A Substitution Effect

By Scott Smith  |  Posted 2003-03-17 Print this article Print

The problem that Europe faces with Wi-Fi, along with 3G and other mobile data services, is that it is a complex patchwork of user behavior, both business and personal, that occurs within a geographically fragmented area. Penetration rates of data-ready mobile devices, availability of comprehensive suites of application services for businesses, and business practices that accommodate widespread usage of both, vary widely from country to country. Europe lacks the sort of sizeable entrepreneurial small-business class that in the U.S. equips and seeks out solutions itself, the kind of mobile professionals who are propping up T-Mobiles relationship with Starbucks in the US, for example. Instead, the market is comprised of small tribes of creatives or professionals in urban centers that may not have the disposable income to afford wireless laptops and iPaqs, along with an equally small and fragmented number of DIY road warriors–estimated at 6 percent of the market by one data house. Most of the potential market for "pay" Wi-Fi has been anchored to the increasingly capable, data-enabled mobile phones on offer across Europe.
This may be about to change. The magic bullet? At the top of the market, it will take time for business Wi-Fi usage to spread, as companies wait for some stabilization of the market and where the networks of hotspots materialize. Hotspots arent ubiquitous enough yet to give the kind of predictability needed to encourage the investment in access and hardware for many companies.
However, interesting things are happening at the level of "free-to-user" public Wi-Fi. In the same way the advent of the free dial-up access model jolted the industry into growth here in the late 1990s, free public Wi-Fi, combined with innovative usage models and locally packaged services, could stand to give the industry a similar kick start. Despite the harrumphing coming from the fixed-line incumbents and large mobile operators, the free-to-user model for Wi-Fi in Europe is sustainable enough for the foreseeable future, say small operators and retailers who are currently partnering to offer it in limited rollouts. In addition, making broadband so easily available in public places as an amenity should spread the value of the technology, much as satellite TV in pubs and bars did for that sector. It has the potential to educate the public about the benefits of broadband, fill geographical gaps where it is still not available, and put it closer to the millions of potential users who still cant get broadband to the home in parts of Europe. Two U.K. players are pushing versions of the free-to-user model in the U.K. at the moment, and they are taking aim at market segments that dont want to pay $50 to $80 a month for access. Wialess.com, based outside London in St. Albans, is building its business around wiring pubs and bars. In central London, an area dense with young, mobile professionals, café chain Benugo has partnered with service provider Broadscape to offer competition to the nearby branches of coffee houses Costa Coffee and Starbucks that offer pay models. Around Europe, similar businesses are popping up to wire the innumerable public gathering spots where professionals and students gather.

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.

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