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Mission Not Accomplished

It's always pleasant to have your own suspicions confirmed. That's what happened last week, when I was at an Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) enterprise customer seminar on Baltimore's Inner Harbor, held in conjunction with the Volvo Ocean Race.

My suspicions were not about who's going to win the round-the-world sailboat race -- long-distance ocean racing is not my field of expertise -- but about the, ah, shall we say, misguided strategies being pursued by the major wireless carriers today.

Brian Rosenberg, Ericsson's senior vice president for enterprise sales in North America, helped with the confirmation process when he described his company's efforts to "create an environment where the carriers can continue to grow and serve enterprise customers." Sounds like a no-brainer when you put it that way, doesn't it? (See Ericsson's Enterprise Leg.)

Today, David Haskins of TechWeb reported on a study from research outfit M:Metrics that the efforts to sell mobile games to cell-phone users are falling as flat as Stephen Colbert's biting routine at the White House Correspondents' Dinner.

"Gaming over mobile devices such as cell phones, once expected to be a major new source of revenue for cellular operators, is 'stagnating,'" Haskins writes. Only 2.7 percent of subscribers downloaded games in March, the study found. If that's your plan for growing revenues, you've got a long slog ahead, as Donald Rumsfeld might say.

"This data shows that operators must do a better job at converting those that played a mobile game into a player of downloaded games," commented Seamus McAteer, chief product architect and senior analyst for M:Metrics.

That's one way to look at it. You could also argue that the data shows that the entire effort to get people to play games on their cell phones is a mug's game.

Ericsson's Rosenberg also told me that the carriers' fixation on flashy, worthless consumer add-ons is not going to change until enterprise customers demand better service, better pricing, and more useful mobile applications. So, the bottom line for IT managers here is: Go to your wireless carrier sales rep and tell him or her, "Look, I don't need more games for my teenager to play on his cell phone in algebra class. I need an appealing package for my mobile users that is going to enhance the value of our network and our applications, and grow our top line. How soon can you provide that?"

I'm betting they'll listen.

— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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