Wired Magazine goes long (as in long article) on Android. There's nothing new in the article but it's all in one place for those who want the history and speculative outlook for the platform.
Google has sought to keep its brand somewhat at arms length from Android. The Google brand is both an asset and a liability for the initiative; it creates credibility but also inspires fear. It appears, however, that Google may not need Android to succeed in mobile (if these Nielsen numbers are accurate).
But like the iPhone, Android is helping accelerate the development of the mobile Internet by affecting and motivating competitors (see Nokia's acquisition and open-sourcing of Symbian). This ultimately, potentially plays into Google's hand because of the brand equity that Google enjoys.
When they start showing up, theoretically in Q4 of this year, the first Android phones will almost certainly not be as "good" as the iPhone. Over time they may equal the device (or beat it) in selected ways. But Android is a long term play and it will almost certainly pay dividends for Google.
The only question is how much?
The Samsung Instinct has apparently been selling extremely well for the company, even leading to shortages. According to a press release:
Just a few days after hitting store shelves, Samsung Instinct has become the fastest-selling EVDO handset in Sprint history. Instinct was first available exclusively to current Sprint customers on June 19 breaking records for the initial launch of any Sprint product. Instinct became available to all customers on June 20; sales continued to be brisk with Instinct breaking Sprint's record for the first week of sales for any device.
The record pace of Instinct sales has led to temporary shortages of the device at some locations across the United States. Sprint and Samsung are diligently working around the clock to increase inventory in all sales channels. Samsung has increased efforts to deliver new supplies of Instinct on a daily basis and manufacturing plants are operating at full capacity to keep up with the demand.
The brisk sales reflect the touch-screen iPhone-like appeal and the growing demand for access to the mobile Internet, which is how the device is positioned. (Sprint is paying people $20 to put the phone in "home movies" that they upload to YouTube.)
Some in the industry thought the day would never come. However, Jingle has announced that 1-800-Free-411 has achieved "per call profitability":
Since the company’s launch in September 2005, Jingle has become the country’s largest provider of free directory assistance and has amassed a base of more than 130,000 paying advertisers. Jingle’s advertisers include hundreds of major household names like McDonald’s, WalMart, Ford and Radio Shack as well as tens of thousands of small independent retailers in virtually every Yellow Pages category and local market. In the quarter ahead, Jingle expects to pass two other key milestones -- answering its 500 millionth phone call and serving over 1 billion in call advertisements.
There's also be an executive shake up:
Jingle also announced today the relocation of their corporate headquarters from Menlo Park, Calif. to Bedford, Mass. In conjunction with this relocation, the company is also announcing the promotion of two key executives. John Roswech, formerly SVP of Sales and Business Development, will now be joining the Board of Directors and will serve as the company’s President. Scott Kliger, the company’s founder, will now assume the CEO role. George Garrick, Jingle’s former CEO remains on Jingle’s Board as a key strategic advisor to the company.
This milestone is significant for the company as it faces intensifying competition from a range of well-heeled advertisers such as Google, AT&T and Verizon among others. Free DA also faces competition from the mobile Internet itself as it becomes more mainstream over time.
Jingle not long ago did a deal with Dial Directions to add text-based directions to any listing provided to users. It remains a differentiated feature among free DA providers.
Yahoo! yesterday announced a big new partnership with Publicis Group, which includes a significant emphasis on mobile:
The two companies’ mobile initiative is the initial showcase for a relationship focusing on technology integration and openness to help brands tailor their messaging and make it possible for them to reach their target customers on both the PC and the mobile telephone.
Phonevalley, Publicis Groupe’s mobile marketing agency, will be the first global agency to integrate Blueprint, Yahoo!’s leading-edge mobile developer platform language, as a tool to help its clients scale brand messages globally, speed their time to market and remove traditional barriers of scarce development resources and high costs.
In addition, Yahoo! and Publicis Groupe will work to enable brands to tailor their message in a more relevant way to the unique consumer, given the hyper-personalized nature of the mobile device. Specifically, Yahoo! will leverage its Smart Ads technology for the mobile platform to enable numerous permutations of a given brand’s message, and Publicis Groupe will tap into this system to develop correlating, personal microsites relevant to these “smart mobile ads."
Mobile advertising needs "validation" at the agency level and this type of high-profile relationship goes a long way toward that end.
One of the things that Yahoo is doing is bringing its Blueprint authoring tools for mobile and its SmartAds dynamic delivery capability to Publicis and its client base. It's a fact that agencies and advertisers don't have the sophistication or capability to take advantage of all the targeting that mobile devices permit. Yahoo is bridging that gap with dynamic ad assembly that will take data/content feeds and creative and combine them to optimize the ad experience for (and potential response from) the end user.
Fresh off it's apparent success in the UK, ad-subsidized MVNO Blyk is moving into other Western European countries, including Germany, Spain, Belgium and The Netherlands. It will have different network partners in many of these countries but the model remains the same: users receive 217 free SMS messages and 43 free minutes in exchange for viewing ads.
The company explicitly describes itself as "the new mobile network for 16-24 year olds." Indeed, it's positioning itself vis-a-vis advertisers more like Facebook than a mobile operator. It also claims 29% response rates to campaigns on average.
A particular MMS campaign for L'Oreal (aimed at males) saw 40% and higher response rates (massive). Blyk subscribers seem very willing to receive and respond to ads accordingly. The company's success would thus seem to put to rest the concept that people (at least budget-conscious younger users) are resistant to mobile advertising.
According to an AP article, buyers of most 2009 Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep models in the U.S. will have to option to purchase (at an as yet undetermined monthly fee) access to the company's new UConnect system. It operates on the mobile telephone infrastructure and will compete with Ford's (Microsoft's) "Sync" telematics system.
According to the article:
The uconnect system will link cellular telephones and personal music players to the car's onboard electronics, with the ability to control an Apple iPod with radio and steering wheel controls. The system also has navigation and real-time traffic features, controlled by voice recognition or a touch screen.
It also includes the company's in-car 30-gigabyte hard drive, with options for three-channel satellite television service and satellite radio.
More and more car makers are mainstreaming in-car IP-connected screens and voice control (e.g., 2009 Honda Pilot). These systems will eventually offer full Internet access or comparable information (POIs). And if they become truly affordable they will squeeze and put pressure on PNDs. (The churn rate for OnStar is very high after the complementary subscription expires.)
In-car IP connectivity is interesting for many reasons. The uses cases are like mobile but the "form factor" may be much more like the conventional desktop Internet. Certainly that's true for a passenger on a laptop using UConnect.
As expected, the Financial Times is reporting that Virgin Mobile USA will acquire struggling MVNO Helio (both are actually):
Virgin Mobile USA is to acquire the US mobile phone operation controlled by SK Telecom of South Korea, after each side decided to combine their struggling businesses to build scale in the fast-maturing market.
One person with knowledge of the matter said that the sides had agreed a deal in principle and that an announcement could be made as early as this week.
SK Telecom yesterday declined to comment.
The agreement will see Helio, the US mobile business of SK Telecom, injected into Virgin Mobile USA. The better-recognised Virgin brand will be retained.
In return, Virgin Mobile, which listed in New York last October, will issue new shares, leaving SK Telecom holding close to 20 per cent of the equity of the enlarged business, which will be worth about $50m.
Accordingly, the Helio brand will disappear.
- use with gps/ non-gps enabled berry
- quick easy access to what you're looking for
- movie reviews, details and ticket purchase
- uses BB maps and your phone to go further
- Currently only works in the USA and Canada
The company recently announced that it had crossed 50,000 users on the desktop. It may yet turn out that the mobile app is where Poynt really takes off, much like ChaCha's experience.
Vlingo, which came out of the gate with a high visibility deal with Yahoo, is now independently expanding. Today's announcement is about the availability of Vlingo for Blackberry devices. It must be downloaded but allows the following:
We believe that speech/voice control is a killer app for mobile and will (together with cheaper data plans) dramatically broaden the usage frequency of the mobile Internet and mobile search.
Before we changed the name to Local Mobile Search we were calling this service, Speech-Enabled Mobile Search.
According to the Loopt press release:
Loopt is available today on select Verizon Wireless phones for
$3.99monthly access in the Tools on the Go, Featured Applications and Community shopping aisles in the Get It Now(R) virtual store. Customers need a Get It Now-enabled handset and Verizon Wireless digital service to access the Get It Now virtual store.
Loopt is now on all the major U.S. carriers, which makes it truly "interoperable" and an eventual acquisition target. Mobile social networking (Loopt calls itself a "social mapping" service), is a little like online video. There were lots of startups in the space and then winners started to emerge. The same is true for this market.
We have lots of startup competitors and, eventually, a few winners will start to become clear. Some companies will be acquired to add their capabilities to a larger portfolio (as with Nokia and Zyb and Plazes).
Mobile social media service ShoZu has broadened its network to include Snapfish, Ovi and SnapMyLife. In addition:
ShoZu users can now upload images to and exchange content with a total of 46 Web 2.0 properties from a single screen on their mobile device for fast and easy mobile social networking - including the ability to mass-publish any photo or video to multiple sites and/or email addresses simultaneously from the handset.
Other destination options added in ShoZu’s latest round of integrations include AOL’s new BlueString media sharing and Xdrive file storage sites, photo/video sharing communities DivShare and Smugmug, Web creation and hosting site Free Webs, and citizen journalism site Reuters You Witness News.
The additions mark ShoZu’s third major expansion in seven weeks. In May, ShoZu added support for Twitter, Photobucket, Dailymotion, Friendster and five other community sites. Earlier this month, the company upgraded its Facebook services to enable Facebook status updates from ShoZu as well as delivery of new Facebook photos, event listings and other friends’ posts directly to the phone.
ShoZu also supports communities ranging from YouTube, Flickr, Google Picasa, Kodak Easy Share Gallery and Webshots to personal blogging sites and news desks such as Google Blogger, LiveJournal, Textamerica, TypePad, Vox, WordPress, MetaWeblog, CNN, the BBC and Scoopt.
ShoZu isn't trying to be a social network per se but rather an umbrella media sharing service that helps users manage mobile media across services.
The Travel Channel has launched mobile applications built on Earthcomber's platform and content:
This unique free mobile application serves as a personal radar that delivers customized travel information based upon a consumer's tastes and interests - travelers specify their interests and Travel Channel GO handles the searching, highlighting locations nearby that match their preferences as they travel from place to place. Travel Channel GO simplifies mobile local search through its highly categorized approach, helping travelers quickly find the information that they need while on-the-go, without burdensome amounts of typing on small mobile keyboards.
It works on iPhone, Blackberry. The Earthcomber application is also available for WAP browsers:
The downloadable application leverages GPS and heavily emphasizes personalization, which adapts over time. It also de-emphasizes keystrokes and search. Citysearch also uses the Earthcomber application.
Helio, which had been in talks to merge with Virgin Mobile is reportedly closing its retail stores. It's not clear whether struggling Virgin (an MVNO) will wind up buying Helio but the carrier is apparently the latest MVNO to fail (or almost fail at this point). MVNOs have not fared well in the US.
Helio's motto "don't call it a phone" promised industry leading handsets and capabilities that focused on mobile data rather than voice, for a youth demographic. However, the iPhone and others have largely made Helio and its once innovative capabilities irrelevant.
Now the company faces either a fire sale or flaming out entirely.
Meanwhile, in a bid to get attention and boost its fortunes, Virgin just introduced a $79.99 "all you can eat" voice/data. It's not yet clear whether this will in fact put pressure on other US carriers, which offer unlimited plans for $99 and above. Cheaper and predictable consumer pricing is a key to increased adoption of mobile data and Internet.
The number $79.99 gets very close to being a "mainstream" figure that would drive widespread adoption of these unlimited plans.
The Symbian mobile OS is not written about or discussed as much as the iPhone or Blackberry or Android, but it's the world's dominant smartphone platform. The company that owns it, Symbian, was established in 1998 by a consortium of mobile handset makers and technology providers to license the software. Here's the current ownership structure: Ericsson (15.6%), Nokia (47.9%), Panasonic (10.5%), Samsung (4.5%), Siemens (8.4%) and Sony Ericsson (13.1%).
Nokia is now buying out everyone and going to contribute the software to a foundation, which will make it open source:
To enable the Foundation, Nokia today announced plans to acquire the remaining shares of Symbian Limited that Nokia does not already own and then contribute the Symbian and S60 software to the Foundation. Sony Ericsson and Motorola today announced their intention to contribute technology from UIQ and DOCOMO has also indicated its willingness to contribute its MOAP(S) assets. From these contributions, the Foundation will provide a unified platform with common UI framework. A full platform will be available for all Foundation members under a royalty-free license, from the Foundation's first day of operations.
Contributions from Foundation members through open collaboration will be integrated to further enhance the platform. The Foundation will make selected components available as open source at launch. It will then work to establish the most complete mobile software offering available in open source. This will be made available over the next two years and is intended to be released under Eclipse Public License (EPL) 1.0.
The Foundation's platform will build on the leading open mobile software platform, with more than 200 million phones, across 235 models, already shipped by multiple vendors and tens of thousands of third-party applications already available for Symbian OS-based devices.
What's amazing is how quickly the mobile world is moving toward open-source software platforms: Android, LiMo and now Symbian. Blackberry and iPhone remain proprietary systems but are in some ways protected from this trend, especially the iPhone. However, Windows Mobile may be the one that is most vulnerable.
Based on Q4 sales, here's the smartphone market share hierarchy:
Plazes provides a context-aware social-activity service that people can use to plan, record, and share their social activities: why they are at a given location at a given time, whether in the past, present or future.
By acquiring Plazes, Nokia will be able to extend its context-based service offering with social presence and time-based activity planning features. Plazes adds the elements of "place" and "time" to social networking through features that allow people to alert friends of their activity and location; review their own and others' past activities; share their experiences and make plans with friends, who are then able to respond with comments and suggestions as well as their own location information.
With Plazes, location can be managed on the desktop or via a mobile device. But this is not just about mobile but about the Ovi portal and the desktop. The acquistion is part of Nokia's move to transcend its OEM status and become an "Internet company." Indeed, Nokia has a growing portfolio of acquisitions, most notably including Navteq and Enpocket.
To be competitive longer term, social networks will need to have both a desktop and a mobile presence.
Here's more on the acquisition from the Plazes blog.
The Wall Street Journal has a general discussion of delays and problems afflicting Google's open mobile platform Android. There are no revelations; everything is just taking longer:
T-Mobile USA expects to deliver an Android-powered phone in the fourth period. But that launch is taking up so much of Google's attention and resources that Sprint Nextel Corp., which had hoped to launch an Android phone this year, won't be able to, a person familiar with the matter said.
China Mobile, the largest wireless carrier in the world with nearly 400 million subscriber accounts, had planned to launch an Android phone in the third quarter but it has run into issues that will likely delay the launch until late this year or early 2009, a person familiar with the matter says.
Meanwhile, the Android software has yet to win broad support from large mobile-software developers. Some say it is difficult to develop programs while Google is making changes as it finishes its own software.
The challenge, pardon the pun, is apparently too many moving parts. Hardware makers seem more ready and able to deliver the phones to carriers than carriers are to the broader market. Meanwhile, Apple's 3G iPhone is poised to capture iPod-like status in the mobile market. (Things like Mercedes integration contribute to that.)
Google unveiled some early Android applications at a developer conference earlier this month.
Comparison Shopping engine PriceGrabber (now owned by Experian) has released some interesting data about iPhone interest and intent to purchase, gathered from an online survey and user-behavior on its site (U.S.). The survey was conducted from May 20 to June 3, 2008 (prior to the iPhone 3G announcement) and had a total of 3,066 respondents.
Interest in the iPhone has been consistently high, according to click thoughs on PriceGrabber:
The two principal barriers to iPhone adoption, as we've discussed many times here, are cost and AT&T carrier exclusivity in the U.S.:
According to PriceGrabber, among the 54% who "do not intend" to purchase an iPhone:
Again, this survey was done before the $199 3G iPhone was announced, so the "primary" objection has now presumably been removed. AT&T's exclusivity (or contract with an existing carrier) remains a barrier for many however. But AT&T's favorable ratings are at parity with Verizon among PriceGrabber users:
Among the major U.S. carriers, all added subscribers in Q1 except Sprint, which lost a million to others (Verizon, AT&T, which together added 2.8 million). The data in the table above indicate Sprint faces potential further losses as more subscribers move to the top two carriers. Sprint's "iPhone Killer" Instinct is unlikely to compete successfully against the iPhone, although it may help retain some subscribers.
Specifically regarding the 3G iPhone, here's what the PriceGrabber survey showed:
Those same figures broken down somewhat:
Among those considering a 3G iPhone, 34% said they wanted to wait and see. Again, this survey was before the formal announcement. Some number of those people may have been swayed. Perhaps more interesting is the 36% who say that they're inhibited by their contractual commitment to their existing carrier. That suggests this group is part of the "addressable market" for the iPhone in the future.
Considered in this context, a total of 74% of survey respondents indicated interest in the device, which is a striking figure.
We incorporated some Canadianisms such as "eh," "Traw-na," "Cal-gry," and, of course, "aboot." We also took into account geographical differences. Whereas users in the US are prompted for "city and state," Canadians are asked for your "city and province." We incorporated some Canadianisms such as "eh," "Traw-na," "Cal-gry," and, of course, "aboot." We also took into account geographical differences. Whereas users in the US are prompted for "city and state," Canadians are asked for your "city and province."
The service is still experimental but offers all the same features available in the U.S., such as free call, free connection, SMS info, iPhone "Map-It" integration, and more. For now, the service supports only English queries, but we're working hard to make it disponible en Français dans un proche avenir.
Google did a small amount of promotion (outdoor) in the U.S. for the service but the company has continued to rely upon traditional PR, promoting Goog411 on its O&O properties and word of mouth. While Google's service arguably isn't the best of the free DA offerings (see our report), it has the benefit of Google's brand equity and near ubiquity. Currently Jingle Network's 800-Free-411 is the market leader in terms of awareness and usage.
However, that may change over time. Since we conducted that survey, ChaCha and Verizon have entered the market. There are also new DA-substitute applications and offerings from V-Enable, Tellme, Live Search (with voice) and Yahoo! (+ Vlingo).
With all the promotion of LBS and related mobile targeting technologies there's a notion of the "right ad at the right time and the right place." Alternatively, there's the long-held LBS pitch about the beaming of the coupon "as you're walking by the store." While a viable opt-in version of that (e.g., Dizgo) may come into being, forget about it for now.
Let's focus on the precision targeting capabilities of the mobile handset with its potential demographic, contextual and location awareness. What's become clear to me in the last 6 months is that advertisers and agencies are much less sophisticated than the emerging targeting capabilities on the Internet. Mobile takes that to the next level and is thus even farther away from the current capacities of most agencies and advertisers.
That's why Sprint executive Lisa-Anne Uhrmacher told us this morning that she just wants to work with advertisers on DMA level targeting and get them used to thinking in those terms.
However, she did discuss a successful Sprint campaign with Mercedes dealers in Houston. She said that Sprint used its billing and other available demographic information to target selected customers with Mercedes ads. Subscribers had the option to watch a video, click to call or find a local dealer. The GPS and other location awareness capabilities kicked in to direct users to the nearest dealer after they had "opted-in" to learn more.
This sort of case is powerful as an example of what's possible in mobile. But advertisers have to see, understand and build campaigns that take advantage of all these capabilities -- and that will take some time.
They don't currently "get" local on the desktop, so it's a bit of stretch to expect them to be able to embrace it in mobile.
Data from the Experian-owned Simmons New Media Study (4/08) among U.S. consumers argues that only "5% have used mobile GPS." Further the data show that GPS users are dominated by younger users:
[Data] from the Simmons New Media Study indicate that mobile GPS usage among mobile phone owners skews decidedly younger, although the 35-44 age group indexes slightly above the market average. There is a severe drop-off for the older groups.
GPS is overhyped as the solution to all kinds of mobile challenges. It's helpful and useful but not the holy grail. What is, by contrast, is a combination of GPS, WiFi and cell tower triangulation, which is coming soon. But as the Simmons data show, most mobile subscribers in the US aren't using their phone's GPS capabilities. That will change as GPS or location awareness becomes easier to use or more "automatic."
Here's another interesting chart from the study, showing mobile activities among U.S. cellphone users:
Compare data on iPhone usage from two different sources:
Source: Rubicon Consulting (n=460)
Source: iSuppli (4/08)
The 19% figure in the Simmons data above, regarding mobile Internet access, is exactly consistent with our estimate and translates into 47.5 million mobile Internet users. That's roughly 25% of the total U.S. Internet audience. Usage frequency of the mobile Internet is significantly less than the desktop Internet. However when you consider how new the mobile Internet truly is you realize how quickly access will grow.
It took the desktop Internet roughly a decade to become completely mainstream. It will take half that long for mobile.
Mobile browser Opera released another round of data on global mobile Internet usage. The high level findings are as follows:
Here are the top 10 sites in the U.S. (unique users):
Usage is skewed 80-20 in favor of males. 73% of users are between 18-37.
Here are the top 10 sites in the U.K. (unique users):
Here males represent 83% of Opera users, and roughly 72% fall within the 18-37 age range.
The high proportion of male users (vs. females) of the mobile Internet explains to some degree the high proportion of pornographic content being consumed. But as women buy more smartphones they'll begin to catch up to men in mobile Internet usage and other content categories will rise.
Online, women slightly outnumber men and they're a more important commercial audience than men for several reasons. According to U.S. government sources and the AFL-CIO, women are directly or indirectly responsible for 83% of all purchasing decisions.