PS Consultants - ideas & solutions

The Telcos still don’t get it

Feb 2003  

Technically unwashed marketing and bean counting departments are still steering technology businesses straight onto the nearest rocks.

Just when you thought it might be safe to go back into the marketplace, there has been yet another telco disaster. This time, the venerable Cable and Wireless has managed to convert a cash mountain (some £7 billion, 2 years ago, £2bn today) into a scrap heap for the hopes and aspirations of shareholders and management. Ironically, everyone was saying that C&W’s traditional sloth has saved it from making the sort of pre-emptive moves on internet stocks that had sunk the reputations of it’s peers at places likes WorldCom and BT.

So the recent news that C&W has squandered the benefit of hindsight and managed to buy a collection of written down assets and still managed to tank seems to warrant a different sort of award for management. This appears to be shooting oneself in the foot with a bazooka and a gatling gun. This is like signing a statement that says you know where your foot is and that you have a loaded gun in your hand that is pointing at it, and still pulling the trigger.

And the 3G cellular fiasco looks to be doing no better. All Hutchinson (aka “3”) can think to do is promote the possibility of subscribing to a “see that goal” service, and a bunch of mapping services that will not be frightening Garmin and the GPS business very much. I have yet to hear about one service that people are likely to pay from on 3G that cannot already be delivered using the current GSM 2.5 GPRS system.

The other star application featured on their website seems to be using the phone as a payment device. I can’t wait. But it’s a good job they bought the Superdrug chain to provide a front for flogging their phones, since the management will soon need to go looking for the paracetamol when this lot starts to roost, and the folks back home in Hong Kong ask those awkward questions – starting with “why did we spend £4bn on a licence to enter a market that is already 100% saturated?”.

I really don’t know what it takes to get technology back on the rails and going places. Some of the pioneering founders of the 80s PC and networking boom need to be hauled off their yachts and given the task of throwing the present generation of executives out of the telecoms industry and getting back to the two basics:

1)      Do something (useful) that you cannot otherwise achieve by any other means

2)      Deliver measurable value in improved efficiency

3)   Think wireless computers - not computerised telephones.

If any Shopper reader has anything positive to report on the state of telco performance with regard to benefits for computer users, please don’t hesitate to email me.