Archive for March, 2005

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March 31st, 2005

Complexities of Content Distribution on Cell Phones

Well, Zuma (Sorrent) is finally available for my LG8000 today. I suggest checking the game out – easy to learn and addictive – at least I find it to be.

zuma.jpg

The “wait” for Zuma provides an illustration of the complexities of content distribution to cell phones. The game was “ready” last year – I think I first saw the game around the time of the CTIA show last October. Zuma was launched at CTIA this spring ca. March 15th. However, it was available on a select few handsets. I’ve checked a number of times during the past few weeks to see if it is available for my phone. Looked on Verizon’s site to see if I could set up an alert. Today as I was browsing, I found it – even listed under “feature” applications – very plain text listing – which I don’t quite understand given the rich display technology that the phone has.

Despite the buzz around ring tones and mobile games, the distribution is certainly not an easy process yet. The proliferation of hand sets, the number of games in the cue waiting to be tested/released, etc. all add to the complexity of selling content on cell phones. The staged timing of releases to handsets also complicates the marketing process – hard to push out the message and generate a lot of buzz while at the same time saying “… well, yes, it’s out there, but not available for your phone yet.”

(as an aside, I find that more and more people are reading/responding to email as a form of multi-tasking. In the past few weeks, I’ve even had several panelists doing email while their fellow panelists were speaking. I’m wondering if playing games on a cell phone will be an acceptable form of multi-tasking during meetings – or will it just be messaging???)

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CATEGORIES: Wireless
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March 24th, 2005

Mobile Video – Admiring the Technological Achievements

I attended a technology event in Palo Alto last night. A friend of mine and I were speaking to a 1948 graduate of MIT. His badge stated that he had been “Course 6.” To a recent graduate, this would mean that he had studied either Electrical Engineering or Computer Science. (MIT students speak in numbers when referring to majors, buildings, etc.) My friend asked which of the two majors he had studied.

He replied rather politely, “my dear, in 1948, we didn’t have computers – it was just electrical engineering back then.”

I couldn’t really mock my friend because it really hadn’t occurred to me either until he pointed it out to us. Duh.

He then went on to talk about how there were large rooms filled with glass tubes ….

In the mean time, I’m complaining about only getting 12 fps while watching basketball on my mobile phone, wondering when EV-DO will get to San Francisco, and thinking my iPod is really too large to be portable now that I have a Shuffle.

All of these technologies are truly amazing when taken into perspective. I will take more time to admire the technology, and I will stop complaining about 12 fps.

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March 22nd, 2005

VCast – Exceeded Most of My Expectations

I finally visited an EV-DO city and had the opportunity to trial VCast. At first I couldn’t get it to work because there wasn’t enough memory available to buffer the content. (I had the phone about one week before heading to CTIA. Since I was unable to view video, I took the opportunity to trial some of the 3D games).

The video experience was good due to the buffering upfront and the ability to switch the screen to landscape. After a couple of days, I was a bit impatient with the buffering process, but it wasn’t too bad. Once streaming video can match the quality of this experience, I think this could be a hit. Our consumer surveys show that only one percent of cell phone users have trialed mobile video, but the data also show that interest is much higher. (I have a report due out in a few weeks that will include detailed findings.)

I liked the experience, but I was also curious to see how others would react. Whenever I was near other folks and just hanging around (e.g., lining up for the “A” seating on Southwest airlines), I would turn it on. The reaction from folks around me was “wow, that’s pretty cool. Can I get that?” (And, no, they were not all referring to the stuffed moose phone covering – though many of the women were)

I handed the phone around and let people play with it. Our surveys show that the target audience for content on phones skews towards a younger audience. I asked people their ages. Folks in their fifties and sixties were also very intrigued.

If I had any complaints about the service, they would be around how current the video clips are. I spent a lot of time in the airports on Day 1 of the NCAA tournament. I really wanted “live” updates, but the best I could do was NIT results from earlier in the week. Other small complaint was on the handset – I couldn’t crank up the volume high enough to hear it in either the airport or on the plane. I guess that could be intentional on the part of the hand set manufacturer. Yes, I could have used a head set, but the only ear phones that I had with me were for my iPod.

Last complaint … it’s still not available in San Francisco.

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CATEGORIES: Wireless
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March 18th, 2005

Cell Phone Personalization – Not Necessarily High Tech

Consumer interest in personalization is one of the key drivers of sales of ring tones, wallpaper, icons, etc. These categories are growing with combined revenues already in the hundreds of millions of dollars in the US alone.

This year’s CTIA also had Fashion Accessories for the phone – another form of personalization. A company called Fun Friends (http://www.funfriends.com/) is making plush stuffed animal cell phone covers. This is one of my favorites from the show. They gave me a stuffed moose for my cell phone. I wore the phone/moose around my neck for a day or so – a dozen or more people must have asked where they could buy one. Answer is online.

A few photos of the moose’s trip to New Orleans:

Moose in Cell Phone Chair

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Open Moose

MooseOnStomach.jpg

Moose Sitting at the Bar

MooseWithIceWater.jpg

Moose Resting Against Glass of Wine

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Perhaps less cool – talking on the moose

JulieTalkingToMoose.jpg

I don’t think that I can wait until Christmas to buy these as stocking stuffers for my friends.

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CATEGORIES: Wireless
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March 16th, 2005

Wireless Carrier Complexity with Handsets and Content

I recently signed up with Verizon Wireless when I purchased an LG 8000. Phone is great. Video great. Games great. Etc.

Use of the phone, however, has highlighted the many difficulties in bringing a new phone and applications to market.

1) Content distribution. I’ve anxiously been awaiting the release of Sorrent’s Zuma. I became addicted while I had use of a demo phone. (Great “easy to learn/hard to master” puzzle game) Verizon and Sorrent had a joint announcement earlier this week re the release. I tried to log on to the games catalogue about 19 times to find it before defaulting to the web site to learn that it is not yet available for my phone model. I’m somewhat concerned since one of my other favorites Bejeweled is also not available and it’s been out a lot longer.

2) Customer Support. I had a lot of difficulty logging into to the network to access the catalogue. I finally called customer service. Very friendly customer service. Apologized repeatedly for my wait. They had to elevate me from person to person (I’m on my fourth as I write this blog) because the customer service team was not familiar with the phone. I’m currently on hold while a “ticket” is created.

3)Complications of handset memory. I was having trouble launching the Vcast service. Since I’m at CTIA, I took the phone to the chipset company. They couldn’t figure out why it wouldn’t work so I took it over to Verizon’s booth. After five to ten minutes, they were able to diagnose the problem. I’d used too much memory and I was no longer able to download video. I did not receive an error message of this nature – it just wouldn’t work. They taught me how to check and manage the RAM and other memory on my handset. I’m good to go now.

4) OTA. They are working on diagnosing why I can’t access GetItNow. Apparently my feature set had not been configured correctly. Seems as though it’s a policy/access issue with my handset and service plan. The customer service person is explaining the nature of the issue to me in detail. I’m learning more from her about handsets then I did from many vendors at the show. OTA isn’t working at the moment.

I’ve had all of these issues, and I’ve been on the phone with customer service for 20 or 30 minutes now, but I’m not angry at all. This customer service team is extremely knowledgeable. They are also unbelievably friendly.

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March 16th, 2005

Mobile Spam Saga Continues Still

I spoke to the head of SMS.ac today. I complained about the Spam and Premium SMS charges. He seemed genuinely surprised that I was being charged for Premium SMS. He suggested that I change my profile to block incoming messages. I dutifully logged on to the site and checked every possible box that I could find to block people from sending messages to me. I’ll see how it goes.

I can imagine why carriers love the service. The largest community on SMS.ac has 28,000 members. No cost for a single member to send a message, but each of the 28,000 members would pay to receive a single message sent/delivered to the group.

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CATEGORIES: Wireless
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March 15th, 2005

Hot Topics at CTIA – #1 Mobile Video

I facilitated a panel on mobile video on Sunday night at the Mobile Entertainment Forum. Lots of optimism coming from the panel including predictions of up to 20 percent consumer adoption by the end of 2005.

I’m very optimistic about this market (and it’s also a space that I will be researching a lot this year – we’ve already collected a lot of data), but I don’t think the numbers will be anywhere near this high at least in 2005.

The best demo of mobile video that I’ve seen at the show so far is one done by my colleague Michael Gartenberg. (It’s also one that he has blogged about if you look back to early 2005). He’s using Orb to watch live TV streamed from his media center back in NJ. He’s using a smart phone on Verizon’s EV-DO service. It’s really, really good. It brings up the question of whether consumers will make content purchases directly from the carriers or if they will pay for a service that allows them to access content that they already own. We’ll be writing more about this later this year.

Haven’t been able to get Vcast to work on my phone yet, but stay tuned.

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CATEGORIES: Wireless
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March 15th, 2005

SMS.ac Saga Continues

I had a number of people write in after I blogged about spam SMS. Most were asking if these are really Premium SMS’.

I can now confirm that yes, they are. I have indeed been charged for each of the spam SMS’ I received. I found the charges on page eight out of nine pages of my mobile phone bill. There is also no doubt that the charges are for SMS.ac messages – they are itemized on my bill.

I will now be looking for a way to kill my SMS.ac account. There must be better ways to build mobile ad networks.

I sat in on a panel discussion today. The presenter said “mobile marketing has arrived.” I have no idea what he meant – “it has arrived” – it is not as though it is a piece of mail delivered to my home. There are folks experimenting with it, but it is certainly still in the experimental stages. I am very optimistic about mobile marketing, but I don’t believe it’s here today.

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CATEGORIES: Wireless
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March 13th, 2005

Alone in the Onion – Where’s Ronald McDonald?

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http://www.theonion.com/infograph/index.php?issue=4111

I’ve become a “stock image”

If I hadn’t also made the LinuxInsider this week, I’d be thinking it hasn’t been such a good week for press.

JulieWithRonald.jpg

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CATEGORIES: Wireless
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March 13th, 2005

Nextel’s Wireless Broadband Access – What Consumers Want – Almost

Nextel announced partnerships with Boingo and Wayport today that will give their wireless data subscribers access to Wi-Fi footprints nationwide. See release. For their customers accustomed to mid-range double digit Kbps, this is probably great news though I can’t quite reconcile the Wi-Fi footprint with their target customer base. Overall, I think it falls short on a number of points. With a Sprint merger looming, I’m surprised they don’t immediately latch on to Sprint’s higher speed network.

Wireless broadband services for those on the road still leaves consumers in the position of evaluating the quality of networks and services when they are making purchasing decisions. Not really where the carriers want to be, but announcements like these are certainly steps forward. When consumers are evaluating their options, a complex set of factors STILL must be taken into consideration – and that’s just around connectivity – not including security, device, etc. And, the carriers are not announcing in advance where they will be deploying 3G services … still waiting on EVDO in SF. It’s still a complex purchasing decision. The consumers still don’t know where they’ll have what coverage.

The options:

Verizon – $80/month for nationwide access. Best case scenario is EVDO – worst case 1x. Their client includes a scan for Wi-Fi networks and gives the user a choice. Card can cost $100+, but you already own the device – the PC. Sprint – similar, but without the EVDO network, yet. Nextel – a few Kbps nationwide plus access to 7,000 hotspots in North America. $55/month. Handhelds … many carriers … initial cost is several hundred dollars with service plans running $30 to $40+/month. No attachments, but access to messages.

There are other options and most of the carriers have plays at each of these price points. I think the wireless carriers with 3G networks are very well positioned in this market – I haven’t spoken to anyone yet who is using EVDO who doesn’t LOVE it.

But back to the question – how does a consumer choose? And, there is such a small pool of consumers to fight for at these prices points – low single digits according to our surveys.

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CATEGORIES: Wireless