Couple of interesting announcements today.
1. Vodafone signs an exclusive deal to mobilise MySpace. We'll have to wait to see what the look and feel is like, but it's good news for Vodafone that applications providers feel there is a benefit to integrating their application with the operator, rather than just going it alone as a web app.
2. Mobile operators want a mobile-only search engine. For "mobile-only" we can probably read "non-Google". My guess is that they'll do a big deal with Yahoo. Otherwise, buy stock in JumpTap today.
All this is evidence of operators trying to flex their muscles in the value chain. Some would argue they're fighting a losing battle and should accept a dumb-pipe role. I'm sort of one of them. But I do think that ease of use is much more important in mobile services than on the internet, so there is a greater need to integrate services with devices (which should be what operators do!).
I also think that as operators start providing services across multiple access technologies their strength will increase. In a single service environment mobile operators are threatened by those above and below them in the value chain (or on either side depending how you draw your chains!). With multiple services and access networks they face a much more fragmented set of opponents. Can Orange get into IPTV and broadband. Of course. Can Nokia start making laptops and TV sets. Not easily. Although we'll leave aside the fact that Nokia used to make TVs, their attempt at a PC-style device is limited to the 770 internet tablet. Similarly, can Google provide TV? Or Sky voice services? They can potentially, but they're not good at it and they'd face strong opposition from incumbents in that space. A single service provider can divide and rule the devices/applications landscape.