Go2 Adds T-Mobile Relationship

Go2 is one of the original local mobile search providers. The company has been going at it for more than a decade. Recently it merged with 80108 to form Go2 Media. The company has now signed T-Mobile and is planning some changes in the way it organizes and presents content in an effort to broaden its appeal. It's also representing itself as a mobile ad network to marketers.

The company has relationships, now, with all the major U.S. carriers and lots of valuable content. It, however, doesn't have the brand strength, despite its longevity in the segment, of some of the big Internet companies now moving into mobile in earnest.

Go2 is positioning itself as something of an "on deck" weapon for carriers seeking to counter the dumb pipe scenario.

What Do 20 Million Queries Tell Us About Mobile Search?

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Local Mobile Search Advisory
Yahoo! recently completed the largest study ever undertaken of mobile search user behavior, analyzing 20 million queries from late 2007. What it reveals about the state of the mobile Internet and mobile search, in particular, is the subject of this advisory. The study again raises the questions of the importance of location-based content, given the prevalence of adult content search. Following the Internet’s developmental path, mobile adult queries will likely decline over time while location-based content and services will rise.

Featured Research is available to registered users only.

For more information on becoming an I2G client, please contact Pete Headrick (pheadrick@opusresearch.net).


Mom's Day Brings Spike in Mobile Navigation Services

Networks in Motion, which is behind VZ Navigator, among other mobile navigation and POI products, announced that this "Mother's Day" in the U.S. the company saw a giant spike in usage.

Maps & directions is an early "killer app" for mobile, which ranks at or near the top of consumer mobile interests and usage of mobile applications. This announcement is an indication of the steady growth in usage of navigation products on the mobile handset.

NIM's products are typically subscription based. The interesting question here is will this model survive over the next several years? Empirical evidence shows that subscription models are a barrier to consumer adoption for many but advertising revenues can't always support a "free" application.

I'd like to see the subscription model survive to provide more options to both consumers and developers. Indeed, the iPhone apps store will preserve a consumer-pays iTunes-like model for individual widgets/applications.

BizReport - June 2, 2008

Excerpt from BizReport:

Though more consumers are logging on to the mobile web and many social networks are popping up, it appears that consumers aren't logging on in such high numbers. According to a recent report from Local Mobile Search, a division of Opus Research, only about 6% of US consumers have logged on to a mobile social network.

From the article, "Can you cross the mobile social demographic divide?", BizReport, June 2, 2008

How Microsoft Could Rid the World of Telephone Numbers

Last week, long-time Microsoft watcher Mary Joe Foley opined that Microsoft has a “grand plan to eliminate phone numbers.” She cited direct quotes from speeches that Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer have made among the international carrier community. Foley refers to a new software “platform” called Echoes designed to enable telecom service providers to sync diverse address books, seamlessly send messages between IM and SMS and assign a local telephone number to people using Windows Live Messenger.

The coverage has provoked skeptical responses from just about every quarter of high-tech punditry. Within three days there were more than 160 responses to Foley’s blog posting, compared to a mere four that are associated with the original post in which she described Echoes. Overall, commentators doubt Microsoft’s ability to carry it off (where “it” means the elimination of phone numbers). They see the efforts as too grandiose, in that it ties many diverse software elements together, or totally unnecessary, given that synching services have been around forever as a “local” function and that telco’s have been largely ineffective in marketing their own flavor.

As for generating a local number associated with Live Messenger namespaces, it’s an idea that closely resembles the initial intent of Grand Central (now owned by Google), which provides a single number through which people can reach a recipient’s office, home or wireless phone (or voicemail service) according to rules established and maintained by the Grand Central subscriber.

The pithiest and most scathing critique came from Om Malik who criticized Microsoft both for lack of originality and for blind adherence to its long-standing business practices, noting that “…there is nothing new here, except for the need of being tied to Microsoft’s platforms. Echoes’ outlines Microsoft’s biggest challenges: the inordinate amount of time they spend on developing products that are either a platform or a suite forces them to make too many compromises.”

This Shouldn’t be About Phone Numbers
Telephone numbers are largely passé. People with wireless phones dial from their contact list. The most common protocol for wireless phones is to enable subscribers to automatically associate inbound phone numbers with the name of the individual. Efforts for both fixed line and wireless carriers to market a “network address book” have been largely unsuccessful.

Rather than concentrating on Echoes, Microsoft would have a better chance of eliminating phone numbers with “voice dialing”. It would involve speech-enable the contact list, associating multiple “namespaces” (meaning phone numbers, IM user names, aliases on social networks, etc) with an individual’s identity and then replacing dialtone with a spoken prompt like, "what's up?". Users could respond by saying “call Dan” and have it look up "Dan" in a local or network-based directory and then prompt you through any disambiguation that you might require (e.g. "Do you mean 'Dan Miller’? Do you want to call him at work, home or on his wireless?...).

By the way, this is a major part of Tellme’s long-standing vision of Dialtone 2.0. It provides a model for using telephones (including softphones embedded in IM clients or Web browsers) more like a voice portal, capable of carrying out searches, delivering information or connecting with friends or businesses. No need for telephone numbers.

Whose Idea was the "One Number for Life?"
Single-number service is almost 10 years old. For instance AccessLine Communications (now owned by Telanetix) has been plying its Find me/Follow me service since 1998. There are many others, including One Box, ephone and single number offerings from incumbent phone companies, like Bell Canada, Telus and even Comcast.

It has garnered a certain amount of appeal with geeks and road warriors, but not mass appeal. Number portability has proven to be more important. Rather than fostering yet-another-personal-phone-number, people like to keep the numbers they already have. They are less apt to change to something else without a specific benefit. I, for instance, signed up for a Grand Central number when it first launched. I still have it. But I couldn't tell you off the top of my head what it is, even though single-number access to me at home, mobile, office or VM would solve a lot of problems in my life.

The Challenge: Speech-enabling Self-maintained Metadata
Microsoft’s approach with Echoes assumes that a carrier will maintain "network address book" (NAB) with rules and protocols developed to ensure that it contains the most recent listings from multiple sources. Sprint PCS, for one, has long offered a mechanism for subscribers to upload and “sync” their contact information, without too many takers. Meanwhile almost every social network and search service provider has figured out how to mine contact information from multiple address books on a person’s PC. It’s all transparent.

It seems to me, and I’ve heard Bill Gates say as much, that an approach that speech enables simple commands for e-mail management (read, forward, delete…) as well as for initiating phone calls would go farther toward eliminating phone numbers (and email addresses for that matter) than establishing a platform in the cloud that aggregates and syncs metadata from multiple sources. That being said, a truly useful platform for command and control of such “unified communications” will have to do both.

Can Whrrl Fly on the iPhone?

Whrrl was in the news recently because of a $15 million round announced by corporate parent Pelago. Carrier T-Mobile was an investor. Recently Vodafone bought mobile social network and contacts manager Zyb. (This will be the outcome for a lucky few of these companies.)

Whrrl is coming out with an iPhone application (article) that may represent a big, early opportunity to gain traction among users. On the desktop there's really no compelling reason to use Whrrl (vs. Yelp or Facebook, etc.). However, in mobile the company says it has a highly differentiated product.

Whrrl tracks user location passively via GPS (there are privacy controls) and can make all sorts of content and entertainment recommendations based on simply following users and where they go. In this regard it's not unlike Grayboxx, which inferred recommendations from a range of data. This is more direct. It also allows users to locate one another, which is an alternative but related use case.

We spoke with CEO Jeff Holden last week. Holden used to be with Amazon and there's a direct analogy between Whrrl's strategy and technology and Amazon's recommendations (Medio CEO Brian Lent was also at Amazon).

This "recommendations engine" approach is not unique certainly -- Zync, among others, was developing something similar on the desktop before being acquired by uLocate. But Whrrl's strategy and data collection methodology is "game changing" according to Holden.

The challenge will be to gain users and show them that "game changing" capability. The mobile-social networking segment is already very "noisy" before there's been virtually any adoption. That's why the iPhone application is very important to Whrrl. The company also has plans to expand into Europe so there's a very large market the company is targeting. But as with any user-generated content system or social network there's a chicken and egg problem to overcome.

However the company is in the "mobile sweet spot" with "entertainment" and location-based services. And beyond the big desktop social networking brands' early leads in mobile, there's something of a "green field" out there.

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Related: Whrrl launches on Blackberry.

Not Yet Mainstream: Research Results on Mobile Social Networking

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Local Mobile Search senior analyst Dan Miller has just published a new report, "Not Yet Mainstream: Research Results on Mobile Social Networking."

Today there’s a mismatch between the individuals 18-34 who are most likely to use social networking services and the older, more affluent mobile subscribers with high-end smartphones and unlimited data plans. Thus, only a small percentage of the members of MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn and others have found value in using mobile phones to find nearby friends and get their opinions of local events, venues and activities. In this document, and in subsequent reports, Opus Research interprets responses from the Search Matters Forum coordinated by Multiplied Media. It provides insights both into how current mobile subscribers avail themselves of social networking services and the factors that prevent more people form joining their ranks.

Click Here to View the Report Summary

Featured Research is available to registered users only.

For more information on becoming an I2G client, please contact Pete Headrick (pheadrick@opusresearch.net).


Sprint States Losses, Hoping Bottom Has Been Reached

U.S. carrier Sprint reported that it lost just over 1 million wireless subscribers in Q1, most likely to rivals Verizon and AT&T, which earlier stated gains:

  • AT&T: 70 million
  • Verizon: 66 million
  • Sprint: 52.8 million
  • T-Mobile: 30 million

Sprint Q1 2008 numbers

Source: Sprint Nextel

Sprint has reportedly been eyed as a merger/takeover target by T-Mobile parent Deutsche Telekom. Sprint has also reportedly contemplated selling its Nextel unit.

Most recently Sprint announced that it was merging its WiMax business into Clearwire, with investments from Google and cable Cos, TimeWarner and Comcast. This is a big strategic bet that it can beat rivals AT&T and Verizon to the 4G punch in the U.S.

Sprint States Losses, Hoping Bottom Has Been Reached

U.S. carrier Sprint reported that it lost just over 1 million wireless subscribers in Q1, most likely to rivals Verizon and AT&T, which earlier stated gains:

  • AT&T: 70 million
  • Verizon: 66 million
  • Sprint: 52.8 million
  • T-Mobile: 30 million

Sprint Q1 2008 numbers

Source: Sprint Nextel

Sprint has reportedly been eyed as a merger/takeover target by T-Mobile parent Deutsche Telekom. Sprint has also reportedly contemplated selling its Nextel unit.

Most recently Sprint announced that it was merging its WiMax business into Clearwire, with investments from Google and cable Cos, TimeWarner and Comcast. This is a big strategic bet that it can beat rivals AT&T and Verizon to the 4G punch in the U.S.

NIM Awarded Patent for GPS-Based 'Social Networking'

Networks in Motion, a GPS-enabled local-mobile platform (behind VZ Navigator and AAA Mobile, for example) was awarded another potentially significant patent -- this time "involving social networking applications such as requesting and/or pushing a users location via a GPS-enabled mobile device through a wireless network."

Previously, the company announced a local mobile patent for “Point of Interest Spatial Rating Search Method and System."

There are lots of patents running around in the local and mobile segment and one must be cautious before jumping to conclusions about their breadth or enforceability, regardless of how they're characterized or labeled.

For those who want to read the patent (U.S. Patent No. 7,333,820), you can find it here.