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.
Everyone knows by now that Microsoft dropped its bid for Yahoo! That makes life both easier and more complicated for the "Redmond giant," as journalists like to say. Integrating Yahoo! would have been a challenge but also given the company a range of consumer products and platforms that would have boosted its position online and in mobile (i.e., Go).
To focus on mobile exclusively, Microsoft right now has the Windows Mobile OS and mobile IE; it also owns Tellme and 1-800-Call-411 (the Tellme-powered free directory assistance service). Then there's Live Search for mobile (both an application and a WAP tool). There are a lot of properties here but none of them yet has mainstream consumer visibility and there's no single, compelling brand like Google has at the moment.
Now feeling richer the company would do well to make some acquisitions in the mobile space. One company it might look at acquiring quickly is Skyfire. I had a chance to use the browser extensively over the weekend and it is generally quite a bit better than the experience currently offered by mobile IE.
In some ways the "pan and zoom" experience is inferior to WAP. Sites formatted for a WAP browser are sometimes easier to read (e.g., the NY Times). But overall it's preferable from a consumer perspective to have access to the "real Internet" on one's mobile device (smartphone). If such browsers gain widespread adoption it does, however, represent a particular problem for online display advertisers.
In addition, full Internet browsers on the mobile phone will change user behavior over time, making it much more like conventional Internet usage. Indeed, there are lots of implications to these browsers (Safari, Mozilla, Opera, Skyfire) and their adoption. They probably won't kill WAP in the near term or client applications but they may eventually become the standard for smartphones. (Good client apps and full HTML browsers can co-exist as they do currently on the iPhone.)
So if I were Microsoft, I'd swoop down and pick up Skyfire sooner rather than later.
I watched a considerable amount of video through the Skyfire browser and it was a good enough experience to make that something I would consider doing more of. It again illustrated the proposition that if you create a good user experience people will show up for it.
We haven't had a hands-on opportunity to play with the application but it looks great and offers personalization (including by location) and video. It will also be ad supported, with revenues to be shared by AP, Verve Wireless and local publishers who will sell some of the advertising.
Having spent a bunch of time reading the NY Times this weekend on different mobile browsers I can say that news is going to be a high volume category in mobile (already is one of the top categories). And newspapers are in a position to benefit from the extended reach if the AP news portal takes off as a definitive mobile news destination.
It will be competing against mobile versions of online news sites such as MSNBC, CNN, Yahoo!, etc. And Google recently released its own version of News for the iPhone.
Cable Companies have been making inroads against their telco rivals with bundled offerings: TV, VoIP, Internet. However, they have been at a disadvantage because telcos have wireless assets to offer as part of a "quad-play" bundle. Now Cox and Comcast are moving forward with wireless initiatives that will allow them to go head to head with traditional telcos on the wireless front as well.
Traffic measurement firm Compete did a consumer survey that indicated price/discounts would be a determinative factor in the success of these cable bundles (to include wireless carriage). And by the same token consumers seemingly would be receptive to these bundles (provided that coverage is comparable to existing wireless carriers):
Source: Compete, Inc.
The new Clearwire wireless venture gives Comcast and TW Cable the ability to offer wireless phone services on a reliable national network.
Verizon's embrace of "open access" last year ahead of the 700MHz auction was met with skepticism by many. But the rules governing the winner of the "C-Block" spectrum (Verizon) mandated "any legal device" be allowed on the network. Now, Google contends, Verizon is effectively trying to rewrite the rules by taking a position contrary to the intent of the open-access provisions.
Google, in an FCC petition filed on Friday, is accusing Verizon of trying to discriminate against third-party devices and applications. Google summarizes what it believes to be Verizon's position in the petition:
Notwithstanding the clarity of the rule, Verizon has taken the public position that it may exclude its handsets from the open access condition. Verizon believes it may force customers who want to access the open platform using a device not purchased from Verizon to go through “Door No. 1,” while allowing customers who obtain their device from Verizon access through “Door No. 2.”
Presumably Verizon, under such a framework, would give preferential treatment to its own customers and devices.
This is a fight that Google should win. We'll see if it does.
Reuters picks up on a German magazine report that suggests Deutsche Telekom might try and acquire some or all of troubled U.S. carrier Sprint.
If such a deal were to happen between the third largest US carrier and Deutsche Telekom, which owns T-Mobile (the fourth largest), it would create the single largest wireless carrier in the US. Combined subscriber numbers would be approximately 82 million vs. AT&T's 70 million. However, there are technical, infrastructure and regulatory issues that might inhibit or block such a deal.