Europe

Sorting through the Microsoft Smartphone Rumors

The Mobile World Congress in Barcelona is less than two weeks away. Like CES or CTIA there are tons of announcements that will come out of the show. But Microsoft is expected to announce a range of mobile upgrades. Considerable virtual ink is being spilled over the various rumors and speculation. To recap, here's what's likely:

  • Windows Mobile 6.5 (a necessary stop gap on the way to 7)
  • Skybox (or some alternative name) -- a mobile storage and services equivalent of Windows Live Services on the desktop. Think of it as competitor to Apple's flawed MobileMe service
  • An apps store for Windows Mobile (SkyMarket)
  • What about the rumors swirling around Microsoft branded smartphone? This is very unlikely (given Microsoft's history and strategy). What about a Zune phone? More likely is a Microsoft smartphone "chassis." Mary Jo Foley explains:

Microsoft is developing some smartphone reference implementations. These implementations are taking the form of multiple smartphone chassis (at least one of which is powered by Nvidia processors).

Think of what Microsoft is doing in phones as similar to what it has done in the PC market. Microsoft often develops reference implementations and encourages PC makers that they build PCs that adhere to a set of reference guidelines/specifications.

From one of my sources, who requested anonymity: “The (Zune phone) chassis 1 spec is challenging the manufacturers to come up with something that will please customers.” This source said Microsoft was pitting a handful of cell-phone makers against one another to come up with the best implementation of the spec.

From what I’ve heard, Microsoft is focusing most of its reference efforts around the Windows Mobile 7 platform.

Despite Windows Mobile unit sales, which are considerable, all these announcements represent a form of catch up to the iPhone, Android, BlackBerry (to some degree) and the Palm Pre. And mobile is a much more risky, much less certain endeavor for Microsoft than the PC universe where it's much more firmly in control. 

As mentioned in a previous post, I spoke with Microsoft's Scott Howe recently. He stressed to me the value of "convergence" for Microsoft on the advertiser side: bringing lots of media together in an easy-to-buy platform -- including mobile. 

On the consumer side Microsoft is pushing a similar idea of a single experience across devices: TV, PC and mobile. Some of the announcements at Mobile World Congress will undoubtedly flesh out that vision through the prism of Windows Mobile. 

Bring your whole life together

Survey: iPhone Users See More Ads, 25% Went to Store or Purchased

A survey from mobile social network Limbo on the attitudes and behavior of 2,000 mobile phone users in the US and UK in Q4 shows, consistent with other data, that iPhone owners are more engaged across the board and are seeing more ads. They're also responding more too.

Here are some topline data from the survey report:

  • 80% of iPhone owners use mobile data vs. 60% of other mobile users
  • 10% of mobile phone owners used LBS tools in Q4: e.g., map, friend finder or restaurant locator. This was true for 22% of those in the 25-34 age group. 
  • 33% of mobile users recall seeing mobile ad in Q4 vs. 41% of iPhone users (reflecting greater ad penetration on the iPhone platform)
  • "The vast majority of these ads were seen in text messages"
  • Phone owners are 2X as likely to see ads and 4X as likely to see game-related or LBS advertising

 SMS and LBS

Source: Limbo/GfK Technology (2009) 

More than 162 million consumers used text messaging in Q4, by far the dominant form of mobile data usage

Women and younger people (18-24) are most likely to respond to ads

Specifics regarding ad response:

  • 16% of ad-aware consumers said they made a phone call to a number in an ad
  • 1 out of 7 (14%) went to a mobile website
  • 1 out of 7 "reported that they had bought a product or visited a store as a result of seeing a mobile advertisement." For iPhone users that same number is 1 in 4 (25%) actually bought something or went to a store after seeing a mobile ad (based on self reported data)

Facebook Mobile Numbers, Mobile Soc Nets Grow in Europe

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed some data about the site's growing mobile usage (summarized by AllFacebook):

  • 25 million monthly mobile uniques on a global basis
  • 4 million daily uniques (broken down by AllFacebook -- iPhone: 1.64 million daily active users; BlackBerry: 1.56 million daily active users; general mobile app: just under 1 million daily active users)

As I've said in the past, the iPhone app has made me a much more active Facebook user across the board.

Meanwhile, last week comScore released some new data showing strong growth for mobile social networks in Europe:

comscore social nets in mobile (EU)

In our past research, we found a year ago that 6% of respondents (n=789) in the US had accessed social networks from their mobile phones. The top networks were those that they used online, namely Facebook, MySpace, etc. The number today in the US is probably closer to 9% or so, consistent with the UK -- although the US is a much larger market.

If you look at the Opera data, social networks such as Facebook are always among the top sites visited. However mobile-only networks will have extreme difficulty competing with those that have established usage on the PC. A few may survive and/or be acquired but most will have to modify their content and emphasis to remain viable. 

Social networking unlike some "verticals" is a winner-take-all segment, with only a few sites able to compete at the level of scale necessary to succeed.  

Acer to Launch Smartphone, Which OS?

Taiwanese computer maker Acer, which developed the popular Aspire netbook, is reportedly launching a smartphone at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Dell is rumored to be doing something similar at the show.

The expectation is that Dell will launch a Windows Mobile phone. But what OS will the new Acer Smartphone carry -- or will it offer more than one? Acer's Apire netbook, for example, comes with Linux or Windows XP. Will the new smartphone offer Android or Windows Mobile or both? (I suppose it could also use Symbian.)

Acer is not a member of the Android Open Handset Alliance, which doesn't preclude the company from making an Android phone. As I said with Dell, simply making another Windows Mobile phone is unlikely to get much attention or traction for the company in mobile, unless it's very powerful or unusual in some way.

Storm Weakening or Gaining Strength?

There were some early rumors that the BlackBerry -- "iPhone killer" -- Storm was falling short of sales expectations and that there were a spate of returns happening. The early mixed reviews that the Storm received seemed to lend plausibility to those rumors. However, Verizon in the US was quick to try and dispel them. . . saying that the Storm, in fact, had "the lowest return rate" of any smartphone it sold.

BlackBerry has been spending millions on a media campaign to promote the phone but there are indications that it has not got the "legs" that RIM had hoped. The Wall Street Journal cites "people familiar with the matter," saying "the company sold roughly 500,000 units in the first month after the Storm's Nov. 21 launch. That is a promising start, though well off the pace of AT&T Inc.'s sale of 2.4 million iPhone 3G devices in that device's first full quarter on the market."

One of the major flaws of the device is that it doesn't have built-in WiFi. However later versions will probably rectify that error. The Bold by contrast does, and looks to my eye to be a more successful device in the near term and longer term for RIM. 

BlackBerry is firmly established in the enterprise market and my guess is that the Storm is unlikely to expand its consumer base. On the one hand, the phone is too far removed from the tastes of its core users -- enterprise customers. On the other, consumer side, the iPhone, G1 (soon other Android phones) and the forthcoming Pre are probably more attractive handsets. (Windows Mobile plans a range of announcements of more consumer-friendly features.)

BlackBerry enterprise users like their physical keyboards, which the Storm doesn't have though it tries to simulate the sensation of clicking or pressing a physical key. While conceptually innovative, the experience turns out to be both somewhat awkward and unnecessary.

Early customer satisfaction numbers for the Storm were very mixed (and quite weak compared with the iPhone):

changewave satisfaction data

Source: Changewave (12/08)

The Bold will live on in the enterprise, but to really compete with the iPhone RIM may need to substantially modify the Storm (though a price drop could be modification enough for some).

We'll get more information on whether RIM's Storm is gathering strengh weakening on Tuesday when Verizon reports Q4 earnings.


Mobile World Congress, Awards & (Coming) Microsoft Mobile Services

The Mobile World Congress is coming up in Barcelona, Spain in mid-February. The show is like CTIA in its gargantuan sweep and the barrage of announcements and press that come out of it. ZDNet points to to the nominees for a range of mobile awards in connection with the show.

The list includes some familiar and some more obscure names and companies. Of interest to me are the following categories:

  • Best Mobile Advertising Service
    Vodafone Spain: Mobile Marketing Discovery Programme
    Telstra: Telstra Mobile Codes
    cellcity: DC2Go
    Microsoft Ad Funded: Windows Live Messenger Mobile Client
    Turkcell: Tonla Kazan 
  • Best Mobile TV Service
    Telstra: Mobile FOXTEL™ from Telstra and BigPond TV
    MobiTV: MobiTV
    Yota: Yota TV
    MediaFLO USA and AT&T: FLO TV - AT&T Mobile TV
    Vodafone Netherlands: Vodafone TV
  • Best Mobile Internet Service
    Blue Lion Mobile: Qeep
    Nokia: Nokia Sports Tracker
    Bharti Airtel: Airtel Job Search
    Volantis Systems: Ubik.com
    Palringo: instant messaging service on mobile
  • Best Mobile Handset or Device
    Nokia: Nokia E71
    T-Mobile: T-Mobile G1
    INQ: INQ1
    RIM: BlackBerry Storm 9500
    LG: LG KS360
  • Best Mobile Brand Campaign
    Samsung: Everything in One Touch
    R/GA London: Nokia Urbanista Diaries
    IDEA: Cellular Education for all
    Bharti Airtel: Communications dissolves boundaries
    AdMob: Land Rover Campaign

There are many more categories and one could probably argue vigorously with some of the nominations in some of the categories.

Meanwhile Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is going to Keynote MWC (as he recently did CES). There's an expectation of a wide range of mobile announcements, including WinMo 6.5 and a competitor to Apple's flawed MobileMe service, as well as an centralized applications market a la iTunes. 

At CES earlier this month Ballmer made the announcement that Microsoft would become the default search provider for Verizon Wireless in the US in a multi-year deal that includes a range of ad types. We'll have to actually wait until the MWC keynote to see what gets announced this time around.

Finally, in recent weeks, Microsoft executives implied that the number of Windows Mobile phones in the market would be reduced. That makes sense because the proliferation of WinMo devices has partly impaired the development of a strong brand identity, which is now necessary to succeed in the newly, intensely competitive mobile handset market. 

Predicting the Pre's Price & G1 Goes to Europe

One issue that is critical to the Pre's success is its price. For all its beautiful design and functionality the more mundane consideration of price may determine how successfully it sells.

Precommunity speculates that it may be as much as $399 with a two-year contract. I doubt that it will be that expensive given that the iPhone is $199 and the G1 $179. A price that is 2X greater than these formidable competitors will dampen sales of the devices, which both Palm and Sprint need. 

I'm guessing it will come in around $200, which will likely be the new competitive price ceiling in the US for subsidized smartphones going forward. 

In Germany T-Mobile is selling the G1 Android phone for 1 Euro in a super-aggressive subsidy with a two-year contract. T-Mobile is rolling the phone out this month and next in most European countries. It has been available in the UK for several months. 

Samsung's Android phone is expected later this year in the US (Spint and T-Mobile). And the highly anticipated Android/G1 software update that adds a virtual keyboard is reportedly coming at the end of the month.

Separately a new survey found that many mobile phone buyers in the US and UK are very frustrated by the set up process and the complexity of many mobile phones. 

Google's Dodgeball and Jaiku: The Mobile Roads Not Taken

As part of cost-cutting and internal focus and streamlining, Google is shutting down a range of under-performing, neglected or little-used services. These include:

  • Google Catalog Search
  • Google Notebook
  • Google Video uploads
  • Google Mashup Editor
  • Jaiku
  • Dodgeball

These are not the first products/services that Google has walked away from. However, the recession is making the company focus more on products and services that are more central to its objectives and abandon things that have emerged as diversions or are not as successful. 

Google acquired the "Twitter-like" Jaiku in October of 2007. Location awareness was part of the functionality of the "micro-blogging" service. Google never really developed the service or its potential. Now it says it will make the code open source for others to use and develop:

As we mentioned last April, we are in the process of porting Jaiku over to Google App Engine. After the migration is complete, we will release the new open source Jaiku Engine project on Google Code under the Apache License. While Google will no longer actively develop the Jaiku codebase, the service itself will live on thanks to a dedicated and passionate volunteer team of Googlers.

With the open source Jaiku Engine project, organizations, groups and individuals will be able to roll-their-own microblogging services and deploy them on Google App Engine. The new Jaiku Engine will include support for OAuth, and we're excited about developers using this proven code as a starting point in creating a freely available and federated, open source microblogging platform.

Google is also shuttering Dodgeball, which the company bought for an undisclosed amount in 2005. It was one of the first mobile-social networks but way way ahead of the curve. After Google brought the service it largely neglected it and others eclipsed it. Here's what the founders said when Dodgeball was acquired:

"We talked to a lot of different angel investors and venture capitalists, but no one really 'got' what we were doing -- that is until we met Google. The people at Google think like us. They looked at us in a "You're two guys doing some pretty cool stuff, why not let us help you out and let's see what you can do with it' type of way."

. . . And when they left in 2007:

It's no real secret that Google wasn't supporting dodgeball the way we expected. The whole experience was incredibly frustrating for us - especially as we couldn't convince them that dodgeball was worth engineering resources, leaving us to watch as other startups got to innovate in the mobile + social space. And while it was a tough decision (and really disappointing) to walk away from dodgeball, I'm actually looking forward to getting to work on other projects again.

There were many things that could have been done with these services, but weren't. At one time Google took what I've called a sort of "Darwinian" view of its products -- either they caught on or they didn't. The company generally allowed them to sink or swim without lots of centralized planning or promtion. There are of course high profile exceptions to this observation. But the approach was a part of Google's culture, which is now changing under the weight of recession.

I wouldn't argue it's "tragic" or unfortunate that these services are being discontinued, although Jaiku will theoretically live on. However it's an illustration that Google misses opportunities and is bogged down by some of the same "big company" challenges and inertia that affect others. It's also true that the mobile universe has evolved substantially since 2005 -- even 2007 -- and the company is now concetrating its mobile push on things like Android, the iPhone and porting its core services and search over to the "mobile Web." The company is building a kind of parallel universe in mobile.

SMS, though used by far more people than the mobile Internet, appears to be less of a priority for Google. For example, Google SMS search wasn't working last week for a number of hours; the company appeared to have a very casual attitude about the outage. (Imagine, by comparison, if Google's mobile site or app or its online search wasn't working for several hours.)

Whatever your attitude it's clear that both Jaiku and Dodgeball represent missed opportunities for Google in mobile.

___

Apparently, the erstwhile Dodgeball founders are going to build a new version of the app:

So what's next? Well I don't know how many days we have left (30 days? 90 days?), but I've always said that it Google ever kills dodgeball, I'l build you guys a new one, so stayed tuned. (some of you know that me + Naveen have been cooking up some new stuff which is looking kind of hot). We'll hustle to get something for everyone to play with at SXSW.

Nokia's Challenge in North America

As Fortune points out, Nokia is the dominant smartphone maker and the dominant handset maker in the world, but it continues to struggle in the US market. The article argues that Nokia's success formula outside the US has limited its prospects in the US:

The problem is not the product. The n97 might not be ready for sale, but Nokia's e71, which looks like a sleeker version of the BlackBerry Curve, has won design awards and dominates many European markets. And it has several phones in its n-series of multimedia devices that boast the best cameras and videocams in the biz. North American president Mark Louison says U.S. carriers will soon support the phones. But ask the phone companies, and they say they have no plans to roll out Nokia smartphones anytime soon.

By lagging in smartphones Nokia isn't just missing out on sales; it may also be losing the attention of software developers that make cool games and applications for mobile devices, a growing number of which operate in the U.S.

Nokia is reinventing itself yet again as an Internet company, a sort of Yahoo.com for your phone. It is trying to woo application developers to its mobile platform through offices in Silicon Valley and Boston. You'd think it would be tantalizing to write software for the world's largest mobile platform. But ask developers worldwide to show you their favorite mobile apps, and they'll probably pull out their iPhones.

The North American market has become the dominant mobile Internet market -- and the most competitive -- in a very short period of time. 

The AdMob data show how quickly the iPhone has encroached on Nokia's smartphone share:

Mobile OS by Region

Here's a closer look at the US smartphone market; Symbian is flat at less than 5%:

 OS in US

Although the Fortune piece argues that devices/handsets aren't the problem Nokia needs to excite people with a handset in the way that the Pre has appeared to rekindle Palm's fortunes in one stroke. Perhaps the N97 is that phone, although its suggested price €550 ($695) will likely prevent it from becoming mainstream vs. cheaper competitors in the US market.

Failure to gain a larger share of the US and North American market means eventual share losses in Western Europe and possibly elsewhere.

KGB Moves Further Beyond 'DA' with Texperts Acquisition

The idea of a distributed network of non-professional "responders" to a mobile question or search is one logical evolution of DA -- the original form of mobile search. In the past we informally labeled this concept "social DA." It's the marriage of search and social networking in a mobile context.

Mosio has tried to develop that model; ChaCha is working with a version of that model and, in the UK, so is the paid service Texperts. (Twitter may eventually develop this as well.)

Similar in many respects to ChaCha, Texperts uses a distributed group of individuals who must pass basic testing requirements. They're paid, as are ChaCha's guides. But unlike ChaCha, users pay for the Texperts service -- like traditional DA.

DA purveyor KGB this morning announced that it had acquired the UK based service: 

Texperts will deepen kgb's market strength and service capability for mobile text services. The success of both companies demonstrates that consumers have a growing need for the instant availability of simple, accurate and hassle-free delivery of information on their mobile phone. The acquisition will also enhance kgb's ability to build on the initial success of the company's text advertising program (www.118118advertising.com), launched in 2007 in the U.K., which enables advertisers to reach consumers via the medium of mobile text, a highly effective and cost efficient alternative to more traditional mass media.

It's not immediately clear whether the existing Texperts model will be retained (I'm assuming it will). But it's a fascinating thing to watch KGB (formerly DA wholesaler InfoNXX) evolve from a traditional DA provider to carriers to a consumer-focused, mobile search platform with ad support. 

Here are previous posts on KGB.  

Vodafone Buys its own GPS firm, Wayfinder

In an effort to control the costs of making mobile applications that are "geo-aware" Vodafone acquired Wayfinder, a Swedish developer of location-based services. The two companies have a history of working together to offer GPS services in some of the countries in Western Europe. But Vodafone's services in Germany, the Netherlands and Portugal have been offered in conjunction with TomTom, which acquired digital map specialist Tele Atlas earlier this year.

Something about the purchase price (roughly $29 million in cash) has led shares in TomTom to surge on European exchanges. One explanation is that Vodafone, which had acquired the Danish social networking specialist ZYB in May of this year, is taking more control of local social networking offers through its affiliates. In that case, it regards Wayfinder as a component for a robust set of home-grown (more accurately 'recently acquired') mobile services. Such a strategy points to more opportunities to knit TomTom's resources into the mix, at the expense of alternative mobile content and service providers, specifically Nokia.

The role of wireless carriers in providing innovative services remains a matter of great uncertainty. The "AppStore" model for publicizing and distributing a constant stream of new applications from third parties is certainly gaining traction with iPhone users and is certain to become the model for the new generation of "open platforms" for mobile services. This approach makes it less and less likely that wireless subscribers will turn to their carriers as the sole source of mobile applications.

If anything, the $29 million sale price is a testimony to the fact that "there's no better time to buy!" innovative technology firms. ZYB cost Vodafone $50 million just four months ago. By contrast, TomTom spent 2 billion Euros (more than $4 billion-with a "b") for TeleAtlas and its resources for generating and maintaining digital maps and navigational services around the world. Spending mere millions to take control of resources for integrating geo-awareness into local, social networking services is a small price to pay.

Apple vs. Nokia: One Up, One Down & a $99 iPhone?

Finnish phone giant and marketshare leader announced that Q4 and 2009 will be worse than expected (off by 5% vs. 2008). Further, the company said, "it can no longer be certain its fourth-quarter market share will be stable at 38%," according to MarketWatch.

Beyond the economy Nokia's market share dominance has been threatened by the global rollout of the iPhone, which is now reportedly the second-leading smartphone in the world -- with an almost 17% smartphone market share according to one analyst. AdMob has reflected the global growth of the iPhone on its network. 

Earlier in the week Nokia announced its costly "iPhone Killer," the N97. The N97 won't be out until the first half of next year and won't come to the US until later in the year, giving the iPhone more time to become completely entrenched and potentially address some of its perceived deficiencies: battery life, cut and paste, video, etc. 

One of the things that is propelling the iPhone, beyond its iPod-like iconic status now, is the apps marketplace that -- at least until Android, RIM and (maybe) WinMo can catch up -- make it unique and all the more appealing.

Another thing that has propelled the device is the AT&T subsidy/price cut that was announced when the 3G model was introduced. To that end, the Boy Genius Report offers a dubious rumor that a 4GB model of the iPhone may be sold through Wal-Mart for $99. If true you'd see that model fly off the shelves. 

As indicated there are several ways in which the N97 beats the iPhone. But the proliferation of would-be touch-screen iPhone Killers in the market only serves to ironically reinforce the iPhone as the "brand" and the others -- unless or until they're better or at least comparable on a range of fronts, including apps -- as imitators or also-rans. This is exactly what happened in the portable music player market with the iPod.

Nokia Releases the N97: Perhaps the Best 'iPhone Killer' Yet

We have the Omnia, the Dare, the G1, the Storm, the Touch Diamond/Pro and the list keeps growing. Add to the ranks of touch-screen "iPhone Killers" the new N97, announced by Nokia today in Barcelona at the company's Nokia World event. From the press release:

Nokia today unveiled the Nokia N97, the world's most advanced mobile computer, which will transform the way people connect to the Internet and to each other. Designed for the needs of Internet-savvy consumers, the Nokia N97 combines a large 3.5" touch display with a full QWERTY keyboard, providing an 'always open' window to favorite social networking sites and Internet destinations. Nokia's flagship Nseries device introduces leading technology - including multiple sensors, memory, processing power and connection speeds - for people to create a personal Internet and share their 'social location.'

What is "social location":

With integrated A-GPS sensors and an electronic compass, the Nokia N97 mobile computer intuitively understands where it is. The Nokia N97 makes it easy to update social networks automatically with real-time information, giving approved friends the ability to update their 'status' and share their 'social location' as well as related pictures or videos.

A little bit AT&T Tilt (HTC), a lot iPhone the device does (reportedly) have a number of important features that the iPhone doesn't:

  • Cut and paste
  • Video (DVD quality)
  • 5 megapixel camera 
  • GPS-enabled turn by turn directions
  • And it starts out with 32GB of storage, expandable to 48GB

The service is also tied in with Nokia's Ovi (modeled now on Apple's MobileMe), music and gaming services, as well as a new and improved version of Nokia Maps.

At least in terms of the several bullets above, the N97 outdoes the iPhone in some important ways. There are also apparently some drawbacks vs. the iPhone. The unsubsidized price is apparently a whopping €550 ($695). And the phone will first be available in Asia in 1H '09 with a US version at an unspecified time later next year.

It was important for Nokia to develop a high-end response to the iPhone, which together with other competitors has eroded Nokia market share.

You can read more preliminary reviews and commentary at Techmeme. And here's Nokia video of the phone in action.

Nokia N97

Yahoo! Does UK Mobile Search Deal with Virgin

Fresh off its recent deal with the US arm of T-Mobile to become default mobile search provider, Yahoo! has just added Virgin Mobile in the UK. Virgin Mobile in the UK has roughly four million subscribers. That brings to roughly 80 the number of carrier search relationships in Yahoo!'s corner -- providing potential reach of more than 850 million customers collectively across the globe.

In the US the carrier search deals are as follows:

  • Verizon: Microsoft or Google (probably Microsoft; no announcement yet)
  • AT&T: Yahoo!
  • Sprint: Google & Microsoft (relationship favors Google)
  • T-Mobile: Yahoo!

US mobile search market share looks similar to what it is on the desktop, with Yahoo (depending on the source) enjoying a somewhat higher share than it has online. However, comScore reported that for September the “carrier’s search engine” had a greater market share than Microsoft Live or AOL search in mobile. Our August data show a smaller share for the carrier's search engine, below that of Microsoft. 

These "default relationships" are thus significant but somewhat less significant at the high end (e.g., iPhone) where people can access the "full Internet" and use their search engine of choice. 

Yell Puts QR Codes on Print Directories

In a new experiment UK directory publisher Yell has added 2D barcodes to the cover of two of its print directories, which provide access to weather and entertainment information. According to the release issued earlier today:

Yell is to trial innovative smart codes on the front covers of two editions of its Yellow Pages directories, enabling consumers to obtain the latest local cinema and weather information via the mobile internet.

Two interactive smart codes published on the covers of the new Edinburgh and Cardiff editions of Yellow Pages in December will feature an encoded URL that hyperlinks consumers to the mobile internet. They will provide an innovative and quick way for Yellow Pages consumers who have a mobile phone with an internet service to obtain the latest cinema and weather information.

Users are required to download software that enables the phone to read the barcodes (and thus may it have limited adoption). However if successful, this has much more widespread potential application thoughout the directory.

It's yet another example of how mobile can be used to extend and make traditional media more dynamic.

Yell Cover

Mobile QR

UK Advertising Authority Spanks Apple for Speed Claims

The UK Advertising Standards Authority has rebuked Apple (again) for what it says are false claims in ads used by the company to sell the iPhone in Great Britain. According to a report from the BBC:

The advert repeatedly stated that the phone was "really fast" and showed news pages and the Google maps service taking just fractions of a second to appear.

Text on the screen said: "Network performance will vary by location."

After upholding the viewers' complaints, the ASA said the advert must not appear again in the same form.

It said the advert was likely to lead viewers to believe that the device actually operated at or near to the speeds shown in the advert.

The watchdog concluded: "Because we understood that it did not, we concluded that the ad was likely to mislead."

The issue here is not with the phone but the underlying network. While regulation is necessary to protect consumers against false claims and manipulation, this would seem a bit excessive.

comScore: SMS Ads Growing in Europe

SMS ads are growing in Europe according to comScore/M:Metrics. The following are data released on ad volumes and response rates in the major Western EU countries comparing August 2007 to August 2008. The following was the general summary that comScore offered of the landscape:

The fastest-growing category of SMS advertising since August 2007 is food, at a rate of 53 percent, followed by clothing/fashion at 38 percent and restaurants at 37 percent. Advertisements for restaurants and food also boast the highest level of response, with 16 percent of those receiving an advert for a restaurant responding and 13 percent of those receiving an offer for food, such as grocery coupons, responding.  Meanwhile, the number of consumers responding to an offer for a mobile product or service remained flat, at four percent.

Local restaurant and grocery coupon deals: 16% and 13% response rates respectively. This is extremely impressive and indicates one of the near term opportunities in LBS. The comScore data generally correspond with recent HipCricket US consumer survey findings:

Areas of mobile/SMS coupon interest:

  • Food and beverage -- 51%
  • Entertainment/media -- 40%
  • Retail -- 24%
  • Apparel -- 23%
  • Mobile carriers -- 21%

Here are the comScore tables on SMS advertising (and response rates) and general mobile activities in Europe:

comScore SMS data

comScore mobile activities

Poll: G1 Sees Mixed Interest in UK Debut

In the US the G1 has (so far) appeared to be a hit. But according to one report, it has (so far) not sparked as much enthusiasm among UK mobile phone buyers:

Of the 1,347 respondents to the vnunet.com poll, almost a third said they were not interested in purchasing a G1. The main barrier to purchase was price.

Just over a third of respondents, 464 in all, said the £40 per month contract was too expensive; a further 330 respondents (24 per cent) said they preferred the Apple iPhone or a different smartphone; while another four per cent said they would not purchase the G1 as it was unsuitable for business use.

Only 19 per cent of respondents said they were planning on signing up to the current T-Mobile G1 contract option.

The phone is now selling in the UK, as of last week. 

This is another finding where one could flip it around and regard the 19% who indicated they were going to sign up for the G1 as a highly positive figure. 

EU Vodafone-Visa Mobile Promotion a Success

Fierce Wireless and Mobile News report on the results of a mobile advertising (SMS) test in Europe by Vondafone and Visa:

Vodafone customers received welcome texts when abroad reminding them to dial the UK country code +44 if calling home, along with a promotion to win tickets to the Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Games with Visa if they used their card abroad.

Some 150,000 messages were sent to Vodafone customers in eight countries during the two week trial in May. Of those receiving messages, 86 per cent remembered receiving the welcome message promotion and 74 per cent opened and read the message.

Those response rates are huge. However, apparently respondents gave mixed reviews of the campaign but, reportedly, 50% were open to future promotions if "relevant."

Overall, smartphone users are more open to ads than those on feature phones. But the population of mobile users in general is warming up to mobile advertising. On the latter subject, clients should see:

KGB Adds Yahoo Exec to Management Team

Directory assistance and mobile search provider KGB (formerly InfoNXX) has added a former Yahoo! mobile executive to its team:

[KGB] announced the appointment of Bruce Stewart as CEO of the new global Mobile & Digital division. Stewart leaves his post as Vice President & General Manager of the Connected Life Americas Division with Yahoo! (YHOO) based in Sunnyvale, California to join kgb, a privately-held, New York-based company known for having built some of the most highly successful and recognizable brands in the telecommunication services sector. Stewart will join kgb this fall . . .

Stewart also drove the growth of new mobile services including mobile search, mobile advertising, and launched mobile finance and news content sites, and new sports properties such as March Madness, Olympics, and Fantasy Football. He has significant experience developing major Web properties within Internet brands and has had responsibility for a large revenue and employee base. Prior to Yahoo!, Bruce served as a Senior Vice President with America Online (AOL) working on the Netscape brand,