Archive for August, 2005

August 28th, 2005

Moment for a Mobile Blog

Broke my wrist playing soccer at the end of last week.

Finger typing is hard as is using the mouse with my left hand.

Until the 20lb splint is removed from my arm this week and I have surgery on my wrist, I will not have full use of my fingers. Blogging will be light until then.

Here is my wrist about two hours after the break.


Imagine that I am looking down at my right wrist with thumb up. With a wrist this crooked, I didn’t have to wait long to be admitted once I arrived at the hospital. (My teammates drove me once the game finished.)

The photo isn’t great despite 1.3 megapixel and a flash. Then again, it was hard to get a good angle on my wrist as I was afraid that if I moved my arm, it might hurt. Or worse, the bone fragment that had nicked my skin from the inside out might poke out. As my manager Michael Gartenberg often says, a camera phone with you is always better than the camera at home in your desk drawer. Wished I’d had the presence of mind to record a few more moments for my friends – at one point they hung my fingers from these cages to use gravity to pull the bones back into place. A little pool of blood formed on the tray below. It looked like an instrument of torture. A picture is what is really needed here to do justice to the moment. It was about 2am and they had given me drugs so I wasn’t thinking that clearly.

In any case, my cell phone allowed me to share the moment with friends.

August 17th, 2005

Mobile Search: In Search of Revenue? Not Yet

Google’s recently announced acquisition of Android is one of many recent acquisitions by large online portals and search engines. They purchased Dodgeball (mobile social networking) last month. AOL announced their acquisition of Wildseed last week. Amp’ed acquired Ninja. The list goes on. There are others yet to be announced.

With all of the acquisitions, there has been a lot of speculation re what is everyone up to? I think it’s mostly companies bringing expertise in-house and adding on to existing products. Not speaking specifically to these acquisitions, but there are a lot of small companies that are developing great technology that won’t survive as a stand-alone product in a market. Many of these acquisitions are buy vs. build to add to internal arsenal rather than “big” signals of where they are headed more strategically in the market.

Getting back to Google, AOL, et. al., I’m sure all possibilities are on the table for them as they consider how to move forward in the cell phone domain. Every large player with content and a loyal customer base is evaluating their potential as an MVNO. Large search sites want to leverage their online success in the mobile space. Everyone wants to improve the user interface, reduce the number of clicks to their content, improve the search experience, etc.

Most of these acquisitions to date have been relatively small in size – at least in terms of revenue or people added to the existing organizations. So, many incremental steps as they test the waters, learn from trials, and wait on a mobile audience to mature in terms of how they use their cell phone.

Many of the applications that these players have on the cell phone today equate to some type of search application or service. At the end of the day, the local content is what they’d like to monetize. Significant revenues in the near term are not realistic. Ad-supported models are difficult as local content is scarce. 411 information and local search rise to the top of the list in terms of consumer interest in mobile content services, but, for now at least, they are at the top of a list of services with few paying subscribers.

I think we’ll continue to see acquisitions and beta products from all of these players. It’s a great time to be testing the market and learning. Consumer expectations are still fairly low and there isn’t a lot of money being left on the table – yet – if it’s not perfect today.

August 17th, 2005

Isn’t Wi-Fi already free in San Francisco?

San Francisco’s mayor Gavin Newsom made a call for proposals for free citywide Wi-Fi yesterday.

Isn’t Wi-Fi already free in most of San Francisco? I can see about 16 networks from my flat and about 30 percent of them are open.

I hope they are also planning some interference mitigation initiatives.

August 5th, 2005

Spiraling Customer Service Costs for Wireless Carriers

I wasn’t just short of blog fodder when I phoned Verizon Wireless customer service earlier this week. I had accidentally deleted one of my favorite games (Zuma) while driving and trying to manage my personal profiles. I was trying to stop my subscription to Running of the Bulls now that it’s August, and I hit the wrong button. As much as I like Glu, I wasn’t ready to pony up a second time for the game. I also wanted to get web service so that I could check out some location services and some photo/mobile blogging services.

I dial Verizon Customer service. (one of two programmed speed dials on my phone.)

Customer Service “How can I help you?”
Julie “Well, I have a list …”
CS (Still in a friendly voice) “What can I help you with?”
Julie “First, I deleted one of my favorite games. Can you give me a credit on my bill so that I can buy it again without having to pay twice?”

Over the course of the next 10 to 12 minutes, he reviews my relationship with them, looks back through all of my charges for the first half of 2005 to see if there is indeed a charge in the $6 to $8 range (the name of the game never showed on my bill – just a random generic term that indicates I bought “something”), makes the decision to give me credit, and processes it. Phew … I won’t be double-booked for $7.50.

I thanked him. Initially I had no idea what to expect, but I was really pleased that they gave me the benefit of the doubt. I was wondering though a) how many calls just like this they get b) cost of the calls due to length and c) how much revenue they forgo for refunds.

Julie: “I’d like to turn on my web access.”
CS: “Ok.”
(Five minutes or so)
CS: “Did you know that Vcast is available in San Francisco? If you sign up for that service, you can have web access as part of the bundle.”
Julie: “Do I get two months for free?”
CS: “No, just one these days.”
Julie: “That’s not fair, but ok. Actually, I didn’t realize the Verizon had rolled out its EVDO service to SF.”
CS: “My materials show that it is ‘in and around San Francisco and San Jose.”
Julie “My phone just has a 1X symbol on it.”

About 20 minutes go by. I’m asked to turn my phone off and on. I’m asked to try to launch video services, etc. After help from a supervisor, he finally concludes that there is no EVDO in San Francisco – well, at least not Verizon’s.

Now I want to try out Intercasting’s Rabble service, but I can not find the getMESSAGING menu item or Rabble on my phone menu.

Julie: “Can you help me to find Rabble on my phone?”
CS: “Rabble?”
Julie: “Rabble. R-a-b-b-l-e. Rabble”
CS: “What is it? Can you forward me the press release?”

I honestly feel bad for this guy and the customer service folks at this point. A proliferation of handsets, varying availability of applications, varying degrees of 3G coverage – must be driving the cost of customer service through the roof.

My call lasted 42 minutes.

August 4th, 2005

The Banning of Free Wi-Fi

You’ve probably seen the news coming out of Boston that Massport is asking Continental Airlines to stop offering free Wi-Fi at its airport lounge. Ironic given that unlicensed spectrum is meant to be “available” provided that the users follow a set of guidelines.

Massport doesn’t have much reason to worry yet. Our research shows that the majority of Wi-Fi users will only use the service if it is free. It is true that airports and hotels have a higher percentage of traffic willing to pay. (See research) If too many travelers freeload from Continental’s network, they are likely to take action themselves to prevent the service from being degraded to the point that their customers are actually willing to go somewhere else and pay for the service. The industry is still new. Allowing travelers to trial the service for free is likely to driver longer term demand – even for the paid service.

August 1st, 2005

My Ringback Tone … Really, I’m ok

My friends tired of the “Friends” theme song a while back. Moreover, they didn’t think it “fit” me – whatever that means. Perhaps they know that I had never seen a Friends episode until it was in its final season, and then watched only one or two.

Not wanting to “rent” a new ringback tone, I switched back to Green Day’s Blvd of Broken Dreams at the end of last week. I received two voicemail messages from friends expressing concern for me and asking if I were “ok” and what they should be reading into my ringback tone. My answer is “nothing.” I’ve haven’t yet adopted the ring tone as a statement about my self.

I’ll shop for something new when I get the chance.