more about getting happy customers to buy the newest version every year or two rather than creating an entirely new category. With Apple that means a solid, but not a growth-oriented company.

That could change once again, of course. Apple could become a growth-oriented company again, and likely will at some point. However we have not really seen any sign of anything new lately.

So I think for now, the Apple investor will change from a more rapid growth oriented investor to a slower growth replacement oriented investor. Slower growth and less risk.

With all that said, understanding Apple going forward is key. However that is not easy. That is never easy with Apple. There are changed that are reshaping the wireless space in general, the smartphone space, Apple and maybe other handset makers as well.

Let me give you a few examples. Apple has changed from a company that focuses on innovation and change, to one that focuses on product replacement.

This quarter that meant sales of iPhones were weaker than expected. So what does that mean?

The average customer buys a new iPhone every two years. If that remained true deciding next steps would be easier. Of course that is not remaining true.

On one hand that could mean if product replacement was weak this year, next year should be strong, right?

On the other hand, customers did not all buy their first iPhoneís during the same year. So the two-year upgrade wave should be more consistent year-to-year, right? Also, after customers realized the really new and innovative iPhone only comes every two years may have upgraded to the new version one year and then upgrade every two years, right?

That would mean every other year would be a bigger year. But that has not been the case, has it?

Just as we are struggling to understand the new spin on this Apple investment, carriers like AT&T ($T), Verizon (VZ) , Sprint (S)  and T-Mobile (TMUS)  have recently introduced their new early upgrade plans.

This means customers no longer have to wait two years to upgrade. Some may upgrade after a year or six months.

So if thatís the case, how the hell are we supposed to have any idea what is going on?

Oh, one more question.

Is this new problem just an Apple iPhone problem or is it a larger industry-wide smartphone problem? Is this going to be limited to Apple or will others like Google Android, Samsung Galaxy, Microsoft Nokia and others join in?

These questions are what we must answer before deciding the best next steps. The days of Apple as a growth company are over, for now anyway. That means a different type of return and a different type of investor.

Apple in my opinion is still a winner, however it is a very different stock and company now compared with a few short years ago when they were the leader and innovator.

By Jeff Kagan  January 29, 2014 6:00AM 

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Wireless in Autos: The Delicate Balance Between Change and Choice

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

01/23/14 12:05 PM PT

When you're in an automotive showroom looking at the different vehicles and the wireless and technology packages, you don't have choices. You select the car you like, but you don't have a choice of technology. Your choice is either yes or no -- not one from column A or two from column B. Letting customers choose between the new smartphone model or the existing satellite radio model makes sense.

We used to choose our next car based on brand, previous experience or recommendations. However, the automotive industry is reinventing itself -- and new reasons to buy have little to do with the car itself. Now decision making revolves around new technologies and innovations, especially wireless. While this could indeed strengthen automakers' relationships with many customers, it also could weaken them with many others if the auto industry is not careful.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month, we could see how the wireless industry was helping the automotive industry transform. A similar transformation is occurring in several other industries as well, like healthcare and retail, but for this piece I'll focus on automotive. The auto industry has an incredible opportunity ahead of it, but there is also risk.

The opportunity is real -- and it's huge, if the industry gets it right. Automakers are now introducing new features that will both wow customers and provide a competitive advantage. They are all rushing into the marketplace with the next big new idea. That's the good part. The bad part is the risk having to do with meeting customer expectations and personal preferences.

Double-Edged Sword

Look at how quickly the wireless industry continues to grow and change. That is good. There's something for everyone. Some people love Apple's iPhone, while others prefer an Android like Samsung's Galaxy. However, that's also the crux of the problem I am getting at here.

It is not a problem for the wireless industry in general, since you have a choice of devices when you walk into a wireless store. No matter which you choose, companies like AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and C Spire will win.

However, the automotive industry is handling this same issue very differently. Automakers are not offering customers any choice. They either take the single tech package or they don't. Period.

Some customers will like the package offered and will take it. However, many others will want a different tech package -- and they are not given that choice.

So, those customers may now be tempted by competitor's offerings. The auto brand that has been built and crafted over the years is simply being cut to shreds for many customers, and I don't think the automakers even realize it yet. Brands that customers have loved for many years simply may not cut it any longer.

This is the double-edged sword of the technology and wireless revolution. On one hand it's a very innovative and fast-growing area , which should attract customers. On the other hand, if customers can't get the new tech want, automakers risk losing a segment of their currently loyal customer base.

Opportunity and Risk

When you are in an automotive showroom looking at the different vehicles and the wireless and technology packages, you don't have choices. You select the car you like, but then you don't have a choice of technology. Your choice is either yes or no -- not one from column A or two from column B.

Names like "Ford Sync," "Toyota Entune" and "Lexus Enform" are just a few examples of these automotive technology packages. Mercedes, Honda, Acura, GM brands and many more offer other packages.

At the Consumer Electronics Show, AT&T Drive was announced by AT&T Mobility. It lets carmakers use the AT&T 4G LTE network to connect wirelessly. AT&T also announced that it won a contract with GM -- beating out Verizon Wireless -- to provide 10 Chevrolet cars by this summer.

AT&T cut similar deals with Audi of America and Tesla.

Verizon Wireless was also at the show and is also an important player in this space, but it was not as high-profile this year. It took a quieter approach.

As you can see, this area is rapidly growing and changing -- and that means both huge opportunity and risk. Leadership can change quickly, both among wireless carriers and among carmakers, for different reasons.

This is all very exciting and positive. However, for the industry to be as successful as possible, it is important to give customers what they want. Think about the choice between iPhone and Android.

I recently stopped into a Lexus, Toyota and Ford dealership to look around, and I was surprised. Going forward, autos will require the driver to use a smartphone to operate traffic, weather and other features. XM Radio is no longer available.

Let the Customer Choose

The idea of using my smartphone works for me, but it's an issue many car buyers don't yet want to confront.

Today, roughly 60 percent of potential buyers have a smartphone -- but that means 40 percent don't. They would not be able to use this new technology. Are automakers really willing to turn their backs on 40 percent of their customers?

Further, customers who have smartphones must have a heavy-duty wireless data plan so they don't incur extra usage charges from their wireless carrier. This can increase costs.

Another problem is having to take your phone off your belt or out of your purse and connect it to the car so it doesn't suck the life out of the phone battery. It's easy to forget the phone when you exit the car.

So even though I'm aware of the advanced technology this new system offers, there are still plenty of people who would prefer the older system -- at least for now. This group of roughly 40 percent of the market is being totally ignored.

Why are carmakers turning their back on this entire segment? That's what it looks like. That is a big mistake for both their own market share and for the customers who love their brand but are being forced out.

That's why giving customers choice makes sense. Let them choose between the new smartphone model or the existing satellite radio model. The best solution for each customer can only be determined by the customer.

Letting customers choose what they want will build strength into the brand. Taking the decision away from customers will chase them away. That will cost the carmaker sales and weaken the brand.

This problem seems clear as day. Either way, wireless will be a very big winner in the auto industry going forward. It's just a matter of taking care of all customers and giving them the choice of the technologies they want in their car, since different people want different things. Change is good -- but don't cut off your customers to innovate. 


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


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Jeff Kagan: Will Aereo Win at Supreme Court?

By Jeff Kagan 

January 22, 2014 6:00AM   


Aereo is a startup bringing television to customers for a very low monthly rate of $8 - $12 per month. However not everyone is cheering them on. Networks like ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX are suing Aereo for simply taking their programming. There have been lower courts, which have given Aereo the green light. Now the Supreme Court will weigh in with this interesting case. So what happens next?

First of all letís set the record straight. Aereo would not be here if the traditional television industry was not broken. Networks charge cable networks like Comcast (CMCSA) , Time Warner Cable (TWC)  and Cox more every year. Then the cable TV companies pass this increase along year after year to the customer.

So after ten years the customer pays roughly double. Things have gone so far out of control and costs are going so high that new competitors and new technology have a fertile growing field. Fertile because the traditional networks and cable television industry didnít know how to control themselves and kept charging more and more, year after year.

The funny thing is the average user still watches their same favorite five, ten or fifteen channels. They are just paying more each year.

In fact the cable television marketplace has more competition now then ever. Just look at the phone companies with their Internet based IPTV offerings. AT&T Uverse (T) , Verizon FiOS (VZ)  and CenturyLink Prism (CTL)  are doing strong business. In fact AT&T says they have roughly 50 percent market share in Dallas, as an example. That shows customers are looking for an alternative.

Now we hear that if the networks lose to Aereo with the Supreme Court, they will pull their signal off the air and only run it over cable TV lines. Does this sound rational? Or does this sound like a child on a playground grabbing his ball and going home when he doesnít get his way?

Is this what the horse and buggy industry said last century when the automobiles were invented? Or the railroad when the airline industry was created? Or what Borders or Barnes & Noble (BKS)  said when keeps taking their business year after year?

Things change. Industry after industry is regularly upset and reinvented and things change. The marketplace thinks this is a good thing. Otherwise there would still be saddle stores, horseshoe repair and spittoons lining the streets instead of parking lots, tire stores and fast food restaurants.

So TV networks and traditional cable television companies look like they are in the same place as the horse and buggy makers from a century ago, or Barnes & Noble today.

They have a choice. They can either go to court to try and keep innovation from happening, or they can change and innovate and fight to hang on to their position in the market.

One way looks ridiculous while the other way looks like a strong and intelligent business facing challenges of a changing industry and meeting it with creative ideas that customers love.

Sure itís a pain in the neck to have to first buy records, then big tapes, then small cassette tapes, all the way to today with music files that can be stored on our smartphones and played in a variety of devices. Sure that put many previous companies out of business, but it also created many new companies, which are even bigger today.

Thatís the way America works. So what should the cable television industry do in order to survive and thrive?

The first solution would be to stop raising prices to customers. That means the networks should stop raising prices to the cable television industry, and let them stop raising prices to customers. Even offer less expensive options like a la carte makes perfect sense. That way they can offer a high priced and low priced offering to the market. That would make customers happy and help secure their position.

The second solution is what Comcast is doing right now. All the cable television companies have been losing customers for years. Comcast just reported their numbers and for the first time they show a gain of customers. The first gain in years.

They see the challenge and are trying to make themselves more attractive to the customers. More competitive. Thatís good. Thatís the benefit of a competitive market. Now you can watch Comcast Xfinity on your television, laptop, tablet and cellphone. And you can watch either in your home or actually anywhere else you travel to.

Weíll have to keep our eyes on Comcast, and Time Warner Cable, Cox and the rest to see if this continues and spreads. But any way you look at it, this is the way to compete. Not having the court block innovation. Innovation which threatens your business and forces you to turn the heat up on your own innovation.

If networks and the cable television industry would straighten up their act they might start to innovate again, they will start to grow again. If they donít, well theyíll go the way of the bookstore industry.

If they would realize competition will always come from innovative ideas, companies and technologies. If they fight it out in the marketplace with ideas to win customers, rather than in court to kill competition and innovation.

Doing business the right way would create a much healthier growing climate for them. That would let them start to grow once again. That alone would take the much of the air out of the sails of many of these new and innovative technologies and companies who find a very fertile growing season and are creating both the threat and the promise.

By Jeff Kagan  January 22, 2014 6:00AM   

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T-Mobile, the Rip Van Winkle of Wireless

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

01/16/14 5:00 AM PT

T-Mobile has had a good couple of quarters, actually adding customers for the first time in years. An interesting question is whether its recent success should be attributed to the network or to the show put on by its CEO. I would say it has more to do with the CEO than anything else, at this stage. Its customers seem to be younger. They love this kind of interaction and gravitate toward him.


What's up with T-Mobile? It reminds me of that old Rip Van Winkle tale. Rip fell asleep for 20 years, somewhere in the Catskill Mountains, and then woke up with a long, white beard. Except for the facial hair and the length of time, his story sounds a lot like T-Mobile USA's, right? It too has awakened from its long nap and has come out swinging. So what can we expect next?

To understand where it is going, we have to first pull back the camera and see where it has come from and where it is today. Looking back, the picture is not all that pretty.

It seems T-Mobile has always been the No. 4 competitor in wireless. It was doing a decent job in voice until network speeds jumped from 2G to 3G a few years ago. It didn't see the need, so it sat that one out. Big mistake. Not preparing for the future left T-Mobile far behind. It started to lose, and it's decline continued until the last couple of quarters.

Over the last decade, T-Mobile has been crashing and burning. Its speeds were too slow, its phones were pitiful, and it was losing customers right and left to AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless and just about everyone else.

Then, a little over a year ago, when it was scraping along at rock bottom, T-Mobile hired a new CEO -- and that began its turnaround. New CEO John Legere, who came from Global Crossing, took some time and looked both at T-Mobile's pitiful position in the market and at the growing and changing wireless industry.

Legere then developed a plan, rolled up his sleeves, and got to work. T-Mobile had two challenges: First was improving the quality and speed and reach of its network; second was improving its PR image in the marketplace. Both needed plenty of work.

Song and Dance

T-Mobile started working on improving its network -- a process that still is in the very early innings. At the same time, Legere suddenly burst onto the marketplace with a very different stance from the typical CEO -- or even his previous stance at Global Crossing.

I don't know whether this was part of the original plan, but Legere is turning into a lovable wireless lunatic with a mouth that would make my mother cringe.

He started taking shots at AT&T Mobility, started to swear every other word, started to speak about the broken wireless industry, and spouted off on how T-Mobile was going to change it.

Earlier in 2013, no one took him seriously -- but he continued. Bit by bit, he started to get some traction. Today, he gets plenty of media attention.

Today, T-Mobile is spending time and money improving its network, increasing speeds and attracting customers. That's good.

It has increased the speed of the network in many locations, although it still has a long way to go to be up to AT&T and Verizon standards. It has changed its business model to attract new customers, moving from postpaid to prepaid, and a few other things as well.

As for Legere, he is still swearing to beat the band. Just look at his recent CES presentation as an example. There were more expletives than in The Wolf of Wall Street -- the movie starring Leo Dicaprio, which I expect you've heard about by now.

Nonetheless, T-Mobile seems to be in the early stages of a recovery. Imagine that. The next question is, can it keep it up? We'll see -- but so far, so good.

Smoke and Mirrors

Traditionally, AT&T and Verizon offer the best quality and the most innovation, but they come with the highest prices. Sprint, T-Mobile and others offer lower rates, but their networks, speed and images are not top tier.

So, T-Mobile has decided to start competing for a different slice of the consumer pie then it used to. It used to compete head-to-head with AT&T, Verizon and Sprint. Now it seems to be attracting the antiestablishment crowd -- and it seems to be working.

I hope T-Mobile continues to heal and grow. That's good for the industry. However, it's important to realize that T-Mobile -- while it is helping itself -- has little to do with industry changes.

The wireless industry changes all the time -- on its own. It always has, and it always will. T-Mobile has just recognized the next shift, and talks as if it were responsible for it. Remember, AT&T and Verizon have roughly 70 percent market share. T-Mobile is a very tiny competitor that does not have the power to change the industry.

What it does have is the ability to discuss the changes that are occurring. That educates the marketplace, and that is a good thing. So I have no problem with T-Mobile shouting from the tallest mountaintops about the changes the industry is going through.

Just realize that these changes actually have little to do with any one company. They would happen in the industry on their own. This is a long-term industry change -- just as the industry has been changing time and time again over the last several decades.

It looks as though T-Mobile has finally awakened and is starting to be creative and compete successfully again. That's good for its workers, customers, shareholders and partners.

So congratulations, T-Mobile. Oh yeah -- one more thing. Could you try and keep the swear words under control? Thanks. 

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E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


Jeff Kagan: Is Cable TV Winning Again?

By    Jeff Kagan   January 15, 2014 6:00AM   

As the cable television industry has faced increased competition in recent years, they have been losing customers. AT&T (T)  Uverse, Verizon (VZ)  FiOS and CenturyLink (CTL)  Prism TV and many other alternatives have been growing market share at the expense of Comcast ($CMCST), Time Warner (TWX)  and Cox ($COX). However Comcast Xfinity has just shown growth for the first time in years. So is this just a short-term gain, or a sign of the recovering cable TV industry?

First, I think itís important to pull the camera back and take a long-term view of the changing television industry, and see why the cable television industry has been under such competitive threat. See if they have fixed their longer-term and larger industry problems. See why Comcast suddenly had a positive quarter. See whether this could be long-term growth or just a short-term. And see whether we can expect the same from Time Warner Cable, Cox and other companies as well.

The cable television industry has been with us for several decades. It started with loads of small players who have merged over the years. Today there are a very few, very larger players and plenty of small time players as well. In fact cable television looks a lot like the telephone and wireless industries.

However the problem with cable television is prices continue to rise, year after year. In fact over ten years the price basically doubles. Of course the cable television companies keep giving us more channels as well. However the average customers continue to watch their favorite five, ten or fifteen channels. The rest of the channels are, well, often a waste of money.

There are two types of cable television customers. One wants all the new technology and is willing to pay for it. The other wants basic cable television and wants to pay less. The cable television industry continues to focus on one, and pays not attention to the other. And I think that will hurt them long-term. It causes customers to flee looking for other options.

As cable TV prices continue to rise, customers look for an escape hatch. Thatís why new competitors like the phone companies offering IPTV have been so successful. I was at AT&Tís analyst meeting last month and they said their Uverse TV service has won roughly 50 percent market share in Dallas Texas. Numbers like that are a threat to the cable television industry.

So competitors are growing while the cable television industry is declining. The problem is telephone companies do not offer their IPTV services everywhere Ė only in selected markets. So while this is a great growth engine for them, it does not solve the problem nationwide that many customers have with high priced cable TV.

In the meantime, with all these new competitive threats the cable television industry has been trying to reinvent themselves. Trying to grow once again. Thatís why Comcast came up with the Xfinity name a few years ago.

It took several years for Comcast to have an interesting product mix, but they seem to be there now. Comcast Xfinity service can now be received on a variety of devices, from your television to your laptop, tablet and smartphone. In fact you can watch your home cable television service while you are away from your home on your devices.

So because of this innovation, and because most customers still donít have much choice of competitors yet, Comcast had their first good quarter in years. That was good to see once again.

The next question is, will that continue? Itís impossible to say at this early stage. We have to see if this has long legs. I think Comcast will continue to show growth in the next few quarters. The question is what happens when all their customers who want this new Xfinity service, get it? Will growth slow? It may.

If so, what does Comcast have planned next? What is their next growth wave? We have no signal on that yet, but that is one of the very important questions that any investor would want to know. What are their plans for long-term growth?

The next question is as new competitors continue to grow through the marketplace, how will that impact growth for the cable television industry going forward?

Then the next question is will that same thing happen to other cable television companies like Time Warner Cable and Cox?

So there are still plenty of questions and this growth, while a surprise, is still good. However investors are still interesting in the other questions of whether this is short or long term, and what comes next. They are still unanswered.

So congratulations to Comcast. For now they have done a great job this quarter. Letís hope they can continue. And letís hope others like Time Warner Cable and Cox can duplicate the same success. Weíll see.

By    Jeff Kagan   +Follow          January 15, 2014 6:00AM 

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CES 2014: Wireless Digs Deeper Into Our Lives

By Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times

01/09/14 5:00 AM PT

AT&T Mobility has made several big announcements so far at CES, and several of them have to do with the company's new AT&T Drive program, which aims to connect cars using AT&T 4G LTE. For example, AT&T on Monday announced Drive and the Drive Studio connected-car center in Atlanta. It also announced that it had won a contract with GM previously held by Verizon Wireless.


International CES 2014 in under way in Las Vegas this week, surprising and delighting us with all the innovation on display.

CES is a great place to see how wireless fundamentally changes and works its way deeper into the consumer electronics industry. That's been true year after year, and this one is no exception.

I use CES as a barometer. It helps me see where we've been, where we are today and where we are heading tomorrow. Some companies introduce new products; others talk about the future. Both are great aids in helping us think about what tomorrow will look like.

One Smartphone to Rule It All

Looking back 10 years, the wireless industry was always at CES. However, I often wondered why it was there. That was before the iPhone and Android smartphone revolution that have since changed the industry.

Things are different today. Today it's all about the smartphone being the remote control for our lives.

AT&T seems to be all over CES this year with loads of announcements, and T-Mobile is trying to be seen this year as well. Where Verizon and Sprint are in all this is anyone's guess.

In any case, it looks like we are once again in the early years of the next major smartphone revolution, and that is what's on display all over CES this year.

Today we don't leave the house without grabbing our smartphone, keys and wallet. Tomorrow we'll just have to remember the smartphone. Everything we need and use will be inside that device.

We'll be able to control everything from it, whether we are home or a thousand miles away. We'll use it to start the car, turn on the home alarm or open the front door. It will have our digital driver's license, auto insurance card, money and credit cards, photos and everything else we cram into our wallets today. It will even keep track of fitness and health and finances.

Automotive Opportunities

The automotive industry is already knee-deep into the wireless transformation. Most major carmakers are rapidly innovating and want to bite into this opportunity.

AT&T Mobility has made several big announcements so far at CES, and several of them have to do with the company's new AT&T Drive program, which aims to connect cars using AT&T 4G LTE.

For example, AT&T on Monday announced Drive and the Drive Studio connected-car center in Atlanta. It also announced that it had won a contract with GM previously held by Verizon Wireless. AT&T will provide 4G LTE connectivity to 10 Chevrolet cars by this summer.

On Tuesday morning, AT&T announced a similar deal with Audi of America. Later that day, it made another announcement with Tesla.

It seems AT&T is innovating quickly in this new automotive area. This is a new branding and growth opportunity and challenge for the auto industry, and in fact for many other industries as well.

A Transformative Force

Healthcare and retail are two other industries racing to transform with wireless. They were also at the show with very innovative ideas.

The exciting part is that companies, industries and in fact the entire economy will go through a major transformation over the next several years and beyond. So whether you are a worker or an investor, there is both a great opportunity and great risk, depending on the choices you make.

Wireless as an industry continues to grow and to change, including becoming a key component of many other consumer electronics industry segments. Wireless will of course continue to be about smartphones and apps going forward, but it's going to be about helping industry after industry transform themselves as well.

We are just at the very starting point for this new opportunity. The road will not be smooth -- we'll see many winners and losers -- but there's no doubt the transformation will continue.

That, of course, is what CES is all about. Enjoy! 

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at

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E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at


Jeff Kagan: Getting Most from CES 2014

By Jeff Kagan   January 7, 2014 6:00AM   


CES 2014 has begun and once again itís a zoo. I have been attending the Consumer Electronics Show off and on for more years than I can remember. It gets bigger and noisier every year, but still only a very few companies do a really good job with this once a year opportunity. Let me share a few thoughts from my perspective as an industry analyst on what companies are doing right and wrong.

As usual, I have heard from hundreds of companies who want to meet with me at this yearís show. Sounds amazing, however, as usual itís an impossible task. I typically do most one-on-one briefings at the company headquarters, privately, where itís quiet and I can focus.

What I use CES for is as a barometer of whatís hot, whatís not and what to expect this year. CES is full of dreams, but only some of those dreams will come true this year. The rest serve as a map of things to come, someday. However, both are a good indication of the direction of the industry over the next few years.

As you know CES is full of tens of thousands of analysts, investors, media, customers and so on, wandering the aisles and trying to get to the next briefing on time. An impossible task, trust me. As you also know, companies try to line up as many interviews and meetings with key people in each category.

They do this because they think it will be helpful to them going forward. And if they give a great presentation to every visitor, CES can be worth its weight in gold. Unfortunately thatís not the case. Only a very small number of companies do a good job. Why?

Think about it. As each person from each group visits, they have different questions on their mind. They look for different things meeting with each company. Industry analysts often look for different things than investors who look for different things from the media.

Even if you look at a single group, like industry analysts as an example, each analyst often has a different focus. Some look at a small group of competitors and dig deeper, while others look at a wider group. Some are more technical while others focus more on advertising and marketing.

So if you see ten different analysts, you will find they may focus on ten different areas and you will have to put together ten different presentations. And this is just for the industry analyst group. I understand the impossible challenge each company faces.

So how can you make the most of each opportunity?

Trade shows like CES or CTIA are an environment where there should be several different presentations tailored for several different groups. Most companies donít do this.

Itís exhausting for those who listen, and for those who present. Hey, weíre all only human. However there is still a way to squeeze more value out of all those briefings. You are always better off spending this first brief meeting getting to know the analyst and seeing whether or not you two are a good match.

This is different from the typical presentation when you visit with a company on their turf. Those are always very personal and interactive and much more valuable to both the visitor and the company. In fact spending time together can generate a more friendly environment which is always more helpful.

So with all that said, you can see that CES is a zoo.

Exhibitors give so many presentations. Itís tough to really understand whom they are talking to and what to say of interest to each. And that is why so many companies blow their first briefing opportunity.

Let me make a suggestion.

Rather than blowing your chance to make a good first impression with a poor presentation, why not take a different route.

Instead of a presentation, spend a few minutes getting to know the people who are there for a first meeting. Remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. So make the first impression a good one.

Learn about them and let them learn about you and your company. Both of you can size each other up pretty quickly and decide whether it makes sense to take the relationship to the next level, a private get together and presentation.

This first step can be quite valuable to starting a quality relationship. Then you can follow up after the show. You can make sure you are a good match and then arrange a more in-depth and personal briefing either over the phone or in person or both.

This way you take better control of the process and have more success wining the hearts of others who are so important to the bigger picture.

This makes your eventual first briefing much more effective.

Both sides can better prepare for each meeting. You both have the time to relax and talk and answer questions can give you the opportunity to make sure the analyst or investor truly understands. Something there simply is not time for at noisy and chaotic trade shows.

So donít swim upstream at CES. Go with the flow. Donít think about giving formal presentations. Rather think about taking the first steps and making friends. Seeing who makes sense to get to the next level with.

If you do this, you will be delighted with your success from this show. Rather than giving dozens of confusing and less effective briefings, you can group visitors up as perfect, maybe or no go and then start working that list right after the show.

Now doesnít that make more sense? So enjoy yourself at CES or any other trade show you have scheduled down the road. Let your efforts become more effective and you will be both surprised and delighted.

By    Jeff Kagan   +Follow          January 7, 2014 6:00AM   

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Jeff Kagan: What to Expect in 2014 in Wireless, Wireline and Tech (Part I)

By Jeff Kagan

December 20, 2013 6:00AM   


What a tech company needs to be able to do in order to grow is simple: predict the future. Why? Because all the amazing technology we buy and use today was on the drawing board, being planned and debated and being built many quarters, even years in advance.

Some companies lead while others follow. Apple (APPL)  has done a great job of thinking ahead of the game. They create new market sectors that were outside the curve, and which others jump into.

Thatís why they had such a head start with devices like the iPhone and iPad. Companies who partner with Apple have also done exceptionally well. Example, AT&T Mobility (T) was the first iPhone network for years.

Google (GOOG) is another example of a forward-looking company with Android. When they launched, they offered both their own phone and the more generic Android made by a separate phone maker. Their first network was T-Mobile (TMUS) .

Google didnít have such a great first year, but they learned quickly and are now selling more Android devices than Apple sells iPhones. They pulled their own smartphone handset off the market the first year. Now the Nexus has recently made a comeback and is now in the marketplace again.

So you see, sometimes companies hit the target, and other times they miss. Sometimes they do well with one area and not so well with another similar area. This is the thrill, the risk and the reward of thinking a few years ahead.

It seems timing is everything, and more change is in the air.

So what can we expect in 2014? Leadership in the marketplace will be under threat and going through changes. The following are a list of a few ups and downs and what we can expect to see.


The cloud will be increasingly important going forward. Yesterday we stored information on our devices, laptops and smartphones. Tomorrow we have too many different devices and all our information must be available on everything we have.

So weíll store all our info on the cloud, and have access to it from all our devices including our laptops, smartphones, tabletís smartwatches and more.

The cloud will play a larger and more important and growing place in the industry going forward. It is currently available from companies like Apple, AT&T and Verizon. Expect much more in the way of the cloud in 2014.


This is the next area phone makers are focused on after smartphones and tablets. There have been quite a few smartwatches in the market, but now companies like Qualcomm and Samsung are moving in and expanding the segment.

Yesterdayís smartwatches counted our steps and helped with things like a workout. Todayís smartwatches are an extension of our smartphones to our wrists. Now we donít have to pull out our phone any longer. Instead we check our watch

Will this be successful? Donít know yet. Weíll see. But everyone is getting very busy in this new area.

Curved Screen

The curved screen leaves many puzzled. Why? We have not really started to see why yet. We are still in the early days of this curved screen revolution, as the industry likes to say. We are paving the roads. Next weíll see if the cars will jump on and race around the track. Weíll see. Crazier things have happened before.

Super High Speed Internet

We are seeing the very early signs of the super high speed Internet revolution. Google started in Kansas City, then AT&T in Austin, CenturyLink in Las Vegas and C Spire in several Mississippi cities.

This is an exciting new wave that has many cities licking their chops trying to be on the early list of faster cities.


Apple started this whole new smartphone segment with the iPhone six years ago. Itís still on fire. That was followed by their iPad a few short years ago. While Apple took a hit a year ago on their stock price, customers still love them. I believe Apple will remain a strong leader going forward.

Apple has always shown the forward thinking and innovation the industry needs. They are no longer the only ones in the market and that means they must compete differently going forward, but they will.

Apple is still a very strong company and still has a unique relationship with customers who love them.

They have not been as active to change and introduce new technologies like Samsung and Microsoft (MSFT) . However their customers are just fine with that. After all not everyone wants earthshaking change to deal with.


Google is a newer, rapidly growing and very different company. They are a growth engine in so many different categories. Each must be measured on its own ability to compete and to win.

I see Google continuing to growth their Android handset business, like Apple with smartphones, tablets and smartwatches.

While this is only one slice of the Google pie, they should continue to see growth going forward.


Samsung is one of the handset makers who have taken the lead partnering with Google on their Android technology. Samsung is a strong and large and rapidly growing company.

They not only are a leader in smartphones, but the new smartwatches as well. As I check with various stores, these devices seem to be selling well at this early stage.

Samsung is also a company with many different segments like big screen televisions to washers and driers and so on. So this giant is harder to read, but should continue to be successful and innovative in 2014.


Nokia (NOK) was the leader in wireless handsets until they lost the lead in the smartphone revolution started by Apple and Google several years ago. After several years of trying they finally seem to be on a slow growth track. At least itís heading in the right direction.

Expect big changes at Nokia starting in 2014. Nokia merged with Microsoft and stands the chance to grow rapidly if Microsoft can get settled in with the right new CEO.

So expect change and potential growth, but only after Microsoft gets a new CEO and starts on their growth path.


Blackberry (BBRY) is in transition. Like Nokia they once led the smartphone segment until they started to fall after the Apple iPhone and Google Android jumped in.

What will Blackberry look like and how well will they do going forward? They will be a private company and it will be interesting to see whether they can transform and grow once again.

They still have a strong core of satisfied customers, although that is a smaller group than ever before. Letís hope they can start to grow again.

Check back in on Dec. 26 to see the second round of Jeff Kaganís 2014 tech and telecom predictions.

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Jeff Kagan: What to Expect in 2014 in Wireless, Wire Line and Internet (Part II)

By Jeff Kagan +Follow December 26, 2013 9:00AM

Tickers Mentioned: T





(On Dec. 20 published the first installment of renowned tech/telecom analyst Jeff Kaganís Predictions for 2013. This is the second installment in the series.)


Qualcomm is always a strong performer, but there are questions that are popping up now. Questions like how both their new CEO and their new Toq smartwatch will perform.

Also: are they getting into the hardware business again? Will the new CEO take them in new directions?

Qualcomm used to be in the handset business, but then left that segment and moved into chips and the insides of smartphones. Today Qualcomm is a very successful company in this space.

However with this new move into smartwatches and a new CEO there are always questions. Are they getting back into the hardware business or are they just showing the world what a Toq smartwatch with their technology can do?

I am not thinking anything is wrong there, but there is confusion so I am keeping my eyes open.


Microsoft ($MSFT)is a large and successful company in the middle of a major transformation. The past decade has simply not shown the type of growth they need.

They want to be a leader in the smartphone sector. Thatís where the Nokia acquisition comes into play.

They can be successful of course, but right now Microsoft is in flux. They will hire a new CEO shortly and letís hope they can successfully transform their business and succeed and grow going forward.

I would not say there is any worry about Microsoft survival, but there is a question about what they will look like and whether they will lead going forward as the industry continues to change.

AT&T Mobility

AT&T Mobility ($T) was always the leader charging into new business sectors like smartphones years ago. They successfully focused on smartphones even before the first iPhone hit the market.

Then they struggled with the heavy wireless data demand of the iPhone, but have solved the problem and are doing very well these days. In fact they are winning award after award from companies like JD Power and Nielsen for quality and customer satisfaction.

After attending the AT&T Industry Analyst meeting in early December I can see the various different directions they are heading in. Example, video is growing rapidly. So much of their business is video today and that is growing.

This is a company that will likely remain a leader as the entire wireless space changes. Their image in the marketplace will continue to improve based on what I am seeing with these awards.

AT&T and Verizon have won roughly 70 percent of the wireless market. And growth while changing is continuing.

Verizon Wireless

Verizon Wireless ($VZ) was not as focused on change and innovation, but had always provided a good quality service. They came late to the iPhone game, but always had good quality.

However things have been changing lately. Their CEO and COO have given separate speeches in the last few weeks discussing the growing demand of video and wireless data, and their struggle to keep up.

Video is growing on Verizon as well and this seems to have taken them by surprise. They are embarrassed by their inability to keep up with the rapidly rising demand.

Verizon troubles started a couple years ago when they had a change in senior management. The new leaders are good people, but they have missed several key areas.

Can they recover? Yes of course. "Will they?" is the more important question. I bet yes, but today they are still struggling. Expect to see a more of these kinds of Verizon troubles, at least for a while.


Sprint ($S)is currently transforming itself thanks to the Softbank acquisition. They have more spectrum than any wireless carrier and when they start rolling out high-speed services they can start to grow again.

Softbank and Sprint say we can expect to see them challenge and change the industry. The guess is in areas like cost and speed. We have seen nothing like that yet, but itís still early. The Softbank acquisition happened during the summer and they are in the early stages of upgrading the network now.

To add this mystery, Softbank is a Japanese company that wants to make a big impact in the USA. So donít think they are done. I expect them to be involved with other acquisitions going forward.

Sprint has struggled for years, but perhaps they are on the cusp of a recovery. Itís too early to tell today, but thatís the direction they want to head. So stay tuned.

T-Mobile USA

T Mobile ($TMUS)is another wireless carrier like Sprint that is in the early stages of a recovery. They were struggling for survival over the last several years. About a year ago they brought in a new CEO, John Legere, who has been really shaking things up.

T-Mobile has launched several major transformations from the iPhone, to going pre-paid to updating the network to faster speeds, and so on.

The T Mobile service is better today than it has been in years. They are winning new customers once again. They have seen growth during the last two quarters.

So while T Mobile seems like they are on the right track, itís still too early to say whether it will continue. I hope it does, but letís keep our eyes on it.

The word on the street today is Sprint and T-Mobile may merge. Will they? Who knows? The regulators said no to an AT&T T-Mobile merger. Will a Sprint T-Mobile merger be approved? Stay tuned.

(be sure to check back in for the last installment of Jeff Kaganís tech predictions on New Yearís Day.)

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Jeff Kagan: What to Expect in 2014 in Wireless, Wire Line and Internet (Part III)

By Jeff Kagan

January 1, 2014 9:00AM   

Tickers Mentioned: TWC




(On Dec. 20 analyst Jeff Kagan gave his first round of predictions for what tech and telecom would look like in 2014. He followed with another round on Dec. 26, detailing what he saw in store for Microsoft, Qualcomm, Sprint, and others. This is the third and last round of predictions for the nascent year.)

C Spire Wireless

C Spire is a smaller wireless carrier in the southeast United States and they have really been making some very interesting moves this year.

 They are expanding beyond traditional wireless. They started Vu Digital which helps web surfers find the stories and news they search for. And they do this over the wire line and wireless Internet.

They also stirred up excitement in 2013 by announcing they would roll out super high speed Internet in a city in Mississippi. They ended up selecting several cities and that is generating lots of excitement.

This it the same kind of very high speed Internet like Google in Kansas City, AT&T in Austin and CenturyLink in Las Vegas.

This company has punched its way onto the marketplace and is definitely worth keeping an eye on.


CenturyLink (CTL) is the number three ďBaby Bell.Ē If you recall, they acquired Qwest and Embarq and several other companies in recent years. They are now a stronger player who is trying to see growth in new areas like wireless and television. 

While this is what AT&T and Verizon are both doing very well, CenturyLink is still struggling for a successful foothold in these areas.

They operate like a young and energetic company who is trying time and time again and you have to give them a lot of credit for that.

I like the company and the management and think they can see growth in these and other areas going forward. Letís hope they begin to do so in 2014.


Windstream (WIN) is another interesting wireline company. They have spent the last few years acquiring other smaller companies and growing their business. They are larger today and that is the good part. The bad part is the wireline phone business is not growing. Just ask AT&T, Verizon and CenturyLink. Itís shrinking.

Since Windstream is not a wireless company or television provider, my concern is for future growth. They continue to focus on business services and they continue to do strong business today.

So while I donít see any red flags, I also donít see any enormous or rapid growth opportunities either. Things could change of course, and I hope they do.

I have met their CEO Jeff Gardner and several of the key executives, and think they are good people, doing a good job. However I sure would not mind seeing them in a faster growing segment of the business.

tw telecom

tw telecom (TWTC) originally came from Time Warner and is now an independent company. They focus on the business community and have been doing a great job.

Similar to Windstream, they deliver wireline services to the business community and are part of the backbone used by other telecoms. They are positioned well, even though they donít deliver wireless or television.

This is a relatively quiet company. There is never a lot of news from tw telecom, and their growth is never stellar, but they are consistent. I see that continuing.


Comcast (CMCSA) is the largest cable television company after acquiring the cable business from AT&T. If you recall AT&T acquired TCI from Denver in the late 1990ís.

Comcast is involved with delivering not only cable television, but telephone and high speed Internet. In recent years Comcast also acquired NBC properties and have multiple growth opportunities.

However the traditional cable television business is under threat. They grew for many years when there was limited competition from satellite TV. Today things are changing.

During the last few years we have seen both AT&T Uverse and Verizon FiOS jump in and compete. Comcast still has the majority of market share on a nationwide basis.

However in the cities where they compete against AT&T Uverse and Verizon FiOS, Comcast is losing customers. One example, in the Dallas area, where they compete against AT&T Uverse, the market share is roughly a 50 / 50 split between Comcast and AT&T.

That means Comcast is losing while AT&T is winning. Thatís the problem for Comcast.

They tried to offer a wireless service and unfortunately it did not work. Today they are partnered with Verizon and Verizon Wireless in a confusing business relationship.

And we are just in the very early stages of this transformation that is changing the cable television industry. New technologies and new competitors are threatening to change the space.

Comcast must transition and continue to grow. However they may be the best positioned to do so among the cable television industry today.

Time Warner Cable

Time Warner Cable (TWC)  is the second largest cable television company, but is rumored to be in play. Will it be acquired? Maybe. By who is the question? We have heard about Charter and Comcast, maybe others.

Why is Time Warner Cable getting out of the cable television business? If they are, the pressure to change and the threat of new and innovative competitors and technology may be one reason.

The cable television space has many new competitors and technologies that are changing the business.

They tried to offer a wireless service and unfortunately it did not work.

Time Warner Cable has provided a good quality service over the years. The cable television industry has never had a good relationship with customers. However Time Warner Cable has done pretty well in this marketplace.


Cox is a company in a lot of different businesses, from the media like radio, television and newspapers, to being a cable television competitor in markets around the country as well.

Cox is a well run and consistent company. They are however facing the same industry reshaping changes and challenges as Comcast and Time Warner Telecom.

The company will likely continue to do well going forward, however their growth in cable has not been what I expected.

They tried to offer a wireless service and unfortunately it did not work.

This is a company, which customers really like. Thatís in the plus column. However they still must be in a good position to transform because their entire industry is starting to do so.

Final Thoughts

There are many more companies and these are just a few that are changing as their segments change

We have seen the industry go through these kinds of fits and starts before, and I think 2014 will be yet another big year of transformation.

Expect change in the types of services that will be hot and the types of services each company will offer.

Expect more mergers and acquisitions.

Expect companies to compete outside their core areas with other competitors. Some who they have competed against before, and others who they havenít.

Who will lead going forward, who will follow and who will struggle? Some of todayís leaders will get stronger. Some will weaken. Some of the companies who have struggled over the last several years will now grow.

2014 will be a year of rapid growth, change in technology, competitors and leadership. Nothing stays the same. They key question is who will lead going forward in the communications space, wireless, wire line and Internet.

It will be very interesting to keep our eyes on todayís leaders, and see who wins and loses going in 2014. You know there will be surprises going forward. Letís just keep our eyes open and see what happens next

By    Jeff Kagan   +Follow          January 1, 2014 9:00AM 

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