Archive for January, 2006

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January 17th, 2006

Why wouldn’t you want a camera on your phone?

I watched the first four hours of 24 last night. Nearly OD’ed. I’m wondering why none of the wireless carriers or handset manufacturers are doing paid product placement. Jack Bauer makes great use of his smartphone (looks like a Treo) with a QWERTY keyboard and camera … and what I suspect is a 3G network given how quickly he can upload photos and download schematics. He even used it to blow someone up. What more could one want in a cell phone? Oh, and it worked in the helicopter … and he could even hear what the other person was saying on the line. A magical device that can do just about anything you want it to these days.

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CATEGORIES: Wireless
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January 13th, 2006

Mobile Google – It works, but will I use it?

When I saw Google’s announcement about the personalized home page, I was intrigued. I didn’t know they had personalized web pages – even online. I use gmail so it was easy to set up.

My first impression is: “Wow, this is really easy to set up.” Given that I have a gmail account, it was easy to create a personalized web page by dragging and dropping the windows. Looks a bit still like a beta, but it functions.

Then, I used my Verizon LG 9xxx phone with a QWERTY keyboard to see how it looks on my phone. Second impression: “Wow, that works, too. And it was really easy to find.” Doesn’t look as good as some of the content designed for a small screen, but it functioned. I could open my email, click on links to stories, etc. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to get gmail to work on other mobile handsets that I have and have failed on all attempts. This worked. I was also automatically logged in the second and third time I visited the site on my phone.

One disappointment – the “rolling eyeballs” application didn’t work on my phone.

I think the bigger question I ask myself is “Will I use it?” I am hesitant to pay for the airtime as I don’t use WAP very often. I like that the content is customized. For general categories, there are applications like Glu’s Fox Sports Mobile that provide a great experience for sports. I like having the option of getting access to my Gmail without a dedicated monthly subscription – that’s probably what I like the best. It’s not the awesome email experience yet that a Blackberry provides, but given that I don’t use it (access Gmail away from my computer) often – it hits the spot.

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CATEGORIES: Wireless
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January 12th, 2006

BK & Sprint Team up for Superbowl Promotion

Burger King and Sprint/Nextel are teaming up for a co-promotion sweepstakes with a chance to win a trip to Super Bowl XL. It has many of the elements required for a campaign in this relatively new medium. The consumer must purchase product (chicken fries) in order to obtain a short code for the promotion. The Web site has an animation that leads one through the process of how to enter the contest. The Web page has both Sprint/Nextel branding as well as that of Burger King. I like the educational aspect in this young market.

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CATEGORIES: Wireless
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January 12th, 2006

802.11n – Too much? too little? too soon? too late?

With today’s announcements, it looks like we are drawing closer to a 802.11n industry standard.

Is it too much?

Does a mobile device need 802.11n? According to our research there is significant interest in mobile video, but not necessarily in the home. I have mobile TV on my cell phone. Obviously, it’s delivered over the cellular network. I think it looks great – both Vcast and MobiTV on Sprint. I’ve also seen the mobile version of Sling delivered to a handset via cellular networks – looks great as well.

Wish my home DSL line had 100 Mbps.

Is it too little?

According to our forecasts for home bandwidth, tech savvy households will be able to consume a significant portion of the estimated 100 Mbps that this technology will deliver – if wireless can do so reliably with high QoS.

Too soon?

Not necessarily, but at least in the consumer market, there will not be many households in the high tech category trying to move multiple HD streams around their household. That said, hopefully more of the pieces required to move content from the PC to the living room will be in place – not as individual components – but as a working system so that consumers can take advantage of the new network capabilities.

Too late?

Probably not. Most users according to our research are using their Wi-Fi networks for utilitarian purposes – sharing an Internet connection. That said, there are quite a few interested in streaming video once it’s easy and there is more content online.

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January 10th, 2006

SMS Google? … But we just keep the phone book in the car

I’ve been asked to comment a lot frequently on location-based services – including mobile search – for cell phones. Folks in the industry have been painting a picture of using cell phones for everything from straightforward scenarios of finding the nearest Jamba Juice to receiving SMS alerts if someone from my college graduating class is within 100 meters of me.

I think there is a lot of really, really interesting stuff going on in this space. I have been following the phone-based versions as well as those that operate with SMS, WAP, and downloadable applications. The ad-sponsored stuff is especially interesting. Also, according to our research, there is a relatively high level of consumer interest. Consumer interest and awareness (including education), I think, are the primary barriers to adoption today – not technology.

A reality check from the midwest:

I noticed that my parents had a phone book – white pages and yellow pages – in the back seat of their car. I asked my mother why they had a phone book in the car. The response (duh): in case we need to look up a phone number. They even take it to Florida with them for the winter.

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CATEGORIES: Wireless
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January 5th, 2006

Netgear/Skype Wi-Fi Phone

Netgear and Skype announced a Wi-Fi handset today that doesn’t seem to require a PC. The Wi-Fi chipset is in the handset (I guess?). I am looking forward to trialing this device.

My experience with CE devices with Wi-Fi has been so-so to date. Finding an “open” network has become increasingly difficult even in San Francisco. Also, even free Wi-Fi is a challenge if registration is required on a homepage/splash page as these devices lack the QWERTY keyboard and Internet browsers required for set-up. My last experience with free Wi-Fi was painful. I was in a 3G-Free zone over the holidays at my parents who have Wi-Fi/Broadband, but it’s from an unnamed service provider that locks down the access. I had to go to a national chain offering free Wi-Fi – it took 15 to 20 minutes on average to download each email with an attachment of 1MB. That said, voice requires a lot less bandwidth.

Given that Netgear/Skype are fully aware of these common issues, I’m sure they’ve designed solutions. The evolution of Wi-Fi in CE devices is exciting, and I look forward to seeing what they will bring to market.

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CATEGORIES: Wireless
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January 3rd, 2006

Mobile Video Broadcast

LG and Samsung just announced some of the first DVB-H and MediaFLO handsets for the mobile broadcast TV market yesterday ahead of the opening of CES. Verizon has already announced that they will move forward with MediaFLO while Crown Castle (US vendor for DVB-H) is not yet announced a carrier partner. The launch of broadcast TV/video to mobile handsets should happen in the US in the latter part of 2006 – at least with MediaFLO. This is exciting stuff as the consumers we’ve surveyed indicated more interest in streaming “live” TV than other forms of video content on their cell phones.

This news is exciting and a step towards growing consumer awareness and adoption of mobile video, but there is still a long road ahead for the carriers. Current adoption of mobile video is still in the low single digits among mobile subscribers despite the launch more than two years ago in 11/03 by MobiTV/Sprint.

I was home in Warren, OH over the holidays. Warren is in NE Ohio. Sprint and Cellular One have great networks there. I couldn’t find Verizon’s. I showed my relatives a couple of the phones that I have on loans. All of them are older than 35 and outside of the target demographic, but I wanted to get their reaction anyway.

Summary:

Ringtones – “yeah, I’ve heard those before, but never a song.” = they have used polyphonics shipped with their phones, but never purchased a ringtone.

Games – “Cool.” I suggested to my brother-in-law that he download whatever he wanted. Deer Hunter (which I already had on my phone) held his attention for about 10 minutes. Then he downloaded Yahtzee. (sp?). I got my phone back about four hours later.

Wallpaper – “Hmmm.”

Video (streaming from Sprint) – “Wow!!!! That’s the most amazing thing ever.” And then I got my phone back an hour later after my relatives/friends had passed the phone around. It was the first time they had ever seen it. I had to confirm about 10 times that indeed it was streaming.

My brother-in-law emailed me the next week. He and his wife had just purchased new phones/plans from Sprint. I asked him if he got a phone with video capabilities. The answer was “no, we got the ones that were free.” I asked why Sprint – answer, “best coverage at home/school.” So, there you go. It’s amazing technology, but getting people to pay will prove difficult.

Watching the types of business models the carriers roll out to drive adoption will be interesting towards the end of 2006 and early 2007. How long will it be before these new handsets are free to the mobile subscriber?

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CATEGORIES: Wireless