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Archive for the ‘Industry’ Category

So Long, and Thanks For All the Fish

Posted by Admin on March 14, 2009

That was one of the first comments on a bittersweet post on Mobile Industry Review. Bittersweet because it is a successful way to monetise the site for Ewan, but it deprives us the regular readers of the insight and opinion, the gossip and videos and the all round great resource for mobile related stuff that MIR was.

As you’d expect on a post as earth shattering as this there have been a number of comments. Most of them have been people just wanting to express sadness at losing the site as a resource and with Ewan and the team good luck. But some have verged on the angry – which is a shame.

What a lot of the comments have highlighted are two key questions – which I’m not going to try and answer here. The first is how to make money from a blog. If a site like MIR can’t generate enough sponsorship to keep it afloat then what hope is there? MIR had a hugely loyal readership and also a huge readership of people that mattered in mobile. On top of that the quality of the articles and videos put many ‘professional’ sites to shame. Yet still the advertising model wasn’t working.

The other question, and a slightly more philosophical one, is who owns a blog. Several comments have been made on the article that suggest that Ewan shouldn’t have made this decision as he’s letting people down, as if MIR was some sort of public broadcasting. I’m afraid I don’t subscribe to that view at all. The blog was Ewan’s to do what the hell he likes with. The man’s got to eat and as readers we should just be grateful that he was generous enough with his time (and so were Ben, Dan, James and all the other contributors) for so long.

For me, it’s going to be a shame to see it go. It was a regular source of news for me (and sometimes a source of news for this blog). It was also a way to plug into the community as reading some of the comments and discussions was almost as important as the articles themselves. I was even lucky enough to be able to write a few pieces a while ago.

But now the time has come, so as ollysk2 said so eloquently in the comments – “So Long, and Thanks For All the Fish.”

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Interesting companies at Mobile World Congress

Posted by Admin on February 27, 2009

I didn’t try and see everything at the show (I would have needed more than a week) but I did try to find a few smaller companies that were doing interesting things in Barcelona. So here’s a very quick summary of some of the ones I thought were cool.

I’ve talked about Movidilo before (here), but I got chance to see it in action in Barcelona. It looks as good as it sounds and is a great way to access information from your mobile without having to 107 different automated voice recordings telling you to ‘Press 1 for …’

To be honest if I’ve phoned up to speak to customer services at a company I pay good money to (my mobile operator for example), I expect some service. The voice recorded menus are annoying because they force you to fit your query into their system and sometimes it’s not that easy. Also, if they give me a long list of options I’ve forgotten them by the time I get to the end.

Movidilo lets you avoid that by allowing you to search under your own search terms and also to receive relevant information visually on your mobile screen. I think any company that uses call centres should look into this as a great alternative for some (maybe not all) of their customers.

A company I saw for the first time that looked quite interesting was Dial2Do. They offer a voice automated system for the user to do a range of functions on their mobile. So taking it way beyond just dialing someone by saying their name, now you can send an email or a text message, update Twitter or find some music files.

It looks great for road warriors who can now sit in the car, with their bluetooth headset in and be far more productive than ever before.

Talking of bluetooth headsets, novero is a German company that is trying to make headsets more fashionable and chic than the existing choices. The first product is called, appropriately enough, The First One and it certainly looks a lot better than most of the other options around.

I also bumped into a Canadian company called Mob4Hire, who I thought were quite interesting. They offered a solution that helped application developers test their applications cheaply and more effectively.

One of the problems of mobile is that there are so many different handset models, languages and operator requirements to resolve for each application. A Nokia handset in the Czech Republic will handle an application in a very different way to a Sony Ericsson will in Denmark. Previously developers would have had to have all the different handsets themselves and either set up expensive ‘lab’ systems to replicate the operator requirements in the Czech Republic or Denmark, or go to those countries themselves. Expensive and timely.

Mob4Hire aggregates all of that testing by having testers available in different countries, on different handsets and different operators. Now to test your application in Poland, Greece and Italy on 12 different handsets, just get Mob4Hire to organise it all for you – including final reports and feedback. Hopefully this will allow developers to create new applications that can target specific niches that have previously been too expensive to contemplate.

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Business in Barcelona

Posted by Admin on February 26, 2009

I know that I’ve been back nearly a week now, but I’m just getting my head around Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last week. I’m not going to attempt to do a full round-up of every announcement or even really talk about what the big boys had to say. You can see all of that elsewhere. For example:

– We brought you a couple of round ups of the big announcements here and here
– The team at Mobile Industry Review did some great videos at the show – definitely worth watching
– Rory Cellan-Jones of the BBC does his round up here
– While Fierce Wireless talks about the winners and losers in Barcelona

I am going to give a little bit of my perspective of the show though.

Every year after the event people try to pick it apart and decide what the ‘theme’ was and what Mobile World Congress tells us about how the mobile industry will change (if at all) over the next 12 months. Well, this year is no different and I don’t claim to be original either.

One of the themes was the lack of a strong theme. For the last few years the show (and the industry) has become too big to allow for a single theme to dominate completely. In many ways that’s a good thing, it shows the maturity of the market and the fact that we are not just blowing in the wind. However, it can make it less fun and feel less like we’re driving the industry forward for a week in Barcelona.

In terms of handsets, although many new handsets were announced there wasn’t one that stood out. HTC announced the new Vodafone Android handset – the Magic, but there weren’t any other major Android announcements. In fact in terms of the people at the show the one manufacturer that did dominate wasn’t even attending – Apple. Nearly everyone sported an iPhone and I saw very few G1s at all.

Unfortunately I didn’t see too much at the show that was targeted at the average consumer either. Of course there was the odd thing and of course all the major players would claim that they incorporate the average consumer, but … well, my mum wouldn’t haven’t seen much she could understand, yet alone get excited about. I still think this is an area the industry is ignoring at its peril. Where products and services are introduced that require less in-built geekiness they are mainly aimed at the emerging markets.

The biggest theme however was getting work done. The economic situation hasn’t hit this industry too hard, but it has made people focus. Despite what the GSMA says the numbers at the show were clearly down, yet those that did attend it seemed they were here for business – the people left behind were those who in previous years have treated the show like a mini-holiday. Nearly all the booths were full (literally only one or two blank spaces), but I can imagine nearly everyone was assessing whether they will be there next year – to make sure they will be, they got busy with business meetings and that should be a good sign.

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Mobile World Congress – first day impressions

Posted by Admin on February 16, 2009

So, it’s started. But, interestingly, not with as big a fanfare as in recent years. It seems that the global economic climate has come to the mobile industry.

Now, I’m not suggesting that it’s doom and gloom – far from it in fact. To be honest you probably wouldn’t notice if you didn’t know the show well. All the stands are full, there are no gaping holes like those starting to develop on the UK’s high streets; and there are also plenty of visitors – maybe not the numbers that were here last year or the year before, but we’re certainly not watching tumbleweed blow down the aisles.

What is different however is the mood. The people that haven’t come along seem to be the tyre-kickers and time wasters. The show isn’t a target for graduate students trying to research their thesis; junior staff members treated to a few days in Barcelona as thanks for all their work; or even CEOs who just want to wander around and look important.

No, the people here in Barcelona this year seem to be people who are keen to do some business. They know that the industry isn’t great – but at the same time it’s not broken either. There are services to consider and apps to mull over – and maybe this year they can do it in peace.

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Barcelona Bound

Posted by Admin on February 15, 2009

Like much of the mobile industry, I’m heading over to Barcelona today for the week long Mobile World Congress show. It’s the place where the great and good announce what they will be doing in mobile over the next few months and the industry discusses what will be hot or not.

For many years it was the place to go to to see what handsets and applications my friends would be using in six months time. I could check out what was cool and tell my friends what to expect. Obviously they didn’t believe me at the time, but the summer of that year 9 times out of 10 I was proved to be right.

Nowadays however, the show has become almost too big and the industry almost too mature for that to be the case. Like a lot of the mobile industry, Mobile World Congress seems to be a place for the mobile geeks to talk to other mobile geeks about products often designed only for mobile geeks.

I’m hoping that this year that might be a bit different. I’m hoping that I’ll see devices, applications and business models that genuinely appeal to normal users and that I can tell my mates down the pub (and of course you) what will be cool in mobile this summer.

I feel that if we don’t see a lot more of that – the industry actually considering the masses and not just the geeks – then the mobile sector might be one of the industries to suffer during the downturn. Especially in the mature markets. Of course people won’t give up their phones, but they might hold off from that handset upgrade, or think twice about buying a new app that has been badly marketed to them anyway, or hold off from browsing or downloading content because they are never sure of the charges.

It’ll be interesting to see whether the mobile world has decided to start talking to consumers again – or just to itself.

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Gartner gazes into crystal ball

Posted by Jon Russell on February 11, 2009

[A little late on this one but…] Last month, analyst industry giant Gartner used its considerable expertise and position in the mobile industry to reveal its ‘Eight Mobile Technologies to Watch in 2009 and 2010’. Always worthy of note, and no particular order they are below.

As ever, please get in touch with your thoughts and any predictions of your own.

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1. Bluetooth 3.0

The Bluetooth 3.0 specification will be released in 2009 (at which point its feature set will be frozen), with devices starting to arrive around 2010. Bluetooth 3.0 will likely include features such as ultra-low-power mode that will enable new devices, such as peripherals and sensors, and new applications, such as health monitoring. Bluetooth originated as a set of protocols operating over a single wireless bearer technology. Bluetooth 3.0 is intended to support three bearers: “classic” Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and ultrawideband (UWB). It’s possible that more bearers will be supported in the future.

2. Mobile User Interfaces (UIs)

UIs have a major effect on device usability and supportability. They will also be an area of intense competition in 2009 and 2010, with manufacturers using UIs to differentiate their handsets and platforms. New and more-diverse UIs will complicate the development and support of business-to-employee (B2E) and business-to-consumer (B2C) applications. Organizations should expect more user demands for support of specific device models driven by interface preferences. Companies should also expect consumer interfaces to drive new expectations of application behavior and performance. Better interfaces will make the mobile Web more accessible on small devices, and will be a better channel to customers and employees.

3. Location Sensing

Location awareness makes mobile applications more powerful and useful; in the future, location will be a key component of contextual applications. Location sensing will also enhance systems, such as mobile presence and mobile social networking. The growing maturity of on-campus location sensing using Wi-Fi opens up a range of new applications exploiting the location of equipment or people. Organizations delivering business or consumer applications should explore the potential of location sensing; however, exploiting it may create new privacy and security challenges.

4. 802.11n

802.11n boosts Wi-Fi data rates to between 100 Mbps and 300 Mbps, and the multiple-input, multiple-output technology used by 802.11n offers the potential for better coverage in some situations. 802.11n is likely to be a long-lived standard that will define Wi-Fi performance for several years. High-speed Wi-Fi is desirable to stream media around the home and office. From an organizational perspective, 802.11n is disruptive; it’s complex to configure, and is a “rip and replace” technology that requires new access points, new client wireless interfaces, new backbone networks and a new power over Ethernet standard. However, 802.11n is the first Wi-Fi technology to offer performance on a par with the 100 Mbps Ethernet commonly used for wired connections to office PCs. It is, therefore, an enabler for the all-wireless office, and should be considered by companies equipping new offices or replacing older 802.11a/b/g systems in 2009 and 2010.

5. Display technologies

Displays constrain many characteristics of both mobile devices and applications. During 2009 and 2010, several new display technologies will impact the marketplace, including active pixel displays, passive displays and pico projectors. Pico projectors enable new mobile use cases (for example, instant presentations projected on a desktop to display information in a brief, face-to-face sales meeting). Battery life improvements are welcome for any user. Good off-axis viewing enables images and information to be shared more easily. Passive displays in devices, such as e-book readers, offer new ways to distribute and consume documents. Display technology will also become an important differentiator and a user selection criterion.

6. Mobile web and widgets

The mobile Web is emerging as a low-cost way to deliver simple mobile applications to a range of devices. It has some limitations that will not be addressed by 2010 (for example, there will be no universal standards for browser access to handset services, such as the camera or GPS). However, the mobile Web offers a compelling total cost of ownership (TCO) advantage over thick-client applications. Widgets (small mobile Web applets) are supported by many mobile browsers, and provide a way to stream simple feeds to handsets and small screens. Mobile Web applications will be a part of most B2C mobile strategies. Thin-client applications are also emerging as a practical solution to on-campus enterprise applications using Wi-Fi or cellular connections.

7. Cellular Broadband

Wireless broadband exploded in 2008, driven by the availability of technologies such as high-speed downlink packet access and high-speed uplink packet access, combined with attractive pricing from cellular operators. The performance of high-speed packet access (HSPA) provides a megabit or two of bandwidth in uplink and downlink directions, and often more. In many regions, HSPA provides adequate connectivity to replace Wi-Fi “hot spots,” and the availability of mature chipsets enables organizations to purchase laptops with built-in cellular modules that provide superior performance to add-on cards or dongles.

8. Near Field Communications (NFC)

NFC provides a simple and secure way for handsets to communicate over distances of a centimeter or two. NFC is emerging as a leading standard for applications such as mobile payment, with successful trials conducted in several countries. It also has wider applications, such as “touch to exchange information” (for example, to transfer an image from a handset to a digital photo frame, or for a handset to pick up a virtual discount voucher). Gartner does not expect much of the NFC payment or other activities to become common, even by 2010, in mature markets, such as Western Europe and the U.S. NFC is likely to become important sooner in emerging markets, with some deployments starting by 2010.

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Free Texts for Life for Mobile Operators

Posted by Admin on January 28, 2009

logo-lo-res1That’s the announcement that Anam made yesterday. It has removed the charge for capacity licences for its Eclipse SMSX short messaging platform. This will mean that operators don’t have to worry about the cost of buying additional licences as SMS traffic volumes increase, allowing them to simply and easily introduce more SMS based services.

Previously, SMS infrastructure has been priced on a volume basis with mobile operators paying higher license fees if they wanted their network to be able to process more messages. This meant that every time there was an increase in volume, operators’s costs also increased.

Gerry McKenna, CEO of Anam, said:

“This is the 18th year that Anam’s engineers have been involved in the design and development of Short Messaging systems and in that time usage and volumes have grown dramatically. Although the capacity of messaging systems has grown to meet this demand, the cost of purchasing and maintaining high performance SMS platforms has remained high. This has limited the potential growth of SMS-borne services such as funds transfer, content distribution, parental control and advertising-funded SMS.”

As this blog regularly highlights, text messaging has continued to grow and grow in popularity. And it’s not just simple text messages either – it’s all the services introduced by companies such as AQA and SpinVox that are based on SMS.

Good move by Anam and it might shake the market up a bit and persuade operators to spend a bit more time and energy on SMS-based apps. See more here.

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Disclaimer – Anam is a supporter of this blog.

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Text messages to immobilise cars

Posted by Admin on January 26, 2009

A report today in the motoring publication Motors Today claims that “Traffic police may soon be able to use text messages to immobilise cars used by criminals.” It goes on to say that “Senior police officers believe new technology could help them overcome some of the dangers of stopping stolen cars and getaway vehicles.”

Apart from the fact that they call this ‘new’ technology, it might just work.

Presumably each car will be registered with a ‘mobile number’ at the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) which only the police will have access to. Then if that vehicle is reported stolen, or is seen involved in a crime, the police can send a message to the number disabling the engine.

Issues of safety will have to be worked out (ie the car can’t be stopped immediately as it might cause an accident), but it seems like a good use of M2M SMS to me. If it is up and running, then it may even prove, finally, to be a good use of location based services.

I’m not sure it will be easy to introduce and will take a long time to get all cars fitted with this system. It will be expensive for old cars to be retro-fitted and in the meantime criminals will just target older cars, which may themselves be less safe. But I think that new M2M uses of mobile connectivity is one of the big growth areas for operators in the future.

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Virgin’s ‘Rule Of Thumb’ in India

Posted by Jon Russell on January 26, 2009

virgin-indiaAn interesting development in the India sub-continent mobile market has emerged this week with Virgin Mobile India introducing a new tariff aimed squarely at text-addicts in the country.

Dubbed ‘New Thumb Rule’, this offer is unique to its market as it allows customers to send 100 national and 100 local text messages for free every day after paying for the first three messages of each type. According to Virgin, the offer has been  named to reflect the importance of the thumb to mobile users who write and send a lot of SMS messages.

Virgin India has adopted the same disruptive aims as its UK cousin, albeit with more success, since launching nine months ago. This initiative, along with the company’s ‘earn money for incoming calls’ package, is an excellently thought out manoeuvre which will give the company stand-out value with youth and young professionals in India’s rapidly maturing mobile market.

The company is not yet declaring subscription figures but we will endeavour to keep you posted with other innovative ideas which it introduces.

If you’d like to know more  about India’s mobile market head to this 2009 preview article at Indian entrepreneur Rajesh Jain’s blog.

News courtesy of India PR Wire.

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$20million funding for SMS alerts service

Posted by Admin on January 22, 2009

Big money ($20 million) has been raised from venture capaitalists by 4INFO a company offering ad-funded SMS alerts. The company updates users, by SMS, on a variety of topics including sport, weather, celebrities and horoscopes. The alerts are free to the user and are funded by the advertising revenues that 4INFO generates.

This is great news for the SMS market as it proves that, with a compelling business plan, investors are willing to back SMS. It’s also great for you and I – the people on the street. People consistently say that text messages are their favourite way to receive this kind of information and now it appears that the money-men (and women) are listening.

You can read more on GoMoNews and thanks to @CJTarbett for the heads-up.

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