A reader recently pointed me to a post by Joel Spolsky where he writes about 'Smart companies [should] try to commoditize their products' complements'. A very insightful article and he gives a number of examples for this business strategy:

  • IBM's goal before they became a services company was to commoditize the PC add-in market.
  • Microsoft's goal was to commoditize the PC market to drive their software sales.
  • IBM's goal later on was to commoditize hardware and software by jumping on the Linux bandwagon to drive services sales.
  • Companies supporting 'open source' in general are deriving value from selling services or hardware around it.

This got me thinking of what mobile network operators could commoditize to drive the revenue they can make from their product, the network!? A recent article by Dean Bubley might contain interesting insights into that. In his post 'Under-the-floor to Over-the-top', Dean writes about how Vodafone works on projects to become a service provider across networks and gives some examples such as a Vodafone branded Facebook plugin and an iPhone web-application. When looking at these moves from a 'Smart companies try to commoditize their products' complement' angle, these moves might be interpreted as "we try commoditizing services running on our network and thus we increase our revenue".

  • directly, because more people will over time use our network and thus pay for Internet access / phone calls / SMS
  • indirectly via branded over the top applications so next time people look for a new phone or a new pre-paid / post-paid subscription remember who's innovative in the space.

Comments, questions, insights?

P.S.: Maybe this is another way to get rid of the "dumb bit-pipe" thinking…