Interview: Mike Short, O2

We’re launching a series of MEX interviews with figures from the cutting edge of mobile user experience. Each interview covers 9 questions which help develop an understanding of current thinking within the industry and introduce you to the people who are driving the business.

In this first interview, we meet Mike Short, Vice President of Research and Development for O2 and Chairman of the Mobile Data Association. Mike plays a key role in defining strategy for network operator O2 and is also involved with many initiatives relating to standardisation and cross-industry collaboration. At the Mobile Data Association, Mike represents the UK’s leading mobile technology companies and is responsible for publishing industry-wide figures for text message and mobile internet usage.

Marek Pawlowski: How did you become involved in the mobile business and what’s your role at the moment?

Mike Short: In 1987 I helped with contracts and I was later appointed a Director of Cellnet for the GSM launch in 1989. My current role is Vice President of R&D for O2 Group Technology.

What does the term ‘mobile user experience’ mean to you?

Best usage from a customer viewpoint, but one which embraces end-to-end service – including handsets, applications, network and customer care – in an optimised way.

How important do you think it is to have direct exposure to end customers when developing new mobile services? Is this something you do when you’re building your own products?

Very important. And yes, of course this is something we do, but some things do get in the way!

Who do you think has overall responsibility for user experience in the mobile telecoms industry – operators, handset manufacturers, application developers..?

There’s no single organisation in particular. Competition takes different forms, and we have separate handset, distribution, application and network layers of business. In contrast, it is much more vertically integrated in North East Asia, with network operators having more vertical market control over handset specification and interoperability. This approach also provides for more consistent business models and wider content choice.

What was your first mobile handset and what do you use these days?

My first was a Panasonic carphone operating on the TACS network. Today I use Nokia N Series and have a separate Blackberry for email.

Which services do you use most often on your mobile?

Voice, text and interent access on the Nokia, with email and calendar on the Blackberry.

Do you think the industry should be moving towards a business model which enables each user to feel as if their handset has been designed for them as an individual?

It is a nice theory, but it’s not yet clear what this means in practice.

What’s the most bizarre use of a mobile device you’ve discovered recently?

In the late 80s , a paperweight on a desk. By the early 90s, a payphone shared around an African village that had bever before had telecoms. Late 90s, pushed content…who would have thought of ringtones? Early 00s, ‘look at me’ picture blogs and today, people using their mobiles as flashlights.


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  1. 1
    Hazel Short

    This is a great idea and you couldn’t have started this interview process with anyone better than Mike Short [- not related to me :-)].

    In addition to the last question: What about the handset that’s currently available and offers a built-in spirit level and compass. Do you know of anyone who’s actually used this feature yet?


  2. 2

    Spirit-level and compass – excellent!

    Have seen mobile phones being used on bus by teenagers as a hand-held “ghetto blaster”. i.e. music on loudspeaker.

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