Be online all the time, only pay for what you use!. Time is no issue - what matters is the volume of data transferred. It makes sense, it is an attractive concept. That's what people are expecting from UMTS.
The big players in UMTS deserve sympathy. There is this wonderful promise of a new technology. But an air of doom surrounds it: How do we survive until demand matches the supply?
So the players tend to be a little preoccupied with their own problems. Meanwhile I spoke to Herr Hans Schmitz of Cologne, my very personal source of German market information. This is what UMTS means to him:
What we need to understand about Herr Schmitz is this: He doesn't like the smell of fear: "How on earth are we to recover our investment?"
- Hans Schmitz is stunned by the investment: 100 billion DM for the licenses alone, wow!
- Hans Schmitz entertains a suspicion that he, being the consumer, will be asked to foot the bill.
- Hans Schmitz is, however, not amused by the marketing machinery; it's off-key, he says.
Another thing is his name: He's Mr Schmitz, not Mr Yamamoto. As far as he's concerned the Japanese consumers are out of their tree.
- Expect Herr Schmitz to sit on his purse.
Ah, you might say, but this is could be cured by smart campaigning? Sure, but there is another thing about Herr Schmitz: He spurns a credit card, he likes to pay cash and he enjoys knowing where he stands with one glance at his wallet:
- Expect Herr Schmitz to be immune against crazy service ideas.
We're not going too fast, are we? You see, the new payment procedures don't seem to provide that clarity of vision. This is awkward for Herr Schmitz. It occurs to him that a lot of thought goes into the security for vendours, providers, banks etc., whereas nobody seems to be interested in his wallet convenience. Which Herr Schmitz has been enjoying all his life, before UMTS is about to give him a headache.
- How much money is IN the wallet?
- How much do they want him to fork OUT?
- How much is left OVER when he is done?
Once downloading a volume of data becomes the basis for accounting, our man Schmitz - the consumer, remember? - will want to know the bill in ADVANCE, he will want to OBSERVE the process of payment as it is happening, and he will INSIST on observing reimbursement, too. That's when the download fails, or needs to be repeated, or the service he bought was rubbish.
- Expect Herr Schmitz to be reluctant about payment.
The problem is, if Herr Schmitz won't just sit on his purse but also on the fence while waiting for the players to remember him, the word killer application might acquire a new meaning.
I asked him what would he do, in their place?
"For one thing. stop believing they could make me buy what I didn't know I never needed. They might twist my arm, now and then, but better not rely on it. Instead, they could remember me and find out what bothers me about UMTS!"
It's the bottleneck issue: Make it easy for Herr Schmitz to make friends with the payments side and you'll find Herr Schmitz is, indeed, looking forward to UMTS.