Friday, 16 February 2007

3GSM

Lots of interesting stuff from 3GSM
  1. Location - GPS and A-GPS seem to really be stirring an interest. So many location companies. Could we finally be seeing the rebirth of LBS? Possibly, but only when the devices come down in price. Nokia 6110 at €450 anyone. Those unit prices should come down soon and we may actually see GPS in high and mid-tier devices as standard. Big US pressure for it obviously thanks to the E-911 directive.
  2. Mobile internet - plenty of moves to mobilize web 2.0 applications. Which is nice. Nokia and Vodafone both announced tie ups with YouTube. Also MySpace and eBay getting even more interest. Is it finally happening? Following last year's hype about mobile TV I think operators are getting the message that these types of Apps are actually the most interesting.
  3. OS - much interest in OS and a few choice announcements from Samsung and Motorola about Symbian devices. I guess Linux-based devices are a little way off yet, but did see some nice ones from HK-based e28. Vodafone re-interated that they're focusing on only 3 OSes (S60, Windows and Linux) but they even admitted that they'll be pragmatic about it. Well, they have to be really - no SonyEricssons or Blackberrys? Crazy.
  4. Form factor - Samsung phones for the next couple of quarters are looking pretty sexy. Particularly the F520. Double slider.
  5. Music - nothing from Apple. Mind you, the MusicStation announcement from Omnifone looked interesting. More later.
  6. Tim Berners-Lee - I got to meet the guy who's #99 on the list of Top 100 Greatest Britons as voted by the great British public. Mind you Princess Diana made it in at number 3, so you judge the value. On the note of royalty, I also spied Prince Andrew legging it up the Avenue. Much less interesting.
  7. Arun Sarin - looking mighty peeved in the baggage hall at Heathrow. I was also on the flight - 5 hours on the tarmac at Barcelona airport. Not fun.

Friday, 9 February 2007

Vodafone adds YouTube and eBay

Vodafone announces eBay (8th February) and YouTube Mobile (9th February) further boosting it's portolio of web 2.0 applications.

I suspect the YouTube implementation won't exactly set the pulse racing. A selection of content. Hmmm OK. It'll be interesting to see how they charge for it. If it's on Live! it must be free to browse, so it must be up-front ads, surely. That's the logical option anyway. Charging per-KB for using YouTube will result in some pretty annoyed customers. Billshock galore!

I've never been convinced about eBay on the mobile. Retail purchases (like banking, home insurance, buying your holiday etc.) will wait until you get home! The one eBay feature that's really suited to mobile is keeping tabs on how your bidding is going.

Wednesday, 7 February 2007

O2 reports underwhelming i-mode take up


O2 has announced subscriber growth for i-mode. About 450,000 at present, up from 250,000 in June 2006, following an October 2005 launch. So despite a slightly improving range of handsets, growth is slowing. Also, no indication of how many people just fancied one of the phones and aren't really using i-mode at all.

Face facts i-mode fans, it's just not what people want. It was a pretty good solution 5 years ago. Now it's outdated. Full HTML browsing is where it's at. Look at what companies like InfoGin and Picsel can do with rendering and how clever the smart browsers are. A separate mobile internet is a thing of the past.

It's interesting that other i-mode operators have either pretty much dumped it (Cellcom, MTS) or "deprioritised" it (E-Plus). Before they stopped publishing numbers of i-mode subscribers a few quarters ago KPN and E-Plus had seen user numbers start to decline. And there is was all based on handset subsidy. In Belgium, where there aren't any subsidies, take up at KPN's BASE subsidiary was abysmal.

Vodafone/MySpace and Mobile Search

Couple of interesting announcements today.

1. Vodafone signs an exclusive deal to mobilise MySpace. We'll have to wait to see what the look and feel is like, but it's good news for Vodafone that applications providers feel there is a benefit to integrating their application with the operator, rather than just going it alone as a web app.

2. Mobile operators want a mobile-only search engine. For "mobile-only" we can probably read "non-Google". My guess is that they'll do a big deal with Yahoo. Otherwise, buy stock in JumpTap today.

All this is evidence of operators trying to flex their muscles in the value chain. Some would argue they're fighting a losing battle and should accept a dumb-pipe role. I'm sort of one of them. But I do think that ease of use is much more important in mobile services than on the internet, so there is a greater need to integrate services with devices (which should be what operators do!).

I also think that as operators start providing services across multiple access technologies their strength will increase. In a single service environment mobile operators are threatened by those above and below them in the value chain (or on either side depending how you draw your chains!). With multiple services and access networks they face a much more fragmented set of opponents. Can Orange get into IPTV and broadband. Of course. Can Nokia start making laptops and TV sets. Not easily. Although we'll leave aside the fact that Nokia used to make TVs, their attempt at a PC-style device is limited to the 770 internet tablet. Similarly, can Google provide TV? Or Sky voice services? They can potentially, but they're not good at it and they'd face strong opposition from incumbents in that space. A single service provider can divide and rule the devices/applications landscape.