geert lovink on 17 Nov 2000 07:35:16 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] Re: <nettime> Cellphones and the Cancer of Cellspace

The Now Europe Digest, put together by Steven Carlson, had an interesting
contribution this week about the hype and fall of mobile phone commerce:

       Europe's Internet Business Forum
       List Moderator: Steven Carlson
       Issue for: Fri, Nov 10, 2000


From: Erik Bach <>
Subject: M-Commerce - What Do Users Want?


I'm working in a Norwegian telecom company with m-commerce
services for GPRS and UMTS. What has struck me is that it seems
as if the history hasn't taught us much.

Despite the flops lately, people in the business still
tend to believe that once you get proper bandwidth and location
based services through the mobile Internet, consumers will start
using m-commerce services and even buy goods in a large scale. I
hear a lot about user perspectives and the importance of
"listening" to the consumer. But the question seldom raised is:
Why do we believe in specific services for m-commerce in the UMTS
scenario? I suspect that it's because many people in the business
are taking the technological point of view - proposing services
for UMTS because they know a lot about technical opportunities
with UMTS. The core problem is that this perspective doesn't say
much about consumer needs or behaviour. I believe that asking the
question: why do we as telecoms or ASPs believe in certain
applications for the future?, we could at least be aware of our
own taken for granted views about m-commerce applications in the

Regarding dot.coms the last year; today we listen to web gurus
and publishers telling us that the major problem with early
dot.coms was that they lacked infrastructure - and of course a
well established brand name. This is striking, why didn't this
knowledge come earlier? I believe that it has to do with the
preoccupation and strong belief that once we have the right
technology, (just as if the web makes us want to look for more
shops) we miss the fatal point: consumers don't change their
internalized routines over night just because there are more
opportunities available.

Take the whole UMTS service hype for example: History has shown
us that consumers are not willing to pay for much content.
Consider news papers, broadcasting and today's web; most content
is already paid for through advertising. Still there are a lot of
talk about video streaming, online games etc on the future UMTS
terminals, which all require quite a lot of bandwidth.

Take the SMS phenomenon in the Scandinavian countries: Any
operator or terminal producer wanted to predict this exploding
phenomenon, but no one really did. What SMS really does is to
respond to one of the most basic human needs: person to person
communications. This is a simple application in technological
terms, but it touches upon something essentially human which will
not go away because we get a lot of content in new situations.

My strong belief is that we should look upon the history and the
present to get some of the answers about m-commerce market
opportunities. The only thing we know much about today is: 1.
Tomorrow's technology 2. today's consumer behaviour. What we
don't know much about is tomorrow's consumer behaviour
(m-commerce usage).

To grasp killer applications like SMS before they hit the fan, I
believe that we should ask ourselves the question: What are we
demanding of the consumer when we talk about new m-commerce

Meanwhile I'll go to my local supermarket and buy all my content,
because I trust them and I know where they are.

Erik Bach


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