On the heels of WSJ reporting that Verizon had done a quick turnaround and was in talks with Google about offering phones with the search engine's software, Reuters now reports that Sprint is engaged in similar conversations:
Sprint Nextel Corp, the No. 3 U.S. mobile service, is in talks to put applications from Web search leader Google Inc on its cell phones, a person familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.
Google is in talks with some of the largest
U.S.wireless carriers to make a deeper move into the mobile industry, an area it views as key to future growth.
While the company has not commented on its plans or potential partners, industry experts believe it will soon launch new software and services for mobile phones.
On Tuesday, sources told Reuters that No. 2 U.S. mobile service Verizon Wireless, a Verizon Communications and Vodafone Group Plc venture, is also in talks with Google about putting applications on its mobile phones.
As the article also points out, Google has an existing partnership with Sprint, chiefly around the planned (but now uncertain) build out of an ambitious WiMax network. Microsoft has an extensive mobile partnership with the carrier, which is currently deeper than Google's.
What seems to be happening more broadly is that Google is successfully persuading US carriers to work with the company. Formerly there was considerable resistance on the grounds that Google would eventually take over the consumer relationship and the carrier would be relegated to the status of a "mobile ISP."
I have no authority for this but perhaps there's a pledge not to go up against them in the forthcoming 700MHZ spectrum auction if they will work with Google to incorporate its software on some of their phones. That sort of accommodation would address one of Google's central concerns with mobile: distribution.
LMS has estimated the US mobile advertising market, across all segments, will be worth approximately $2.3 billion by 2012. If Europe is added in, the combined market is worth roughly $5.08 billion by 2012.
AskTheLocal is a U.K. website that offers local store inventory information -- where to buy products locally. It appears to still be unique in that market. In the US, NearbyNow, Channel Intelligence, Where2GetIt, ShopLocal, Krillion, various retail chains and others are working on offering that same information to varying degrees online and in mobile. In the US GShopper's Slifter has in-stock product information (via Channel Intelligence I believe) and offers it to mobile shoppers through a relationship with Sprint.
AskTheLocal has just introduced a mobile version of its service called "DaLocal.com." The company refers to it as a product locator. Here's the press release that went out this morning.
There are two aspects of mobile shopping that will be very powerful: price comparison information in the store and product finders such the one introduced by AskTheLocal. You're in the store or on your way and want to know where you can buy it or where you find it today if it's not in stock. There will be a much smaller percentage of people who use mobile to buy products online from the store after they've seen the product and simply want a cheaper price.
Mobile product finders also present very interesting advertising opportunities because of the intent of the shopper and immediacy of the urge/need.
Ultimately, these in-store product locators threaten most e-commerce sites because they more directly conform to consumer preferences and behavior. Sites like Amazon in the US are trying to work around consumer objections to shipping costs and times with programs like Amazon Prime and expedited shipping.
The Palm Centro is the company's bid to expand its market beyond business users. We'll see how it sells. When subsidized, the phone is $99 from Sprint. The carrier has a very short 90-day exclusive on the phone.
The phone uses the Palm OS rather than Windows Mobile. It Centro catches on it could put pressure on others to offer low-end versions of their smartphones. The mobile Internet experience on a smartphone is much better than on smaller Java phones. And the penetration of smartphones is tied directly to mobile Internet adoption and usage.
Nuance is offering voice control pre-loaded on the Centro. However, it's not yet clear whether that is being communicated to prospective buyers via collateral or in Sprint stores.
LMS sees embedded voice (as it improves) on an Internet phone as being potentially competitive with "free DA" over time.
The mobile advertising market will be worth $5.08 Billion by 2012 (combined North America & Europe), according to our new forecast, being released publicly this a.m. LMS projects roughly 140 million users of the "mobile Internet" in five years in the U.S. and approximately 223 million in greater Western Europe.
Among the U.S. yellow pages publishers, YellowPages.com and Superpages are being most aggressive in mobile. Superpages has acquired a number of mobile capabilities through its purchase of InfoSpace that should help the company. The Infospace FindIt iPhone app should morph into Superpages Mobile in the near future.
Though not directly operated by YellowPages.com, AT&T is also offering 1-800-YellowPages, which features ad insertion by Apptera.
Enough already with the GPhone. Let's get the device/mobile OS out into the open and light of day and start seeing whether it's going to have an impact on the market comparable to the iPhone or whether it's a lot of "sound and fury."
Amol Sharma of the Wall Street Journal writes today:
The Google-powered phones are expected to wrap together several Google applications -- among them, its search engine, Google Maps, YouTube and Gmail email -- that have already made their way onto some mobile devices. The most radical element of the plan, though, is Google's push to make the phones' software "open" right down to the operating system, the layer that controls applications and interacts with the hardware. That means independent software developers would get access to the tools they need to build additional phone features.
Developers could, for instance, more easily create services that take advantage of users' Global Positioning System location, contact lists and Web-browsing habits. They also would be able to interact with Google Maps and other Google applications. The idea is that a range of new social networking, mapping and other services would emerge, just as they have on the open, mostly unfettered Web. Google, meanwhile, could gather user data to show targeted ads to cellphone users.
U.S. consumers, generally speaking, would like more choices in mobile. The fact that 25% of iPhone's sold to date were to non-AT&T users is evidence of that -- and the desire for better mobile experiences more generally.
Here's the release:
North American and European Ad Revenues Expected to Reach $5.08 Billion by 2012
Forecast by Local Mobile Search includes mobile browsing, search and voice queries (ad-supported directory assistance).
SAN FRANCISCO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Local Mobile Search, an advisory service of Opus Research, today released research forecasting that U.S. and Western European mobile advertising revenues will reach a combined $5.08 billion by 2012, up from an estimated $106.8 million at year end 2007. The U.S. is anticipated to drive roughly $2.3 billion of the total, while European markets will see revenues approaching $2.8 billion within the forecast period. The figure represents a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 116 percent for the combined regions.
"The industry has been talking about the mobile market's potential for almost a decade," said Greg Sterling, Senior Analyst with Local Mobile Search. "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."
The projections incorporate growth in ad revenues driven by each of the now relatively distinct segments of voice-based search, text/SMS, WAP and application downloads. The forecast also includes estimates for CPM-driven displays or banners, pay-per-click and pay-per-call advertising. Over time, however, the distinctions between segments will blur or disappear as sales of bundled, "multi-modal" promotions become the norm and consumer experiences become more integrated.
"Major search providers and portals such as Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft and AOL are pouring considerable resources into mobile," said Senior Analyst Dan Miller of Local Mobile Search. "Mobile operators and their vendors are racing with them to offer a better mobile experience and increase monetization moments."
The forecast is based on consumer research and empirical findings from proprietary and third-party sources, as well as data from and discussions with mobile search providers, portals, operators and industry vendors in the U.S. and Europe. More detailed discussion of the forecast and planning assumptions is available in the forthcoming report: "U.S. and Western Europe Mobile Advertising Revenue Forecast, 2007-2012."
Note: We said "U.S." but we mean "North America"
Several sources have signaled that Google's much awaited phone could be introduced in as little as two weeks. Amol Sharma in the Wall Street Journal quotes a "person familiar with the discussions" says that serious talks are taking place between Verizon Wireless and Google regarding the rollout of wireless phones that support a Google-based operating system, applications and API's (application programing interfaces).
Last week Verizon withdrew its appeal for the FCC to drop newly proposed requirements for openness in soon-to-be auctioned parts of the radio spectrum. That signaled a softening of the hard line stance that the company took versus Google's suggested changes in policy. As the leading revenue producer among U.S. wireless carriers, Verizon insists that AT&T Wireless's introduction of Apple's iPhone has not had a material effect on its top line. Nonetheless, it is ready to introduce "Voyager", LG Electronics' answer to user demand for a touch sensitive screen supporting multiple "widgets" and apps.
A Google operating environment on a mobile device introduces a wide range of possibilities for using Google on the desktop to fine-tune and personalize search and other applications running on its mobile platform.
Related: Speculation from ZDNet that the iPhone has forced Verizon to talk with Google to generate some "cool" or "buzz" around it's handset lineup.
Vehix.com has launched a mobile destination site, Vehix Mobile, to support search for both new and used cars at local dealerships. The service supports searches by make, model and location, in a way that mimics the desktop version of Vehix.com on a mobile browser. Like the Web site, the service is advertiser-supported. Thus responses can be littered with rather large banners from local dealerships or national brands.
Banner ads aside, my test drive was unsuccessful because the connection between Vehix.com and Usablenet Mobile (which is acts as platform for mobile rendering of the Vehix.com Web site) timed out before delivering results to my search. To its credit, Usablenet offered the option to return to my original search and start navigating again. Still, weak links in the technical connection between desktop and mobile platforms continue to haunt content providers.
Vehix also announced a new service that links online search with offline activity. After using the online resources of Vehix.com, users can press a "Send-to-my-mobile" button, which will format a text message akin to an outbound alert that includes the vehicle's, make, model, price, dealer, and the dealer's address and phone number. The service conforms to an emerging pattern of buyer behavior for "considered" (meaning expensive) purchases like autos. It saves shoppers from having to write down all the address and phone information and has the potential to reduce errors while providing a basis for building a map-based itinerary that's linked back to the original Web site.
Vehix.com will find that SMS delivery has a larger prospective user base than the WAP-based, wireless Internet. I didn't get to a point in the online research where I was presented with the "Send-to-Phone" button but, if it works as intended, Vehix users should find it very useful.
At CTIA there were lots of companies on the exhibit hall floor talking about mobile video. For a couple of years at least mobile video has been hyped and MobiTV has raised more than $70 million from investors on the expectation that mobile video was about to break into the mainstream. Indeed, just this past week M:Metrics put out data that suggests we're on the cusp of a mobile video explosion. The data, for example, argue that at least 8 million mobile subscribers in the US watched video at least once in August.
Not so fast.
Let's assume those figures are accurate. They don't reveal the still-too-complex and frustrating state of mobile video. The iPhone and iPod touch store video locally and don't count for purposes of this discussion. An exception is YouTube for the iPod, but that's still quite slow. Once loaded it looks good however.
Most of the mobile video apps that were being featured at CTIA won't see mainstream adoption if any adoption at all. I did see a demo of AOL's Winamp that was very impressive in its simplicity. You manage video on your desktop and can access it (and forward it once) via your mobile phone. I also saw a demo of SlingMedia's mobile offering that appeared equally simple on the one hand, but was only available on a very limited number of phones and required that users buy the SlingBox (and a TiVo essentially).
Too many hoops there.
As with the rest of mobile, simplicity is the key to mobile video adoption. It has to work on all phones (or substantially all) and must require no setup or configuration by users. Virally, it has to be as easy to use basically as YouTube online -- you receive the link, one click and it starts and loads quickly. Accordingly, networks have to be fast enough so the stream is not interrupted or too slow.
It all has to work in the background without understanding or special effort by users.
One area that will gain near-term adoption is the "on the go" uploading of video to the Internet. That's already happening. But that's not what people are talking about generally when they refer to "mobile video." Peer-to-peer mobile video (I shoot it and show it to you in more or less real time) will also be a phenomenon one day. But that equally requires simplicity, network speed improvements, battery life and device memory improvements as well.
Mobile video will indeed ultimately be a big deal -- and an opportunity for advertising and monetization accordingly -- but the complexity and frustrations still involved in watching video on a mobile phone (putting aside the Apple devices) means that we are still a few years away.
Temper your expectations.
MediaPost reports that GE had solid results using Jingle Networks' 1-800-Free411 as a branding vehicle. Jingle offfers several ad formats, including pure branding/CPM advertising. According to the article:
And data from a new GE-sponsored study found that a front-end branding campaign on the service helped boost landing page traffic by nearly 28% and increased message-specific brand awareness.
GE launched an eight-day, Earth Day-focused campaign for its energy-saving light bulbs on 1-800-FREE-411 in April. Jingle Networks served more than 2.5 million ads in the time period, hitting consumers with one of three messages that focused on a single benefit for using GE's bulbs: "saving money," "good for the environment," "long lasting", or a general "Earth Day" message. Each ad also offered callers a money-saving coupon via text message.
The campaign garnered a 0.43% response rate for the text messages (173% better than the average front-end branding campaign response rate of 0.25%, according to the report.)
Of the four major "free DA" providers, only AT&T's 800-YellowPages and Jingle's Free411 have ads. Goog411 and the recently launched 1-800-Call411 from Microsoft (Tellme) do not. Microsoft has said it will eventually integrate ads into the offering, while Google probably will though has not made any public statements on the matter.
As I said previously:
While voice search, Free DA and a host of voice services that will come later are certainly the broadest consumer entry point into mobile search -- "local mobile search for the rest of us" -- it's not clear to that ad-supported DA is what will drive major mobile revenues. Again, that's not to say it's not a viable or effective advertising vehicle for marketers. It's just to suggest that this isn't necessarily where mobile ad revenues will be concentrated.
In addition, as they improve and become more widespread, voice interfaces on the device will eventually compete with Free DA (not in the immediate future). Microsoft for example offers speech on the latest version of its Live Local application. For devoted Live Local users, that will sometimes be used and sometimes Call411. It will depend on the situation and what's working better.