T-Mobile has announced that customers with Internet viewing capable devices will be presented with the Google search page as a default start page. It represents a strategic shift away from the promotion of T-Zones, to pushing a more natural Internet experience, that mirrors the way customers currently use the web.
I cant applaud T-Mobile for doing this because its common-sense. The "walled-garden" approach protects the brand and monetises activity but it stiffles innovation and experimentation. It restricts mobile customers to a range of bread and butter data services that come with a one size fits all approach. It doesnt make any consideration for locality, age, interests, profession, social-circles, tastes and income. This doesnt mean that by defaulting Google, all this will be solved. It does however, demonstrate that operators are beginning to think along more traditional and proven Internet behaviour models. Search is the deafult start for most of our Internet activity, and with the proliferation of mobile optimised Internet sites we are now seeing sufficient content to make the experience credible.
The "walled-garden" has always received a lot of criticism outside of the operator community much of which I belive is unjust. With all service or product creation, you are limited only by your ingredients and imagination. The "walled-garden" offerings have grown up around fairly poor ingredients (wap 1.0 , closed-O/S, b&w screens etc), but now the produce of offer has changed. With the recent advancement in device capapbilities, continuing subsidisation (in europe anyway) and lots more standardisation, the climate has changed and the opportunity apparent. Operators will need to focus on developing 3rd party products (technical + commercial) to maintain their control of the value-chain or they may find themelves squeezed by their vendor partners (Nokia Premiernet).
I suspect that Google must also be quietly chuckling away.....