Pinpointing Usage

By Scott Smith  |  Posted 2003-08-08 Print this article Print

One could assume that hotspots in airports and hotels will attract business users, while students and younger Web users, will hit cafés, bookstores, and fast-food joints. However, the lines have already started to blur significantly, with business users stopping in a downtown McDonalds, Starbucks, or local bar fitted with Wi-Fi, while people who normally hate road warriors as a group are popping up in hotel lobbies and airports to send that quick picture to friends or e-mail home. One location might be investing in quality customer support (such as business hotel chains), while another is staffed by devil-may-care baristas. At the moment, there is no empirical way to know which one your good business customer just pitched up in. How do you direct targeted marketing, investment, and value-added services when the picture is so muddled? Wi-Fi usage is largely intent-driven, so more and more people will use it when and where the need arises, not just where the customer segment they belong to is supposed to use it. Simply correlating billing data and the information customers provided when they signed up for the service (if they registered) wont tell what the business trends are. It will only tell you whom you lost when its too late to do anything about it.
At the moment, the hue and cry is about whether there are sustainable business models for Wi-Fi. Analysts fingers already point to low average session figures at many hotspots, saying for the moment saturation is imminent. Only properly targeted, attenuated services will succeed in an environment where the free-lunch syndrome that killed so many fixed-line ISPs and portals is again taking root. Players in this market need to invest not in one-off retrospective studies, or even as much in predictions of future growth.
All of these growth forecasts will get derailed when consolidation of one-size-fits-all service packages strikes and the market reconfigures. The big hardware and software companies that are counting on the market for mobile solutions enabled by widespread Wi-Fi need to step in and insist that we find a better way of quantifying the patterns of usage and establish future demand trends if they want to keep their shareholders happy down the road. What is needed now is a dynamic view into ongoing customer usage, and some smart correlation of data to show where the better Wi-Fi watering holes are. What little money has appeared recently to back this market in a down environment must be spent wisely now understanding the market demand in an ongoing fashion, not thrown about in a speculative land-grab. It happened eventually in the fixed-line Internet market with the advent of new metrics and tracking methodologies, and it is only just beginning to happen in the wireless broadband world, where many more variables of service and usage exist. Addressing these questions through a tool such as Public Hotspot Monitor will spark some recognition that quality and suitability, not quantity, of hotspot build-out will be the key. Failure to address them will result in another missed golden opportunity to create a sustainable marketplace. Scott Smith is Managing Partner of Cumulus Research Partners, a London consulting firm that specializes in helping companies understand the social impact of new technologies.

In May 2005, Scott Smith assumed his current responsibilities as Executive Vice President and General Manager, Americas for Lenovo as the acquisition of IBM's former Personal Computing Division to Lenovo Group was completed. In this role, Scott leads all customer sales, marketing and operations activities for the Americas across the Lenovo portfolio.

Prior to Lenovo Scott held a number of key leadership positions at IBM in sales, marketing, service delivery and business line management in both the United States and abroad. In July 2004, Scott assumed the responsibility of vice president, Personal Computing Division, IBM Americas.

From 1995 to 1999, Scott held various executive positions in the Asia Pacific region which included Director, Engineering Solutions, Director, Manufacturing Solutions, General Manager, Networking and Storage Systems.

Upon returning to the United States, Scott assumed the position of Worldwide Vice President of sales, marketing & business line management for the Networking Hardware Division. He also had roles as vice president, e-business Solutions where he helped customers achieve the benefits of e-business through the implementation of IBM's solution offerings in the e-Commerce, Customer Relationship Management, Supply Chain Management, Enterprise Application Systems and e-Markets segments, vice president, Americas Server Sales where he was responsible for driving revenue and market share growth of the unified IBM eServer family of products. In his previous role, Scott held the position of vice president, Industrial Sector, IBM Americas. In this capacity, he was responsible for sales and support of the full range of IBM's information technology products, sales & service delivery and industry solutions. He led a diverse team dedicated to the global support of large enterprise customers in the Aerospace & Defense, Automotive, Electronics and Chemicals & Petroleum Industries. He was also responsible for the total IBM customer relationship. By setting strategy, aligning resources and driving sales execution, he challenged his sales and delivery teams to leverage the full breadth of IBM's capabilities to help customers realize successful business results and achieve a competitive business advantage.

Scott holds a Bachelor of Science in Marketing and Industrial Distribution from Clarkson University. He was a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne. He is a member of the IBM Senior Leadership Team.

Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel