Nokia Acquires Social Network Plazes

Nokia has purchased Plazes, a social networking provider based in Berlin. From the release:

Plazes provides a context-aware social-activity service that people can use to plan, record, and share their social activities: why they are at a given location at a given time, whether in the past, present or future.

By acquiring Plazes, Nokia will be able to extend its context-based service offering with social presence and time-based activity planning features. Plazes adds the elements of "place" and "time" to social networking through features that allow people to alert friends of their activity and location; review their own and others' past activities; share their experiences and make plans with friends, who are then able to respond with comments and suggestions as well as their own location information.

With Plazes, location can be managed on the desktop or via a mobile device. But this is not just about mobile but about the Ovi portal and the desktop. The acquistion is part of Nokia's move to transcend its OEM status and become an "Internet company." Indeed, Nokia has a growing portfolio of acquisitions, most notably including Navteq and Enpocket.

To be competitive longer term, social networks will need to have both a desktop and a mobile presence.

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Here's more on the acquisition from the Plazes blog.

Android Gets Pushed Back

Android

The Wall Street Journal has a general discussion of delays and problems afflicting Google's open mobile platform Android. There are no revelations; everything is just taking longer:

T-Mobile USA expects to deliver an Android-powered phone in the fourth period. But that launch is taking up so much of Google's attention and resources that Sprint Nextel Corp., which had hoped to launch an Android phone this year, won't be able to, a person familiar with the matter said.

China Mobile, the largest wireless carrier in the world with nearly 400 million subscriber accounts, had planned to launch an Android phone in the third quarter but it has run into issues that will likely delay the launch until late this year or early 2009, a person familiar with the matter says.

Meanwhile, the Android software has yet to win broad support from large mobile-software developers. Some say it is difficult to develop programs while Google is making changes as it finishes its own software.

The challenge, pardon the pun, is apparently too many moving parts. Hardware makers seem more ready and able to deliver the phones to carriers than carriers are to the broader market. Meanwhile, Apple's 3G iPhone is poised to capture iPod-like status in the mobile market. (Things like Mercedes integration contribute to that.)

Google unveiled some early Android applications at a developer conference earlier this month.

Exploring Barriers to iPhone Adoption

Comparison Shopping engine PriceGrabber (now owned by Experian) has released some interesting data about iPhone interest and intent to purchase, gathered from an online survey and user-behavior on its site (U.S.). The survey was conducted from May 20 to June 3, 2008 (prior to the iPhone 3G announcement) and had a total of 3,066 respondents.

Interest in the iPhone has been consistently high, according to click thoughs on PriceGrabber:

CTRs to phones

The two principal barriers to iPhone adoption, as we've discussed many times here, are cost and AT&T carrier exclusivity in the U.S.:

Intent to purchase iPhone

According to PriceGrabber, among the 54% who "do not intend" to purchase an iPhone:

  • 41% said the primary reason was that the iPhone is too expensive
  • 22% said hat they didn’t want to switch to AT&T as their carrier

Again, this survey was done before the $199 3G iPhone was announced, so the "primary" objection has now presumably been removed. AT&T's exclusivity (or contract with an existing carrier) remains a barrier for many however. But AT&T's favorable ratings are at parity with Verizon among PriceGrabber users:

Carrier preferences

Among the major U.S. carriers, all added subscribers in Q1 except Sprint, which lost a million to others (Verizon, AT&T, which together added 2.8 million). The data in the table above indicate Sprint faces potential further losses as more subscribers move to the top two carriers. Sprint's "iPhone Killer" Instinct is unlikely to compete successfully against the iPhone, although it may help retain some subscribers.

Specifically regarding the 3G iPhone, here's what the PriceGrabber survey showed:

3G intention

Those same figures broken down somewhat:

Intent to purchase next gen iPhone

Among those considering a 3G iPhone, 34% said they wanted to wait and see. Again, this survey was before the formal announcement. Some number of those people may have been swayed. Perhaps more interesting is the 36% who say that they're inhibited by their contractual commitment to their existing carrier. That suggests this group is part of the "addressable market" for the iPhone in the future.

Considered in this context, a total of 74% of survey respondents indicated interest in the device, which is a striking figure.

Goog411 Launches in Canada

Goog411 has been operating in Canada for awhile but the service has now officially launched:

We incorporated some Canadianisms such as "eh," "Traw-na," "Cal-gry," and, of course, "aboot." We also took into account geographical differences. Whereas users in the US are prompted for "city and state," Canadians are asked for your "city and province." We incorporated some Canadianisms such as "eh," "Traw-na," "Cal-gry," and, of course, "aboot." We also took into account geographical differences. Whereas users in the US are prompted for "city and state," Canadians are asked for your "city and province."

The service is still experimental but offers all the same features available in the U.S., such as free call, free connection, SMS info, iPhone "Map-It" integration, and more. For now, the service supports only English queries, but we're working hard to make it disponible en Français dans un proche avenir.

Google did a small amount of promotion (outdoor) in the U.S. for the service but the company has continued to rely upon traditional PR, promoting Goog411 on its O&O properties and word of mouth. While Google's service arguably isn't the best of the free DA offerings (see our report), it has the benefit of Google's brand equity and near ubiquity. Currently Jingle Network's 800-Free-411 is the market leader in terms of awareness and usage.

Free DA

However, that may change over time. Since we conducted that survey, ChaCha and Verizon have entered the market. There are also new DA-substitute applications and offerings from V-Enable, Tellme, Live Search (with voice) and Yahoo! (+ Vlingo).

Sprint: Right Now LBS = DMA

With all the promotion of LBS and related mobile targeting technologies there's a notion of the "right ad at the right time and the right place." Alternatively, there's the long-held LBS pitch about the beaming of the coupon "as you're walking by the store." While a viable opt-in version of that (e.g., Dizgo) may come into being, forget about it for now.

Let's focus on the precision targeting capabilities of the mobile handset with its potential demographic, contextual and location awareness. What's become clear to me in the last 6 months is that advertisers and agencies are much less sophisticated than the emerging targeting capabilities on the Internet. Mobile takes that to the next level and is thus even farther away from the current capacities of most agencies and advertisers.

That's why Sprint executive Lisa-Anne Uhrmacher told us this morning that she just wants to work with advertisers on DMA level targeting and get them used to thinking in those terms.

However, she did discuss a successful Sprint campaign with Mercedes dealers in Houston. She said that Sprint used its billing and other available demographic information to target selected customers with Mercedes ads. Subscribers had the option to watch a video, click to call or find a local dealer. The GPS and other location awareness capabilities kicked in to direct users to the nearest dealer after they had "opted-in" to learn more.

This sort of case is powerful as an example of what's possible in mobile. But advertisers have to see, understand and build campaigns that take advantage of all these capabilities -- and that will take some time.

They don't currently "get" local on the desktop, so it's a bit of stretch to expect them to be able to embrace it in mobile.

GPS: A Young Person's Tool?

Data from the Experian-owned Simmons New Media Study (4/08) among U.S. consumers argues that only "5% have used mobile GPS." Further the data show that GPS users are dominated by younger users:

[Data] from the Simmons New Media Study indicate that mobile GPS usage among mobile phone owners skews decidedly younger, although the 35-44 age group indexes slightly above the market average. There is a severe drop-off for the older groups.

GPS is overhyped as the solution to all kinds of mobile challenges. It's helpful and useful but not the holy grail. What is, by contrast, is a combination of GPS, WiFi and cell tower triangulation, which is coming soon. But as the Simmons data show, most mobile subscribers in the US aren't using their phone's GPS capabilities. That will change as GPS or location awareness becomes easier to use or more "automatic."

Here's another interesting chart from the study, showing mobile activities among U.S. cellphone users:

Picture 3

Source: Experian

Compare data on iPhone usage from two different sources:

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3102/2486602365_d7207a7436.jpg

Source: Rubicon Consulting (n=460)

iPhone usage

Source: iSuppli (4/08)

The 19% figure in the Simmons data above, regarding mobile Internet access, is exactly consistent with our estimate and translates into 47.5 million mobile Internet users. That's roughly 25% of the total U.S. Internet audience. Usage frequency of the mobile Internet is significantly less than the desktop Internet. However when you consider how new the mobile Internet truly is you realize how quickly access will grow.

It took the desktop Internet roughly a decade to become completely mainstream. It will take half that long for mobile.

Who Uses the Mobile Internet?

Mobile browser Opera released another round of data on global mobile Internet usage. The high level findings are as follows:

  • In the ten countries examined, male users of Opera Mini greatly outnumber female users. The biggest difference in usage between males and females is in India, where 97.2% of people using Opera Mini to browse the Web are males. The smallest difference is in South Africa, where 1 out of 4 people using Opera Mini are females.
  • Browsing the Web on handsets using Opera Mini is most popular amongst the 18-27 year old demographic, but there is some interesting variation between countries. For example, 3 out of 10 Opera Mini users in the Ukraine are under 18 years old. Globally, 13.4% of Opera Mini users are under 18 years of age, 64.5% are 18-27 years of age, 16.7% are 28-37 years of age, 4.4% are 38-47 years of age, and 1% is more than 48 years of age

Here are the top 10 sites in the U.S. (unique users):

  1. www.google.com
  2. www.myspace.com
  3. www.yahoo.com
  4. www.wikipedia.org
  5. www.facebook.com
  6. www.nytimes.com
  7. www.youtube.com
  8. www.espn.com
  9. www.cnn.com
  10. www.accuweather.com

Usage is skewed 80-20 in favor of males. 73% of users are between 18-37.

Here are the top 10 sites in the U.K. (unique users):

  1. www.yahoo.com
  2. www.google.com
  3. news.bbc.co.uk
  4. www.facebook.com
  5. www.live.com
  6. www.youtube.com
  7. www.wikipedia.org
  8. www.bebo.com
  9. www.myspace.com
  10. www.ebay.co.uk

Here males represent 83% of Opera users, and roughly 72% fall within the 18-37 age range.

The high proportion of male users (vs. females) of the mobile Internet explains to some degree the high proportion of pornographic content being consumed. But as women buy more smartphones they'll begin to catch up to men in mobile Internet usage and other content categories will rise.

Online, women slightly outnumber men and they're a more important commercial audience than men for several reasons. According to U.S. government sources and the AFL-CIO, women are directly or indirectly responsible for 83% of all purchasing decisions.

WiMax (or LTE) Done Right Could Replace Conventional ISPs

While the standards/platform debate continues in the U.S. (WiMax vs. LTE), The Netherlands is deploying a WiMax system in Amsterdam with a plan to roll it out over the entire country. (Sprint/Clearwire is slated to roll out WiMax to selected markets in the Northeast U.S. this fall.)

The cost of developing/deploying the technology can be borne by consumers who will pay a monthly fee to receive access. It doesn't need to be ad-supported; or it could be ad-supported as a partial subsidy (think Google as ISP). Mobile WiMax or LTE (at some future point) is superior to existing ISPs because it can work at home or on the go for a single subscription fee, assuming providers don't make it cost prohibitive.

That would make devices like the iPod Touch a viable mobile device for people who don't want to use AT&T. It would also enable a new generation of Kindle-like devices that could take advantage of the connectivity. Traditional ISPs like cable companies might suffer in such a situation; however Comcast and TimeWarner cable are Clearwire investors. So, presumably, they would try and piggyback in some fashion on WiMax to prevent subscriber churn.

More on Nielsen's Mobile Search Data

Here's more detail from Nielsen on their latest round of US consumer data:

Mobile search market share:

1. Google (61%)
2. Yahoo! (18%)
3. MSN (5%)

Frequency:

  • Google: 9 searches per month
  • Yahoo! 6.7 searches per month

That compares with roughly 40-50 monthly searches on the desktop (per comScore)
Top content categories:

Top 3 Mobile Internet Search Categories for Q1 2008

Google

Yahoo!

Information

33%

33%

Local Listings

29%

24%

Websites/Navigation

27%

26%

These categories above are not clearly defined but interesting, given the way in which Google and Yahoo!'s own query analyses differ.

Yahoo!'s Potential Mobile Reach: 600 Million

Yahoo! said today that its 60 mobile partnerships give it a potential global reach of 600 million subscribers. To put that number in perspective, it's double the U.S. population and just over 80% of the population of Europe. And while no one really knows what the exact global figure is, consensus estimates put mobile subscribers at 3 billion worldwide. That means that Yahoo theoretically can reach one fifth of the world's addressable mobile market.

Impressive scale but the ad infrastructure isn't yet there to reach that potential audience.