Monday, June 04, 2012

All Creatures Great and Small. Euro Mobile crisis deepens as Apple's selected as European nano SIM standard.


How the mobile tide has turned: The European Telecommunications Standards Institute accepts Apple's proposal for the next-gen SIM card.

Only a decade ago, Europe lead the world in wireless. As Americans struggled with texting and Asian markets such as Japan were a bit too proprietary, Europe led the way in mainstream mobile developments. European vendors of all things mobile had more than their share of influence in wireless standardization efforts. ETSI had standardized GSM which had been adopted in most markets around the globe. Times were good.

But one of the key trends we've seen over the past five years is the transfer of mobile power to the New World: U.S.-based companies are leading the way in creating user experiences. And, an achievement that's more amazing than it's given credit for, the American audience has leap-frogged most other developed markets to become one of the most upwardly mobile in the world. When it comes to smartphone penetration, mobile broadband, texting, VoIP usage, America has gone from the Bronze Age to the Space Age in half a decade.

So, this past Friday, The European Telecommunications Standards Institute chose Apple's proposal for the new SIM card standard, or the "fourth form factor" SIM, with the street name Nano SIMs. Nano-SIM cards will be 40% smaller than micro-SIM cards, providing more device real estate for other components.

For anyone following the history of mobile developments closely, the contrasts between decades is striking. For a while I was literally counting standardization proposals as part of my job: companies such as Nokia, Ericsson, and Siemens were the most valuable players at the time. To be fair, Cisco and Qualcomm were also extremely influential, but Europe had a lot to be proud of.

These are new times though. Europe now has to play a game of catch-up. Perhaps European vendors flew too close to the sun. It will take a lot of Angry Birds to fly that high again.

SIM card generations 2, 3, and maybe 4:

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