Sprint to Link to MySpace Mobile

Mobile social networking will be one step closer or, more accurately, fewer clicks away, when Sprint provides its mobile subscribers direct access to MySpace Mobile when it is generally available next year. When it rolls out, it will not be necessary for subscribers to open their Web browsers and enter the cumbersome URL: http://moible.myspace.com. Instead they will simply click on a link in Sprint's mobile Web portal.

Call it the iPhone effect. It is now an empirically-observed truth that ease of use translates into more frequent use. If past is prologue, MySpace will see stepped up access from mobile devices, and a corresponding increase in relevant - meaning local and immediate - feedback from fellow MySpacers.

For its part Fox Interactive Media (FIM), MySpace's parent company, is aggressively expanding the mobile footprint of its other properties by simplifying access to Sprint subscribers. These include IGN, FOXSports.com on MSN, RottenTomatoes, AskMen, and a network of myFOX sites with content from local TV affiliates.

Swedish Newspaper Links Local Sales to Cell Phones

Agence France Press reports that Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, is selling Nokia phones with direct links to its mobile content. DN subscribers can purchase the Nokia 6120 3-G phone on the paper's Web site. Then, after signing up for a 199-kronor ($31-dollar) monthly plan, they will be able to surf the daily's mobile Web site by simply pressing a special "DN" button on the faceplate.

The offer highlights the lengths that so-called "dead tree" media have to go to stay in the call flows of their local audiences. A newspaper spokesperson simply said that it is a matter of "removing obstacles" to subscribers accessing content on the mobile Web.

Medio Expands Ad Network to Europe

Medio Systems announced this morning that it was expanding its MobileNow ad network to the UK, as well as other countries in Europe and beyond next year. These ads generally appear on its publisher network "off deck." Publisher partners include various CBS mobile properties and mobile sites for the The CW TV network.

According to the release issued this morning, Medio is already serving ads in the U.K., Germany, France, Spain, Australia and South Africa. The roll out in these countries will continue in 2008.

Medio provides mobile search functionality and advertising to partners. All of the ads in the system are performance-based and the company says it has achieved conversion rates of "up to 15%" across its network.

The rate of conversions in a mobile environment is all over the map, based on our conversations, with some companies claiming rates north of 20% and others saying it's in the low single digits. Of course it depends on ad quality and context. Over time mobile conversion rates will go down as more users come into the mobile Internet. Google has said generally, regarding mobile conversions, the "performance of these ads is excellent."

Medio began life as a white label search vendor for carriers to help them compete with Google and Yahoo in mobile search. However, the ad network, launched in March of this year, is a wise diversification strategy that will take the company farther than if had limited itself to its original model.

Conversation with JumpTap: Of Androids and Trojan Horses

White label mobile search and ads provider JumpTap is arguing that Google's Android platform is a "Trojan Horse" that ultimately seeks to siphon off carrier customer relationships and potential ad revenues. Here's one version of that story from Adam Saroca, JumpTap GM, on Search Engine Watch.

I believe some version of that future is possible but what I would call "the reality" is more complicated. Accordingly, I had what I would call a more nuanced conversation with Jorey Ramer, VP of Corp. Dev for JumpTap. We had the "Android is a Trojan Horse" conversation but also spoke about the ways in which the psychological shake-up in the market caused by Andriod -- psychological because there are not yet any phones out -- could benefit JumpTap and accelerate their business.

We also talked about how opening up of the market benefits all players in theory. Even if everyone (read: carriers) gets scared and starts doing deals and focusing more on mobile content, ads and search it's a good thing for the industry and JumpTap. While the carriers might want everything to remain as it is for the indefinite future, it will not. The truth is: the iPhone and Android have done the overall market in the US a great service by waking people up and motivating them to act.

It is true that if Android is widely adopted and phones ultimately reach consumers, and are not locked by carriers, the monogamous relationship between user and carrier will be weakened. Any way you slice it, however, the carriers' collective position in the US is going to get weaker, with a growing emphasis on devices and mobile content.

One of the most interesting things that Ramer pointed out, which I hadn't focused on, is how Google Checkout might become the basis for a mobile payments system and direct billing relationship with the end user. I think that's a fascinating prospect.

Google Checkout has struggled to make inroads against PayPal, which is already offering mobile payments. But a second opportunity might come in mobile, provided Android gains market acceptance.

Competition from Google and Yahoo! is good for JumpTap's business and they can "sell against" the Google threat, which is clearly what the company is doing. And like everyone else, JumpTap could write on top of Android too.

The bigger challenge for JumpTap is differentiating itself from Medio Systems and vice versa.

Can Apple Save Palm, And Will Motorola Break Up?

Jon Rubinstein, Apple's former head of hardware engineering, often dubbed the "Podfather" because of his early shepherding of the iPod, is now in charge of Palm. The question is can he revive the sinking fortunes of the company?

As this WSJ article points out, the company is banking on the low-end Palm Centro to become popular and gain market share among younger users. However, despite widespread marketing and an aggressive price point, the Centro is not likely to be the hit Palm had hoped. And product development cycles are such that it may be a couple of years before any Rubinstein-inspired handsets make it to market.

Over at Motorola, the WSJ speculates, the company may be preparing for a sale of its troubled handset division, which hasn't had a hit since the wildly popular Razr. But the market is fickle and the Razr was "yesterday's handset." Motorola's CEO Ed Zander was bounced in an effort to inject new blood and energy into the company. He is being succeeded by company president Greg Brown.

Worldwide market share of smartphones, based on Q2 shipments of approximately 30 million units:

  1. Nokia -- 46%
  2. "Others" -- 29%
  3. RIM -- 9%
  4. Sharp -- 8%
  5. Fujitsu -- 5%
  6. Palm -- 4%

Source: Garnter (numbers are rounded and so exceed 100%)

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Related: CNET reports on forthcoming layoffs at Palm. Silicon Alley Insider suggests that Palm could create a great user experience and revive by adopting Flash as a developer platform.

Mobile Ad Forecasts Too Rosy?

BusinessWeek offers a broad look at the mobile ad environment and climate for acquisitions of startups in mobile. The article is measured but bearish in tone, arguing that the mobile forecasts in the market, specifically Gartner and Strategy Analytics, are too aggressive at $11 billion and $14 billion by 2011, respectively.

The article cites low consumer adoption of the mobile Internet to date and the challenges of the US mobile marketplace more generally as being a drag on ad growth.

The article quotes Nokia VP Mike Baker as saying "it will take at least five years for the industry to surpass $10 billion in annual revenue." It's not entirely clear what is meant by "revenue," presumably advertising on a global basis.

Our forecast is $5.08 billion in mobile ad revenues by 2012 in North America and Europe.

Google Upgrades Picasa for iPhone

Google has launched an upgraded version of its Picasa photo album/sharing site for the iPhone. This is just the latest in the "iPhonification" of Google applications.

You can search Yahoo!'s Flickr on the iPhone with iPhlickr.

Google's Sacca, Wireless Head, Leaves to Become an Angel Investor

VentureBeat is reporting that Google's head of special initiatives and wireless, Chris Sacca, is leaving to become an angel investor. Apparently, Sacca has the personal wealth to make this a viable decision.

Sacca was instrumental in leading the 700MHz spectrum charge. There's no named replacement right now. How much impact this will have on Google or its mobile efforts is not clear. However, it will likely have a minimal impact on the consumer facing side of mobile at Google.

Helio Launches a Better YouTube App for Ocean

This morning youth-oriented MVNO Helio announced a new YouTube application for its popular Ocean ("don't call it a phone") device. CrunchGear thinks it bests the iPhone in this category (see screenshots).

The free application is intended to fully replicate the YouTube experience in mobile and expand beyond simply watching videos to video capture and upload (with GPS tagging). It also provides access to YouTube's full range of community features.

Mobile video is an area of much hype and anticipation but one that is still way too complicated for most people. It will be a popular use case once network speeds an usability issues get solved. Helio operates on the Sprint 3G network.

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Related: The Google Mobile Blog explains more about how it works.

CallGenie Buys PhoneSpots for $5.75 Million

CallGenie

Voice services and platform provider CallGenie announced that it has acquired mobile ad exchange and directory assistance content provider PhoneSpots, which was formerly PocketThis. The announced acquisition price was $5.75 million (mostly stock). The acquisition is expected to close in early 2008 and gives CallGenie additional partner relationships and a powerful ad platform to offer a much more comprehensive solution to the marketplace.

PhoneSpots has been around since 1999 and pioneered the "send to mobile" feature now in widespread use on local search sites. PhoneSpots originally offered enhanced results (additional content and links) from directory assistance queries when users opted to receive them as text messages. Its relationships were primarily in Europe. Most recently PhoneSpots announced its first US customer relationship with AT&T, to power the YellowPages.com "send to mobile" feature and the company's YP411 SMS platform.

PhoneSpots built a sophisticated platform that is compatible with a wide range of phones and mobile "modalities." The company can deliver enhanced content and ads in text messages or to mobile browsers and can support local search ads/content that originate via voice search/directory assistance, text queries or WAP search. In addition, as a mobile ad exchange, PhoneSpots will seek to provide enhanced local search content and geotargeted advertisers to mobile publishers that want to monetize their lookups and content and don't have direct advertiser relationships.

The customer base of CallGenie, after the acquisition, includes:

  • North America: 1-800inAcity, 1800SanDiego, CellWand, HSN / IAC, Ingenio, RHDonnelley, Say Hello, Telus, Verizon, Verizon Livesource, Yellowpages.com, Yellow Pages Group
  • Europe: Eniro, Opplysningen, Orange, Ahhaaa AB, SNT Trefzeker, Telegate, TeleGreenland, Le Numero
  • Rest of World: Batelco, Du, Etisalat, Newsphone, Omantel, Telecom Egypt