Dear Team, Collegues, Partners and friends

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I have been offered a new position as member of the Opera Executive Management team, with responsibility for Mobile Services and Mobile Products. I will continue to work with Partnerships, and one of my first challenges will be to win an as strong position for Opera in the Smartphone segment as they currently enjoy in the featurephone world. Opera has an extremely strong Engineering team, as well as a good Sales and Marketing team, and my role is to unite their ambitions in a strategic roadmap that excites Operator partners looking to better monitize Mobile Internet, as well as motivate independent and usability oriented Smartphone customers to use Opera as their main browser.

I have during my 12 years in Telenor enjoyed many positions. Lately I have headed the Services unit on corporate level, now renamed to Commercial Development and given a key role in Digital Services. Our most important task have been to establish a strong Telenor partner position with the bigger eco system players as Google, Facebook and Microsoft. We have also been driving development of important areas as Voice and Messaging, Service Enablement and Retailing, and Internet Products and Connectivity. I need to say a big thank you to all Business Unit representatives that has shared their knowledge, concepts and practices, so that we have been able to scale it up to the benefit of all BUs. Whatever is achieved in these areas are a result of great cooperation with you.

I will certainly miss the highly competent and engaged people the most. I have had the pleasure of learning my way through Telenor by working with people I admire and respect. I believe that Telenors main advantage is that it gives opportunities to different people, enable also the different thinkers and those who challenges the existing truths a fair chance to influence its direction. This energy, as we clearly see from our Indian colleagues in these troubled times, is what will make Telenor stand out whatever the challenges will be.

Services, now renamed to Commercial Development will continue its quest for new and stronger positions in the Internet Eco System. I look forward to work with many of you from my new position in Opera. Best of luck, you know where to get hold me if you need some straight forward views in the future.

Digi artikkel

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Some thaughts back from MWC

I am recently back home after an incredible week at MWC in Barcelona last week. The panel debate where I attended on The Future of Voice where one of my highlights, taking inspiration from WhatsApp and their ability to process 2 bn messages a day, with no more than 25 employees. Admitting as a telco guy that there are a lot of work ahead of us in utilizing all the new opportunities coming with new technology as well as new customer behavior.

Another highlight was definitively the partner meetings we attended. Great to see how Petter, Anna and Bjørn Martin has been able to get to the right people and manage to build really interesting agendas. When I kicked off this job, we lacked even basic relationships with some of the biggest Internet companies shaping the future of our industry. Our meetings this week assured me that this is now established, and that interests are starting to align, opening up greater opportunities going forward. Especially one meeting both scared the heck of me, as well as intrigued me with the opportunity presented. We will need to use some time to process it, but the starting point is definitively of interest. Going out of the meeting, it stroke me that this is the day I will remember as the day when everything changed 10 years from now.

There were a lot of doom speak, especially among the more conservative operators and the vendor industry, but I choose to see opportunities. I believe there are enough people among the operators looking after how they can protect themselves, even how they can block the evolving development in our industry. But we lack people and resources really unlocking the opportunities out there. I believe this is partly for the reason that many Telcos has a really hard time trying to understand their own identity, understand who they are, what they should focus on etc. MWC is a typical example of that, showcasing endless halls packed with devices and network technology, while my understanding of a Telco is that it is all about distribution and attendance to customers.

I will therefor round of this post with this video link for you to enjoy. I believe Sigve Brekke shows the true spirit of the new customer oriented Telco with dedicated focus on distribution. This was really inspiring, thank you Sigve.

http://www.ndtv.com/video/player/ndtv-special-ndtv-profit/uninor-on-a-warpath-to-save-indian-operations/225407

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Protected: Christmas and new year message to the Team

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An amazing customer experience

I am on the flight back to Norway after some very productive days on the US west coast. It starts to appear to me how alignment between the telco and Internet industry can create customer value, and is necessary to take innovation to the next level. Our local agent, Bjørn Matin Worsøe, working out of the Scandinavian innovation house in Palo Alto is a living example on how 15 years of deep telco, can turn into advanced internet knowledge by accepting new thoughts and seek company with people who challenges and think differently from you.

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One of the small, but not less important impressions from the trip was the flow in one of Apples stores in Palo Alto. We were there to buy an iPad, and the process went smooth as earlier. The guy helping us out asked whether the iPad was a gift, and since it was our answer was yes.

Then the magic started to happen, and forgive me if you don’t share my passion for subtle, neat and good looking things. In my world this is the ultimate magic.

The store guy walked us out, stopped by the door and told us he had a little extra for us, that would enhance the value of the gift. He gave us the cleanest best looking envelope I ever seen and asked us to pass it on to the receiver of the gift.

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The back side of the envelope had an inviting opening mechanism, and I could not help myself from opening it.

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There the simple one liner, “the icing”, like the icing of a cake awaited my eyes discovery. Simplicity to its maximum level.

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I then took out the card and turned it around to see a warm welcoming to the world of apple, reminding me of when I grew up and a friend invited me over to his house to listen to music and expand my horizon of musical taste. Brilliant, and I must say that a better way to welcome a new and curious customer cannot be thought of.

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Why is this so hard for the rest of us. The idea is simple, beautiful and full of warmth. It is like being welcomed by friends, and it is the only thing I remember for the trip to the mall.

Thanks for a great impression, and for making me smile for the rest of the day,

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A strategic opportunity for Telco

I love the telecom and Internet field. I try to read as much as I can about the developments, and I am blessed with meeting intelligent people from both of these merging industries every day. This post is an attempt to describe my personal view on where the industry should head, primarily from a telco perspective.

Let me first start with why I have chosen the Telco angle instead of the pure and increasingly popular Internet angle? My reasons are first and foremost the injustice I feel is dominating the “Internet fan” view on Telcos. It is mostly derived from the tip of their noses, and to often by their personal experiences with American carriers. Many of what I call the “Internet fans” generalize their views on telcos based on their own experiences with maybe two American telco companies, missing the fact that the world has more than 300 Telcos operating across the globe. Many of these have for the last 5-10 years been the most important engines in economic growth and society development, delivering access to information and people in areas of the world where people have been suppressed by politicians and corporations hunt for profits by their control of information. My experience from for instance Asian Telcos is that they are among the beloved brands because their products empower people to change their everyday life. So my challenge back to the hip and progressive internet fans, is to listen a little more before they judge, and to look for opportunities from interacting and discussing opportunities for how the two industries together can change the world again by increasing innovation and developments in the societies we operate.

But Telco people needs to change as well. And this post is mostly about what I envision that change to be in the future of Telcos.

The changed eco-systems
To set the stage, I need to address the fundamental differences between Featurephone- and Smartphone segments. They are fundamentally different in needs from their operator, and the differences will challenge the operating model of most telcos trying to serve the two segments with the same value network.

The Featurephone segment is the business how we used to know it. Their needs is first and foremost oriented around the need for making and receive calls and messages. They are very sensitive to three key parameters of a Telco offering, namely price, where to buy (distribution), and the reliability of the network (coverage). Most of the telco differentiation of offerings are made up of variances around these parameters. If you hold the coverage position, you are able to take out a premium on the other two. Price, and where to buy, is then modeled to attract different segments with the ultimate goal of finding the exact right price point for every micro segment so that the overall profitability is maximized.

In this model the Telco controls the full value network, from the connectivity network, through service platforms, and in many instances with partly control of the device and physical distribution. The model have brought mobility to the world, and the service work across phone- and platform vendors due to strong emphasize on standardization and the integrated Telcos taking the full responsibility of the service experience. The model makes a lot of sense for customers, society and the industry as long as quality and reliability is the primary target for the value network.

The Smartphone segment has additional needs, namely most importantly, a reliable Internet connection. The apps, the browser, and the size of the screen, invites the user to take their Internet behavior from their PC and onto their phone. The fact that the phones spends almost all of the 24 hours within centimeters of their owner, invites Internet to be used for new purposes earlier restricted to the PC. Some users have during very short time, shifted their main phone usage from voice and messaging, and over to Internet usage. The primary purpose of the phone then changes from voice and messaging, to Internet usage. That again challenges the key parameters of the Telco offering expanding the pricing element to include data pricing, the product offering to include what eco-system that is supported, and the coverage to also include capacity. The customer experience is therefor complicated seen from a operators perspective, and the expectations from the customers are diversifying and increasing at the same time.

The Smartphone eco-system changes everything for the operating model of a Telco, first and foremost in the way of Telcos loosing the end2end control of the value network. Connectivity is still mainly under the control of the telco, but the new eco system owners are starting to put requirements on Telcos (for instance on connectivity pricing), and the use of Internet services increases the complexity of the connectivity model by introducing CDN and other traffic optimizing elements often outside of the control of the Telco. An even more important change is the opening of the service platform layer. This was solely under the control of the Telco, but is now dramatically changed by the eco-system owners introducing public APIs and Digital Storefronts on the devices (app stores). The result is that anyone can access the SDK and build services for the eco-system, and even get distribution directly to the consumer for their products never involving an operator. This have created an innovation in the services field that are previously unheard of. The flow of services are again re-enforcing new uses of Internet effectively making every spear minute in the customers life an opportunity for either work or play with the Smartphone as the key enabler.

Power is dramatically shifted in the new eco-system, as the eco-system owner controls the public APIs, and more importantly as the eco-system owner also has a portfolio of APIs not publicly available. These Private APIs are awarded to developers that comply to commercial agreements, and to the eco-system owners own portfolio of services. Examples of that can be the deep integration of Skype in the Mobile7 OS owned by Microsoft, differentiating what Skype can do on Mobile7 phones compared to any other VoIP application like for instance Viber. The effect is that what services that are available, and what these services can do is under the sole control of the eco-system owners. There are also potential competitive restricting opportunities for the eco-system owner that could be closer studied by the appropriate institutions.

The strategic opportunities emerging from the changes in the industry
Change leads the way for opportunities. I believe that we have just started to see the changes coming from the new Smartphone eco-system, and potentially there are a growing underserved market of emerging Smartphone users. They are today served by Featurephone centric operators, that are not really looking to the opportunities but more dragged along in someone else lead change of their industry. I believe a Telco should revise their operating model, and dependent on whether they regard it to be a Featurephone segment in their market, either change their operating model to better serve the emerging Smartphone segment, or set up an independent Smartphone value network with a new operating model. The new, or revised model should centralize around the following three principles:

  • Highest quality (coverage, capacity and traffic optimization) and extremely cost efficient production of Internet access.
  • Productify APIs where assets are held, or assets are with local variances (payment, distribution etc), to deliver value elements to third party service production.
  • Choose a segment, then a value proposition, and set up an internet service portfolio based on competitive assets operationalized through a private API logic.

Most Telco people will nod their heads, at least to parts of this. It is at the next level things start to get interesting, when the consequences of the principles are visible.

So what does it take to become a leading Internet provider? I believe that starts with a fresh look at our value network with the view that anything that does not directly or indirectly is there to deliver a better internet connection, is potential vast, cost or complexity. A telco infrastructure is primarily built to deliver voice services, and most service platforms and business support systems are there for the voice- or value added services. Take LTE for instance. It is an infrastructure built to deliver Internet, but when telcos add voice platforms and different value adding services they risk to build a complexity that in the end might weaken the delivery of the Internet product. If the practical consequence of adding telco voice and messaging functionality in LTE means that the cost or flexibility in producing Internet Access by LTE marginally increases compared to a Internet only LTE network, a telco should not add those capabilities and rather produce voice and messaging through its legacy infrastructure or with Internet OTT logic. And an access network is not enough to become leading on Internet Access products, an intelligent traffic machine and how content and services are placed in your network is as important. So to become leading on access an operator must radically re-invent its value network to reduce complexity by removing vast, reduce its cost structure, and build an intelligent network to increase the quality and flexibility.

APIs are not a new for most Telcos, but as most Telco value networks are tightly vertically integrated, the layered approach needed to be able to single out assets that can be offered as part of third party value networks is not a small one. Some of the assets held by Telcos are about to loose relevance as Telcos over and over again has failed in offering them outside of their own value network. That goes for notification and location as two examples of assets held by Telcos, that for OS owners has been easier to build themselves. Telcos still hold some assets with payment as one of the most obvious example. These are assets that is hard to replicate, often because it needs to be abstracted from locally diversified contexts (tax rules and legal issues), to a scalable efficient process that can be offered to partners. Another challenge for Telcos entering the enablement business is that they will need a slight mind set change. The Telco logic is pretty much to deliver the same product to 100% of the market, a classic for infrastructure heavy products like airlines , trains and telecom. The product is more or less the same, but the packaging, distribution and pricing is differentiated to optimize revenues. Entering into the enablement business might lead to more differentiation on the product side by enabling new players and new entrants in markets previously protected by high barriers to entry. That again might lead to a diversification of customer needs and then segments, ultimately leading to a situation where no product will be able to fulfill every segment need. This is a challenge for Telcos realizing functionality demanded in one segment in the same value network often adding cost on the whole customer base. A successful enablement business must thus be followed by a competitive and most importantly a flexible cost structure. I also believe that Telcos in the enablement business should classify its APIs into private and public categories, already done by most Internet companies. APIs should also be presented like services, and priced as a service rather than an revenue share model.

The last bullet is about the Service position, and the opportunities a Telco has to deliver more than access. As stated above, when number of service providers increases enabled by APIs and SDKs, customer needs are also expected to be diversified. If that happens I believe Telcos will need to choose what segments to serve, and to choose what value propositions to focus on. I believe the attempt of Vodafone in their 360 efforts was a classical miss the segment try to serve all problem driving out execution power. Choosing segment does also mean someone else will serve the segments you are not targeting. And the Internet access product is still fit for the full market approach. Therefor operators will need to partner with the service providers they themselves compete with in the services layer. This is a radical change, a execution problem, but also the best opportunity to differentiate from other operators if performed well.

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You made it, you are among the stars you yourself have admired for a lifetime

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Thanks Steve, really thanks, not only for giving us the wonderful, engaging and beautiful tools, but for showing everyone out there, those with smaller misfits, those who questions the established, those who always wants to take a different path, – that there are a way. And that vision, if believed and pursued consistently over time, through hard work and sometimes complete failures, will prevail.

You have given me hope on days when misfitting where to heavy a burden, you have showed through example that regardless of the magnitude of my fuck ups, there is always a next step. And, – there is always an opportunity in looking backwards and try to connect the dots, and refine the vision that guides you. I have several times watched your famous Stanford commencement speak, and I have now other word than “Thank You”.

I was in a meeting with one of the tech giants you have inspired, while you passed away. A great meeting actually, and I felt as alive, asking questions, pushing for answers, trying to remain in the vision I have for my work. My counterpart referred to you, and maybe more importantly for you, the legacy behind your vision, the 49000 apple employees as how he was inspired from what Cupertino had managed. I know that it takes time to pursue a vision that is something more than squeezing the margins or trimming the cost. Artistic creation of a new concept, product or even industry is a lot more than trimming. It takes persistence over time, it takes a long plan on how to access the necessary assets, and it takes a visionary leader that can challenge the analysts on wall street when everyone is screaming for outsourcing. I love this clip from 2001. I love your charm when interim is taken away from your title, but most importantly I love to see you having consistently, and with persistence, sticked to the same strategy for more than 10 years. (NB go to 5.59, as WordPress is not supporting Youtube interceptions)

Your legacy is as clear as ever on twitter tonight.  Ranging from the guy stating that every good thing he ever done were on mac, to the mother on her way to meet her young autistic child able to communicate better with the iPod you made available. I love visionary leadership.

I came out of the meeting and felt everything had went well, i took an Instagram shot to share my feelings with my closest friends, and after posting it I discovered that you had passed away. Twitter was lit up by people expressing their feelings. And there was I, high as a drug addict the minutes earlier, suddenly without any emotion at all. I do not know what I felt. My biggest loss being never having met you. Knowing that that became ever.

But I do know, now sitting at the airplane, on my way back to see my beloved family, that I feel an immense gratitude for the wisdom you have shared, and for showing me a way, despite feeling of not fitting in. I know I trust my intuition more thanks to you, and I know that I can take risk, fail, and start over again. You have showed me the way.

So Steve, I am so sorry I never got to meet you. I wrote you an email ones, and in my heart I believed you red it. It was the most beautiful email I ever produced with pictures and anecdotes, inspired by you, trying to reach you. Rest piece fully, and again, thank you. If I ever succeed like you, I will make a remake of the “Think differently” campaign, and you will be among the stars portrayed!

Tom Christian

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Impressed by coincident, is it to easy to believe that Google is genius?

It is summer vacation in Norway, and I have spent part of mine in Molde on the west coast of Norway. Molde and its surroundings is well known for two things, beautiful nature (fjords and mountain ranges) and a yearly Jazz Festival called Molde Jazz.

I went to the opening show that featured a strange japanese band called Shibusashirazu Orchestra, a japanese jazz band that held the most amazing stage show experienced lately (See this You Tube clip from their concert in Fuji)

I got really fascinated by the band, and enjoyed their music as well, and as a regular user of both Soundhound and Shazam on my Iphone I tried to use my phone to locate the title of the music to be able to search it up on Spotify or Wimp later.

I was not optimistic about any of the two services to recognize the music, and as expected the search turned up blank. But, What really impressed me was the ad displayed in the window, delivered by Google, making me aware of the opportunity to join a Jazz Cruise with a Norwegian Cruise ship called Hurtigruten.

I was really impressed. Was the application able to understand the genre of music, even though it did not understand the exact song title? And is Google using such information to place relevant ads? I was impressed, and later a little concerned about what types of information that are collected and how they are used.

I might be a little naive, but I sincerely believed  that Google new what kind of music I was listening to, standing there in Romsdals Museet on the opening concert of the Molde Jazz Festival, and the were able to try to sell me a new concert experience in lane with what I just were experiencing. Amazing.

It took at least 6 days before I discovered were I were fooled. Then again with the use of Shazam, but this time still in Molde but in my car listening to P3 (my favorite radio channel in Norway). This time trying to tag a new Norwegian release far from the jazz genre, receiving the same Shazam window not able to tag the music, and with the same advertisement for the Jazz Cruise. Then it occurred to me that the data leading to the jazz advertisement probably where location data, since nearly everything in Molde is about Jazz for this week.

It is easy to see “Google diamonds” everywhere we look, believing that Google is some kind of special elite (like Men in Black) having an answer for almost every thinkable problem.  It was good, finally after 6 days, to discover the truth and the really simple solution on how to match product and people based on location data, being relevant at least in one out of two displays.

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