A marketing angle

Ben F-W openmoko at flemingwilliams.co.uk
Mon Nov 20 18:25:00 CET 2006

Hello all! Seems like most of the conversation so far has been around 
the hardware/software side: what will be included in this version vs the 
next version of the hardware. As I'm in marketing myself, I'm also very 
interested in the way FIC plan to bring OpenMoko to market: which is 
probably quite important to ensure there /is/ another version! I thought 
I'd offer a couple of thoughts on this...

I assume that in most / all countries, it will not be possible (at least 
initially) to sell through operators. I doubt that many of the operators 
will trust it to be in their best interests until it's proven to raise 
ARPU. Instead, I think I saw someone confirming that it will be 
available globally, with FIC selling direct to the customer.

That means customers have to beat a path to FIC's door rather than being 
'sold' to. The main initial reasons for people to want to do this would 
seem to be (a) the open philosophy (b) the ability to customise it as 
required, including linking it up with home PCs.

There seem to me to be three problems with uptake:
    1) The market attracted by the current proposition is likely to be 
quite small. Very dedicated, sure, but not massive. Hopefully, in the 
longer term, some fantastic applications will be developed by the 
community, which will make it attractive to the mass market. (These, 
incidentally, will not be things like interfacing with Asterisk on the 
home PC until that's easy to set up). People are also likely to be quite 
slow to pick up on the OpenMoko: in the parts of the world where a free 
phone comes with the contract, people only start looking to replace it 
once every 12/18 months. I don't know what sales FIC need to make this 
profitable, but I suspect it might be larger than this initial market: 
they'll need to move into the mass market to justify a lot of further 
investment. So a Neo1975 or Neo1977 may be dependent on growing the 
market beyond its initial (small) size.

    2) Selling to the mass market usually needs a strong brand that 
people can trust: currently, I don't think FIC has this (at least here 
in the UK). So to get to the mass market, either it will have to get 
operators interested and act as an ODM (its brand is subsumed into the 
operator one), or invest hugely in advertising, or trust to 
word-of-mouth and community hype to drum up enough support.

    3) Community hype is probably the best option, and is likely to 
focus around the killer applications: "if you get the OpenMoko you'll be 
able to do this with it!". Two problems: firstly, it will take some time 
for these applications to be honed for ease of use. Secondly, what's to 
stop another manufacturer from taking a GPL'd product and adapting it to 
work with their (closed) Linux-based phone? They'd already have the 
operator channel and the consumer brand, but wouldn't need to open up 
their mobiles in the same way FIC is doing.

Conclusions: given that this is an experiment, I suspect FIC will be 
loth to invest a huge amount in marketing and selling it. So the 
community-hype option seems to be the way to go. That means that if we 
want to ensure this product does well for FIC, and therefore spawns 
further versions, we'll need to make sure that the applications 
available are simple enough and instantly-attractive enough for the mass 

I'd be interested in your views on all this: if nothing else, are my 
(multiple) assumptions correct? Does Sean / FIC have a long-term plan 
for the marketing of this product? Can we as members of the community 
help and if so, how?

Looking forward to your input.



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