An Early Android Sighting at CES

An article by Forbes.com's Evelyn M. Rusli provides first-hand experience with one of the first wireless handsets that will ship running a flavor of Android. A Taiwan-based ODM called Wistron NeWeb had a prototype device, called the GW4, with a touchscreen and a full-QWERTY keyboard. It also touted easy access to a number of applications, including Web search.

Rusli was decidedly underwhelmed. She observed that, while the device made it easier to carry out routine interactions, the GW4 lacks the multi-touch controls that make the iPhone so easy to use. She also seemed disappointed to learn that the phone would not be offered "free". Her assumption is that it will carry a $200 retail price which, of course, could be subsidized by a wireless network operator.

She finishes by calling the device "a nice phone," but adding dismissively that "nice doesn't clobber competition." So it is clear that, in spite of the fact that Android will be a platform for developers to introduce a myriad of new applications and ways of doing things with a wireless device, prospective buyers are being primed to accept nothing less than an iPhone killer. From the point of view of encouraging local mobile search, that's missing the point. We should be gratified that an initiative like the Open Handset Alliance is encouraging development activity up and down the solution stack so that an ODM can pack the GPS, Web search and high-speed data links that will make local search and e-commerce applications easy-to-invoke and intuitive to use.

It shouldn't be about clobbering the competition. We'd settle for a better user experience.

eMarketer - Jan. 11, 2008

Emarketer covers the LMS Mobile Advertising Forecast:

Excerpt:

US and Western European mobile advertising revenues will reach a total of $5.08 billion by 2012, up from an estimated $106.8 million at year-end 2007, according to Local Mobile Search's "US and Western Europe Mobile Advertising Revenue Forecast, 2007-2012."

Local Mobile Search predicted that the United States would account for about $2.3 billion of the total, with $2.8 billion coming from Western Europe.

"We're now entering a period where hope and hype turn into reality as mobile subscribers find dramatic improvements in the user experience and a greater ability to obtain information on the go," said Greg Sterling, senior analyst at Local Mobile Search.

The company's projections included revenues from voice-based search, text SMS, WAP and application downloads, as well as estimates for CPM-driven displays or banners, pay-per-click and pay-per-call advertising.

From the article, "$5 Billion in Mobile Ads for US, Europe", eMarketer, January 11, 2008

Frontline Wireless (700MHz Bidder) Folds

Frontline Wireless, which was backed by Silicon Valley VC luminaries, has apparently folded. The company was unable to put up the $128 million "reserve" required by the FCC as a condition of bidding on the 700MHz spectrum.

Separately AT&T cited economic weakness to explain large numbers of customers not paying their bills. I wonder if AT&T (a potential bidder) will decline to bid accordingly. In addition, of the more than 250 firms that applied to bid on the wireless spectrum, it's not clear how many will actually put up the reserve payment and show up to bid in earnest.

The fewer the bidders, the more likely Google will have a real shot at winning the auction.

RHD's DexKnows.com Takes Local Search National

R.H. Donnelley, after announcing that it offers the #1 local online search site in its print Yellow Pages in the markets, is taking DexKnows.com national. DexKnows.com is a destination site, built on Local Matters' core technology. The site enhancements support reviews, comparison shopping, geographic awareness (like search by landmark), video clips and several personalization features (like stored searches and shopping itineraries).

The service was introduced in RHD's Western and Midwestern Markets. This represents expansion that portends the unification of all its online local search under the DexKnows.com brand by the end of 2008.

Jingle Raises More Capital

According to this post (I couldn't find the actual filing), Jingle Networks has raised an additional $13 million:

Jingle Networks Inc., a Menlo Park, Calif. based operator of a national consumer telephone directory assistance service, has raised nearly $13 million in Series C-1 funding, according to a regulatory filing. Listed shareholders include Goldman Sachs, IDG Ventures Boston, Liberty Associated Partners and First Round Capital. The company had closed on a $30 million Series C round last October, with the aforementioned investors, plus Comcast Interactive Capital, Hearst Corp. and Lead Dog Ventures.

Through three financing rounds, Jingle has now raised more than $70 million.

Intel and the 'Personal Net'

We're not at CES but the news coming out of the show is sort of unrelenting. There are scores of announcements daily, most of which will not translate into real-world experiences or products that consumers actually use. For that reason, we've refrained from blogging most of the announcements. The mobile TV announcements are interesting, but we're really at the level of standards right now and far from general consumer adoption.

But the BBC writes up Intel CEO Paul Otellini's keynote remarks about mobile and ubiquitous connectivity:

He said the industry was on the verge of creating a "new level of capability and usefulness to the internet."

"It's an internet that is proactive, predictive and context-aware."

Explaining that devices would be location-aware, and would access the internet over Wimax wireless connections, he said: "Instead of going to the internet, the internet comes to us.

"We need a ubiquitous, wireless broadband infrastructure. Eventually we will blanket the globe in wireless broadband connectivity."

One of the challenges for mobile is uneven or limited connectivity. And Otellini's vision of a ubiquitous, wireless broadband infrastructure is right. One day (the question is how soon) there will be wireless connectivity that people can tap into at will, whether on a subscription basis or ad supported, almost anywhere (there are numerous security problems that go with that of course). That infrastructure will support a range of mobile devices other than phones.

What also struck me about the remarks is that they point to a time, probably within the next decade or so, where mobile devices become the primary Internet access point for many people, facilitating all sorts of interaction and research via the Internet "in the real world."

The desktop will become a utility that people use at work and often at home. It will also be a tool that people use to manage the content that they access through mobile devices. But it will no longer be the central device of the Internet -- and no longer the preferred device for a generation of people. Indeed, the modes of wireless Internet access will undoubtedly diversify and multiply beyond phones (e.g., smart appliances, kioks, etc.).

I disagree, however, with Otellini's vision of a "push" world, that realizes some of the old location-based services fantasies ("As you're walking by the restaurant, they beam you a coupon). Everything will need to be explicit, consensual and opt-in (push after opt-in is okay). However, near-ubiquitous location awareness will facilitate hyper-relevant mobile search and discovery of local information (products and services) -- and highly targeted advertising in both display and search contexts.

Yahoo! Integrates 'My Yahoo' into Mobile

Yahoo! Go 3.0 and the new mobile homepage aren't live yet -- we're eagerly waiting for them -- but we were able to discuss the changes and upgrades with Yahoo! yesterday briefly from CES. From a consumer standpoint, the things that are most tantalizing and promising are the personalization features that Yahoo! has built into the new homepage and Go application.

In addition, the company is bringing the mobile homepage and Go application much closer together. The new mobile homepage will work with any mobile browser and offers a range of customization options that are tied to My Yahoo (as are those in Go). Smartly, Yahoo! appears to be starting to integrate the desktop and mobile experiences, which is a strategic necessity.

Go will offer a richer version of the mobile browser experience but with identical customization capabilities. The mobile widgets will work equally on the WAP site or in Go. The widgets also offer intriguing possibilities for advertisers, who can use them to build applications or rich landing pages.

We'll write more about all this once we get a chance to download Go.

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Related: Yahoo's Yang Outlines Vision For An Integrated, Open Yahoo 2.0

Yahoo! Go/Mobile Morphs into a Development Platform

Yahoo! has much at stake in the success of its mobile efforts and the company is being about as aggressive as possible in this arena, building numerous OEM and carrier relationships on a global basis. Now Yahoo! has announced that it's releasing Go 3.0 (not live), a new mobile homepage that emphasizes personalization and, most importantly, that it is now opening up to third-party publishers and developers as a (widget) platform.

Partners at launch are eBay, MTV and MySpace. Here's how Yahoo! PR has summarized the chief features and improvements of Go, the widget platform and the new mobile WAP site/homepage:

Yahoo! Go 3.0 beta:

New features include:

Enhanced user interface, optimized for the mobile phone.

Improved performance.

For the first time, consumers will have access to third-party widgets from leading publishers through Yahoo! Go.

Yahoo! Go 3.0 also includes display advertising from Yahoo!’s major global advertisers. Consumers will be able to interact with these ads by clicking to call the advertiser directly or to learn more about the offer.

New Open Mobile Widget Platform:

The platform is an open environment for developers to create mobile Widgets for instant access by millions of consumers.

Widgets created on the Mobile Widget Platform will be available to consumers from various starting points, including Yahoo! Go 3.0 and Yahoo!'s new mobile homepage.

The platform will enable developers to write code once and publish their content across Yahoo!'s mobile network, allowing accelerated delivery of a feature-rich mobile experience.

The platform will enable consumers more control over their experience, as well, by providing the functionality to add and delete Widgets at any time.

Full-featured SDK for developers to be introduced over the coming weeks.

Third-party Widget launch partners include, eBay, MySpace, and MTV.

Redesigned Mobile Homepage

New features:

Completely redesigned and engineered mobile interface from the ground up.

Homepage centers around intuitive navigational structure where consumers can tailor content according to needs, interests and location.

Available to consumers in the United States on high-end mobile browsers, which are included in devices such as the Apple iPhone, sever Nokia Series 60 devices, including the N95, and select Windows Mobile devices. Availability across additional devices and countries to come in the near future.

Key features:

Personal Vitality and Status Updates: Provides an at-a-glance update of what's new since the last visit -- including recent emails, Flickr photos from your friends, upcoming calendar appointments and status of Messenger contacts -- without moving away from the home screen or logging into a separate application.

Customizable Content: Offers a collection of mobile content modules - or Snippets - that provide previews of the user's favorite content - news headlines, weather conditions, etc -- whatever the user wants. In many cases, Snippets are extensions of mobile widgets and can be used to launch a full-featured widget built on Yahoo!'s Mobile Widget Platform.

Quick Links: Customizable links at the bottom of the page, providing fast access to the Yahoo! features or sites across the Internet that consumers use the most. Consumers can easily add and remove Quick Links as they desire.

Now Yahoo! goes head-to-head as a platform with Google's Android, Windows Mobile and the iPhone, even as it's optimizing its WAP site for iPhones. With its widget approach Yahoo! competes with uLocate's Where and Microsoft-backed Zumobi, which both see themselves as platforms for third parties.

The bottom line, as always, is about the user experience. Neither the new WAP site nor Go 3.0 are live yet. We'll write more as we get a chance to have some "face time" with these apps.

Intelligence on Windows Mobile 7

Here's a very long and detailed (and somewhat technical) post about Microsoft's intriguing plans for Windows Mobile 7. From our point of view, and according to the post, many of the design and functionality upgrades are responses to the sensation caused by the iPhone and the fact that the latter has quickly overtaken Windows Mobile in terms of market share.

The improved user experience reflected in the post is good for users, as desktop titans, carriers and OEMs such as Nokia engage in an intensifying battle for mobile consumers.

Magellan Device Adds Google Local Listings

Magellan Elite

The Wi-Fi-enabled personal navigation device Dash Express offers content from Yahoo! Local, as well as other content providers (e.g., Zillow). Dash sees itself as an "open platform" that will continue to add content and features over time, transcending the "personal navigation" category as a non-phone mobile Internet and content device. More established competitor TomTom offers "points of interest" and local content from a range of companies; Garmin's devices also have much of this same information.

But Magellan Navigation will be the second company, after Dash, to partner with a search engine to offer local content on a device with real-time wireless connectivity. (TomTom has a deal with Google, where one can send maps to a TomTom device.) The forthcoming Magellan Maestro Elite 5340+GPRS is being introduced at CES next week and will become available in March. The cost is an unfortunate $1,300, which all-but-prevents it from having mainstream appeal.

The Dash device is less than half that price at $599, which is still too expensive for most people. TomTom devices range in price from $199 to over $1,000. The iPhone, by contrast, is $399.

Price is a huge factor in this market -- perhaps the factor. The Telematics Research Group (TRG) has projected that mobile phone makers will overtake TomTom, et al. in the next 5-7 years in the personal navigation market, as phones increasingly double as navigation devices. As TRG also correctly points out, non-phone personal nav devices will need to be connected and loaded up with local (and other) content to be competitive with smartphones going forward. In other words, maps and GPS navigation by themselves are no longer enough. (Ads on these devices is the topic of another conversation.)

As an HTC 6800, Windows Mobile 6.0 user (with Live Search, Google Maps, Yahoo! Go and the Opera Mini loaded), I already have no reason to buy one of these personal nav devices. As also mentioned, prices will have to be aggressively lowered for these devices to be competitive longer term. Current, relatively high price points make them highly unattractive vs. smartphones, which are now almost as good.