Europe

Opera Mini 5 Launches, Great Features

Opera has released its Opera Mini 5 browser. It represents a significant leap forward and ahead of Skyfire. There are a great many upgrades and improvements. At the moment I'm unable to download it onto my Android phone. But here's the feature list:

  • Speed Dial (like the online version)
  • Password manager (great feature to eliminate the need to keep re-entering password information)
  • Tabbed browsing (available on Opera Mobile) 

It's also optimzed for touch-screen phones such as Windows Mobile, Android phones or the BlackBerry Storm. It's not available for the iPhone or Palm Pre. The user experience represented in the video below is superior to the Android's own Webkit browser:

Opera mini 5

Not long ago I spoke with Opera CEO Jon von Tetzchner. Among other things we talked about the ongoing apps vs. mobile browser debate. He sides with Google and believes that most content and activity on mobile devices will ultimately be through a browser. One might expect the CEO of a company that makes a mobile browser to say that. In fairness, he and Opera have been articulating a "one Web" vision for some time. 

Accordingly, von Tetzchner argued that the mobile Web was today like the PC Internet in the beginning, with competing closed systems: Compuserve, Prodigy, AOL, etc. I found the analogy persuasive. However I don't believe that the mobile Web and PC experiences will be identical (except maybe on tablets). Publishers and advertisers will have to optimize for the mobile Web. That optimized experience could be delivered via a Web browser or an application. But as browser experiences improve there will be more engagement across more mobile platforms through the browser and the "balance of power" will shift somewhat. 

Opera Mini 5 makes both BlackBerry and Windows Mobile more competitive user experiences (vs. the iPhone and Android). Neither mobile IE nor BlackBerry's browser are currently up to competitive snuff. So Opera is a great asset to both. BlackBerry recently acquired a webkit development shop, which may result in a strong homegrown browser from BlackBerry (this is what the company has promised). 

Eventually I believe we'll see Opera on the iPhone, after Apple begins to recognize it's not a compeitive threat. Meanwhile Fennec is still waiting in the wings and currently still only available for Windows Mobile and (I believe) Nokia's Maemo.  

UK Operator Orange Becomes Exclusive Cliq/Dext/Blur Android Carrier

UK carrier Orange (France Telecom) is to be the exclusive carrier of the new Motorola Dext (the Cliq in the US) avec Motoblur. Reportedly the carrier will offer the device for free provided that users sign up for a two-year contract at £34.26 ($55.67) per month.

I don't know the plan details (how many minutes, how much data) but that's considerably cheaper than most smartphone plans in the US. Plus the phone is free, which is currently unheard of for a smartphone in America (although they're getting more aggressively subsidized in the US). 

The Dext should be a hit for Orange, which has lost buzz to rival O2 (owned by Telefonica). O2 has been the iPhone carrier in the UK. But the rumor is now that Orange is going to get the iPhone relatively soon.

Mobile phones constitute the top search subcategory in the consumer-electronics segment in the UK. And within mobile, the iPhone far outstrips other search queries (per Hitwise):

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Here are some additional facts about the UK mobile market (per Ofcom): 

  • 77 million mobile subscriptions in the UK, more than one per person
  • Users on contracts: 30 million in 2008. Pay as you go fell to just under 47 million
  • More than 80 billion texts in 2008: 100 texts per person, per month
  • Consumers made 100+ billion minutes of calls in 2008, 123 minutes, per mobile, per month
  • Mobile-only: 12% of UK HH. Compare US: 17%

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Related: Motorola is in talks with other US carriers to sell the Cliq (currently T-Mobile is the exclusive provider). And the new Android SDK (1.6) offers "support for CDMA and additional screen sizes." 

Deutsche Telekom Looking Again at Sprint

A little over a year ago, there were rumors that Deutsche Telekom (owner of T-Mobile) was considering a bid for number three US carrier Sprint. Those rumors died down but now have been revived by a report appearing yesterday in a British newspaper that suggested the German giant was again considering making a play for Sprint.

Sprint's market cap is $10.6 billion. T-Mobile is the fourth largest US carrier, after Sprint.

A combination of the two companies would result in a mobile subscriber base of 82 million, to become the second-largest US carrier with all the Sprint 3G and 4G (WiMax) assets. T-Mobile's 3G network remains not fully built out in the US. Yet the handset/network technologies of the two companies are different: GSM (T-Mobile) vs. CDMA (Sprint), but this isn't an insurmountable obstacle. However, Sprint's merger with Nextel is accused of being the source of many of the embattled carrier's current problems. 

Here are the Q2 subscriber numbers:

  • Verizon: 87.7 million
  • AT&T: 79.6 million
  • Sprint (+ Virgin Mobile): 48.8 million
  • T-Mobile: 33.5 million
  • MetroPCS: 6.3 million

In the past couple of weeks, T-Mobile and France Telecom agreed to establish a joint venture and merge their UK wireless businesses. This Sprint-T-Mobile report is just speculation at this point, but it probably has some basis in fact. We'll see if a formal bid happens. 

If the acquisition or merger were to happen it would likely trigger a wave of consolidation at the low end of the market as well. 

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Related: Here's a video of a Charlie Rose interview with Sprint CEO Dan Hesse. 

Update: Reuters sources' say the merger/acquisition isn't going to happen. 

Nokia Buys Plum: Social Net for Small Groups, Families

Nokia has acquired the assets of a small social network platform called Plum. Plum is intended for small groups, friends and families. It allows users to create "private social networks." The way the site describes its service is as follows: 

Plum is for anyone who wants to stay connected and share in a more private way than is currently possible on big social networks like Facebook. With Plum you can set up social groups for close friends, your family, roommates, co-workers, your church, your basketball league, school…

In its FAQs Plum tries to answer the question, "why should I use it if I'm already on Facebook?": 

We're big fans of Facebook. It is a wonderful service for staying in touch with and broadcasting to large number of "friends" — people you may know. Yet, in real-life we all belong to many different social groups — family, school, work, sports team, church and so forth. Plum lets you set up or join different groups for different people and interests in your life. We are not suggesting you stop using Facebook. But we are asking that you try us out for groups of friends or family where you may not want everything you post and say to be visible to all your friends.

The amount of the transaction was not disclosed.

Among the companies it has acquired Nokia has bought two social networks: Cellity and Plazes, based in Berlin. The Plum price was probably not significant for Nokia and it helps the company as it transforms into a broader content and services play beyond simply being a hardware OEM. 

Orange and Deutsche Telekom to Form UK Joint Venture

The speculation is over regarding what is to happen with T-Mobile's troubled UK unit. The Wall Street Journal is reporting this afternoon that France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom will form a UK joint venture:

The deal is expected to be signed Monday and announced Tuesday, before markets open, the people said.

The joint venture, described by the people familiar with the situation as a "merger of equals," will have a combined 30 million customers, excluding Virgin Mobile, which runs on T-Mobile's network, and 38% of the fiercely competitive U.K. mobile market, where it will battle with O2, Vodafone Group PLC and Hutchison Whampoa Ltd.'s 3.

Orange will thus become the largest carrier in the UK. Reportedly both Vodafone and O2-owner Telefonica were bidding for T-Mobile UK. There's considerable speculation that Orange is to get the iPhone in October, as well. O2 has been the exclusive carrier to date in the UK. Though Orange has the iPhone in France. 

Related: Bloomberg offers some additional information:

[The JV will] create the country’s largest cellular operator with revenue of 9.4 billion euros ($13.5 billion)  . . . [and] will have 28.4 million users, or 37 percent of the U.K. market, ousting Telefonica SA’s O2 service from the top spot.

The deal shrinks the number of mobile-phone operators in the U.K. to four, with the others being Vodafone Group Plc and Hutchison Whampoa Ltd., helping shore up profit in one of the most competitive markets in Europe.

Here's more detail from the Orange site

PNDs: From Hardware to Software

As more and more people buy smartphones with location-enabled maps or use free or low-cost navigation tools available on smartphones the PND market becomes less and less viable as an independent hardware category. We've argued this in the past. The arrival of TomTom, among others, and a slew of car mounts for the iPhone make the smartphone a near-complete replacement for PNDs.

Garmin is making phones (with ASUS) to extend its life, but it's now only a matter of time before the hardware side of the category is swallowed up by smartphones. Dash Navigation, which had intended to revolutionize the PND market by offering two-way connectivity, didn't last a year. In June it was acquired by RIM to support navigation services on the BlackBerry.

The only way that PNDs can survive as a separate hardware category is by either being priced below smartphones or by beefing up available content and functionality, which is at odds with cheaper pricing. The danger if they move to pure software strategy, however, is that free or very low cost apps do a "good enough" job of helping users get from A to B to discourage the majority from buying or subscribing. 

Smartphones & eBook Readers: Price = Penetration

Nokia is now making its N900 Linux (not Symbian) based "mobile computer" available for pre-order across the globe. Although there are early mixed reviews of the device, which I have not used, most are generally positive. What then is the outlook for this smartphone by another name? In the US at least it's bleak -- very bleak.

Why do I say that? Mainly because the company is charging $649 (452 EUR). What the heck is Nokia thinking? The company apparently hasn't learned the lesson of the N97. Nokia's "flagship" smartphone, launched without carrier support in the US in June, and was priced at more than $700. It has been a spectacular failure to date. 

Now the company appears poised to duplicate that failure with the N900, chiefly because of the pricing. 

By contrast, Taiwan-based ASUS is set to launch the world's cheapest eReader and shake up the market. The new device features a unique "book-like" design that can be closed and has a foldable spine:

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There are now probably about 10 readers in the market or coming very soon. The ASUS Eee Reader reportedly will be out by the end of the year. Amazon's Kindle 2 (as opposed to the DX) is $299. Sony has already beaten that price by $100 with its recently announced eReader pocket edition ($199). And the Eee Reader will apparently come in at or below £100 (approx. $163). 

Despite the affection many of its owners have for it, the Kindle is not the iPhone and it won't have the ability to resist these cheaper rivals. Meanwhile Apple is going to come out with a tablet of some kind either late this year or early next. That device will be expensive by comparison but it will be positioned as more than an eReader (media tablet) and so may find an audience despite its price tag. One can assume that iPhone apps will work on it. 

But price will largely drive eReader adoption and the sub-$200 price point is the one that will generate mainstream appeal. The "winning device" will be connected, cost $200, offer a color touch screen and offer full Internet browsing. And as these connected readers proliferate the world of the "mobile Internet" becomes more interesting and complex.

Nokia All but Done in US Market

Handset titan Nokia recently has done some high profile deals (with Microsoft and Facebook) intended to compete with BlackBerry as well as more generally reinvigorate its US strategy. But you might as well stick a fork in the Finnish OEM because for all intents and purposes it's done in the US.

Now my assessment might change if:

  • Nokia develops some very inexpensive and highly functional phones that capture the low end of the market
  • Nokia buys Palm
  • Nokia abandons Symbian and adopts Android or Linux or both

However short of a highly disciplined approach to the market or a radical move such as a major acquisition or walking away from Symbian, which it's starting to do, there's just too much established competition among smartphone handsets for Nokia to make any big gains at the top end of the market.

Recently at the Nokia World event CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo said "We have not given up, not mentally and not in practice." The numbers are going in the wrong direction however. Symbian saw its global market share decline from 62.3% at the end of 2007 to 47% at the end of 2008. That number further declined to 45% as of the most recent (Q2) Gartner handset numbers.

Taking a look at AdMob's mobile metrics reports for January through July of this year we see that among smartphones, the iPhone and Android grew while all other platforms flat-lined or declined. Nokia's Symbian, for example, declines from roughly 1% to less than 1% (it disappears into "other" as the year progresses). 

 Mobile Web Browsing Market Share (US market)

admob Source: AdMob mobile metrics reports Jan-July, 2009

Absent some radical new phones, strategy or action on Nokia's part, the company is facing an almost insurmountable uphill climb in the US. And the Nokia brand in the US equally continues to lose resonance with consumers; that in turn hurts Nokia's efforts to excite consumers with handsets and services. 

Wikitude Offers Another AR "Browser" for Android

Wikitude is an augmented reality (AR) "browser," the second I discovered (the company said it preceeded Layar). AR apps are starting to emerge and proliferate on both the iPhone and Android platforms. As one high-profile example, there's an AR element of the new Yelp iPhone app. For more background see:

Wikitude offers a number of ways to diplay and view content: as a list (conventional search results), on a map or through a camera-based AR display. Giving people these various options makes the application much more useful than if it only offered the camera-AR display.

There are currently three data sources that feed into Wikitude results: Wikipedia, the community and UK local search provider Qype (US data are also in the app). There's also a Wikitude AR naviation system, which is potentially more useful than the Wikitude AR local search functionality. Here's a video of the "augmented navigation" in action:

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Wikitude is a product of Austrian company Mobilizy. 

As a search tool, AR starts to take advantage of the unique attributes and features of the mobile device, rather than just being an extension of the PC with better location awareness. That said, AR is in its infancy and still not that useful. As I said previously:

There are use cases and scenarios that will emerge over time that will be very well suited to this new interface and search tool. Today what we have however is a kind of demo version of future experiences that will be truly useful and impressive.

Gartner: Asia to Be Leading Ad Market by 2013

Gartner's is the latest in the flood of mobile ad forecasts to hit the market. As reported in MediaPost, here are the highlights:

  • Global mobile ad spending in 2009: $913.5 million.
  • Spending accelarates in 2011.
  • By 2013 the global mobile ad market will be worth approximately $13 billion.

The leading region (probably based on the number of subscribers and handsets, rather than the characteristics of the ad market) is Asia, followed by North America and Europe, according to the IT consulting firm.

Gartner says the leading ad category will be display, followed by search, apps and SMS. 

The company also sees smartphones constituting 45.5% of handset sales by 2013. This may be aggressive, however. It depends on pricing chiefly. But developments such as the BlackBerry Storm being cut to $50 (in anticipation of Storm 2) and the $99 iPhone 3G will continue to drive smartphone growth. 

In addition the upgrading of feature phone capabilities is a bit of a wildcard in mobile ad forecasting. Certainly SMS is a universal platform that is handset "agnostic," but other types of ads will likely make their way into improved feature phones over the next few years. 

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Related: Separately, Forrester said that European mobile Internet penetration will be 39% by 2014. My belief is that this figure is conservative. However the degree of engagement is highly variable and dependent on dataplan and smartphone adoption.  

And the EU is investing in LTE to boost mobile Internet speeds and growth. This will help drive adoption. In Europe mobile subscribers pay considerably less on average than in North America. 

MyTouch3G TV Ad Takes a Page from Apple

The iPhone has profoundly affected the design of smartphones. It also appears to have affected the marketing of one of the iPhone's primary competitors: the Android Magic/MyTouch3G.

This weekend I saw the T-Mobile MyTouch3G commercial for the first time. What immediately struck me is how the TV ad looked just like an Apple commercial (and thus subtly invoked/evoked Apple and the iPhone). But the ad equally tries to compete with and distance itself from the iPhone by suggesting (without mentioning it) that the iPhone is generic, with the MyTouch3G can be personalized.

At the end of the commercial the alleged personalization capability of the device is emphasized. Watch the video:

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Mobile Payments Gain Momentum, Nokia Announces System Based on Obopay

Mobile payments will one day soon be big business, especially in the developing world. Seeking a piece of the action, this morning Nokia announced a mobile payments and financial service, Nokia Money, based on the Obopay infrastructure. According to the press release:

Nokia Money has been designed to be as simple and convenient as making a voice call or sending an SMS. It will enable consumers to send money to another person just by using the person's mobile phone number, as well as to pay merchants for goods and services, pay their utility bills, or recharge their prepaid SIM cards (SIM top-up). The services can be accessed 24 hours a day from anywhere, meaning savings in travel costs and time. Nokia is building a wide network of Nokia Money agents, where consumers can deposit money in or withdraw cash from their accounts . . .

The Nokia Money service will be operated in cooperation with Obopay, a leader in developing global mobile payment solutions, which Nokia invested in earlier this year. The service is based on Obopay's mobile payment platform, with unique and newly developed mobile elements. Nokia intends the service to be open and interoperable with other payment services as well.

As Nokia points out in the release there are nearly 4 billion mobile phones in the world but only 1.6 billion bank accounts -- hence the opportunity Nokia perceives, especially in non-Western countries without the same financial infrastructure. 

In March of this year Nokia invested an estimated $70 million in Obopay. If the new Nokia Money service gains adoption it could mean Nokia will make an effort to buy the rest of the company. 

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Related: Facebook begins testing mobile payments with Zong

Opera: State of Mobile Web, July 2009

Opera released its "State of the Mobile Web" report for July this morning. It should be remembered that Opera data are not identical to all mobile Internet usage. The Opera browser is not well represented on smartphones, though it is so far the browser of choice among BlackBerry users. (However RIM acquired TorchMobile, a webkit browser developer to boost its mobile Web usability.)

The following are data on top sites and handsets for the US, UK and Chinese markets. Other markets are presented in the data available on the Opera site: 

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The growth of Opera's global unique users is a kind of mirror or proxy for the rapid growth of the mobile Internet itself:

opera growth

Opera is also important because most of the usage data coming out is skewed toward smartphones, which are still a small part of the overall market.

Orange Brings LG Watchphone to UK

France Telecom/Orange in the UK has introduced the LG watchphone. It has a touchscreen and features video calling. According to the release out this morning, it's being positioned as a kind of fashion statement:

Available on a first-come-first-serve basis, and one device per customer to those who arrive in person at the store - the handmade 3G+ watchphone will guarantee those fortunate enough to purchase one that they’ll turn heads on the high street. The device’s slick scratch resistant touch-screen interface makes writing text messages easy, while an in-built speaker and MP3/AAC player lets you listen to the Essential James Bond theme album when you’re imprisoned in a fake volcano or battling with Jaws.

I have to say: c'est cool. But what about background noise? Click the image below to see the phone in action. 

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While we might label this a novelty device that is not mainstream -- especially not a price point of £500 (just over $800) -- this (hopefully) is just the beginning of creative, connected devices that we'll start to see in the market. 

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Related: Here are some potential "phones of the future." Less futuristic, we're also likely to see the first Android tablet, the Archos 5, in the West by mid-September.

Will Nokia Fall Further?

Nokia is the dominant handset maker in the world. But it has seen that position erode, especially in the smartphone market. For example, Symbian saw its global market share decline from 62.3% at the end of 2007 to 47% at the end of 2008. That number further declined to 45% as of the most recent (Q2) Gartner handset numbers.

Now an article at MarketWatch, playing off a report from investment firm Goldman Sachs, reflects that Nokia may be stumbling at a critical time:

Nokia has also taken too long to upgrade its main software platform, the Symbian Series 60, which is now deemed too bulky and complex by many users, in particular when it comes to the touch interface.

"Our experience with the N97 has convinced us that Nokia needs to start almost from scratch to create an attractive user experience, rather than following the complex menu structure of Series 60," Goldman wrote.

Nokia, however, has said that it remains "strongly committed" to Symbian. According to Dow Jones Newswires:

Nokia Corp., the world's biggest maker of cellphones by volume, said Wednesday it remains "strongly committed" to the Symbian mobile operating system.

The statement comes after the German edition of the Financial Times reported citing an unnamed source that Nokia will abandon the Symbian platform for its smartphone devices in favor of the Maemo operating system.

"We remain strongly committed to our current open OS software strategy for cellular devices, which is based on the world-leading Symbian OS...," Nokia said in a statement.

World leading indeed; but for how much longer? 

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Related: Image of the Nokia N97 "mini." So far in the US market at least the flagship N97, Nokia's smartphone comeback phone, has gone from being a potential iPhone "killer" to DOA.

Second Quarter Smartphone Sales Figures

Gartner released its Q2 handset sales figures today. Overall unit sales were down, though smartphone sales grew a very healthy 27%: 

Worldwide mobile phone sales totalled 286.1 million units in the second quarter of 2009, a 6.1 per cent decrease from the second quarter of 2008, according to Gartner, Inc. Smartphone sales surpassed 40 million units, a 27 per cent increase from the same period last year, representing the fastest-growing segment of the mobile-devices market

RIM/BlackBerry, Apple and HTC gained share, Apple most dramatically vs. Q2 2008. Nokia continued to lose share.  Here are the numbers according to the IT consulting firm:

Gartner Q2 handset sales

Regarding mobile OS share, Garnter said:

  • Symbian held 51 per cent share, down from 57 per cent a year ago, while RIM and Apple grew their shares year-on-year.
  • Android's share was just under 2 per cent of the market and more Android-based devices will come to market in the fourth quarter of 2009, intensifying competition in the smartphone OS market, particularly for Symbian and Windows Mobile.
  • Microsoft's share continued to drop year-on-year to account for 9 per cent of the market in the second quarter of 2009.

The firm also said the Pre only sold 205,000 units. 

Yellix: Facebook Becomes Caller ID for Your Smartphone

MobilePeople Alum Claudia Poepperl, has started a new company called adaffix. The company's first product is Yellix. It essentially turns Facebook into "caller ID 2.0" for smartphones (except the iPhone). Here's how Yellix describes what it does:

YELLIX is a free application for your mobile phone. Once installed, it will automatically display a pop-up showing you the up-to-date status, photo and other relevant content of your Facebook friends when they call you on your mobile.

Friends must install the Yellix Facebook app and then the Yellix app on their phones:

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Read the rest of this post on Screenwerk.

Slick Handsets Not Working for T-Mobile, Sprint

Last week T-Mobile USA reported Q2 earnings. Here are the highlights:

  • Service revenues . . .were $4.77 billion in the second quarter of 2009, in line with the first quarter of 2009, but down from $4.85 billion in the second quarter of 2008. 
  • OIBDA of $1.60 billion in the second quarter of 2009, up from $1.38 billion in the first quarter of 2009 and $1.58 billion in the second quarter of 2008. 
  • Contract churn was 2.2% in the second quarter of 2009, down from 2.3% in the first quarter of 2009 and up from 1.9% in the second quarter of 2008. 
  • In the second quarter . . .added 325,000 net new customers, down from 415,000 in the first quarter of 2009 and 668,000 in the second quarter of 2008.
  • Blended Average Revenue Per User (“ARPU” as defined in Note 1 to the Selected Data, below) was $48 in the second quarter of 2009, in line with the first quarter of 2009 but down from $52 in the second quarter of 2008.

The G1 has largely failed to ignite subscriber growth, just as the Pre has not really helped Sprint to attract higher value post-paid customers (unlike Boost which has grown on aggressive pricing in the pre-paid segment). Among smartphones, only the iPhone seems to have driving subscriber growth for AT&T. Verizon has grown at the expense of Sprint and other carriers and held its own against the iPhone.

At one point there was speculation that T-Mobile might try to buy Sprint, which itself just announced that it was acquiring VirginMobile. That company today announced quarterly results: profits were up though revenues were down amid 269,239 net subscriber losses. It ended the quarter with five million customers unchanged from a year ago. 

If these attractive handsets have failed to draw new subscribers -- and Android phones will be everywhere by 2010 -- what's left to drive carrier growth? Price competition and/or M&A. In particular, some of the smaller discount carriers will need to merge or will be acquired by T-Mobile and Sprint. 

Video of Improved Windows Mobile 6.5 in Action

From the UK-based Inquirer comes a video demo of Windows Mobile 6.5 in action on a HTC Touch Diamond 2. The entire experience looks to be dramatically (indeed radically) improved from WinMo 6.1.

Click here or on the image below to take a look at the video (it's about 10 minutes long). The interface has taken a cue from Zune according to the speaker. He explains, "6.5 will co-exist with [Windows Mobile] 7 when it comes out; 6.5 with be a breadth play, be a lower cost device. 7 will be a premium hardware experience." 

(In the US at least, $200 is the de facto ceiling [w/subsidy] for smartphones; will $99 then be the "lower-cost" device category he refers to?)

He says that Windows Mobile 7 will incorporate all the key user experiences in the current smartphone market including multi-touch, which to date only the Pre has (and the forthcoming Android Hero) among iPhone competitors. There's also "full flash support." Microsoft is also banking on multiple applications running in the background as a differentiator. 

There's also a discussion/demo of "My Phone," which is cloud storage for Windows Mobile devices, essentially the same as MobileMe from Apple. At the end there's a brief demonstration of "Microsoft Tag," a propreitary barcode reader/system that will be pre-installed on Windows Mobile phones. 

Windows Mobile 6.5

Partnership Puts 2D Barcodes on Bus Shelters in Paris 'Quartier Numérique'

French 2D barcode platform vendor MobileTag and outdoor advertising company JCDecaux have announced a deal to put 2D barcodes on 19 bus shelters throughout the area of Paris known as the "Quartier Numérique" primarily in the 2nd arrondissement. The area is WiFi enabled. The barcodes provide access to "practical, historical, cultural and entertaining content using flashcodes." According to the release:

To obtain content, users simply shoot one of the flashcodes (2D barcodes) located on either side of the bus shelter with their mobile phone's camera which then gives instant access to the mobile portal via their Internet connection.

The technology works with smartphones and feature phones (with a camera). However the technology is not so instant. MobileTag's software must be installed for the content to render on phones. This software/application download requirement is a barrier to widespread adoption of 2D barcodes. However, apps stores are conditioning smartphone users to download software so this may be less of a barrier over time.