December 18, 2006

Blyk - free mobile calls for all

322052843_ec6b9a4694_m Blyk is a fascinating company started by ex-Nokia man Marko Ahtisaari. He currently advises Fon, the service which allows you to offer some of your home or business wifi to others for free in return for getting some of theirs for free when you're on your travels. The same open source connectivity is what is in store for Blyk. In presenting what he envisaged for the first pan-European free mobile phone call company he centered around five key points:

  1. Reach
    Web 2.0? Think more Mobile 2.0. The increased interest in mobile technology is not just a "me-too" from the likes of this blog and LTS but a way to share education with far more people than current web-based technology can reach. For 2.0, read 2 billion people who will be equipped with mobile phones more than laptops. The action will be taking place in the Brichs countries: Brazil, Russia, India, China. Let's add 'S' for Scotland at the end of that.
  2. Sometimes off322053505_6ed3236a7b_m
    Most people these days have trouble switching off from constant interruptions or from checking their email or web stats the minute they wake up or go to bed (ask any teenager what they like to do when they get in from school - it's not watch the TV any more, it's check to see if anyone visited the Bebo page). Blyk intend to make more use of our dead time to allow us to switch off better when we should. It's worked for me this year since using offline RSS readers and wikis, and using online mobile email and IM.
  3. Hackability
    We're used to hacking the look of our mobile devices by adding new plastic covers and accessories. However, there's still a market for giving people the ability to hack the software on their phones. Python can be learned in an afternoon by anyone so free access to these pieces of software is next on the priority list.

  4. Social primitives:
      1. The Gift: we must encourage more people to share for really free using beaming or bluetooth, giving each other 'gifts' when they are out and about... or in the classroom. An opportunity that has been around for years yet ignored by most schools.
      2. Photostreaming: In the same way as Flickr allows us to have a stream of photos from our friends, and news readers give us the same from our favourite blogs, mobile devices now have to build in information flows form our friends or from those geographically close to us (imagine getting the blog information from the people sitting next to ou on the train or in class without you having to know what their blog address is or what their name is, even. BTW - a McIntosh idea that, but Blyk can have it saying it's built on their shoulders ;-)
      3. Signaling
        Things like Jaiku need to become the norm, where you can tell that you're friends (from your contacts list) are nearby. Great for nightclubs ;-)
      4. Real Identity, not just online identity
        Things liked LinkedIn work on the PC but you really need them when you're out and about on your mobile.
  5. Freedom
    What stops people from using mobiles more? Money. We need to understand the pricing of our devices. Free is a pretty easy price to understand, even for schools ;-)

I wish Marko and his colleagues the best, especially since they intend to support this through "uninstrusive advertising" (I've never seen any ads that are unintrusive). If I were a Head Teacher or Local Authority manager, though, I'd be first in line for his services.


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I have known Marko for years. Marko has done a great job both at Nokia and as fonero leader in Finland where we are adding access points at a rate of around 100 per week so while I have complete trust in Marko I am extremely curious to know exactly how Blyk will reach its target audience at a cost that is low enough for them to succeed.

Closing the gap between attention and transaction will be the Key for long-term sustainability for this model. Eye-balls will gloss over if money doesn't change hands at the user-level. The lock will open if Blyk can tightly couple relevant consumer "emotional triggers" with billing. Stored Value, loyalty, and super distribution could be the icing on Blyk's cake.

I think Pekka and Antti are ahead of the times, at the right time... Good luck team!


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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

What does Ewan do?

Module Masterclass

School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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