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More Content Widgets on Where

uLocate's Where has added Yelp, ZipCar and Topix to its stable of available content widgets. Where is currently available to U.S. mobile subscribers of Sprint and Alltel.

Where's relationship with the carriers allows content publishers to benefit from GPS location awareness without having to do biz dev deals directly with the operators.

Currently consumers pay $2.99 monthly for access to Where's content. However, eventually, the service will be ad supported.

Here's our original post on the company.

Brands Display Interest, Ambivalence about SMS

MediaPost discusses a survey by mobile marketing company airwide solutions investingating the attitudes of "50 global brands" toward mobile marketing and SMS and MMS in particular. According to the survey:

28% of companies surveyed have already launched live SMS campaigns and 18% have launched live MMS campaigns. Growth in the sophistication of mobile marketing campaigns was reflected in the number of brands considering implementing both SMS and MMS mobile marketing in the next 12 months, which doubled to 28% since a similar survey in 2006. The survey also found that more brands are looking to spend a greater proportion of their marketing budget on mobile campaigns in the near future with 71% of brands projecting to spend up to 10% of their budget on mobile marketing within two years' time.

Response rates were good:

Brand experience with mobile marketing is increasingly positive as more brands are getting higher response rates from their campaigns. The percentage of big brands who said that up to 10% of recipients of mobile marketing campaigns requested more information as a result of receiving a mobile marketing message grew from 32% in 2006 to 58% in 2007. And the news is even better for financial transactions with 73% of brands stating that up to 10% of recipients subsequently undertook a financial action as a result of the campaign as compared with 28% in 2006. Every responding brand agreed that their most recent mobile marketing campaign was successful in increasing customer familiarity of their brand.

However there were also fears of a backlash from mobile users:

Almost half of big brands (46%) are concerned that mobile marketing is too intrusive, with many feeling that customers will perceive messages as spam. Of these, 41% are unsure how to rectify the problem by targeting specific audiences. Over a third of brands (36%) would require detailed information on how the user responded to the message, and one in five want proof that the message has been received by the user's handset (concerns mirrored by recent high profile issues with TV text voting).

Those fears are not entirely unfounded based on consumer research done to date about mobile advertising. Previous research conducted by Ingenio and Harris discovered that at least 74% of consumers found all forms of mobile advertising "not acceptable at all." In addition, Nielsen just found that mobile advertising was the "least trusted" of all ad types and categories among consumers.

Nonsense Lawsuit Further Evidence of iPhone Hunger

Between the cat and mouse game being played by Apple, AT&T and hackers around unlocking the device and a new civil lawsuit filed in California, there is mounting evidence that Apple made a major strategic blunder by doing an exclusive deal with AT&T. Of course, I wasn't "in the room" so I don't know the precise rationale or negotiations behind exclusivity. There are rumors of Apple demands and arrogance in negotiating the deal. But that's all hearsay.

Regarding the newly filed litigation, according to an AFP report, "The lawsuit, filed by attorney Damian Fernandez on behalf of a California man, accuses Apple of creating a monopoly by barring US customers from choosing a cellphone service provider other than U.S. telecom giant AT&T."

While the suit is an opportunistic stunt, it suggests, together with all the other evidence of frenzy around the iPhone, that Apple would have sold at least twice the reported 1.2 million units by now if it had made them more widely available.

It's emerging that AT&T exclusivity could well prevent the iPhone from becoming the "iPod of mobile phones."

Sprint to Shelve WiMax Plan?

According to CNET, following the long-expected departure of its CEO Gary Forsee, Sprint's investors and Wall Street analysts are pressuring the company to drop its costly plan to build a WiMax network:

Among investors' biggest concerns is Sprint's plan to build a next-generation wireless network using a technology called WiMax. The company has committed itself to spending $5 billion in the next three years to build the network, with about $2 billion of that money earmarked to be spent in the next year to get WiMax coverage to about 100 million people by the end of 2008.

One of Sprint's partners in the effort is Google:

Under the deal, Google will provide the Web-search capabilities for that portal. Sprint also will integrate a suite of popular Google mobile applications, including Gmail email and Google Calendar.

It's quite likely that Sprint will delay, roll back or scrap the project under pressure. But the latter might be a long term disaster for the company as it struggles to retain customers and differentiate itself from Verizon and AT&T. WiMax would allow the company to offer Internet access, mobile and other services over a wireless broadband network. But the financial benefits such a network would bring could be years away (or be diluted by competitive pressures), suggesting the company may be forced to divert attention to more immediate concerns and opportunities (read: core business).

If Sprint does abandon or significantly delay the network it may give additional motivation to Google to become more aggressive than it's already being in finding direct sources of mobile access (read: 700 MHZ spectrum licenses).

Dial Directions Adds More Cities

Dial Directions

Dial Directions has further expanded its reach to additional cities: Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, Miami, Philadelphia and Las Vegas

The service was already available in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Sacramento, San Diego and Washington, D.C.

Here's the press release. And here's our previous coverage.

Dial Directions is expanding the range of "free DA" services and has an interesting roadmap that extends into social media areas.

AT&T Gains 700 MHz Spectrum Ahead of Auction

AT&T has pulled off something of a coup, acquiring (pending government approval) 700 MHz spectrum in advance of next year's auction. The 700 MHz spectrum is currently used for analog TV broadcasting and will be turned over to the FCC in 2009. It's valued for its broadband capabilities.

AT&T is buying the spectrum, which reportedly covers 196 million people in 281 U.S. markets including most of the top 100 markets, from Aloha Partners, which currently owns it, for $2.5 billion -- assuming the deal goes through.

It's not clear whether the company will participate in next year's auction as a result of this probable acquisition.

One of the big questions in the upcoming auction is whether Google will successfully obtain any of this spectrum to be able to offer WiMax or WiFi or mobile services. And, if so, will it adhere to its own "openness manifesto" and allow others to gain carriage on the network. But that's putting the spectrum licenses before the horse -- so to speak.

Here's more on the AT&T spectrum acquisition from the Wall Street Journal.

Google Buys Twitter-like Jaiku

Google Jaiku

Google has acquired Finnish "microblogging" desktop-SMS platform (think Twitter) Jaiku for an undisclosed sum. This adds to another "social" application to Google's mobile portfolio. The company also recently bought mobile site Zingku.

Jaiku has broader multimedia capabilities than Twitter. Approximately 1/3 of the company's users are in the US. The rest are distributed throughout Europe and Japan.

Here's a tiny bit more information from the Google Blog.

In addition to straightforward WAP-based search Google is building a suite of integrated desktop and mobile apps, with social dimensions. Jaiku adds to that capability.

Google 'Phone' Probably a Mobile OS

Almost as much speculation surrounds what Google may be doing with its rumored "GPhone" initiative as lead up to Apple's iPhone launch. However, the difference as suggested by a piece today in the NY Times, is that Google is probably not developing hardware but rather a mobile OS and a range of software applications to go with it:

Google wants to extend its dominance of online advertising to the mobile Internet, a small market today, but one that is expected to grow rapidly. It hopes to persuade wireless carriers and mobile phone makers to offer phones based on its software, according to people briefed on the project. The cost of those phones may be partly subsidized by advertising that appears on their screens. . . .

In short, Google is not creating a gadget to rival the iPhone, but rather creating software that will be an alternative to Windows Mobile from Microsoft and other operating systems, which are built into phones sold by many manufacturers. And unlike Microsoft, Google is not expected to charge phone makers a licensing fee for the software.

One thing that's very clear is that Google understands improved usability will lead to greater mobile Internet adoption and usage and, eventually, monetization. It has seen a tremendous spike in usage of its mobile apps and search since the introduction of the iPhone in June.

On the monetization front Google, as previously mentioned, has said all AdWords advertisers (with limited exceptions) will be distributed via mobile unless they opt out by November 18. This is a dramatic and forceful effort to immediately monetize mobile search. (Yahoo!, by contrast, is taking a wait and see approach about paid search ads on mobile despite showing plenty of mobile banner ads.)

At last week's SMX Local & Mobile conference I informally asked search marketers in the audience whether they would likely opt out of mobile AdWords or stay in -- most of them seemed to raise their hands "yes" they would opt-out. However, this seems to be a kind of unprincipled, knee-jerk position based on uncertainty about mobile ad performance at the moment.

The chief difference between ads on the desktop vs. in Google mobile search results (at least on smartphones) is that ads appear at the bottom of mobile results vs. the top (and right) on the desktop. While Google will undoubtedly experiment over time with ad position, this "below the fold" placement of ads in mobile may depress potential click/call throughs. However, ever mindful of the user experience, Google is being cautious at this stage not to be too aggressive with mobile advertising.

The totality of Google's mobile efforts -- including the bid for wireless spectrum -- will mean that US carriers (with the possible exception of Sprint) will regard Google as a full-blown competitor if they don't already. That will be good for white-label providers JumpTap and Medio Systems.

Assuming a Google mobile OS is indeed in the works, it's quite likely that US mobile operators will do their best to keep Google OS handsets out of their product lineups and stores. While that behavior would raise the specter of anti-trust, expect them to use whatever means they have to keep from supporting Google and being "disintermediated." In Europe and elsewhere in the world, the more open structure of markets would prevent operators from blocking handsets carrying a Google mobile OS.

Alltel Wifi and Widgets

Today's news involving Alltel is that the recently privatized cell carrier is out with a big new Wifi push (powered by Boingo Wireless):

Whether staying in a hotel, waiting for a flight or drinking a latte at the local coffee shop, Alltel customers can now connect to the Internet virtually anywhere. Alltel Wireless, America's largest network providing coverage across the nation, today launched Alltel Wi-Fi, an easy-to-use solution powered by Boingo Wireless that instantly provides customers with laptop access to thousands of hotspots throughout North and South America. Alltel also provides wireless broadband access via Alltel Wireless Internet service, allowing customers to access the Internet from their laptop or smartphone at speeds of up to 2.4 Mbps on its nationwide data network.

This is a progressive plan that is the shape of things to come (sort of like what BT is doing in the U.K.). While the Alltel plan is focused on latptop access, eventually phones will "toggle" between cell networks and Wifi. Theoretically one could use the iPhone or the iPod Touch with this plan.

I've also been meaning to write for some time about the Alltel "Celltop," which is also very progressive and forward looking. It's a widget-based deck that allows users to customize their mobile "homepage" with content modules. Think of it like MyYahoo! or iGoogle for the cellphone.

This is a direction that some European operators (e.g., T-Mobile with t-zones) are heading and I would expect that more US carriers will introduce some version of what Alltel is offering with Celltop. They would be smart to do so and it would potentially preempt the move past the carrier deck to branded content and search sites.

In a somewhat related vein, uLocate's Where platform (and ZenZui) offer similar widget-based approaches to mobile content delivery.

iPhone: A 'Human' Problem-Solving Device

Michael Arrington points to the new iPhone ads and remarks that the phone is barely shown in the ads. Here are the ads themselves. Arrington makes a good point about adding women into these ads. But Apple is probably playing to the early adopter audience here.

What's striking to me is that in the signature Apple way these ads are "human" and showcase how the iPhone does things, solves problems and helps you get on with it -- with customary ease of use.

Even though Blackberry is trying to do lots of branding and offering user testimonials in its ads, it's qualitatively different. The video testimonials just aren't as compelling. It's a B2B device that will have a hard time breaking through to the broader consumer market.

You can't love a Blackberry (despite your addiction) in the way that you can love an iPhone.

Google Mobile Data: Interesting and Puzzling

In an article that appears in the IEEE Computer Society's Computer Magazine, two researchers at Google dissect and mine mobile query logs from WAP-based searches coming through a single (unnamed) U.S. carrier. One million "page view requests" from one month earlier in 2007 were analyzed. In the study, Google looked at queries from traditional cell phones, as well as smartphones.

The headline is that users are typing in longer query strings and clicking on more results than two years ago when Google performed a similar analysis. The data appear to contradict some other studies about mobile user interests and behavior already in the market from iCrossing, AOL and Ingenio. These findings should be considered in the larger context and totality of all the available information.

The rest of my post is at Search Engine Land... but here's the relevant local part:

This finding about the apparently low interest in local content in mobile doesn't ring true to me.

The categories in the Google table are undefined so it's hard to know what sites are behind these categories, much less the user intent motivating the searches.

Google's WAP search has four categories: Web, Images, Local and Mobile Web. Although I'm sure the researchers parsed the queries it's not clear how rigorous they were in doing so or attempting to identify user intent. I'm certain, for example, that many of the entertainment and "lifestyle" related queries are in fact local.

Here Google may be defining "local" as service business listings exclusively. In addition, maps, which always ranking highly in mobile search, are nowhere to be found in the list above.

Previously iCrossing's study showed that local content was the highest in demand among mobile users:


Source: iCrossing (4/07)

I've discovered from iCrossing that "adult content" was not offered as an option in asking about the content interests reflected in the chart above. So it's safe to say that beyond adult content, local is highest in demand for mobile users.

WiFi Grows in the U.K., Languishes in the U.S.

While the effort to build out muni-WiFi in the U.S. languishes the effort to build a nationwide WiFi network in the U.K. is gaining steam. MarketWatch and the Wall Street Journal report (same article) on British Telecom's investment in FON, the Spanish WiFi provider, and its push to build a U.K.-wide free (to BT customers) network:

BT's three million plus Total Broadband customers will be able to join the FON WiFi network, which already provides more than 190,000 hotspots worldwide. By doing so, BT's customers will effectively turn part of their home WiFi system into a public network, which others can then access.

The former U.K. telecommunications monopoly says the deal will create the world's largest WiFi community, with BT customers able to access other FON hotspots for free wherever they are in the world. It declined to say how big a stake it has taken in FON or how much it has paid. FON already has 500,000 members around the world and a number of municipal WiFi deals in place with local authorities. For example, in the Chueca district of Madrid in Spain, FON works with a local not-for-profit organization to provide WiFi coverage.

Free WiFi or at least uniform, nationwide access to WiFi (outside of carrier broadband cards) is highly desirable to consumers but highly inconsistent in the U.S. If it were reliably available in the U.S. it would help free the iPhone and boost consumer adoption of the mobile Internet. And, it would also be a threat to the mobile carrier stranglehold on the U.S. consumer.

The U.S. carriers have a conflict of interest, accordingly, in participating in building out national WiFi in the U.S. Sprint has done a deal with Google for WiMax but we'll see how far that goes. In addition, TimeWarner cable in the U.S. is part of the FON Network. But I suspect it will be a long long time before we see anything like what BT is doing in the U.K. in the U.S.

FON also has investors in Google and Skype. Here's FON founder Martin Varsavsky's discussion of the BT deal and its implications.

iPhone Clones on the March

There are already a number of phones that ape the iPhone. The latest is the LG voyager (to be offered by Verizon), profiled in this Wall Street Journal article:

Verizon Wireless's new lineup boasts several eye-catching devices. Of note is the LG Electronics Inc. Voyager, which has a large touch screen similar to the iPhone but folds out laterally like the LG EnV to reveal a second screen and keyboard.

"There's no question the Voyager and the iPhone are chasing the same customers," Mr. Greengart said.

Joe Saracino, a marketing executive for Verizon Wireless, said it would be "cheaper than that other touch-screen phone," referring to the $399 iPhone.

The LG Venus is a slider phone with two screens: a traditional main viewing screen and a second smaller touch screen with virtual controls.

At SMX Local & Mobile, Google's Sumit Agarwal presented a chart that showed the dramatic spike that Google's mobile traffic experienced when the iPhone was introduced in June. This is immediate and direct proof that better user experiences will drive adoption and usage. Indeed, the iPhone has created a kind of de-facto standard for the mobile Web, which other companies will attempt to exploit with a similar look and feel and attempt at similar usability.

(The keyboard is the iPhone's principal "weak link.")

The challenge for the iPhone is to find a way to free itself from AT&T before competitors create "good enough" versions to blunt its momentum. But there's no comparable device -- not the Treo, not the Blackberry -- that inspires the kind of devotion and consumer adulation that the iPhone currently does.

In Europe, the iPhone and iPod Touch can access the Internet via The Cloud, a EU wide WiFi network. See also, WiFi Grows in the U.K., Languishes in the U.S.

Nielsen: Mobile Ads Least Trusted

In a broad, international consumer survey conducted by Nielsen, traditional advertising was much more highly trusted than digital ads. What's especially striking for purposes of this post is the low trust ratings for mobile ads in particular. According to a MediaPost summary of the findings:

Seventy-eight percent of consumers say they trust other consumers' recommendations over all advertising/marketing avenues. Next in the trust line: Ads in newspapers, at a 63% score. Consumers' opinions from online blogs came in third at 61%. Brand Web sites were at 60%.

Of the 13 different ad platforms Nielsen surveyed, new digital platforms--including some of that group's biggest categories--took the last three spots. Search engine ads only generated a 34% trusting score; online banner ads were at 26%; and--dead last--was text ads on mobile phones.

These findings echo earlier research conducted by Ingenio and Harris that reflects general consumer dislike of and resistance to mobile advertising. The Ingenio-Harris survey discovered that at least 74% of consumers found all forms of mobile advertising "not acceptable at all."

However, Scott Silk, CEO of Action Engine recently discussed these findings on a phone call with me and said that when consumers are actually presented with relevant mobile ads -- as opposed to being asked about their attitudes in the abstract -- the majority embrace them. His statements are reportedly based on focus group research and experience with Action Engine's partners.

The "word of mouth" findings from the Nielsen survey represent generally good news for mobile social networks such as Mosio, which rely on a distributed user base to answer questions from other users. Such networks may have more good will and credibility with end-users and thus provide a more effective channel for advertisers.

Text messaging platform and ad network 4Info also told LMS that in many cases the company has seen response rates in double digits to ads.

Mobile Search Syndication 'Land Grab' in Progress

Yahoo!'s mobile deal, announced yesterday, with Spain's Telefonica increases the mobile reach of Yahoo oneSearch and other Yahoo! content (Flickr, Mail) dramatically in 15 countries. I saw a projection that said it amounted to 100 million more users -- in one deal. Google and Microsoft are also busy doing "syndication" deals with handset makers and non-US carriers (Sprint being the exception).

The Telefonica relationship, the precise terms of which were not disclosed, puts a Yahoo! oneSearch box on Telefonica branded "pages" in mobile. Google has a similar arrangement, for example, in Europe with T-Mobile: T-Mobile deck, Google branded search.

The land grab going on now to establish reach is similar to what happened on the desktop several years ago. Google built its brand and massive reach to some degree by syndicating its search box to third party publishers. That's one way to view what's happening now. Another way is to see the operators in the position that AOL was in early on. People paid AOL for "carriage" on its network and access to its huge user base at the time. Yet another way to regard these deals is as similar to those struck by search engines with PC makers, such as Dell-Google and Lenovo-Microsoft.

One could see the mobile operators today in an analogous position to AOL then; they have the audiences now to some degree but could well be "disintermediated" and marginalized over time by the brand strength and familiarity of the search engines. Even worse, mobile operators could readily turn into the "dumb pipe" that most ISPs largely became on the desktop. It's a dilemma: help build the mobile brand of Google or Yahoo or go with JumpTap or Medio for search and advertising. Telefonica has done both. JumpTap and Medio would argue there's no dilemma here.

But there is marketing value, immediate ad revenue and consumer demand (from a carrier perspective) for the Google, Yahoo and Microsoft partnerships. Accordingly, there is an argument to be made for these deals and, in fact, the operators and handset makers are doing them. Yahoo has similar deals in Asia.

Yahoo's distribution on Telefonica (and its various mobile subsidiaries in Europe and Latin America) will come with ads sold and served by Yahoo, with presumably a rev share for Telefonica. These sorts of deals will likely be increasingly common among the operators and major search providers, who already have hundreds of thousands of advertisers that can quickly monetize mobile search (assuming more mobile searches start to happen).

Nokia is very interesting because, although not a carrier, the company is moving quickly and agressively to extend itself beyond the role of hardware maker with the acquisition of Enpocket (to complement its existing mobile ad infrastructure) and, just yesterday, Navteq. The company could be something of a model for the operators.

But I'm struck that what we're now seeing, in very accelerated fashion, in the build out of mobile reach (via operators and handset makers) is very much like what happened when Google and to a lesser degree Yahoo started syndicating their search boxes all over the Internet.

Video DEMO of FastCall411

Mobile advertising/lead generation provider FastCall411 officially launched at the recent DEMO conference. Here's the full demo/pitch from CEO Richard Rosen on video.

Multiple merchants (up to 10) are dialed simultaneously when a consumer seeks a plumber (the example Rosen uses). One of the historical challenges with SMBs is getting through to them. Call connection rates can be as low as 20%, which poses volume challenges for PPCall. Rosen was partly seeking to solve that problem with the system he developed for FastCall411.

FastCall411 is not using a PPCall model however. Calls are free to merchants, who are told that FastCall411 is delivering the call. Those who accept become sales prospects.

What's also interesting is the way that this system helps clean up the local data. FastCall's algorithm boosts the rankings of vendors/merchants who pick up the phone and are most responsive. That indicates that they're still in business for one thing. That's arguably the "secret sauce" (now not so secret) in the model.

Rosen has taken his understanding of the calls segment from CallSource and Jambo and rolled it up into FastCall411.

Report: Nokia to Buy Navteq

According to the Wall Street Journal, Nokia is in talks to buy Navteq:

With a $7.61 billion market capitalization, Chicago-based Navteq is one of the world's leaders in electronic mapping, which enables in-vehicle navigation devices and a new generation of mobile-phone applications used for shopping, emergency services and advertising.

The two sides have been in deep discussions over the past few weeks, said the people familiar with the matter. It was still possible those discussions could crumble over a series of last-minute issues. A Navteq spokesman didn't return a request for comment. Nokia representatives were unavailable for comment.

Nokia's interest in Navteq represents a vigorous move into the mobile-services arena, where Nokia has already been building a suite of products around games and music. These types of services have been in development for years by mobile-phone makers like Nokia, as well as by telecom service providers. Around the telecommunications world, there is a growing sense that these services are finally ready for wide-scale consumer adoption.

TomTom bought Navteq's chief competitor TeleAtlas for $2.5 billion. Nokia has pushed into mobile content and services as a growth area for the business, most recently buying mobile ad network Enpocket.

One of Nokia's big content initiatives is to bring local search content onto handsets through partnerships with directory publishers. In the U.S., however, that strategy is thwarted by the carrier control over the deck and related content.

Users Want Better Mobile Usability, Local Content

To promote its forthcoming conference, the Kelsey Group has put out some new mobile user numbers. Without having seen the underlying data (research with 500 U.S. users), the findings reinforce what is generally recognized: usability is lacking, people want better mobile Internet devices and consumers want local content on mobile devices.

From the release:

  • 44.7 % U.S. mobile phone users surveyed say a mobile phone with better Internet capability will be a key factor in their next mobile phone purchase decision. According to the survey, only 26 percent of mobile phone service subscribers currently opt for an Internet access plan.
  • [M]aps and local commercial search are preferred Internet applications. In the past six months, 9.8 percent of respondents used their mobile phones to conduct Internet searches for products and services in their local area. During the same period, 10.7 percent downloaded or looked at maps, while 10.9 percent indicated they had downloaded search or mapping applications (for use on the Internet) to supplement those that came with their mobile phones. Launches in the U.S.

InfoNXX, the owner of 118118 in the U.K. and 118218 in France, has quietly launched the local search site in the US. InfoNXX is also on track to buy Deutsche Telekom's directory assistance business for almost $800 million.

Never Heard of Zingku? Google Now Owns It


The blog Google Operating System reports that Google has acquired a mobile service called Zingku, which had been in private beta. Around since 2005 the service uses text messaging and picture messaging to provide a platform for (what appears to be) entertainment and events-related communication but also has commercial potential. Zingku also integrates the desktop with mobile. Below are some excerpts from copy on the company's website:

With Zingku, things you wish to promote or share, can easily be created and fetched via mobile, instant messenger, and web browser. Our service integrates your mobile phone with a personalized web site so that you can easily move (zing) things back and forth between the web and and your mobile as well as powerfully connect with friends and optionally their friends.

Zingku services are also being made available to "merchants" who wish to reach an audience. Merchants create "mobile flyers" and then publish/email a "zing-code" to their customers who opt to pull the flyer to their mobile phone. The customer can then zing it to those friends who they think may be interested. Our mobile flyers are interactive, can take a recipient through a mobile text and picture messaging journey. As such, 18 - 28 year olds, who have tuned out of email and are tuned in into their mobile, respond far more actively than traditional marketing media.

Because only a few people have used the service to date everything is speculation in terms of how Google might integrate this service into other mobile initiatives. Dodgeball, one of the first mobile-social services, acquired by Google in 2005 has so far not yielded much for Google. Zingku would appear to supersede it in a way.

There are a few things interesting to me here. One is the desktop and IM integration, which is important and will be a feature of more and more mobile offerings. (AOL is making a big push to integrate the desktop with mobile.) Also, Google is one of the few companies that can instantly monetize a service like this with contextual advertising (AdSense for Mobile). It's likely however, that Google will seek to build usage and observe that usage for some time before doing so.

Text messaging is where the volume of data users is right now and it's not really being used as an ad medium by many. Companies such as 4Info , the newer MoVoxx and 118118 in the U.K. are actively monetizing text messaging with ads. But most advertisers and ad network providers are looking "beyond" text to WAP where the environment is considerably richer though far less developed in terms of adoption.

When I saw Zingku the thing that first popped into my head was a mobile version of Craigslist (on the commercial side), although I'm sure that's not exactly right or how it will play out. As with many Google acquisitions I'm sure the company saw potential to use the service in a variety of ways on both the consumer and advertiser sides.

What may also happen is that Google may just take the capabilities, get rid of the Zingku brand (since nobody knows it), and fold everything into an uber Google text platform and suite of services that integrates aspects of Dodgeball, Google Maps, etc. There's also considerable potential to integrate this with the newly redesigned Orkut (which should probably be renamed) and differentiate that service from other social networks. However, MySpace and Facebook are actively involved in "mobilizing" their networks.

Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed (but the money can't be much given the prelaunch status of the services) and Zingku is only available in the U.S. currently. However, Google will expand the platform or integrated capabilities globally over time.

Clearly Google can do a number of things with Zingku. The questions are: precisely what and how soon? Though I hate to use the term, "mobile social networking" will be a large segment (probably focused on text in the near term, eventually to be multi-modal) and there will be something of a race to gain widespread usage.

Mosio, which I have yet to write about, is a very interesting mobile-social search service that is now live that leverages the desktop and uses text messaging to offer a Q&A service ("social directory assistance") to its users.

Much more to come on this topic.