Mobile network operators are in an ideal position to take advantage of the burgeoning enterprise mobile cloud services market, because of the amount of data they have about their customers, according to Malcolm Nicholas, CTO of IBM UK and Ireland.
Speaking at a session on the subject on 'Evaluating the Business Case for Mobile Cloud Services' at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Nicholas said that mobile operators have a “unique opportunity” to become key players in this market.
“If you can understand your network data, understand the data that's delivered, overlay the data you own and understand about your customers, you will create the ability to know what products, what product groupings to bundle up and sell to your clients and how to charge for them,” he said.
“You also begin to figure out why people want these services – and the why is really important, because if we're going to enable the markets then we're going to have to figure out why people choose a mobile cloud service over something that's more traditional”
He added that, as systems become smarter and more interconnected, getting information from one organisation to another is absolutely critical, and doing so securely, ubiquitously and reliably plays into telecommunications' core competencies
“You don't have to do it with a freemium model – this is stuff that is valuable,” he added.
Paul-Francois Fournier, EVP at Technocentre for Orange, said that the mobile operator has been running cloud services in France for about 6 months, and already has 76,000 SMB customers. However, he said that the company's cloud propositions for consumer and SMB are quite different.
In the consumer market, Orange does not expect to see much of a financial profit from its cloud storage solution – it is simply offering the product to encourage consumers to stay within the Orange ecosystem and develop brand loyalty.
In the SMB market, however, it is using the cloud to offer more of a software-as-a-service (SaaS) application store rather than pure storage, in order to distribute apps and services through an Orange channel.
“In the Pro market we are looking at a freemium model, where we are distributing apps, as opposed to B2C where we clearly focus on storage and loyalty model,” said Fournier.
However, Laura Yecies, CEO of SugarSync, suggested that this might be misguided, claiming that when it comes to cloud services, the difference between consumer, SMB and enterprise is not as great as some organisations might think.
“There's certain applications like browsers or word processors or spreadsheets where the version that a consumer uses and a small business uses and an enterprise uses – it's still Microsoft Word or Google Chrome or Firefox, it's still the same tool. I think we see the same thing in cloud; the utilisation of the product, the experience that someone wants is going to be very similar,” she said.
“That's in stark contrast with, say, accounting applications, where a large corporation is going to use an SAP-type application, a small business might use Quicken or Peachtree, and a consumer is going to use QuickBooks or Mint.com – they're going to be very different.”
She added: “Cloud solutions are more similar between consumer and enterprise than they are different, and as a result, the consumer market is the feeder to the enterprise market.”