For those attending the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last month, many commented on the conspicuous absence of a true 'wow' topic like at past events. Last year, for example, mobile TV and HSDPA were almost ubiquitous at the Fira.
ARCchart analyst Matt Lewis attributes the lack a of headline grapping technology in part to the industry's new-found paranoia of over hyping anything. 'Past experience has shown this [hype] virtually guarantees across the board disappointment - from under whelmed customers to disgruntled shareholders.'
Brian Levy, HP's CTO of its communications, media and entertainment group, also found a lack of a wow factor at the Congress. He says mobile operators are trying to work things out, after making a number of mistakes and discovering bigger and faster don't always lead to more revenue.
'As an industry we're in phase where we're are not sure where to go, and people are looking for the next thought leadership that will allow them to more forward. They want to see that it will drive success,' says Levy. 'I think there is a reluctance at the moment for major infrastructure investments while there is uncertainly across the industry about the strategic direction that will drive success.'
With most products and services now fairly similar on performance, Convergys MD for Asia Pacific Iain Hackett isn't surprised that the technology hype at the Congress has taken a backseat to a focus on how you can continue to be relevant to your customers going forward.
'It's not about how you stack up against the competition as the products and solutions are very similar - 4-5% better or worse here and there,' Hackett told the Telecom Asia. 'The technology is now a given - it's a matter of what do you know about the market, and do your customers view you as having a world view and a true sense of what is required going forward.'
He says his customers want a more analytical approach - not just viewed from a technology point of view. 'They are trying to defend their market share and want us to share our past experience and help them avoid the pain points others have made before.'
Most companies, he noted, don't lose to the competition, but to internal resistance and indifference, which is 'basically the inability to adapt - for example, look at the old AT&T.'
Along those lines, HP's Levy raised the maxim that that the speed of innovation is inversely proportional to the size of an organization. 'If that is true, at a company the size of HP I have a huge challenge as CTO to create a way that we can still do small-company thinking in a large company.'
He noted that culture is indeed an on-going challenge. 'You need your people to think in new ways and where the marketing is going. Need to think about customers and what they perceive as value.'
He explained that it's always easy to innovation in an incremental sense because people are creative and naturally will see incremental evolution as easy to do. Breakthrough innovation is difficult, especially for large companies, he said because often it challenges the status quo and there are a lot of mechanisms set to stop you from doing that.