We met with Siva Kumar, CEO of TheFind yesterday. He discussed the company's forthcoming iPhone application (in the approval process now), which we haven't seen in action but appears impressive. It's trying to bridge the gap between the desktop and mobile.
Perhaps most importantly, it brings TheFind's local shopping capabilities to mobile. TheFind is working with Krillion and NearbyNow for local inventory information. It's also crawling and matching online inventory with store locations.
Product search, inventory lookups and price comparisons are all going to be very popular use cases for mobile sooner rather than later.
According to an internal AOL memo from EVP Kevin Conroy, among a range of cost-saving measures and cuts, the company is going to "sunset" its fledgling mobile client (similar to Yahoo! Go) "MyMobile."
From the text of the memo:
We have decided to halt further investment in AIMWorld and will sunset MyMobile next year in order to focus on our core revenue producing products (i.e., mail, messaging, portal and mapping). Along with these core products we will focus on developing for key devices like the iPhone and the Blackberry. We will also leverage open services through OpenMobile to engage third party mobile developers in order to create new applications and experiences, which will expand distribution without additional internal development costs.
This isn't necessarily a blow to AOL's mobile prospects, because comparatively few people download mobile client applications. For example, the mobile mapping data released yesterday by comScore showed that although mobile maps' usage is growing "less than a third of Americans and Europeans are using a downloaded application, which allows even feature phones, with less computing power and often smaller screens, to better render graphic-rich maps and directions."
My initial response to MyMobile (based on an early demo) had been very positive, although the public beta version that came out was not as impressive a product. The shuttering of MyMobile undoubtedly reflects lackluster adoption (downloads).
Mobile maps usage is growing in both the U.S. and Europe, according to comScore:
8% of American mobile subscribers and 3% of European subscribers used mobile maps in the three-month period ending May 2008.This represents a growth rate of 82% and 49% in the number of users, respectively
The measurement firm added that the iPhone is the top device for mobile maps in the US and in Europe Nokia's N95 and N70 handsets are the leaders for mobile mapping. Nokia is now the owner of mapping infrastructure provider Navteq.
73% of mobile subscribers accessing maps are doing so via the browser in the U.S., and in Europe, 57 percent. (Most people aren't downloading mapping clients like Google Maps for Mobile or Live Search)
Despite the ubiquity of SMS usage in Europe, the penetration of consumers accessing maps and directions via SMS is 24%; only one percentage point higher than it is in the United States.
The vast majority of mobile map users are seeking driving directions, even in Europe.
Maps & Directions are one of the "killer apps" for mobile. According to a comScore survey earlier this year, mobile maps and directions were at the top of the list of user interest:
1. Maps / Driving directions
2. Directory assistance
4. Local search
6. Instant Messaging
8. Pay Bills
10. Financial information
12. Online gaming
13. Access home cable TV
14. Social Networking sites
16. Adult content
17. Dating Services
Source: comScore (May, 2008), n=2,000
Personal navigation devices and subscription services such as VZ Navigator have lead the way in mobile mapping and directions. However smartphones are making -- and will continue to make -- inroads on PND sales, leading makers such as Garmin to "diversify" by making their software available on popular handsets (e.g., Blackberry) and even building their own handsets (e.g., Garmin Nuvifone).
The popularity of mobile mapping and driving directions is a proxy for the popularity of local content and so-called "location based services." Clients interested in further discussion of these topics can see the following reports:
Even though Google's Android is a competitor to the iPhone Google has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the visibility and success of Apple's device. Fortune captured some of Schmidt's remarks about mobile and the iPhone in particular during his one-on-one interview at the Fortune "Brainstorm Tech" conference in Half Moon Bay, California:
“It shows you the power of a device that is a step forward,” said Schmidt in an interview Wednesday at Brainstorm Tech with Fortune senior writer David Kirkpatrick. “The iPhone has a fully functional browser. We can show desktop ads, not mobile ads. That’s a huge change from our perspective.”
Google would prefer to have mobile and the Internet be more unified than separate for advertising purposes. But there are challenges with "full HTML" browsers: desktop ads are less visible and therefore much less effective on the smaller screen.
As we wrote earlier this year:
Even though Android was in the works before the launch of the iPhone there’s a way in which they’re “connected at the hip” or Android is the direct beneficiary of the iPhone in a certain way. There might not have been as much carrier and OEM interest in Android had their not been an iPhone to show the benefits of a better mobile user experience.
It's almost certain, because of the ways that it can be configured, that the Android phones and experiences that show up in version 1.0 will not be as "good" as the iPhone. But if they become as widely available as Google hopes they'll help push the mobile Internet forward on a larger scale. In many ways Google hopes to become Honda (less flash, more unit sales) to Apple's Mercedes (more prestige, fewer sales).
Yahoo's Local GM Frazier Miller recently emphasized how important local content delivery on mobile phones is:
Frazier Miller, general manager of Yahoo! Local, said that by 2010 mobile phones are expected to outnumber PCs by three to one, adding that local information is the biggest demand from mobile users.
He continued: "We have a perfect storm brewing between user demand, advertising desire for targeting and mobile evolution that's going to make this an incredibly rich arena for the next few years."
Clients can see our analysis of Yahoo's survey of 20 million search queries. Local is a critical content category but it's not the only one in demand. Yet it's probably the most fruitful area for marketers, if they can learn how to tap the opportunity.
Many companies, including Nuance, are working on voice control or speech enabling applications for the iPhone. But iPhone carrier AT&T has reportedly developed voice control for iPhone apps itself. The AppleInsider blog has a video showing use of the capability with the Yellowpages.com iPhone application. (Scroll for the video.)
The speech recognition capability and processing occurs on the server side and isn't on the device itself. It also isn't limited to the iPhone and could work with other handsets or appliances like IP-connected TV.
Meanwhile, AT&T posted modest growth in Q2 overall (4.7% YoY) but more "robust" growth in wireless (15.8%):
"The Apple iPhone 3G is a dramatic example of this transformation," Stephenson added. "In the days following our exclusive U.S. launch of this new device, powered by the nation's fastest 3G wireless network, customer response has been everything we had anticipated and more. This strengthens our wireless business, and it reinforces our positive view of the opportunities ahead for AT&T and the industry."
AT&T is subsidizing the new iPhone (to the tune of $400), which accounts for much of its rapid sales pace.
I wrote about something very similar after the Twitter acquisition of Summize. The concept is mining the Twitter data for local recommendations. The problem is properly sufacing (and archiving) the right information and getting rid of the noise. That's no small task.
We wrote about the model a long time ago in the context of Mosio.
The Direct Marketing Association just published a report on mobile marketing and consumer attitudes (n=800) that is very detailed and interesting. Overall it presents a mixed picture for mobile marketers. It profiles "responders" and "non-responders" by age, income, ethnic group and device. It also discusses the most successful channels within mobile.
The profile of those most likely to respond to mobile marketing is as follows:
In addition, as you might expect, smartphone owners were more likely to respond to mobile marketing. However, there was also considerable hostility to mobile marketing, expressed among respondents generally:
Despite the above, 24% of the overall sample had responded to some form of mobile marketing. But 45% of those who received but didn't respond to mobile marketing or offers said that it was because the content or subject of the offer wasn't interesting to them. Concern over cost and airtime charges was another factor among those not respond.
Nielsen also found Yahoo Mail was the largest mobile destination:
While the study has some holes -- there's no discussion of mobile search at all -- it's quite extensive and interesting. It presents a picture of a medium that must use best practices around opt-in and permission to elicit the highest response. It also presents a medium (among responders) that is not representative of the population at large and skews younger and male, although is relatively affluent.
By contrast, this EU survey found a very high degree of willingness to watch mobile video pre-roll in exchange for "free content." The results can't be entirely accurate, although there's limited information about the survey in the article.
As part of PR associated with enhancements to Bango's mobile analytics suite the company conducted a survey of 550 mobile publishers about the metrics most important to them. The company asked the question: “Which of the following mobile web metrics are important to you?"Here was the hierarchy of responses:
Bango provides only country level information for location. Mobile marketing is generally unsophisticated at this stage and so these metrics just seek to validate the medium in terms of reach and response (clicks essentially).
Over time everything will become more "granular" and nuanced. But for now it's really a matter of proving basic value to marketers and publishers.
Broadcaster Media began life not long ago as a mobile website authoring tool/platform. Now it offers a range of mobile services directed toward "brands." Among them is Wireant, which is a tool -- kind of a container -- that enables marketers (or users) to create mobile content/applications. It will launch later this summer.
CallGenie will be supporting Wireant with services and advertising in a partnership announced this morning:
As part of the relationship, Call Genie will serve as an SMS delivery house and ad network partner and provide Broadcaster Media with an integrated ad platform that will access and deliver relevant, targeted text, banner and audio advertisements for presentment in their WireAnt desktop application as well as within SMS messages and on mobile web pages. . .
Broadcaster Media's WireAnt, is a desktop application that allows consumers to quickly create and distribute mobile content to their friends. This content can be sent using SMS, with embedded mobile web links. Call Genie will provide the SMS text messaging capability through its OpenMobile product as well as provide relevant banner ads to the desktop application and text ads when SMS messages are sent from the desktop to a WireAnt user's friend.
CallGenie is thus positioning itself as a one-stop shop for mobile advertising and services, as showcased by the range of offerings being utilized by Broadcaster Media.