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Peeling the Digital Banana

Carol Wilson

10:30 AM -- As a brand new telecom journalist, way back in the mid-1980s, I covered my first big technology trend: The transition from analog to digital switching in the telco Central Office.

Since then, I've seen other "digital" transitions, of course: Integrated Services Digital Networks were generally an industry flop, but digital cameras succeeded for everyone, except for the company that invented them (Kokak) after they hit the market in the '90s. Nicholas Negroponte of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab, published his landmark book, Being Digital, in 1995. The U.S. cable industry launched "digital" voice in the early 2000s, deciding not to tell the public they were really buying voice over IP, because that might have seemed scary, whereas "digital" just seemed cool.

So it was with a bit of a jaded eye, early in December, that I viewed the TM Forum 's latest move -- its "Digital Services Initiative," with its accompanying catchphrase: "Everything that can be digital, will be." (See TMF Pushes Digital Services Agenda.)

Really, guys? That's the best you can do -- digital?

To their credit, both Nik Willetts, the TMF's chief strategy officer, and Martin Creaner, its president, acknowledged my skepticism with somewhat sheepish grins and admitted TMF had its own internal debate about how to market its new efforts to try to focus the telecom community on what it sees as a major new imperative.

And when it came down to it, most of the other likely candidates are equally likely to produce eye rolls. There's advanced services, enhanced services, intelligent services, next-gen services, IP services, Internet services, whiz-bang services -- well, I'm getting worse here, aren't I?

Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF), arguably the global leader in advancing the strategy TMForum is proposing, already labeled its new service efforts as Telefonica Digital, a move Willets said influenced the forum's thinking.

More important than finding a snazzy new name, Creaner argued, is creating a consistent view of what the strategy is all about and giving it a title everyone can remember and understand.

"We could have called it 'banana' as long as we were consistent," he said. After all, Bluetooth was named after a long-forgotten Viking warrior, but that matters not at all at this point.

The Banana Services Initiative? Now that produces some splashy headlines: TMF Goes Bananas, Peeling the New Service Strategy Plans, Bananas in Season at TMF, What Smells Rotten in Nice? -- OK, that last one, referring to the annual meeting location, would probably be inevitable.

It's a bit ironic, though, that a strategy TMF hopes will be a bold initiative to create the new future of telecom has an aging moniker that is nothing if not the safe choice, with its roots firmly in the industry's past.

— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

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Pete Baldwin
Pete Baldwin,
User Rank: Light Beer
1/5/2013 | 2:03:41 AM
re: Peeling the Digital Banana

The problem with "Digital Services Initiative," in addition to what you've pointed out here, is that it sounds so generic.

Then again, anything non-generic, like Banana Services Intiative, we'd make fun of. I guess it's a no-win situation.  :)

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