Strange Bedfellows

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

While they may ultimately be competitors, both companies have a common raison dêtre: Broadscape director Theo Platt agrees with Wialess.coms marketing director Brian Parker that public Wi-Fis user base mainly comprises DIY road warriors and work groups from local offices at the moment. This works against large national operators, who hope users will want a national name and network but are currently placing their hotspots in "destination" locations such as hotels and airports, rather than local gathering areas or on the way to local meetings. And both are seeing happy customers in the café and bar—clients who are finding the systems easy to swallow and quick to pay for themselves with minimal fuss. Love them or hate them, what the large operators are doing (along with Intel, Microsoft, McDonalds, Starbucks and their ilk) is providing marketing budget for the entire nascent Wi-Fi industry, both in the U.S. and Europe. Brand-name recognition is very important in the European market as a whole, since users in this region are less likely, in general, to make a large investment in a service run by an unknown name, but do feel comfortable making free or low-cost usage of a service that is associated with known names.
As happened with the free ISP boom of the late 1990s in Europe, there is still plenty of room for free public Wi-Fi to take off and grow; the economics of running these services remain favorable thanks to low equipment costs for both provider and user—costs likely to drop as usage increases. And, like the free ISP wave, these independent operators probably have two to three years to grow their businesses, spreading Wi-Fi as a model along the way.
The smart ones will do as their fixed-line predecessors did: grab good real estate and build a user base, then wait to sell out to the big operators when the time is right. In the meantime, the European market will get a needed shot in the arm from a new source, and most importantly, usage will be stimulated. 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.

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