RIM this week rolled out some new capabilities aimed at helping operators hold on to their relationships with customers. For instance, it offers the capability for operators to let customers "gift" applications or airtime to others, with the charges showing up on their mobile bill. RIM also announced that Telefónica and Vodafone would start letting users pay for applications from the RIM application store on their regular bills.
Operators want to bill customers because they think it helps build a relationship with users and because it could allow for new sources of revenue. With Apple and Android, for instance, most end users pay for apps with their credit cards through the respective application stores and so the operator doesn't get a share of the revenue from apps.
These days, any time a CEO from a company that provides services to end users meets with an operator, the operator is trying to size up the goals of that company, Balsillie said. The operators are wondering if they can trust the company and if its business model has a sustainable business structure for the operator, he said.
"The structure of the industry is very much in flux," Balsillie said. He said the issue of what role the operator will play is the most relevant issue of the industry currently.
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