Mobile network operators are always pointing to the fact that they don’t want to be mere bitpipes but would rather prefer to remain a network + service provider as they are with voice telephony today. Most have recognized some time ago that this is a rather unrealistic goal and are opening their walled gardens. But maybe this bitpipe disgust could be remedied with a different perspective on things!?
Apart from the few killer apps born out of web 2.0 (Google search, maps, Flickr, Amazon, eBay, Facebook, …) most people today use quite a number of services in the Long Tail of the web. In case you are not familiar with Long Tail economics, take a look the original article by Chris Anderson published on Wired magazine which focused on goods on the long tail but is in my opinion applicable to services as well. It is these startup or niche segment services that might give the final incentive for users to consider going online from their mobile. The "problem" for network operators is that they can’t be the provider of the killer apps, since they are already out there and they also can’t be the provider of those niche apps, since there is not a lot of money to be made in the long tail as this article by Alex Isold on ReadWriteWeb aptly points out.
What Alex also points out, however, that while you can not make a lot of money in the Long Tail but you can actually make a lot of money WITH the Long Tail as aptly demonstrated by Amazon or eBay. So now look at mobile operators: Selling bandwidth is nothing but making money with the Long Tail of the web. Sounds a lot better than ‘bitpipe’, no?
Comments as always welcome!