Many recent innovations in the mobile space are led by new entrants such as Apple or Google. However, let's be fair with telcos. They invest significant amounts of money in R&D and have very creative staff. There has been some skepticism in the industry on selected Orange services such as Pikeo, Djinngo (ex Bubbletop) or Soundtribes where Orange was trying to "reinvent the wheel" without partnering with the right Internet players. However, these services have never been really marketed and does not prevent strategic partnerships to be signed. Orange in particular has many Orange Labs worldwide and is driving innovation.
I saw recently some interesting demos of products and services to be launched by Orange:
- 24/24 Actu is a search engine focused on news and aggregating press articles, TV and radio sources. Available in beta and in French only for now, the service is a mix of Google news and blinkx. More info here
- Remote Media. Simply use your mobile phone as a remote control to connect all you home networks and equipments. You can listen to your music on your connected Hi-Fi, live radio or any other DLNA standard equipment. You can select the pictures or videos you would like to see on your TV from your PC or your external hard drive / media center. To be launched in France in 2010
- Orange TV on iPhone. It is good to see an easy-to-use mobile TV service. Interesting also to see that with Liveradio, operators are using the Apple App Store distribution channel. More info here. Launched on April 7th.
- Orange Application Shop. Orange just launched its own shop last week in France. The aim is not to have the widest catalogue possible but to optimize use for specific devices. The race for the home screen is now launched with other stores even though they are likely to co-exist. Here Orange can offer support from the Orange Partner community. This is early stage though and a new version of the Application Shop will be launched in Q4. To know more about application stores and the difficulty to replicate Apple's success, read Forrester's latest research here.
- Instant Messenger on your SIM card. A free application directly embedded on your SIM card, working on any device, compatible with MSN / Windows Live. Aimed at targeting youth communities in emerging countries. To be launched in Kenya in May 09 and then in Mauritius and Bostwana in Q3 09
- Secure Health offering for GPs and physicians. A tool to store your patients' details and to exchange with your peers.
- A new conferencing tool offering from Orange Business Services. Virtual meetings, telepresence and "distant face-to-face meetings" make lots of sense in the context of companies reducing travel expenses.
When presenting its 2012 plan, Orange also insisted that it will adjust its organization and processes to make sure 100% of its new offerings are tested in 2 real-life client test centres with a thorough simplicity score methodology. That's a challenge for such a large organization but definitely a step in the right direction.