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.
Quick: how many ebook readers will there be in the market next year? Five? Six? Seven? Indeed:
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.
Related: See this video demo of the new Samsung Mondi (WinMo) "WiMax Tablet"
There's something ironic in the name of Microsoft's competition for apps developers: Race to Market Challenge. That's because the name of Microsoft's developer contest is also what Microsoft is facing -- a race to regain momentum in mobile. That may sound somewhat harsh but Microsoft's Windows Mobile OS and related handsets have been almost totally overshadowed by the likes of the iPhone, Android, BlackBerry and most recently the Pre.
Yesterday Redmond opened up it's Windows Marketplace for Mobile to developers in 29 countries. According to the contest site:
The Race to Market Challenge will reward the developer whose paid application earns the most revenue within the contest period and the developer whose free application is downloaded the most within the contest period. Winners will receive a prize package including a Microsoft Surface table and developer kit, free online marketing and promotion of their application, plus a one-of-a-kind trophy.
Todd Brix, the lead for Microsoft's Windows Marketplace, reportedly told PC World that the installed base for the Microsoft apps marketplace was 30 million globally. Assuming that figure is correctly reported it would mean that Apple already has a substantially larger customer base than Microsoft Windows Mobile, which has been around for many more years. On its recent earnings call, Apple reported that the combined number of iPhones and iPod Touch devices in the market globally was 45 million:
Timothy D. Cook
Sure, Mike. You know, I don’t want to talk very much about what we have planned in the future but if I just sort of summarize just what’s happened in the last 90 days, we have just shipped the next major version of the world’s most advanced mobile software platform with iPhone 3.0 and the App Store is now available in 77 countries, and reaches an installed base that is now more than 45 million. That’s the sum of iPhone plus iPod Touch.
The App Store I think by any measure has been an unprecedented success with over 65,000 apps now in the store and over 1.5 billion apps downloaded. As you may remember, if you look at the App number, the over 65,000 from the store, that compares to the latest numbers we have for RIM and Nokia put them between 1,000 and 2,000 each. And the latest published number that we’ve seen on Android puts it less than 5,000.
Expected to come out later this year, Windows Mobile 6.5 offers improved usability and a better browser. An improved OS combined with a better mobile Internet browser are critical to the outlook, so to speak, for "Windows Phones." (Mozilla's mobile browser, Skyfire and Opera are available for Windows Mobile devices.) But a rich apps store will also be an important element of a "comeback." Recently AdMob reported that on its network Android devices had overtaken mobile browsing by Windows Mobile handsets -- a remarkable thing given how small the Android base is by comparison.
The North American smartphone market is arguably the most competitive in the world and Microsoft faces competition in the smartphone segment that is far more intense than in the PC market. RIM now dominates the enterprise and the iPhone right now has most of the mindshare in the consumer segment.
Microsoft is opening retail stores to boost its brand and products among consumers. If they're successful they could well help the company in the mobile space by giving consumers the ability to get "hands on" with devices in the same way that Apple's stores help showcase Apple's products.
Microsoft's recent deal with Verizon for mobile search and advertising gives the company a strong base for its mobile advertising business. But there's lots of work to be done regarding the user experience on its smartphones. With an improved OS, a better mobile browser and lots of useful apps, Microsoft will become competitive again in the smartphone market. But there's a way to go before that happens.
Latitude is very likely to succeed because it presents a compelling, simple proposition: “see where your friends are in real time.” It’s also easy to adopt and, as mentioned, built upon large installed bases of existing Google users, in the form of Google Maps for Mobile and Gmail.
Yet the iPhone implementation is curiously "flat." It's currently missing the messaging feature of the Android version, "shout outs," which makes it much more interesting and useful.
In Android, Latitude is integrated directly into the Maps app and there's a map view and a list view, which provides access to IM/Twitter-like updates (shout outs) with those to whom I'm connected. While it's difficult to describe in the abstract, it's essentially mobile IM (a la Google Talk). Thus Latitude becomes a location-based messaging platform, beyond a simple friend finder.
The Google Mobile Blog explains why the iPhone version of Latitude is a Web-based app, rather than a native app for the iPhone:
We worked closely with Apple to bring Latitude to the iPhone in a way Apple thought would be best for iPhone users. After we developed a Latitude application for the iPhone, Apple requested we release Latitude as a web application in order to avoid confusion with Maps on the iPhone, which uses Google to serve maps tiles.
Google, like Apple, continues to push for improvements in web browser functionality. Now that iPhone 3.0 allows Safari to access location, building the Latitude web app was a natural next step. In the future, we will continue to work closely with Apple to deliver useful applications -- some of which will be native apps on the iPhone, such as Earth and YouTube, and some of which will be web apps, like Gmail and Latitude.
Unfortunately, since there is no mechanism for applications to run in the background on iPhone (which applies to browser-based web apps as well), we're not able to provide continuous background location updates in the same way that we can for Latitude users on Android, Blackberry, Symbian and Window Mobile.
As a Web app I'm guessing it can't do messaging, which is why the shout outs/IM functionality doesn't appear.
The paragraphs above from the Google Blog post are strange and interesting. Google is explaining why Latitude may fall short on the iPhone and it's also gently criticizing Apple for deficiencies in the functionality that Latitude is able to deliver:
"Unfortunately, since there is no mechanism for applications to run in the background on iPhone (which applies to browser-based web apps as well), we're not able to provide continuous background location updates . . ."
This line: "After we developed a Latitude application for the iPhone, Apple requested we release Latitude as a web application in order to avoid confusion with Maps on the iPhone, which uses Google to serve maps tiles" is also very interesting. Apple wanted to avoid "confusion." Hmmm . . . Confusion may be a euphemism for something else.
I think Apple wanted to avoid Google totally taking over the the Maps app on the iPhone, one might say "colonizing" it. Even though Maps on the iPhone has Google branding and data, it's not completely Google centric at this stage.
As a consequence of all this Latitude for the iPhone (in its current form at least) will probably fall short of its potential.
TechCrunch first reported that Marc Davis has left Yahoo!. Davis was Chief Scientist, Yahoo! Mobile at Yahoo! and VP of ESP (Early Stage Products). We also just ran into Michael Bayle at MobileBeat, who was until very recently, Senior Director, Global Mobile Advertising at Yahoo!
Bayle had been a fixture at mobile advertising conferences and I was surprised by his departure, as I am by Davis leaving. At Yahoo! the mobile group was one that seemed to be relatively free of executive departures -- until now it would appear.
There are still many smart and capable people at Yahoo! Mobile but it can't afford to lose too many more folks. The market is too fast moving and dynamic and the competition is to intense.
Here's Yahoo!'s formal statement about Davis's departure:
"Marc Davis left Yahoo! to pursue other opportunities and we wish him the best in his future endeavors. We continue to have a world-class team of researchers dedicated to helping Yahoo! uncover the social and economic potential of the Internet using leading edge science and technology.”
What exactly is the "mobile Internet" and what does it include? WAP/mobile Web, apps, SMS, Internet sites rendered on mobile browsers? Regardless of the definition, and what's in or out, one might see the apps phenomenon as the construction of a distinct universe of content for mobile devices within the larger world of the Internet.
Over the course of the past week there has been much discussion of mobile apps vs. the mobile Web, prompted by remarks made by Google's Vic Gundotra about the mobile Web winning out over apps over time. Today, the BBC's Maggie Shields has a piece on mobile apps becoming "as big as the Internet" and then declining:
"Apps will be as big if not bigger than the internet," according to Ilja Laurs, chief executive of GetJar, a leading independent application store.
"They will peak at around 100,000 by the end of the year. That will be a tipping point and after that there will be a gradual fall in the rate of development.
"The full blossom will come in ten years and mobile apps will become as popular as websites are today with consumers," Mr Laurs told BBC News.
Mobile apps are the effective equivalent of PC websites. But the question of what the "mobile Internet" looks like over time and how prominent apps are will in part depend on whether mobile apps developers can make a living. It will also depend on whether apps truly take hold beyond the iPhone on the other platforms. That will in turn depend partly on content development and software tools that enable developers to minimize the cost and complexity of writing software for multiple platforms.
There's no question that mobile apps offer a more compelling user experience than a PC Internet site simply rendered on a mobile device. This is especially true for branded applications that support customer loyalty (e.g., Pizza Hut's new iPhone app).
The IAB held its mobile conference on July 13 in New York and here are Mark Mahaney's (director of Internet Research for Citi) takeaways:
Comments: much of the CPM inventory may be converting to CPC in a land grab by several of the ad networks, exerting downward price pressure. The Compete numbers re search and social networking are high in our view. Frequency and engagement vary dramatically and are obviously highest on smartphones.
Regarding the Dynamic Logic study, Insight Express has data that mirror those results.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt:
In mobile and android, another area of innovation in new businesses, mobile devices are becoming an extension of the Internet. We all know this. And more and more Google searches are coming from mobile phones of all kinds. So we are focusing to innovate in this space. So for example, we’ve done great news with Android, with somewhere between 18 and 20 Android powered phones on the market by the end of the year, which is phenomenal.
Product SVP Jonathan Rosenberg:
We also run product development by encouraging teams to make big product bets on key technical insights. We believe that our most innovative products historically, if you consider say search, maps, Gmail, news and Chrome, all of them are based on technical breakthroughs, or BETS. Recently we’ve become bullish on a new emerging standard called HTML 5 and it’s helping to make the web the platform for very powerful and rich applications. It’s especially important in mobile where the high-end phones with very rich browsers are becoming the norm.
And this quarter, we launched mobile versions of Gmail and mobile web maps that run in the browser using HTML 5. Their performance really is remarkable.
We believe that the runway to innovate due to the power of computers on these mobile devices is nearly unbounded at the moment. We are also making another technical bet with Google Chrome OS. A whole new generation of web-based apps demand a much better, faster user experience and once you have all your stuff online, you ought to be able to just open up your computer and get there in a matter of seconds.
We are also innovating and driving monetization with mobile and YouTube as well. Mobile monetization picked up a good bit of momentum as search traffic grew, again driven mostly by the smartphones. And we’re seeing that users on these high-end phones are very active and engaged beyond search, so display advertising on those phones is actually emerging as an interesting mechanism.
From the Q&A portion of the call:
Schmidt (on mobile ads):
On the mobile search side, one of the key things we’ve done in the last few months is we’ve started to show the desktop ads. It turns out that the separate mobile ads have their own formats. Typically there wasn’t enough demand, there weren’t enough kind of creatives and so forth. So we started showing the desktop ads on the mobile browsers of high quality and these of course include the iPhone and the Android phone and anything that’s a web-kit inspired browser.
All of a sudden we started seeing a tremendous number of searches and also very good click through rates. So they monetize at a similar level, if they are desktop-based because of course they are in the same auction.
It makes sense over time that those ads should perform better than on PCs because on a mobile device, we know more about the person and we could have an even more targeted ad but we don’t do that today.
Rosenberg (on mobile cannibalizing PC search traffic):
I don’t think there really is a cannibalization dynamic. We see that mobile searches tend to complement desktop volume. Mobile goes up when people are away from their desk, so weekend tends to be higher for mobile traffic. And of course, the reverse is true for the desk top.
Apple has made much of its apps store's first anniversary. It now features 65,000 apps, with more than 1.5 billion downloads. Those numbers are very impressive and far ahead of competitors. However Skyhook Wireless discovered that a percentage of those 65,000 apps are so-called "bulk apps" or multiple applications produced by a single developer or publisher that use a template and simply substitute different data or content.
From Skyhook's most recent LBS apps report:
One important discovery made in the Apple App Store was the existence of “Bulk Apps,” local search or travel apps that are released in mass by a single author. These apps make up a large portion of the Apple store, and suggest an interesting trend in app marketing . . .
For example, Molinker Inc. sells over 850 travel apps based on the same template, but switches out content based on specific locations, e.g. Travel to Paris or Travel to Costa Rica. Around 1/3 of Apple LBS apps are mass‐produced local search or travel guide apps. View more details about Bulk App producers in the table at the right.
Bulk LBS Apps Developers
Source: Skyhook Wireless
I spoke with Skyhook CEO Ted Morgan and Kate Imbach, Director of Marketing and Developer Programs. They said their latest report was taken a little out of context in some of the more inflammatory articles that tried to use it to suggest that Apple was somehow misrepresenting the scope or extent of the apps store.
An interesting, related issue being debated today online comes out of comments made yesterday at the MobileBeat conference by Google's Vic Gundotra, who has reiterated Google's position that the future of mobile lies in the browser and not native (smartphone) apps, like those for Android or the iPhone. This is a position that Gundotra has articulated before, most recently at Google's developer conference I/O. Summarizing Gundotra's remarks at MobileBeat, the Financial Times reported this morning:
[Gundotra] claimed that even Google was not rich enough to support all of the different mobile platforms from Apple’s AppStore to those of the BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Android and the many variations of the Nokia platform.
“What we clearly see happening is a move to incredibly powerful browsers,” he said.
“Many, many applications can be delivered through the browser and what that does for our costs is stunning.
“We believe the web has won and over the next several years, the browser, for economic reasons almost, will become the platform that matters and certainly that’s where Google is investing.”
Gundotra said something quite similar at I/O: the complexity, time and cost of developing native apps for multiple platforms combined with the power of HTML5 in the browser would cause people to migrate to Web apps development. This position is entirely consistent with the logic and momentum of where Google is headed more broadly: "browser as development platform, Chrome OS, the cloud, access content from any device" and so on.
Wired quotes a number of pundits who disagree with that native smartphone apps will disappear. My view is similar but based on a range of factors. First, there are three categories of experiences in mobile (for smartphones):
Google sees itself playing in the second category, although it has greatly benefitted from its native app on the iPhone. The company also wouldn't deny the short term strategic importance of apps for the success of the Android platform. However in my view it is true that Android is more about mobile Web than apps on balance.
Mobile Web and native apps will co-exist probably for the foreseeable future. I believe this because:
Gundotra might feel that his remarks and position are being exaggerated for the sake of creating drama or controversy. And he's right that it's easier to develop for a rich browser environment than five smartphone platforms.
Many people may not remember that Google's announcement of Android was intended to simplify the market by being a standard of sorts or a platform that could develop critical mass because it was open source. That critical mass could then simplify the world for mobile developers. As it has turned out Apple is the platform that mobile app developers are most focused on (so far) because of iPhone usage patterns and device critical mass (40 million iPod/iPhone devices).
Android and RIM are also very important. It remains to be seen whether the Pre develops a large ecosystem. Clearly Microsoft already has a large developer ecosystem for WinMo; it now has to make that more accessible to consumers. The jury is also still out on Ovi.
Stepping back it's not really going to be mobile apps vs mobile Web. It's not really going to be "or" it's more like "and."
Don't call it an LBS service," Sanjeev Agrawal, CEO of Aloqa, told me when I spoke to him a couple weeks ago. He prefers the term "context-aware." Aloqa officially launched yesterday on the Android platform and announced $1.5 million in funding. Other smartphone platforms are coming soon. Aloqa currently works in the US and Germany.
Agrawal, preparing for his presentation at yesterday's Mobile Beat conference, was trying to come up with a quick way to describe Aloqa. The metaphor he often uses is cable TV channels or an "app store within an app store." I didn't stay to see his presentation, but it must have been successful because the company won the "people's choice" award at the show.
Aloqa has a menu of content modules or channels (image at right), which can be "owned" or developed third parties. (There will be an SDK soon.) This is almost identical to what MapQuest has done on the PC with its Local site.
Those modules range from brand finders to news, events, restaurants and social networking. All are location enabled. In explaining what differentiates Aloqa, which had been around for roughly two years before Agrawal joined as CEO, he points out that location on Aloqa can be calibrated to the specific app and may tap into different location technologies as appropriate to the use case. "If it's Starbucks you only need accuracy within 500 meters, but if it's your kid you need GPS level accuracy," he says.
I asked Agrawal about potential similarities between Aloqa and other "discovery" oriented local mobile sites or apps such as Where, Earthcomber, AroundMe or Places Directory among others (Yahoo! and AOL also had third party platform/apps strategies at one point). He explains that Aloqa can be entirely personalized and, more significantly, has push/notifications that rely on "dynamic data." And like the Android apps marketplace itself third parties are welcome to build their own channels; however Agrawal said there would be some oversight to prevent spam or other undesirable content. (This is again like MapQuest Local on the PC.)
Because the data in the various modules are coming from dynamic feeds he says that they're potentially changing all the time. News for example from Topix or events from Eventful will change continuously and notification of those changes are pushed to the user in the form of icons on the channel buttons.
The details page of any event, location or listing (depending on the content module) allows users to visit the site for more complete information, show the location on a map, call the business or share the listing.
Agrawal also points to Aloqa's Facebook channel, which allows users to set up what amounts to a temporary social network through Facebook. All those participating must have Aloqa on their phones, but if they do they're notified when their Aloqa-Facebook contacts are nearby. All of this is permission based.
Aloqa's channels can be added or subtracted with relative ease. The app is not without some bugs and awkward dimensions. But those will be found and addressed I'm sure. Agrawal envisions multiple revenue streams that could also include white labeling the service and premium channels for consumers.
A number of companies have developed or are developing location-aware apps that seek to be comprehensive or nearly so. Geodelic is one and MobilePeople is another, among some of those I mentioned. Apps stores are mostly vertical marketplaces at the moment. Aloqa and its competitors seek to go in the opposite direction and provide a "one-stop shop," literally and figuatively.
Conceptually I like the strategy because people don't want to have to constantly go in and out of apps, as a general rule, in getting to different categories of information. In terms of challenges, getting good data isn't always easy and developing the right UI/UX is another challenge.
MobileBeat2009 opened impressively with VentureBeat's Matt Marshall moderating a "Fireside Chat" among Vic Gundotra from Google; Michael Abbott, SVP applications and services from Palm; and Dr. Tero Ojanperä, Executive Vice President Services at Nokia. The resulting talk generated some true gems of insight emanated from the discussion, forged from disparate views of how the market is maturing. For Google, for instance, the course is set around the World Wide Web. "We believe the Web has won and that's where we're investing," Gundotra explained. Later, he elaborated by saying "The 'Killer App' on mobile is a wonderful Web browser", but added the condition that it also requires an inexpensive, unlimited data plan.
Palm's Abbott largely agreed with Google. After all, with WebOS as the application platform for its newly launched Pre, the primacy of Web-based applications speak for itself. However the issue of "openness" in support of application developers came up front-and-center as Abbott acknowledged that it had to be "methodical" in terms of rolling out apps. It just released the SDK (software development kit) for the Pre and is exhibiting caution in order to ensure a quality experience for users.
In that respect (addressing the user experience), Nokia's Ojanpera was in agreement. "Open versus closed is not relevant," he said. "It's what is best for the users" that is most important. He added that the OVI Platform "will be open" in a selective sort of way. using exposure of the Map API as an example. He regards OVI as "in the cloud" and notes that, in addition to Maps, APIs for both Location and Music will be opening up and that they already have interesting partners.
Without carriers on the stage, these producers of smartphone application environments charted a worldview where growth is the result of the proliferation of smartphones and low-cost, high-speed data links. Questions from the audience drew attention to the realities of today's mobile economy and ecosystem. One questioner even asserted that there is a slowdown in smartphone sales, but was countered by Gundotra who observed that "Google sees the move to smartphones accelerating (based on unspecified, empirical observations of the mobile activity on Google's various properties).
Nokia, which has global marketshare leadership across all categories of phones, sees a "polarized" market emerging, with high-end phones (in the $700 range but selling for a subsidized $199) co-existing with a broader base of low-end phones whose subsidized price will vary from $0 to $99. The low-end are the prime candidates for services like Nokia's Life Tools which support a range of services for emerging markets.
Yet the conversation kept returning to the viability of Google's vision for a persistent, low-cost data link along with more functions on the browser (including geolocation and application caching in mobile versions of Firefox, Chrome and Opera). The underlying economic model continues to come into question with members of the audience asserting that Google's ultimate aspiration is to by-pass the wireless carriers. To this Gundotra pointed to the search giant's experience in Japan, where carriers KDDI and DoCoMo integrate Gmail into their service offerings under a formal partnership agreement.
Based on this evidence Gundotra noted that "People misunderstand our ambition to cut the carriers out." This was the only line that elicited audible laughter from the audience.
For quite some time I've been wondering whether 2D barcodes would become more mainstream in the US and whether the camera would take hold as a search and advertising tool. The challenge to widespread adoption of 2D barcodes is two-fold: dissemination of the codes themselves on products or media and the fact that software must be downloaded before they can be read by a mobile phone's camera.
Many carriers are pre-installing the software now on their handsets so that barrier may eventually be eliminated or nearly eliminated. The former challenge -- widespread use by manufacturers or marketers -- could also diminish if a new partnership between Scanbuy and DuPont takes off:
DuPont Packaging & Industrial Polymers (P&IP), Graphic Packaging International, Inc., Scanbuy, Inc. and Augme Mobile announced that they have entered into a joint Marketing Agreement to promote technologies that enable packaging to interact with consumers. The packaging-based marketing alliance enables innovation leaders Graphic Packaging and DuPont P&IP to leverage leading edge mobile applications of its technology partners, specifically Scanbuy's mobile 2D barcode platform and Augme Mobile's AD LIFE(TM) mobile marketing and CRM platform.
Mobile two-dimensional barcode ("2D barcode" or "2D Code") technology is growing in popularity as a means for consumers to access mobile content without having to type long URLs or search for information by SMS/text message keyword. By placing 2D barcodes on packaging, marketers can connect consumers through their mobile phones, to additional product information, coupon offers, or promotional messaging like recipe ideas. Graphic Packaging and DuPont P&IP have demonstrated the ability to commercially print 2D barcodes on a wide variety of rigid and flexible substrates.
As the press release excerpt indicates, users could obtain all kinds of information, including coupons, loyalty marketing offers, video, additional product information, reviews and so on through barcodes. By making it available to CPG companies and others via product packaging we may see marketers and manufacturures experiment with the technology as a step toward some sort of mainstreaming of 2D barcodes in the US.
Yet 2D barcode use in the US is not a foregone conclusion or inevitable at this stage. An alternative but similar approach involves UPC barcode scanning, via services and tools such as ShopSavvy and Google Product Search. And then there's simply taking pictures of products or ads themselves (e.g., movie posters) using something like SnapTell, which was recently acquired by Amazon.
Putting aside the precise technology and whether it has to be downloaded or is pre-loaded, I do believe we will see the phone's camera increasingly used as a search and marketing vehicle in the EU and US.
Related: Microsoft is bullish on 2D barcodes going mainstream in the US and EU.
Google Voice, now rolling out to the general public, is a generally excellent service. The major drawback is that you must "socialize" a new phone number. But once you do it can be your "number for life," with other phone numbers rotating behind it. Now the full range of Google Voice's capabilities have been brought to mobile -- Android and BlackBerry devices at least. An iPhone app is awaiting Apple approval.
I wrote about the service and the implications of the new Google Voice mobile app on Search Engine Land.
Essentially the mobile app allows users to send SMS messages and make phone calls from their mobile phones using the Google Voice number. Those on the receiving end of the call see the Google Voice number on caller ID, not the underlying wireless carrier number. Users need only have a data plan -- though data-only plans aren't available from carriers -- to make calls and send texts, as well as use the mobile Internet. Thus Google becomes the brand that the user interacts with and the carrier is the provider of the commodity service (i.e., connectivity) in the background.
There are some potentially dramatic pricing implications for carriers here and if they "break ranks" it could represent a problem for their long term voice revenues.
The only requirement of Google Voice for mobile is that the handset in use be compatible with the app. The features of Google Voice make it highly desirable from a consumer and small business standpoint. If consumers can understand it, more of them will adopt it. And carriers won't like it.
This is a stronger consumer proposition than Skype or Truphone for end users because there's a viable phone number that gets used and exposed. Also the range of features is broader and richer.
With the July 28th Verizon Developer Community event on the planning horizon, Verizon executives have reportedly started discussing alternatives to its rigid BREW-based rules governing application distribution and revenue splits. The venerable BREW protocol (developed by Qualcomm in the last century), has become an artifact of the pre-AppStore days, when sterile descriptions like "Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless" had a certain mystique and feature phones (rather than smartphones) were the highest-profile applications platforms.
Today, as this post by Stacey Higginbotham in GigaOm notes, Verizon is making a partial about face. An event that's akin to a bar camp and the introduction of a developers "portal" smacks of mobile Web 2.0. Verizon is attempting to capture the creative energy of developers looking to deliver their wares to smartphones running the Windows Mobile, Palm, Android and BlackBerry operating systems. Higginbotham quotes Ryan Hughes, VP Partner Management, to the effect that a Verizon-branded application store will be up and running before year's end and that it will be, not surprisingly, the "sole marketplace" displayed on Verizon-supplied devices. This makes it something of a pre-emptive move against direct access to the Blackberry App Store or the Windows Mobile Marketplace.
After premiering its "unlimited voice, data and Web mobile wireless service" at the CTIA Wireless in April, Zer01 started aggressively marketing its unlimited package for Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) to resell. With a target price of $69.95 per month, pre-paid with no contract required, this amounts to a test-case for all-you-can eat media consumption. Zer01 is a technology company that is wholly owned by Unified Technologies Group, Inc (UTGI)., a global technology services and consulting company. It has invested its time and resources in establishing interconnection agreements among wireless carriers in North America and around the globe. The first company offering the unlimited mobile VoIP service is GlobalVerge/Buzzkirk. If the service takes off, a direct beneficiary should be VoIP wholesaler Pervasip Corp.
Local Mobile Search is proud to be a media partner for the upcoming MobileBeat 2009 being held July 16th in San Francisco.
Mobile application stores are proliferating as industry players -- from device makers to carriers -- are scrambling to directly sell to consumers. But the growing ecosystem is enabling even more opportunities in monetizing the mobile Web experience. MobileBeat 2009 brings together some of the brightest minds in mobile technology to discuss the future of mobile technology and business opportunities.
Among the event speakers include representatives from Google, Palm, Yahoo Mobile, Motorola, Nokia, and Microsoft. Also featured at MobileBeat 2009 is a competition among startups showcasing the cutting edge of mobile applications and services.
As a media partner, Local Mobile Search readers receive a special discount -- Sign up here and enter the code “mb09opusre” when registering to receive a discount equal to the early-bird rate ($450).
Nokia, the globe's largest maker of handsets, seems to be struggling for direction. The company paid $8 billion for Navteq to boost LBS and Nokia Maps. Maybe there's long-term strategic value in that asset but so far the purchase hasn't paid dividends commensurate with the price. Nokia has also not been (so far) able to transcend its hardware OEM identity, which it was presumably trying to do.
The much hyped Nokia N97 -- the company's best "answer" to the iPhone -- went on sale in the US without a carrier subsidy at a price of more than $700. In other words, it's DOA. Despite this strategic blunder, the Finnish company says it's trying to find its way back into the US market, where it lags rivals badly.
(The company also recently announced a long-term strategic alliance with Intel for devices. We'll have to see what that relationship yields; certainly there is considerable potential.)
In terms of software, compared to other smartphone platforms, Nokia's Symbian is off (per Gartner's FY08 numbers):
Nokia is understood to be developing a mobile phone that runs on Google's Android software platform in a strategic U-turn for the world's largest mobile phone manufacturer.
The new touchscreen device will be unveiled at the Nokia World conference in September, say industry insiders, as the Finnish handset giant tries to revive its fortunes in the smartphone market . . .
Analysts at HSBC reckon Nokia had 47% of the global smartphone market in 2007; that was down to 35% last summer and 31% at the end of the year.
It's too early to say that Nokia is backing away from Symbian but it will be interesting to see if it does actually produce a phone using Android, rather than simply another non-phone hardware device (like the prior N810 Internet Tablet). Given that Symbian is losing momentum it's probably smart to experiment with Android, especially in the US market.
The company could produce an inexpensive Android-based handset (say $99) and use that as a wedge to get back in. In my view that's Nokia's best way to effectively "return" to the US market.
Update: Nokia denies the Guardian's report about developing an Android phone:
"Absolutely no truth to this whatsoever," said a Nokia spokesman . . . "Everyone knows that Symbian is our preferred platform for advanced mobile devices."
Gizmodo writes a very critical review of the N97:
If this really is the best Nokia can do, the giant is doomed to die a slow death, propped up for a while by the cheap handsets that it sells by the tens of millions.
According to a recent report from email marketing firm ExactTarget, mobile (SMS in particular) is anticipated to be the fastest growing method used by email marketers to capture opt-in consumer email addresses. ExactTarget's survey found:
Mobile capture was barely on the radar in 2008. While only 2% of marketers used the tactic in 2008, 12% plan to use it in 2009. This represents a six fold increase in adoption, making mobile capture the fastest growing list growth tactic in relative terms.
Here are the top tactics used in 2008:
Here's more forward-looking survey information:
The report promotes the immediacy of SMS as an effective way to gain consumer opt-in to receive marketing materials:
Mobile capture lets consumers text their email address to a shortcode to register or receive information via email. Because mobile phones are close at hand, this method decreases the proximity barrier associated with display and print advertising that encourages consumers to subscribe to online communications. In the past, consumers had to recall a promotion and the associated URL to register—now they can register immediately.
Perhaps they were there before and I just didn't notice. But yesterday I saw two ads for Google's iPhone app, one on a blog online and another in the new Fluent Mobile news app. The latter was on the AdMob network. Below is what the online version of the ad looked like. Why is Google advertising its mobile app, which has been in the top 20 in the iTunes store for many months?
Despite the public confidence of Google and others who see little future distinction between the Internet and the mobile Internet (and user behavior accordingly), I think it's not a foregone conclusion that everyone will be using search in the same way on mobile devices that they do on PCs today. Mobile is a different animal and the mobile market is quite fluid and evolving rapidly.
I find myself using Google's voice search on my Android (HTC Magic) phone quite a bit -- especially voice search in Google Maps -- and like it. But on my iPod Touch (on a WiFi connection) I use apps and bookmarks far more than I use traditional search. However I don't have access to the iPhone's voice search capability on that device. If I did, my behavior might be different.
On Android devices search is on the home screen and, given that, it's a bigger part of the Android experience than on the iPhone, notwithstanding the recent addition of spotlight. If we do get the promised 18 Android devices and they sell well, we may see search become a prominent navigational tool in the way it is on the PC. However, if apps become the dominant way that people access sites and content on smartphones, where most of the mobile Internet "action" is taking place, conventional search may become a "secondary" tool.
Then there are now obscure "search" tools that may gain mainstream adoption down the line, such as the camera as doorway to "augmented reality" or as a barcode scanner. And a range of others are working on mobile searching without search: offering up data and content based on location or context without entry of a formal search query. There are a range of iPhone apps that do this using a browse approach (business category X "nearby"). Geodelic is pursuing this model as the back end for T-Mobile's new "Sherpa" app.
None of this means that paid "search" ads or Google won't be successful in mobile. It means that user behavior and the market may evolve in ways that are distinct from PC-based Internet activity. But we'll see won't we.
The winner of the LG US National Texting Championships is 14 year old Kate Moore from Des Moines Iowa. She sends about 14,000 SMS messages per month and up to 470 per day. (I hope she has an unlimited messaging plan.) She won a $50K prize in a head to head competition for speed and accuracy after multiple elimination rounds.
US teens and young adults text more than they talk on their mobile phones. According to Nielsen (data Q2 '08):
Americans 13 to 17 years of age sent or received an average of 1,742 text messages a month in Q2 per Nielsen. SMS penetration is 53 percent, or 137.8 million mobile subscribers in the US.
Many people regard SMS as a kind of mobile social network. At first blush that's strange but it makes sense if you reflect.
The following are LMS/Opus online consumer survey data from early 2008. Mobile access to social networks has grown since that time. But the chart illustrates the way that some people regard SMS as a kind of substitute for social networks on mobile devices:
Source: LMS/Opus (3/08), users who do not access social networks on mobile devices (n=730). Total survey sample 1,022.
Longer term, it's possible that mobile IM and communication via social networks over mobile devices could cut into SMS volumes.