You’re a Feature, Not a Product

So said Steve Jobs to Drew Houston, founder and CEO of Dropbox. And Steve wanted that feature badly. But Dropbox did not sell and Apple created iCloud. The iCloud is a feature for Apple. But Dropbox is a product for those that want their cloud content synchronized independent of device, operating system and browser vendor.

Now, the cloud content synchronization market is brand new and still small. Disruption is part of the game. But there is a two trillion dollar fixed and mobile communications market out there that is about to find out that both communications and connectivity could become feature rather than product.

Already communications is rapidly being unbundled from the underlying network. Skype, WebEx, Lync are just a couple of examples of a communications product that is primarily offered without connectivity.

But it does not stop there. Business software vendors like Salesforce are adding collaboration and communication features to their solution suites. Social media vendors like Facebook are adding communications features to their social suites. Content sharing vendors like Slideshare are adding conferencing features to their community.

Communications is quickly becoming a software feature.

And there is more. Amazon created its own device (Amazon Kindle) and added connectivity as a feature. If you buy a Kindle with 3G you do not need to buy a mobile data subscription. Global 3G is included and the operator is hidden from the user. And now device vendors like Dell (Dell NetReady) and HP (HP DataPass) are adding 3G connectivity as a feature to their netbook lines.

Again, (global) 3G is included and hidden from the user. The mobile Internet is increasingly available as a preloaded (global) device feature.

Operators used to bundle content, access and device. Now devices bundle access and content.

But it is not just devices that bundle access. Japanese vending machines are now offering free Wi-Fi. Asahi Soft Drinks includes 30 minutes access to the Freemobile network for those in the immediate vicinity. Of course, the company expects you to get very thirsty in the process.

The samples mentioned above are early warning signs. But we can think of some more disruptive examples. What about a Facebook Phone with global roaming included? Start up Macheen and mobile technology giant Qualcomm are ready to cash in on the opportunity. Are you?

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About Pim Bilderbeek