One of the first truly useful wireless devices was the Palm 7 as it had a screen big enough to be useful and a stylus which allowed typing so a user could interact with web pages. As I recall, there was no real web browser but instead customer-designed Palm 7 applications which allowed users to access information which was optimized for the pocket-sized viewing experience. In a lot of ways the Palm 7 was the precursor to the iPhone and the App Store.
The popularity of this Apple-based device is a major driver of AT&T revenues but in a dramatic twist, Comcast has gotten into the iPhone game by releasing an application which integrates tightly with the company's e-mail, voicemail and broadband services in a way which adds value to the user experience.
I spent some time studying user reaction to this new application in the App Store comments section and some are truly blown away by the service. One, EBSJAX commented he/she is thrilled with the application as it allows him to check voicemails without having to dial a special number and furthermore allows phone calls to be forwarded remotely. EBSJAX highly recommends this app to other business users.
Others praise the app as a way to get e-mail and see TV and on-demand listings. Others complain about the fact that the SmartZone unified inbox email is separate from the iPhone email application but there seems to be praise from all regarding the fact the iPhone address book is integrated into the Comcast application.
There are a host of other features allowing users to call a person back with a single tap after listening to voicemail and for entertainment devotees you can watch movie trailers as well. Moreover you can add photos to contacts, forward voicemails as emails, etc.
You can also set reminders for favorite shows, share your favorite shows with friends and more.
The point is Comcast is adding value to its service for customers. The cable company has stumbled on a true enhanced service platform here. Cablevision too has a special iPhone-designed webpage which gives users access to email, search, weather, traffic, TV and movie listings. While not as sophisticated as the Comcast offering it has the makings on an entry-level app which the company should consider rolling out soon. You can find this iPhone specific portal when you logon to Optimum WiFi or just bookmark this page and visit in your Safari browser for the best viewing experience.
Service providers and equipment providers need to see the trend forming here and stay ahead of it or cede it to others. For example, Tom Keating recently installed Nimbuzz on an iPhone and got it to work with an Asterisk-based PBX as a SIP client. Nimbuzz now supports push notifications making it a very useful way to stay in touch with others while sharing presence. It also integrates with Skype and a number of social networking/IM programs.
The point is you should watch this space very closely if you are a carrier/equipment provider - regardless of where in the world you provide service. Customers are getting accustomed to using mobile devices as a conduit to your services and products. In addition there are players who are looking to insert themselves between you and your customers. If you are asleep, on the sidelines or spending more time with company politics than focusing on where things are going you may just miss the next trend and in the process lose your customers to someone else.
Spend some time analyzing what Comcast has done here, download Skype and Nimbuzz on your iPod Touch or iPhone and make sure you see how these solutions could potentially impact your company and act accordingly and more importantly, act immediately.
Remember - Palm once ruled the handheld computing world and they missed where the trend was going. If not for the Pre the company would have been written off for dead. This should be a wake-up call to all - never take anything for granted.