The Battle For Customer Ownership Isn't Over Yet
By Mike Masnick, Wed Apr 20 23:30:00 GMT 2005

As content, application and service providers try to make their way into the mobile space, partnering with the operators is often seen as the way to go. However, will difficulty in working with partners force content providers to make an end-run around the operators?

The first place that many developers turn when trying to move their content, applications or services onto mobile devices is the mobile operators. Developers always want to jump right in and sign deals with as many big operators as possible. The operators, on the other hand, are inundated with such requests, and many developers find the process long, frustrating and eventually unfair. While a few operators have realized that making it easier for these developers to work on their platforms is advantageous to everyone -- there's still a strong walled garden mentality that leads the operators to want to only let in a select few -- and charge them through the nose for the privilege.

However, developers may be noticing other routes around or through the operators -- and it's often coming via the handset makers. Motorola announced today some mobile multi-player games being added to its consumer facing portal. The games sound interesting -- but it was more interesting to see these developers make this announcement with Motorola, rather than a specific operator. While many believed the customer ownership battles had been won by the operators, that might not be true. Even in cases where the operators still do have some say, offerings like Nokia's Preminet and Qualcomm's BREW help developers get onto phones without going directly through the operators -- but by being bundled up by the technology providers.

Either way, with the hardware providers taking back some of the control over the developer relationship (mainly due to operator incompetence in dealing with all of the requests received), it certainly opens up an opportunity for the handset makers to re-assert some control over the customer experience. Of course, what's most absurd about this entire discussion is that it wouldn't much matter if everyone agreed to open up the network a bit more, allow developers to easily get included and realize that this increases the overall value for everyone involved.