A new translation of Dostoevsky's classic The Brothers Karamazov, released in July, has surprised its publisher by notching up more than 300,000 sales already - but it is Rin's rather less challenging Moshimo Kimiga (If You ...), a 142-page hardback book about a high-school romance, that has caused the bigger fuss.
"I typed it all on my mobile phone," Rin explains matter-of-factly over the same device. "I started writing novels on my mobile when I was in junior high school and I got really quick with my thumbs, so after a while it didn't take so long. I never planned to be a novelist, if that's what you'd call me, so I'm still quite shocked at how successful it's turned out."
This is one of those specific cultural situations where what's happening in Asia probably doesn't portend comparable developments in the West. Certainly I could imagine someone writing a novel on a daily commute using a mobile device. However the answer to the question of whether the Sony eBook Reader or the Kindle will become widespread enough in the West to make mobile-published fiction a phenomenon, as it is in Japan, is most likely "no."
Citigroup's Mark Mahaney apparently thinks that Google is crazy to bid on the 700MHz spectrum and that the effort will consume all the company's cash and resources. Here's the summary of Mahaney's comments (from Silicon Alley Insider):
Spectrum Auction / Plans: Near-term Risk for Stock
- Winning the spectrum auction would cost Google an estimated $6.6 billion
- Building a national network would cost an additional $5.5 billion to $7 billion
- Together, these would consume all cash on balance sheet.
- Results of spectrum auction won't be known until March.
- Fear that Google will go insane, spend all cash, and become capital-hog telco may scare bejesus out of investors until then. (No, Mark didn't put it quite that way)
Apparently, Mahaney feels also that the near-term mobile opportunity is overblown, while the longer-term opportunity is underrated:
- Near-term Google mobile opportunity overrated. Crappy mobile experience, limited consumer use, etc. Hopefully (but not definitely) this changes with 3G/4G and iPhone-like phones...
- Long-term Google mobile opportunity underrated. Mobile search could be major catalyst for local search, which has been a disappointment for a decade.
- Mobile search market could eventually be as big as PC search market: Mark puts global PC Search Market at $21B in '07, driven by 35 monthly searches per PC. Just one monthly search per each 2010-estimated 4 billion mobile phones would generate mobile search revenue of $2.3B.
We partly agree and partly disagree with this analysis.
In our 2012 mobile ad revenues forecast we assume an average of 18 searches per user per month (by 2012), which is perhaps slightly aggressive. But data (from the MMA) already show "the average mobile search user conducts roughly nine searches per month." In addition, an informal online survey (n=75) we recently conducted showed that roughly 47% of users performed mobile searches "more than once a week," with just over 25% saying that the searched "more than once a day."
These numbers have to be taken with some caution because the sample isn't representative of the population at large. But they are interesting and instructive. That same survey showed the following mobile search engine distribution:
Which of the following mobile search engines/sites do you use (multiple answers permitted)?
- Google -- 90.0%
- Yahoo -- 20.0%
- Ask-- 8.0%
- AOL -- 0.0%
- Microsoft Live Search/MSN -- 8.0%
By comparison, iCrossing found the following distribution for the same question (4/07)
- Google -- 90.0%
- Yahoo -- 46.0%
- Microsoft Live Search/MSN -- 19%
- Others â€“ 16%
Again, these numbers have to be taken with caution of course but they're indicative of Google's strength and opportunity if the mobile Internet can be accelerated.
AdAge reports (first segment on the video) on LandRover and 20th Century Fox mobile ad campaigns that went live simultaneously on the three devices. According to AdAge the iPhone showed the highest click-through rates on the same campaign. Presumably this goes to better graphical resolution and a better overall user experience.
No other details are provided other than that the companies involved were happy with the iPhone results and that Fox plans to expand its iPhone advertising in the future.
Here's some additional detail on the performance of the LandRover campaign from TechCrunch.
Verizon is moving to use the new GSM-compatible LTE technology standard (Long Term Evolution) for its next generation of devices. LTE is an alternative to WiMax for mobile broadband. This may ultimately be a bigger deal, though several years away, than the Verizon "any application, any device" announcement, which appears to be a bit of a bait and switch as a practical matter, with different pricing tiers and other restrictions likely to accompany the new program.
Several years from now, the LTE standard adoption will mean that U.S. consumers will be able to use their phones on multiple networks, including Verizon (and that would include the iPhone presumably). Currently Sprint and Verizon use CDMA, while AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM.
Yahoo! previously told me that one of the reasons the company wasn't aggressively pushing search advertisers into mobile as Google is doing is because most of these ads aren't optimized for mobile, including landing pages, and thus would not offer a good experience for advertisers or users. To address this issue, the Inside AdWords blog is promoting the creation of mobile landing pages using a wizard Google has set up:
AdWords Business Pages for mobile ads
Mobile ads can refer users to a business phone number, a mobile website, or both. Usually you need to be a web developer or contact your webmaster in order to create a mobile web page from scratch. However, AdWords Business Pages for mobile ads provides a friendly wizard that creates a page for you in minutes - which is available immediately after you create it. Google hosts the page for free.
We've just expanded carrier targeting in more countries, which means you have more options to fine-tune who sees your mobile ads. Click "Advanced targeting and network options" to expand your options for carrier targeting from the "Create/Edit mobile ad" page. You can choose to show your ads to users on all mobile carriers, or check off the boxes next to the specific carriers you want to target.
So far cable companies are not:
Today is the application filing deadline to participate in the auction.
One question is: will carriers participate partly to run the price up for someone like Google? AT&T recently bought a big chunk of bandwidth ($2.5 billion worth) from Aloha Partners. So it's not clear the number two US carrier will participate. Verizon, however, is more likely to do so.
Update: The four bidders so far appear to be Google, Cox Communications (the only cable provider), Frontline Wireless and AT&T.
This morning Google issued a formal statement about its intention to bid on the wireless spectrum licenses. Here it is:
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (November 30, 2007) -- Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) announced today that it will apply to participate in the Federal Communications Commission's upcoming auction of wireless spectrum in the 700 megahertz (MHz) band.
As part of the nationally mandated transition to digital television, the 700 MHz spectrum auction -- which begins January 24, 2008 -- will free up spectrum airwaves for more efficient wireless Internet service for consumers. Advocacy by public interest groups and Google earlier this year helped ensure that regardless of which bidders win a key portion of the spectrum up for auction (the so-called "C Block"), they will be required to allow their users to download any software application they want on their mobile device, and to use any mobile devices they would like on that wireless network. The winner must ensure these rights for consumers if the reserve price of $4.6 billion for the C Block is met at auction.
"We believe it's important to put our money where our principles are," said Eric Schmidt, Chairman and CEO, Google. "Consumers deserve more competition and innovation than they have in today's wireless world. No matter which bidder ultimately prevails, the real winners of this auction are American consumers who likely will see more choices than ever before in how they access the Internet."
Schmidt also praised the leadership of FCC Chairman Kevin Martin and his fellow commissioners for adopting the new rights for consumers earlier this year.
Google's formal application to participate in the 700 MHz auction will be filed with the FCC on Monday, December 3, 2007 -- the required first step in the auction process. Google's application does not include any partners.
Here's more from the Google blog post:
We already know that regardless of which bidders ultimately win the auction, consumers will be the real winners either way. This is because the eventual winner of a key portion of this spectrum will be required to give its customers the right to download any application they want on their mobile device, and the right to use any device they want on the network (assuming the C Block reserve price of $4.6 billion is met in the auction). That's meaningful progress in our ongoing efforts to help transform the relatively closed wireless world to be more like the open realm of the Internet.
Regardless of how the auction unfolds, we think it's important to put our money where our principles are. Consumers deserve more choices and more competition than they have in the wireless world today. And at a time when so many Americans don't have access to the Internet, this auction provides an unprecedented opportunity to bring the riches of the Net to more people.
With help from CallGenie (see below), Verizon is introducing category search and concierge-like services to 411:
Callers who dial 411 typically want to get a phone number; however, for Pennsylvania callers, starting today there's more to this directory assistance service than phone listings.
Callers in Pennsylvania will now hear the following slightly expanded 411 greeting, which will allow them to ask for any one of several expanded services: "Verizon Nationwide 411. We provide listings, reverse number search and business categories. Say a city and state or say other 411 services."
This refers to the landline service, but it's also true of wireless.
Wireless 411 will need to evolve across the board along these lines in order to not be superseded by free 411 services. Preliminary survey results (now in the field) indicate that roughly 70% to 75% of users don't use free 411. This is basically about a lack of awareness of the free services. Hence Google's promotion of Goog411.
As users become aware of the free alternatives to traditional mobile 411 they invariably switch. But if traditional 411 can either introduce flat pricing (a la MetroPCS) and/or high-quality enhanced services they have a chance to hold on to many of their customers -- partly because of habit and inertia.
Update: Someone questioned whether there was any automation (via CallGenie) or whether it was all live ops. CallGenie had said to me that they were involved, but perhaps I wasn't clear about which program when I asked them.
Apple and Google have common leadership; Al Gore is on both boards and Google CEO Eric Schmidt is on Apple's board. But the two companies may face off in the upcoming 700MHz auction. I had forgotten that Apple had floated the idea of participating at one time and was reminded of that.
The possibility of Apple's participation, though unlikely, is in a way as provocative as Google's. If Apple were to participate or become an MVNO on Google's network, if the latter won the spectrum, would give consumers in the US open access to the iPhone. And apparently the AT&T-Apple five-year agreement doesn't preclude the possibility of Apple running its own network.
We'll know on Monday, the application deadline, whether Apple plans to bid.