What Will the Future "Former Telco" Sell?

If Steelcase is not a furniture manufacturer, and Ford wants to stop being an “auto” manufacturer and become some kind of “mobility” company, one naturally wonders what it will take for former “telcos” to become something else, and what term we will eventually create that captures the nature of the change.

One framework is that telos become enablers of services and apps, more so than the creators of apps and services, more on the model of a “platform” than a provider of vertically-integrated services.

“I think the technology is probably already there. What isn’t yet there are the business models and the market structures and the ecosystems that need to cooperate with each other, need to be orchestrated in order to turn these things into a real business,” says Martin Creaner, corporate strategy advisor for Huawei.

All that is one other way of illustrating why the “don’t be a dumb pipe” argument is so important. Even if and when a telco “becomes something else,” that “something else” will still involve use of a network to create a business model and value for customers of some type.

Steelcase, for example, describes itself as providing “architecture, furniture and technology products and services designed to unlock human promise and support social, economic and environmental sustainability.” But its $3 billion in annual sales still revolve around what we call furniture.

In the same way, it is hard to imaging at least some telcos creating revenue streams where communications networks are not embedded or underpinning elements.
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