Apple is going to start formally selling the iPhone in Italy through two carriers: Telecom Italia and Vodafone. It marks a strategy shift for Apple, which had previously pursued exclusive carrier deals with a corresponding demand for a piece of subscriber revenues. (Although European law requires Apple to sell the phone more broadly.)
This was a greedy and short-sighted strategy on Apple's part. Now the company appears to be recognizing that the task at hand is to get the device into as many hands as possible before more viable competitors emerge.
Even though demand for the iPhone has been very strong, wide availability through multiple carriers would boost sales considerably -- at least in the US. A 3G version is expected in June of this year.
I was speaking with mobile ad network AdMob yesterday and, among other things, we discussed how mobile offers an interesting bridge between the traditional media and digital worlds. Though not "mobile advertising," one of the really interesting potentially areas for mobile is as both a tracking mechanism for traditional media and also a way to make it more "dynamic."
Examples of this are NearbyNow and outdoor, RippleTV and SMS, Hearst magazines and ShopText, Google print and 2D barcodes. Mobile couponing also falls into this category to some degree. Then there are: NeoMedia, Mobot, GeoVector and SnapTell that offer "point and search" or "mobile visual search" using camera phones.
And I just became aware also of another company in this segment: Switzerland-based Kooaba.
While these technologies are in use today in Japan and to some degree in Europe they will also come to the U.S/ in a bigger way. It's inevitable. But they will be used, at least initially, not as stand-alone alternatives to keying in search queries but rather to make traditional media more "accountable" and "actionable" (e.g., learn more, buy now, etc.).
The Voice Internet has built a broad-based platform that has a range of intriguing capabilities -- so many that it may be confusing to people. Accordingly, the company is initially narrowing to focus on a single, if ambitious offering: 800-555-5555.
It aims to be a comprehensive starting point for all voice search. The first "product" rollout is "Just Say Legal," a PPCall ad network for attorneys. The idea here -- and this is a template for other content categories -- is that users call the "800 all fives" number and say the keyword "legal," which leads them into the directory.
The company can use this same approach to build out innumerable verticals. It can also connect to any third-party service, such as Goog411 or 800 Free 411. Accordingly it could become a kind of voice "meta search" or true "voice portal," but on a scale conceptually much larger than Tellme's 800-555-Tell service. The "800 all fives" brand and underlying technology offers that opportunity.
The challenge of generating revenue can't be underestimated but the first offering Just Say Legal benefits from a promotional and investor relationship with syndicated radio show host Bill Handel.
Google publicly said that Verizon was taking a position on the C-Block 700MHz spectrum's open access provisions that would effectively create a two-tiered system: one for existing customers and one for third-parties that wanted onto the system but were not Verizon subscribers.
As we've supported open standards for spectrum and wireless handsets, we're especially excited that Clearwire intends to build and maintain a network that will embrace important openness features. In particular, the network will: (1) expand advanced high speed wireless Internet access in the U.S., (2) allow consumers to utilize any lawful applications, content and devices without blocking, degrading or impairing Internet traffic and (3) engage in reasonable and competitively-neutral network management.
Now Verizon responds to the Google accusations:
Verizon Wireless is pleased to have been a winner of spectrum in that auction, to support incredible new "4G" products and services.
Google's filing has no legal basis. It's really no surprise that despite not winning spectrum, they continue to try to change the rules and further their own business interests through the regulatory process. We expect to file at the Federal Communications Commission within the next several days on this matter.
Verizon Wireless - and all the other participants in the recent 700 MHz spectrum auction - understood the FCC's rules for using that spectrum in advance of the auction. Of course we'll abide by those rules. As we work to put the spectrum we won to good use, if Google or anybody else has evidence that we aren't playing by the rules, there are legitimate and expedited ways to address that.
AT&T specifically did not bid for the C-Block because the company didn't want to allow third parties to use the network. There's probably considerable resentment over at Verizon of Google. Verizon's post above suggests that it sees Google (as on the desktop) as a free rider benefiting from the company's infrastructure. Indeed, this is the "net neutrality" debate playing out again, in mobile.
Verizon is not a member of the Android alliance, while Sprint is, so is T-Mobile and AT&T says it may join .
Taiwan's HTC officially announced a replacement for the popular HTC Touch, called the "Touch Diamond." As the name suggests, the phone has a touch screen and runs the Windows Mobile OS. HTC is also a member of the Android Open Handset Alliance and is expected to introduce an Android phone later this year.
The Touch Diamond will be available in June in the EU and somewhat later in the U.S. The Touch sold impressively around the world (3 million units) and this phone looks to be a significant upgrade. It appears to have a slide out keyboard as well.
Phones such as the Touch Diamond and the Samsung Instinct seek to emulate the touch-screen interface and user experience of the iPhone to varying degrees, although HTC built touch screens long before Apple brought its iPhone to market. Still, the arrival of the iPhone has helped boost HTC's visibility and shift the market toward touch screens.
Phones such as the Instinct and Diamond start to close the aesthetic and usability gap between the iPhone and its competitors somewhat. They also offer physical QWERTY keyboards, which gives them an advantage in some people's minds over the iPhone's virtual keyboard.
Vodafone is going to carry the iPhone into 10 of its markets worldwide: Australia, the Czech Republic, Egypt, Greece, Italy, India, Portugal, New Zealand, South Africa and Turkey.
This is good for Apple and ironic for Vodafone given that Vodafone Deutschland sued T-Mobile challenging its right to be the exclusive seller of the iPhone in Germany. Simultaneously Vodafone CEO Arun Sarin criticized the iPhone as a “pretty poor experience.”
The Vodafone CEO must have been feeling grumpy when he lost out to Telefonica’s 02 to be the exclusive UK distributor of the device and to T-Mobile in Germany. I would imagine he is probably happy now and has accordingly changed his mind about the device and its usability, with this new deal.
The 3G iPhone looks to be coming on June 15 or thereabouts.
MediaPost is reporting (reg. required) that two consumer groups, the Center for Digital Democracy and the US Public Interest Research Group, intend to lobby the FTC for rules and restrictions on mobile marketing that would limit the ability of companies to track and target mobile users without first obtaining their consent: opt-in.
The groups are intending to strike at the heart of behavioral targeting on mobile devices and location-based services, which numerous companies are salivating over as mobile marketing moves from fantasy to fact. Their success does not represent a potential crippling of mobile marketing but puts additional pressure on the industry to work with consumer groups to achieve simple and transparent rules that can be easily understood.
Various sources are reporting (e.g., WSJ, reg. required) that Sprint may jettison Nextel in order to make itself more attractive for its own potential merger or acquisition (possibly with Deutsche Telekom).
Sprint, the number three U.S. carrier, continues to lose subscribers as rivals AT&T and Verizon grow. A combined T-Mobile and Sprint would become the largest U.S. carrier in terms of subscriber numbers but what's to guarantee that such a merger wouldn't be disaster redux. The Sprint-Nextel merger has emerged as one of the most spectacular failures in corporate merger history.
Yet given the negative trends at Sprint vs. its rivals the company is almost compelled to do some sort of deal to regain momentum.
I continue to be bearish on mobile TV in the US: the price + poor experience = limited demand. In Asia it's a different story but there you have a more advanced infrastructure, phones and, perhaps most importantly, different cultures. But the NY Times reports that mobile TV has some adherents and viewers in Europe:
Every day in
Switzerland, 40,000 people watch a 100-second television news broadcast on their cellphones. In Italy, a million people pay as much as 19 euros each ($29) a month to watch up to a dozen mobile TV channels.
Japanis the leader in direct mobile television, with 20 million cellphones equipped with TV receivers, followed by South Koreawith 8.2 million, according to In-Stat, a research and consulting firm in Scottsdale, Ariz.In-Stat estimated that there were 29.7 million mobile TV viewers worldwide at the end of 2007. That is expected to almost double, to 56.9 million, at the end of 2008, driven by growth in Japan.
Italyhas been an early leader in Europe, with service beginning in 2006. The largest mobile TV broadcaster on the Continent is 3 Italia, a cellular operator owned by Hutchison Whampoa of Hong Kong, with 800,000 customers, about 10 percent of its total phone clients. The million Italian viewers watch up to a dozen channels.
Swisscom offers a 20-channel viewing lineup, which costs 13 Swiss francs ($12.50) a month.
In order for mobile TV to happen on any kind of scale in the US, you need the following to come together:
Even with all these things, Americans will have limited appetite for full-length content. Instead, clips and short-form video will prevail.
Related: Wired offers a review of AT&T's new mobile TV (MediaFLO).
Nokia dominates the handset market globally, with roughly 40% market share. However, in the U.S. it has only about 10% and is an underdog, especially in the smartphone market where Blackberry and the iPhone dominate. (Nokia's smartphone dominance in Europe is one reason the iPhone isn't performing as well there.)
Now the Finnish handset maker is preparing going to flood the U.S. market with a range of new products -- a version of spaghetti on the refrigerator -- to see what gains acceptance and adoption, in the hope of driving more consumer adoption.
Blackberry is making a broader global push itself but will bump up against Nokia too in perhaps the same way the iPhone has outside the US. It needs to do so in order to defend against what will certainly be an eroding U.S.-based smartphone market share as the iPhone gains adoption in the enterprise and Nokia's more aggressive U.S. move puts pressure on the "e-mail device" maker.