What Do Consumers Want
?"> Other market watchers said the biggest challenge for Sprint and its partners will be in figuring out just which kinds of applications it can get consumers to adopt, and pay for, first. Charles Golvin, analyst with Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., said that beyond such typical hurdles as pulling together integrated billing systems and centralized customer service to support the emerging applications, the effort of creating feasible pricing models for the new products wont be an easy task."The fact that theyre not going for low cost is interesting: Thats the only message consumers hear from wireless right now, not the idea of making your communications life simpler and your entertainment life richer," Golvin said. "That shift points to the potential for innovation and change, but the question is demand. There is no demand today for these features, but no one marketing them yet either, so it will take time to get that all straightened out." Another key factor for adoption will be ease of use, the analyst said, adding that he believes that consumers will only embrace integrated wireless and digital home applications that seamlessly pull together the companies services, and not struggle with unfriendly tools just for the sake of using them. One of the specific usability issues that experts are highlighting as potential obstacles for Sprint and its partners is the companies ability to create digital programming guides that help consumers find and access the many different types of content they could offerfrom programs stored on a set-top DVR to streaming music or mobile messaging applications. Analysts pointed out that it took years for the cable companies to create content programming guides that consumers find easy to use, and said that adding many other layers of content to the picture will require a lot of footwork by the operators. Market watchers said that another challenge the partners will face will be in changing consumers perceptions, specifically by educating people about new services and convincing customers to buy into the bundled packages. Joe Laszlo, analyst with New York-based Jupiter Research of Jupitermedia Corp., said only 12 percent of the U.S. broadband customers recently surveyed by his firm were interested in the proposed quad-play packages. "The remaining outstanding question with this is how much end users want to buy wireless from cable or broadband providers, and vice versa; the evidence is still mixed if you talk about quad play," Laszlo said. "Theres also this idea that people will shift priorities when shopping, and start looking more at multimedia and communications applications as a differentiator. These days people look at pricing and coverage first when shopping for wireless, cable or broadband, and it will take some effort to persuade consumers that theres now so much more to the equation than they might have considered before." Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on mobile and wireless computing.
Golvin said the partners message of joining forces to create new high-end services, versus gaining pricing leverage through increased economies of scale, is an important element of the arrangement.