I’m writing this on Valentine’s Day, and as we know, this day is all about the people in your life that you care about. In the run up to MWC this year, then, the professional and managed services marketing teams at a bunch of major vendors are making the nerds in the dark offices and backrooms feel the love. I’ve sat in on a number of pre-briefings and webcasts this week, and it is beginning to appear that a key theme at this year’s event is going to be software and services. In particular, I am willing to bet a box of chocolates and a dozen overpriced roses that software in support of enhanced services offerings is going to dominate the proceedings in many respects.
In terms of the mobile focus at Mobile World Congress, quality of experience for the mobile subscriber promises to be front and center. To support these aims, vendors will be hawking professional services left and right. To differentiate these services, increasingly sophisticated ways of optimizing networks, monitoring networks, tweaking and fixing networks with the experience of individual users in mind will be put forth.
What this boils down to is that vendors will be marketing algorithms in Barcelona this year. Yawn, right?
Not necessarily. Algorithms are code. Code is software. And, with SDN/NFV promising to marginalize vendor hardware down to cheap x86 blades that might someday be available at Walmart (joking… kinda), many vendors have been laying out their plans to transform themselves into “software vendors” for quite some time. Well folks, this is the year that “it gets real,” as they say.
It is not often we see a significant change in the business models of the major players in a several trillion dollar industry hit the pavement like the start of the New York City marathon. This year, we might.
While that sounds exciting, this raises a new question. How can hardware companies market themselves as software vendors? With hardware, speeds, feeds and the general practice of one-upmanship were tried and true. With software, a few smart kids in a room can put together a proof of concept good enough for a tradeshow demo stand. To this end, as “big iron” vendors become aggressive in touting their software capabilities, we believe that increasingly thematic, outcomes-based marketing will emerge. Instead of what the software does (e.g., optimizes how video traffic transgresses through the network), we’ll see more discussion of what customer and/or business value the software enables (e.g., images of users being able to access videos seamlessly wherever they are). A natural accompaniment to this, of course, is the need to tout the success of one’s services team to integrate and then help the customer derive value from the software.
No doubt carriers are going to want to see this from their suppliers. From what I’ve heard this past week or so, the carriers in the crowd might be left wanting this year in Barcelona… maybe something to look forward to at MWC2015?