Asia

Will Android Help Google with Share in China?

The news comes that Google has lost market share in China to native search engine Baidu, which now has a roughly 65% market share according to a report recently issued by US investment firm Bernstein & Co (relying on third party data). Others put the Chinese market even more in Baidu's hands (per iResearch):

  • Baidu: 75.7%
  • Google: 19.8% of the searches, down slightly more than a point from the previous year

It struck me, however, that Android might be a "back door" for Google into increased market share.

There are going to be at least two Android-based phones in the market through China Mobile in the next month or so (from Lenovo and HTC). Smaller rival China Unicom is reportedly working with Apple to launch the iPhone in China. There are also various rumors of a Dell smartphone launch announcement in China (OS unknown) in the next several days.

China is the world's largest mobile market with 700 million subscribers -- more than twice as large as the US population. Having several Android phones in China will give Google another bite at the Chinese search market, so to speak, which may enable the company to gain search share where it doesn't seem to be able to on the PC. 

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Related: The rumored Dell phone is reportedly to be an Android device. 

IDC Q2 US Smartphone Sales Rankings

According to IDC (as presented by Fierce Wireless) the top selling smartphones in the US in Q2 were:

  1. BlackBerry Curve (available through all US carriers)
  2. Apple iPhone 3GS
  3. BlackBerry Pearl (but not Flip version)
  4. Apple iPhone 3G
  5. BlackBerry Bold
  6. BlackBerry Storm
  7. G1 by HTC (Android)
  8. Palm Pre (Palm/WebOS)
  9. HTC Touch Pro (WinMo 6.1)
  10. HTC Touch Diamond (WinMo 6.1)

According to comScore, here's the market share distribution of smartphones by OS in the US:

Picture 20

Source: comScore (May, 2009)

Here's AdMob's network representation of US mobile Internet browsing market share by mobile OS:

Picture 22

 Source: AdMob (June, 2009)

The eBook Is Really Here

Quick: how many ebook readers will there be in the market next year? Five? Six? Seven? Indeed:

  • Kindle
  • iPod Touch 
  • Plastic Logic reader
  • Apple Tablet (rumor)
  • Sony eBook Reader
  • Fujitsu FLEPia
  • Samsung SNE-50K

Putting aside the iPod Touch and the rumored Apple tablet, there are at least five competitors going after this growing market. The WSJ looks at the new entry from Samsung, the SNE-50K ebook device, formerly called Papyrus, which is not available outside South Korea for the immediate future:

Samsung's reader is slim at nine millimeters and weighs 6.5 ounces, less than the 10-ounce Kindle.

Samsung is still working on versions of an e-book reader to sell in other countries and executives said they aim to show prototypes at an industry trade show in January . . .  Samsung's initial e-book reader doesn't support wireless downloads or connections to the Internet, as Amazon's Kindle and readers by some smaller firms do. Instead, a customer must download a book to a PC and then into the device.

There are other hardware OEMs also looking at building e-readers. The emerging critical mass of hardware devices means that publishers and booksellers will take the market seriously, which is indeed happening.

The right form factor and user experience are still very much in development. I believe that the winning devices in this segment will offer ebooks, magazines and newspapers but also be Internet capabile and have color screens. They will also need to retail for less than $300. 

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Related: See this video demo of the new Samsung Mondi (WinMo) "WiMax Tablet"

AdMob: Where iPhone/iPod Touch Users Live

Ad network AdMob issued its June 2009 Mobile Metrics Report this morning. It focuses on the geographic distribution of iPhone and iPod Touch owners (Apple said in its recent earnings report that there are 45 million globally.) Here are the top-level findings from the June report:

  • 54 percent of iPhone and iPod touch users are in the United States
  • Following the U.S., France, Germany and the UK each had more than five percent of all iPhone and iPod touch devices
  • iPod touch users represent 38 percent of total iPhone OS devices in North America
  • Requests from the Android OS increased 25 percent month over month. Android has five percent worldwide OS share and is slightly ahead of Windows Mobile for the first time

Here are some charts from the report:

Picture 13

Picture 12

Picture 15 Picture 16

All of this must be qualified by the fact that this data comes from AdMob's network, which is not identical to the mobile Internet as a whole. However it's a large network and directionally consistent with mobile Internet trends more broadly.

The distribution of iPhone/iPod Touch ownership and usage is interesting to be sure but the bombshell in here is the data that Android-based usage is now bigger than Windows Mobile, this despite only one device (effectively) in the market for Android. This underscores the competitive urgency for Microsoft to get WinMo 6.5 and 7 into the market.

Mobile-Related Comments from the Yahoo! Q2 Earnings Call

Here are mobile-related comments from Yahoo! CEO Carol Bartz made on the Yahoo! earnings call yesterday (bold text is my emphasis):

General strategy:

Beyond the numbers this past quarter we have three themes. One, we put a great leadership team in place. With Tim coming on board we are essentially solidifying my staff and we are closing in on someone to head our international region. Two, we continue to define our audience priorities. This includes identifying our most important vertical experiences like the Homepage, mail and our media properties as well as the capabilities that support all of them like open, social, video, mobile and more . . .

Homepage-mobile integration:

The new Homepage makes it much easier for users to bring together their online world in a single destination. Users can put virtually anything on their new Homepage in just a click or two whether it is content from Yahoo! or anywhere on the web. Starting next week they can synch their desktop with their mobile phone to get the same experience wherever they go . . .

Mobile reach and partnerships:

While we have been talking about creating the best, most complete online experience on the PC, mobile devices are just as important. Mobile momentum is so strong I want to spend a moment on it. When it comes to global reach our numbers are very impressive. The new Yahoo! mobile experience is available in 17 countries across 400 devices. We have teamed with more than 100 carriers and OEM’s globally to ensure Yahoo!’s services are front and center whenever users access the mobile web. Our leading position in so many vertical categories and markets attract top tier mobile partners all over the world.

These partners clearly recognize the power and draw of Yahoo!’s services on their devices and networks. For example, we recently announced a leading telecom service provider in Taiwan to bring our mobile search to their users, replacing Google. Our partners aren’t just distributing our services. Many partners around the globe, especially in Asia, are proactively promoting our search and other mobile services because the experience is that good.

Palm's 'Pre-Pre' Results; HTC 'Sense' Makes Android Sexier

Palm announced fiscal Q4 and FY 2009 results today. New Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein said that the Pre's sales were "strong and growing." No specifics were provided but Dow Jones newswires cites analysts who estimate 100K sales in June and 200K in August. Here are the "Pre-Pre" Results for Q4 and FY 2009:

Total revenues in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2009, ended May 29, 2009, were $86.8 million. Gross profit was $20.1 million and gross margin was 23.1 percent . . . The company shipped a total of 351,000 smartphone units during the quarter, representing a 6 percent increase from the third quarter of fiscal year 2009 and a year-over-year decline of 62 percent. Smartphone sell-through for the quarter was 460,000 units, down 5 percent vs. the third quarter of fiscal year 2009 and down 52 percent year-over-year . . .

Total revenues for the full fiscal year 2009 were $735.9 million. Gross profit for fiscal year 2009 was $159.8 million and gross margin was 21.7 percent. The company shipped a total of 2,407,000 smartphone units during the year, representing a 25 percent decline vs. the prior year. Smartphone sell-through for the full year was 2,570,000 units, down 19 percent year-over-year.

Over at HTC, which seems to be rolling out a new device every week, the new "Sense" UI for Android (and soon Windows Mobile) is getting a lot of positive early coverage. The new HTC Hero, the first handset to feature Sense, marks the third Android device in the market for the OEM. But even before the much hyped Android HTC myTouch 3G arrives in the US (Vodafone Magic in the UK) it's already seemingly been superseded by the Hero.

In this video interview with the Financial Times, HTC CEO Peter Chou dances around the direct question of which OS is better Android or WinMo. He argues (rightly) that both can co-exist and appeal to different segments. But HTC is apparently standardizing its Sense UI across devices so that at the highest level future Android and WinMo phones will closely resemble one another. 

The Sense UI in a way puts the emphasis back on hardware, as more OEMs (i.e., Samsung and Motorola) plan to roll out Android phones later in the year. When there are 18 or 20 Android devices in the market, the handset's features and propertiary software layers (e.g., Sense) will matter again. Within the HTC lineup, if the WinMo and Android phones both get Sense and are otherwise almost identical from a hardware standpoint, what will differentiate them? I could formulate a list but those items probably won't be immediately obvious to consumers. On one level that makes the case for a branded Microsoft or Zune phone. 

Here's a video demo of the Hero

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In the UK the Hero will be called the G1 Touch by T-Mobile but will also be carried by Orange. Vodafone has the Magic/G2. 

Opera's State of the Mobile Web for May

Opera Software released its "State of the Mobile Web" report for May. The report places an emphasis on trends in Southeast Asia: "Growth rates in Southeast Asia remain high: Vietnam leads the top 9 countries with 412.9% growth in users this year, followed by the Philippines (353.6% growth) and Malaysia (249.6% growth)." However it also presents data for the range of coutries in North America and Europe that have Opera users.

Remember this is not the entire mobile Internet, nor does it represent a true view of smartphone users (other than perhaps on BlackBerry, which has a poor browser currently). Rather these data are from handsets where users have downloaded and installed the Opera browser. They offer a view of a different segment of mobile users than we're used to hearing about, given the industry's focus on smartphones -- which remain in the minority. 

Here are some of the data for the US and UK:

 UK may

UK search

US may

US search

Note the "average number of search portal page-views" in the data: 35.7 for the US, 21.4 for the UK. This is not necessarily eqivalent to query volume per user but it's probably directionally eqivalent. These numbers are much higher than 2008 "official" averages (per Nielsen) of 8 searches per user. Our data also show much higher volumes, though not quite as high as the Opera numbers suggest.

New Android SDK with Virtual Keyboard, Speech Support and Asian Android Surge?

According to the Android Developers Blog, the new Android SDK ("cupcake") includes some anticpated upgrades and other features:

This new version (which will be 1.5) is based on the cupcake branch from the Android Open Source Project. Version 1.5 introduces APIs for features such as soft keyboards, home screen widgets, live folders, and speech recognition. At the developer site, you can download the early-look Android 1.5 SDK, read important information about upgrading your Eclipse plugin and existing projects, and learn about what's new and improved in Android 1.5.

There are a wide range of improvements, notably a virtual keyboard. Here are just a few from the long list:

  • On-screen soft keyboard: works in both portrait and landscape orientation
  • Bundled home screen widgets include: analog clock, calendar, music player, picture frame, and search
  • Video recording
  • Copy 'n paste in browser
  • Search within a page
  • View Google Talk friends' status in Contacts, SMS, MMS, GMail, and Email applications
  • Upload videos to Youtube
  • Text prediction engine
  • Speech recognition framework

In addition, VentureBeat offers a thoughtful article on why Asia may see more Android phones and devices than the US or Europe. (Hint: cost.) The authors cite a prior Qualcomm statement that part of Android's strategy is to push down the overall cost of smartphones (to drive adoption). Adoption of smartphones equals more mobile Internet usage and search. Google is currently the mobile search leader.

In our most recent mobile consumer survey (not yet published), 19% of North American respondents who didn't currently have a smartphone indicated that they were thinking about getting one in the next 12 months. Another 21% indicated a similar intent but weren't clear on the timing. Pricing of dataplans and quality of experience (handset, speed) are the major factors driving mobile Internet usage.

HTC and Samsung will be releasing new Android devices this year in the US and EU. We may in fact see the G2/Magic (HTC) from T-mobile announced later this month. Samsung has said that it will be developing phones on the Android platform but not making "Google Experience Devices." 

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Android will eventually show up in Netbooks and other devices. CNET reports that there's a set-top box based on Android coming. 

Nuance [Finally] Sounds its Zi

The prospects for more convenient entry of text messages around the world became more real as Nuance Communications and Canada’s Zi Technologies finally agreed to terms whereby Nuance will acquire Zi for a combination of $17 million in cash and another $18 million worth of Nuance common stock. The price represents a 73% premium over Zi’s Friday closing share price on the Toronto Stock Exchange. However, it is $5 million less than Nuance had offered for the company roughly a month ago.

The deal is the result of protracted discussions, during which Nuance threatened to sue Zi for patent infringement and Zi’s board of directors continued to hold out against Nuance’s acquisition offers. Indeed, Zi aggressively pursued licensing agreements with carriers, device makers and content providers to incorporate its predictive text input and other technologies into solutions that support mobile search, messaging and advertising delivery.

Like Nuance, the company has impressive topline results and gross profits, but has yet to see its revenues deliver profits to bottom line (Net Income). To Nuance, Zi brings predictive text entry to multiple languages, including Arabic, Chinese and Japanese as part of a roster of 60 languages overall. That will bring the total number of languages and dialects supported by Nuance-enabled advanced text-based user input solutions to 80.

Most important will be the incorporation of speedy, more convenient ways to enter text both as commands and content over mobile phones among high-growth wireless markets in the Asia/Pacific markets and in the Middle East.

Quattro Expands Ad Network Globally

Quattro Wireless announced on Friday that it has expanded globally "to Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Asia. Quattro will now accept Internationally-focused, and country-specific publishers and advertisers into its network." 

We're in a period where competitive mobile ad networks are rapidly trying to create reach and scale, boost the quality of ad inventory and build out their ability to target specific platforms such as the iPhone and/or Android. A year or so ago, there was a "first wave" of mobile ad network acquisitions (i.e., Enpocket-Nokia, ScreenTonic-Microsoft, ThirdScreen-AOL) but there will inevitably be another (perhaps spurred by global ad agencies) at some point in the next couple of years.

Depending on how you define "ad network," there are between 25 to 40 major ones operating on the Internet today. That state of affairs is partly responsible for the glut of display inventory that has brought down CPM prices. The US domestic mobile market can't support (right now) anywhere near that many competitors. Consequently only the largest and/or those with specific niche audiences will be able to survive.

The Developing World, Opera & the Mobile Internet

A story today appearing in the Wall Street Journal nicely captures what's going on in the developing world where, in selected places, the "mobile Internet" is effectively the only Internet:

Indonesia is a nation of more than 17,000 islands, with many areas lacking high-speed cable broadband connections, DSL lines or even regular phone lines for dial-up service. Many people have turned instead to accessing the Internet with their mobile phone in the past year as falling costs, increased bandwidths and improvements in browser technology have made it quicker to surf from a cellphone. For many, browsing on a handheld device is a cheaper alternative to buying a PC or paying for home Internet service.

Anita Rachman, a 23-year-old secretary in Jakarta last year began surfing social-networking sites like Friendster and checking Internet-based email on her midrange Sony-Ericsson phone. Her bill: $25 a month, about the same as a home Internet connection. "And I'm literally online 24/7," Ms. Rachman said.

As the excerpt above suggests, PC costs (notwithstanding some of the recent price declines and OLPC), a majority of people in certain "third world" countries cannot afford a PC. However mobile phones are nearly ubiquitous. As a consequence these countries may reap what is sometimes called "the advantages of economic backwardness." What this means as a practical matter is that residents in these countries can skip "over the PC" right to the mobile Internet.

Indeed, Western Union made a presentation about a thriving mobile payments system in Africa at the recent MMA forum event in San Diego. Amazingly what the video showed was African tribesmen in traditional clothes (shepherds) out with their flocks of animals using mobile phones to transfer money to and from other people. 

The WSJ article also discusses Opera and its gains in some of these markets:

Opera says it has 21 million active users of its Opera Mini web browser, a free product it launched in 2005 with emerging markets in mind; some 200,000 people download the software daily. When a user requests an Internet page through Opera Mini, it is sent via a server in Norway, which shrinks the data by 90%, reducing costs and making it easier to surf on cheap handsets.  

The idea is that Opera Mini is optimized for low-end handsets that are preferred in poorer countries. 

Regardless of whether the Internet access is through a smartphone or a so-called feature phone, it's pretty clear where all this is going: more Internet access via mobiles than on the desktop -- on a global basis -- within a decade. 

Aussie OEM Debuts Android Handset

Australian electronics maker Krogan has introduced two Android handsets for presale: the Agora and the Agora Pro for AU$299 and AU$399 respectively (via IntoMobile). That's $195 and $260 in US dollars.

It looks a bit like the Samsung Blackjack or the Motorola Q smartphones and has both a keyboard and 2.5-inch LCD touchscreen. 

Unlike T-Mobile the Google presence is being de-emphasized in this case: Android is what's mentioned, not Google. 

It's not clear to me whether this phone is unlocked (I assume so) because it's being sold by the OEM and not through a carrier. Thus one could theoretically buy it and use it on EU or US networks. 

AT&T and Motorola are expected to bring out Android platform phones at some point in 2009 in the US. Like BlackBerry phones most carriers in the US and probably EU will eventually have an Android phone in their line-up -- as a defensive measure. 

Reports and Predictions: Handset Growth Steady, Mobile Ads Uncertain

There's an interesting paradox in mobile. On the one hand we have firms such as Portio Research forecasting continued "robust" handset growth amid the global economic downturn. According to Cellular-News:

A new report from Portio Research reveals that over half the world now uses a mobile phone and predicts that 80% of the world’s population will be doing so by the end of 2013 - a staggering 5.8 billion people.

But then there's this bit about declining ARPU:

Meanwhile despite rising worldwide mobile voice and data revenues Mobile ARPU continues to decline and is predicted to fall from USD 23.2 in 2005 to USD 15.8 by the end of 2013, largely because additional subscriber growth is likely to come from low per capita income markets.

Separately, others are predicting that nascent mobile advertising growth is likely to suffer in an uncertain economic climate. Despite billions of users and growth in mobile data/text and Internet access, some are predicting that the growth in mobile ads will slow because of the "unproven" nature of mobile advertising. Adify's Russ Fradin is quoted in a BusinessWeek article along those lines:

When budgets are tight, advertisers tend to look for proven methods, such as ads placed alongside a Google or Yahoo search, and place less emphasis on experimental venues, such as social networks, experts say. "Mobile and social networks will be hit," Fradin says.

Mobile advertising's development is inevitable. The question is how quickly and in what precise segments of the market will revenues develop? Fradin's comment is correct; in a time of uncertainty there's retrenchment and conservatism among media buyers and planners. No one wants to take risks and lose his job over novel strategies, which may or may not perform as anticipated. 

But the numbers in mobile can't be ignored. It's just for the infrastructure to develop more fully and for agencies and marketers to become educated and comfortable with the medium. That's probably about a 2-3 year cycle. 

All About Android Today: T-Mobile G1 'with Google'

At 10:30 US Eastern time today the Android announcement will be made and we'll finally get to see the phone and its features. The Boy Genius Report has some screens (not a ton to see), while the New York Times offers a relatively in-depth look at Taiwan's HTC corp., the company making the phone and apparently making a bigger brand push with it. (There's also the prediction and rumor that Amazon's music and video store will work on Android, per VentureBeat).

HTC has developed some nice new phones (ie, Touch Diamond). However my relatively new HTC 6800 ("Mogul") is a piece of junk compared with the iPhone. Beyond the clunky hardware, the Windows Mobile 6.1 OS and interface don't compare. Reportedly there are many improvements in store with Windows Mobile 7 (though it will be delayed a year). But Windows Mobile in the US will be under some pressure in an increasingly crowded smartphone market. 

HTC has been one of the major manufacturers of Windows Mobile phones. If Android turns out to be a big hit, expect more and more of those phones to run Android's OS. In addition, BlackBerry and the iPhone (of course) don't run Windows Mobile and they're the leading smartphones in the US. 

Stay tuned for more exciting adventures. 

UPDATE: The press conference is going on now

 

U.K.'s O2 Finding Consumer Appeal for Mobile Payments

Using mobile phones to purchase goods and services is a fast-growing concept that is gaining traction from carriers, consumers and payment networks alike. Mobile payments rely on near-field communication (NFC) technology to facilitate purchases and include associated technologies for mobile couponing and payment authentication.

U.K. carrier O2 released the results of six-month mobile payments trial in which 500 people were given Nokia 6131 handsets loaded with cash to make store purchases or travel throughout London. According to O2, nine out 10 participants enjoyed making cell phone payments.

Among the mobile payment activities in the O2 trial included:

  • Travel on subway, buses and trams in London, using the handset like an Oyster contactless payments card
  • "Smart posters" containing embedded tags which serve as shortcuts for services enabled through the handset by tapping the phone on the poster.
  • Barclaycard payment application allowing purchases of £10 or less at retailers including Books Etc, Chop’d, Coffee Republic, EAT, Krispy Kreme, Threshers and YO!
  • Ability to check available funds and locate nearby retailers that accept payments.

Elsewhere, Visa announced the launch of new mobile payment programs in Brazil, South Korea and the United States. Visa has been working for some time with financial institutions, telecommunications providers and handset manufacturers in delivering mobile payments with efforts to improve the consumer payment experience.

According to the release, the latest programs include:

  • Brazil: Visa announced yesterday the availability of remote mobile payments in Brazil by Banco do Brasil. It is the first program of its kind in Latin America, allowing Banco do Brasil's Visa cardholders to pay with their mobile device and confirm the transaction via text message. The service is accessible through any Brazilian mobile carrier serving the more than 140 million subscribers in the country. Companhia Brasileira de Meios de Pagamento (VisaNet Brasil), the acquiring institution for all Visa debit and credit payment transactions in the country, will be running the deployment of this technology in Brazil.
  • Korea: In a world first and in partnership with T-Money provider KSCC (Korea Smart Card Company), card issuer Shinhan Bank and Korea Telecom Freetel (KTF), Visa has made it possible for commuters to use their Visa account to top up their T-Money balances automatically on the phone's SIM card when it falls below a certain level. By conducting the entire transaction automatically over the mobile network, commuters are freed from the inconvenience of waiting in line at transit kiosks or other agents to top up their transit account.
  • U.S.: Visa recently announced a partnership with Chase Bank for a pilot program to deliver personalized mobile offers to select consumers in Phoenix, AZ. With more than 50 participating merchants, the program has capacity for 5,000 participants who will receive offers, including discounts or special deals, directly to their mobile devices via text message. They will be able to redeem these offers at the merchant’s location or online. The pilot will also cover special game day offers for baseball fans attending games at Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
  • North America: Visa is working with multiple leading issuers, such as PNC Bank, SunTrust Bank, U.S. Bank, Wachovia, and Wells Fargo in the United States, and RBC, TD Bank Financial Group, and Vancity in Canada, to trial a transactions notification program that is able to send near real-time information to cardholders. Participating cardholders will receive e-mail or SMS text messages on their mobile devices whenever one or more transaction "triggers" occur, sometimes before they leave the store. These mobile notifications will be created simultaneously with the transaction, providing cardholders with an effective way to monitor and manage their accounts.

GOOG411 and Ubona Offer Voice Search in India

In what it characterizes as a "trial", Google is offering voice search on a toll-free phone line that is accessible in Hyderabad, India (population 10+ million). Callers to 1800-41-99-99-99 reach live operators who provide information on local business and movie showtimes. As with the GOOG411 service in North America, callers are also offered the option to be connected directly to the local business for free and Hyderabad residents will also be possible for users to request this information through SMS.

Like so many voice search services these days, this offering is characterized as a way to gauge user preferences and refine the service before a full-fledged launch.

In a realated story coming out of India, Bangalore-based Ubona Technologies scored Series A funding to help subsidize further development and marketing of a phone-based voice search service for "foodies" in Bangalore. Its patent pending speech recognition software claims that its differentiator is the ability to recognize utterances in various local dialects.

Its Web site exhorts visitors to call the toll-free, automated service at 080-40700000. It says that caller can "just say ‘Mainland China' to get connected to [the restaurant called] Mainland China, or to get their address and phone number." Callers can be connected for free and then "Go on...reserve a table, order a takeaway, or just check out the menu."

Up next for Ubona, according to its Web site is voice search of Automotive, Entertainment, Fashion, Healthcare, Hospitality, Travel & Leisure, Beauty & Wellness, Banking & Financial Services, Insurance and Real Estate.

Report: Korea's SK Telecom to Invest in Sprint

Reuters and others are reporting that Korea's SK Telecom, one of the two partners in the now defunct Helio MVNO (acquired last month by VirginMobile), is going to make another run at the U.S. market with a potential strategic investment in Sprint. Some outlets had reported that SK Telecom was seeking to acquire Spint outright; however, that outcome is highly unlikely.

Alternatively, the discussions could be exclusively about technology collaboration.

Sprint, the number three U.S. carrier (52 million subs) lost just over a million subscribers in Q1, but has said sales of "iPhone Killer" Samung Instinct have exceed expectations.

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The Guardian UK is reporting that SK Telecom has denied that it's interested in a "controlling stake" in any U.S. carrier. That doesn't preclude an investment of some sort however.

Nokia in China Search Deal with Baidu

Forbes reports that Chinese search engine Baidu will provide a mobile search service for Nokia phones in China. Baidu is the number three search engine globally according to comScore (because of the sheer population in China):

Global search marketshare

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.

RIM's BlackBerry 'Bold' Announced, iPhone Gains Asian Distribution

Blackberry

On the desktop we have Microsoft vs. Google. And in world of mobile handsets a similar battle is shaping up between BlackBerry, the smartphone incumbent in North America, and Apple's iPhone, recently made safe for the enterprise.

In that larger context, the new BlackBerry Bold seeks to move into iPhone consumer territory with lots of multimedia features and a better display. It also features a browser that offers a "desktop" style (HTML) Internet experience. (But BlackBerry is fully aping the iPhone with a full touchscreen device (no keyboard) coming in Q3: the BlackBerry "Thunder.)

BlackBerry recently announced a $150 million fund to help cultivate applications development for the device (to rival the iFund). The company is also making a new international push through a distribution relationship Brightpoint.

Meanwhile Apple signed agreements with carriers in Singapore, India, the Philippines and Australia. And the iPhone, in a strategy shift, is pushing broader and non-exclusive distribution -- for example through Vodafone in 10 markets globally. The iPhone has yet to find a Chinese partner.

BlackBerry and the iPhone face competition from HTC and, outside the US, from Nokia. And, until we start seeing them in action, Android phones remain something of a wild card in this segment.

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Related:Microsoft and RIM are announcing "global integration of Microsoft’s Windows Live services into BlackBerry smartphone devices." These include Windows Live Hotmail and Windows Live Messenger. Thus Windows Live services for BlackBerry will extend the reach of Windows Live to the largest smartphone user population in North America.