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Palm Centro: $100 Smartphone

Yesterday, Palm unveiled the Centro, a $100 smartphone (with a two-year contract) intended to push Palm beyond the business consumer market. A few reviews I've seen say the phone is unremarkable beyond the price. The phone is being exclusively offered by Sprint for 90 days and then it should be more broadly available.

The phone uses the Palm OS, rather than Windows Mobile.

If the phone catches on it could put pressure on others to offer low-end versions of their smartphones. The mobile Internet experience on a smartphone is considerably better than smaller Java phones and the penetration of smartphones is tied directly to mobile Internet adoption and usage by their owners.

JumpTap's Ad Inventory Sells Out for Telefonica Spain

In terms of ad-supported mobile search, carriers in continental Europe continue to stay ahead of North America's mobile operators. The latest example is Telefonica in Spain. Working with white-label search and advertising facilitator, JumpTap, Telefonica has successfully rolled out mobile banner advertising on the its "movistar emocion" portal, as well as sponsored search links embedded in the "Games", "Images" and "Music" channels.

In a press release, JumpTap was pleased to report that, in its first few months of operation, it had twice sold out the portal's entire inventory of display advertising with messages from Sony Ericsson, Warner Music, Gameloft, Vivendi Games Mobile, Coca-Cola, Buongiorno, Terra, Barclays Bank, PrisaCom and BMW. While none of these "brands" is inherently "local", its safe to say that both carriers and advertisers are finding favor with the process of targeting mobile media.

This is one of those instances when scarcity will create demand. Real estate on mobile screens has always been a scarce commodity and there is incentive either to use pricing mechanisms to curtail demand (meaning higher CPMs) or (more likely) to create more inventory through geographic targeting of delivery mechanisms. In that case, scarcity will create localization.

Call Genie Further Boosts CellWand's U.S. Expansion

After launching its #Taxi service in the U.S. to Boost Mobile subscribers at the end of 2006, CellWand Communications Inc. is ready to expand nationwide to multiple carriers. It is turning to Call Genie and its expertise in voice-enabled local search to expand both geographic and business category coverage. Call Genie's role is to provide the technology to "assist #TAXI callers looking for location specific responses."

CellWand has had some success building call volume among wireless subscribers in Canada, through Bell Mobility, Fido, Rogers Wireless, TELUS Mobility and Virgin Mobile. Working with Call Genie provides them with access to a database of local businesses throughout the United States. In return, Call Genie will receive fees for "implementation, hosting and call automation ."

AOL Mobile Portal: From WAP to 'Wapplication'

Last week AOL quietly relaunched its mobile portal. (MSN did this not long ago too.) The site boosts mobile desktop integration and boasts an improved user experience. This comes a few weeks after AOL upgraded the search experience on its WAP site. AOL intends to use desktop integration and promotion -- you will be able to access and/or send lots of online content to mobile -- to build awareness for and drive mobile adoption. The company also plans to emphasize personalization and simplicity.

Personalization will eventually become an important part of the mobile Internet experience for many reasons. Although, on the desktop, people have been generally unwilling to so it very much. In mobile, however, there are functional reasons: for greater accuracy, relevance and efficiency of content and search results. But a mix of incentives to get users to personalize and "passive" personalization will need to be employed to create the best overall experience given the mixed track record of personalization online.

Stepping back, the new AOL WAP portal is a nice mix of structured content, browse and search functionality that might be called a "Wapplication" -- a WAP experience that starts to approach the depth and usability of a rich client.

Unlike the Internet where search can be the starting point for all navigational or content queries, and consumers can perform repeated desktop searches without difficulty, mobile search right now is highly awkward. Mobile providers need to offer structured content for the most common or important categories. Search can then be used, not as a regulation navigational tool, but as a way to find new or additional information on the go. That's unless or until voice or other usability upgrades make mobile search as easy to use as on the desktop.

On the advertising side AOL's recently acquired mobile ad network Third Screen Media is going to be integrated into the company's "Platform A" initiative, which is aimed at providing a one-stop-shop media buying opportunity for agencies and brands. In the near term ads will be mostly from large brands, which may have limited success (absent offers/coupons or high levels of targeting). Indeed, "banner blindness" will be even more pronounced on mobile phones.

A couple of years ago AOL was often criticized as being too simple or too basic by some: "training wheels for the Internet." However, that legacy of simplifying and reaching out to mass audiences will serve company well in thinking mobile.

MoVoxx Reinvents Itself Again

MoVoxx rose from the flames of failed free DA provider Infreeda to become a mobile couponing company working with newspapers. But working with newspapers is challenging and often very slow. Accordingly, the company has recently reinvented itself (again) as an SMS ad network.

Most agencies and companies are ignoring SMS because, like search, it's not a sexy ad medium. Most mobile ad networks, agencies and advertisers are looking beyond text to WAP where there's more room for creative. However, text messaging is where the overwhelming volume of mobile data usage is today. In the U.S., anywhere from 50% to 70% of mobile users -- the numbers skew higher in younger segments -- are using text messaging. Numbers are higher in Europe. But there are few companies trying to monetize it beyond the carriers through subscription revenues.

4Info is one such company, which is positioned both as an ad network and a platform for third-party development.

MoVoxx's strategy is to piggyback on existing text messaging traffic and usage, offering a revenue share for largely impression based ads that appear at the bottom of, say, United text messages to travelers. That way it doesn't have to pay for the SMS traffic and doesn't have to create a destination or brand to acquire users directly. In my example, United underwrites what would otherwise be a cost center and MoVoxx's advertisers get access to specific audiences (e.g., affluent business travelers). The company has many such relationships. Accordingly, it's building content and demographic targeting capabilities into a network that has grown quickly and impressively.

The company is out now looking for an A round to fund growth and further development of its network.

DoubleClick the Latest to Extend into Mobile

Everyone's getting into the act. DoubleClick is the latest to launched a mobile ad serving capability/mobile network. Here's a version of the release.

This would complement Google's push of AdWords into mobile and mobile AdSense if the acquisition clears all the regulatory hurdles, made larger by aggressive lobbying against the deal by a host of Google's competitors including Microsoft, Yahoo and AT&T.

Puddingmedia to Test Privacy/Frugality Trade-off

A Silicon Valley startup, Puddingmedia, is poised to test how large a market it can build for individuals who will allow the company to "mine" its phone conversations in order to serve relevant advertisements. Called ThePudding, it takes surveillance-based marketing to the phone channel channel in a new way. It is tangibly different from "voice search" (a la GOOG411 or Tellme Business), free DA (Jingle Networks) or ad-supported mobile 411 (like V-Enable). In those use-cases, callers are already searching for specific businesses or categories of business and they are offering for a phone based transaction that costs an average of $1.80.

ThePudding is pure VoIP-based phone calls which cost only pennies per minute and it is unclear whether cost avoidance will prove to be adequate incentive to have a media company listen in on private (er, not so private) phone calls. There may be a "serendipity factor" at play which a caller may receive an unexpected, but highly relevant, promotional message. But it is bound to be a slow burn in terms of audience building. Prospective users can enroll on the company's Web site, the pudding.

Business Attitudes toward Online Marketing and Web 2.0

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Precis

Local Mobile Search Report
In early August, Local Mobile Search conducted a survey of small businesses in conjunction with AllBusiness.com to gauge the level of awareness and acceptance of online marketing options compared with more traditional local media. As described in this report, small businesses have embraced the Web, including elements of Web 2.0, but still face many challenges and barriers standing between them and the options that accompany higher-speed, peer-to-peer communications and social networking.

Click Here to View the Report Summary

Featured Research is available to registered users only.

For more information on becoming an I2G client, please contact Pete Headrick ([email protected]).


RESEARCH: Business Attitudes toward Online Marketing and Web 2.0

In early August, Local Mobile Search conducted a survey of small businesses in conjunction with AllBusiness.com to gauge the level of awareness and acceptance of online marketing options compared with more traditional local media. As described in this report, small businesses have embraced the Web, including elements of Web 2.0, but still face many challenges and barriers standing between them and the options that accompany higher-speed, peer-to-peer communications and social networking.

Reports & advisories are available to registered LMS users only.

Non-Clients - Click Here to View the Report Summary

[protect]Registered LMS Clients - Click Here to View the Full Report[/protect]

Nokia's New UMA Phone a Taste of the Future

Nokia's new 6301 handset is designed to work on so-called unlicensed mobile networks (WiFi) as well as operator networks. It's the second such phone from the handset giant. The Nokia phone will switch between networks automatically, without any intervention from users. It will cost $322 (230 Euros). From the press release:

With UMA technology, the consumer can use the GSM network or a broadband Internet-connected WLAN network for mobile services. This can ensure excellent indoor coverage both at office and home. The consumer can have one multi-mode handset that works everywhere with enhanced and easy-to-use voice services. And, WLAN/UMA provides excellent coverage and sound quality, even in areas where mobile phone reception has previously been poor.

And to those operators who feel threatened by the move:

With UMA technology, the Nokia 6301 benefits operators as well, allowing them to deliver voice and data services to subscribers over WLAN, substantially increasing mobile service availability while decreasing the costs related to network deployment.

The iPhone is a version of this. Expect more such phones in the future from more handset makers.

Consumers will eventually demand a single phone that can be used at home or on the go. More and more consumer in the US are choosing mobile phones as primary phones. Wireless phones have outnumbered landlines in the US since last year.

In Europe, Nokia has built a local content initiative, via partnerships with directory publishers, and has launched an ad network, bolstered by recently announced intention to acquire the mobile ad firm Enpocket. In the US, however, the handset maker is in a very different position today vis-a-vis the gatekeeper role of carriers, which can (and will) thwart its content and ad initiatives.

I Wonder Who Buys Outdoor for GOOG411

There have been a number of billboard spottings for GOOG411 in obscure venues, like Olean, NY, as reported in Mike Blumenthal's blog. Outdoor advertising is clearly part of the mix for efforts to build traffic on the automated DA service and Google is using it across all manner of population densities. There's even one on Third Street in San Francisco, just south of AT&T Park, where the Giants are languishing in last place in the National League West.

Bullish on Mobile Search

ask.com

Clearly we believe Local Mobile Search and mobile search more generally have a bright future. But here's a lengthly and detailed article from Ask's Gary Price on mobile search. It includes a good discussion of Map and Local business information.

Wavemarket is behind the Ask Mobile application.

GPhone Today? Yes, No, Maybe? And iPhone UK

I was speaking to a reporter yesterday who suggested that the rumored GPhone, whatever it might actually turn out to be, was going to be announced today. Dan Miller wrote up a client-only advisory on the improbability of a proprietary hardware device (vs. software).

But we'll see what happens . . . Here's Engadget saying yes regarding a Google branded handset.

Meanwhile, the iPhone now officially rolls out in Europe (UK) under the carrier banner of O2. Here's more detail on the announcement from TechCrunch. Apparently there will be better European WiFi coverage/support for the iPhone (via a partnership with The Cloud [too bad it isn't called "Le Cloud"]) so the experience will probably be better than what US users are dealing with.

However The Street reports that a faster (3G) iPhone is coming next year to the US market.

Google Nixes GPhone: Clarifying Mobile Search's Value Chain

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Precis

Local Mobile Search Advisory
Peter Norvig, Google's head of research, recently said that getting into the hardware business with a Google-labeled phone is not a top priority for the search engine giant. This makes strategic sense for a company that has generated billions in revenues and profits by delivering software and services across a broad variety of branded networks and devices. "Open" networks trumps the prospects of branded, proprietary handsets.

Featured Research is available to registered users only.

For more information on becoming an I2G client, please contact Pete Headrick ([email protected]).


Nokia Buying Mobile Ad Firm Enpocket

It happened online: search engines and portals grabbing ad networks. It's starting to happen in mobile. First AOL bought Third Screen Media and today handset maker Nokia announced that it's buying mobile ad firm Enpocket:

By acquiring Enpocket, Nokia will accelerate the scaling of its mobile advertising business, leveraging Enpocket's platform and strong partnerships with advertisers, publishers and operators. In addition to key assets, through this transaction Nokia is gaining a team with strong expertise in global mobile advertising across disciplines.

Nokia is building out a mobile content and ad network in an effort to diversity its business and get a meaningful piece of what promises to be a multi-billion dollar opportunity of the next five to seven years.

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Here's more detail from MediaPost.

Dial Directions Expands, Adds Local Events

Dial Directions is going to announce expansion of its coverage nationally (several major metros) and is adding a nice "solution" for events sponsors and organizers to use Dial Directions to provide directions information via mobile. The service allows for self-service posting of events via the Dial Directions site. Users can then say city and event names and get directions back via text from any served location.

The feature also points to a range of new voice search capabilities that move beyond basic contact details and even directions themselves.

Here's previous coverage of the company and here's more on the announcement.

InfoSpace Sells Switchboard (and more) to Idearc for $225 million

With an eye on 7.2 million additional unique users to augment 21.3 million of its own Idearc, the publisher of SuperPages and operator of www.superpages.com, added InfoSpace's Switchboard to its online media properties. In addition to www.switchboard.com, the acquisition will include Local.Infospace.com and InfoSpace's mobile search service called FindIt. Idearc's management figures that the acquisition will be profitable immediately, adding $25 million to its top line and that margins will benefit from another $5-6 million in depreciation and amortization of assets.

Most importantly, the SuperPages salesforce will have more advertising inventory to sell. As CEO Kathy Harless explained, "We have demand beyond what we can fulfill" when it comes to online availability. Switchboard will continue to operate as its own destination site with advertising now sold by SuperPages. Eric Chandler, president of Idearc's Internet unit, figures that revenue can be enhanced by beefing up Switchboard's search engine marketing strategy, noting that only 5% of revenues arise from optimizing exposure on Google, Yahoo! or MSN Search.

RESEARCH: Google Nixes GPhone: Clarifying Mobile Search's Value Chain

Peter Norvig, Google's head of research, recently said that getting into the hardware business with a Google-labeled phone is not a top priority for the search engine giant. This makes strategic sense for a company that has generated billions in revenues and profits by delivering software and services across a broad variety of branded networks and devices. "Open" networks trumps the prospects of branded, proprietary handsets.

Advisories are available to registered users only.

[protect]Registered CAS Clients - Click Here to View the Full Advisory[/protect]

Microsoft (With Tellme) Joins Sprint to Offer Speech-Enabled Mobile Search

"Location, location. and location." It's not just about real estate anymore. Today when Microsoft and Sprint Nextel join forces to roll-out speech-enabled mobile search, Sprint subscribers will find that they can use their voice to conduct Web searches, find local business or locate content. They will also find a search box powered by Microsoft Live Search located on their phones' Home Page.

They will find that Sprint can use its GPS-enabled handsets to help them find nearby businesses based on spoken queries to Microsoft's Live Search for Mobile -- powered by the recently acquired Tellme Networks. In addition, a select number of handsets (ironically not including those running the Windows Mobile operating system) will support voice-initiated local search using the downloadable TellmebyMobile Java-based client software.

It's an effective marriage of "federated search," which includes both Web-based and mobile content, with TellmebyMobile. Nonetheless the positioning plays up functionality over branding. Mobile Web-based search is offered at "no extra charge" to subscribers to Sprint's data plan. The voice search functionality is made possible by a free download, although "standard data charges" apply.

After a two month quiet period, it's nice to see some results from the Tellme acquisition. For its fixed line telco clients, Tellme continues to power the speech-enabled directory assistance, as well as its business search through 800-555-TELL, in head to head competition with Nuance Voice Search and Goog411. On the wireless side the Sprint/Microsoft joint offering is a "first" of sorts in that it leverages the carriers location-aware infrastructure. Let's hope this is a precursor for more such opening up of the carrier networks local mobile search technology providers.

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Here's Greg's related write up of the announcement on the Search Engine Land blog.

Google Formally Introduces Mobile AdSense

Google AdSense for mobile is formally being rolled out on the heels of the announcement that Google would be distributing a large number (if not the majority) of its AdWords advertisers in mobile search automatically. AdSense for mobile is Google's bid for mobile ad syndication on third party mobile content sites. It's aimed at publishers/site owners and it's essentially identical to conventional AdSense except the "form factor" makes for some additional constraints and rules.

The New York Times Miguel Helft explains:

The company said that its new product, AdSense for Mobile, would establish a cellphone advertising network in which Google would match ads with the content of mobile Web pages, much as it does online.

Other Internet giants, including Yahoo and AOLTime Warner, as well as some start-ups, have also created advertising networks tailored for mobile phones.

Dilip Venkatachari, product management director for AdSense, said the ads would provide a new source of revenue for publishers and could encourage more online sites to create mobile-focused Web sites. Like most other Google advertising systems, ad prices will be set through an auction and and advertisers will pay when a user clicks on its ad.

Mr. Venkatachari said Google had encouraged publishers to have no more than two ads per mobile page, a smaller number than typically appear on a PC’s Web browser.

Google has been testing the system with a limited number of advertisers and publishers this year. On Tuesday, it will open it to all mobile publishers in 13 countries, including the United States, Britain, France, China and India.

The issue is not the ad infrastructure or "monetizing" mobile search; the issue is creating usable experiences, software and devices to build audiences -- the monetization will naturally follow.

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Here's more from the Google AdSense Blog.