Archive for February, 2006

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February 17th, 2006

“Mobile Me” by Apple

I have been fielding quite a few calls about Apple’s filing of the “Mobile Me” patent. See story. Folks have been speculating about a phone from Apple for more than a year. Being that I am a wireless analyst, I don’t follow Apple as closely as others do. What I do know though, is that we are not likely to know until Apple wants us to know. They are pretty good at big surprises.

Do I think they are developing a phone?

Probably. Probably somewhere in their labs, there are prototypes of phones. Whether or not they bring one to market commercially is another story. Whether or not they will do so on their own is another open question. Hard to imagine carrier subsidies on a device unless there are revenues to be earned through downloaded services and content.

Apple designs and creates fabulous hardware and software. With operating systems, microprocessors, browsers, applications, large color screens, etc., cell phones are edging ever closer to a PC. Unlike PC’s though, people like cell phones that are free or heavily subsidized. They aren’t buying cell phones based on speed (which has more to do with the network than the phone anyway) or the software packages that go with them. Also, voice is the most important feature – not something that is within Apple’s core competencies when compared to a Nokia or Motorola. Apple could do a lot to up the ante on user interface though. Also, while most want a phone for free, Apple has a track record with building markets. They may create a $200 or $300 handset that becomes a fashion icon that everyone has to have. Selling 14 million ipods in one quarter says a lot.

Will Apple become and MVNO? Another portion of the speculation. I think this is less likely than their releasing a handset. Apple creates amazing hardware and software, but they don’t do a lot of business with services. They don’t have relationships with consumers that translate into monthly subscription fees like the cable operators. They don’t have content like ESPN or Disney. They could build a brand from scratch like Amp’ed. Not sure of the upside for them. Boost has been at it for a few years (and their parent is a wireless carrier) and they are just over a million subscribers.

All of that said, it would be great if Apple did release a phone. They do a great job in terms of user experience and integration. I imagine a phone that could be side-loaded with music, video and photos just like my iPod. Everything would work. I wouldn’t have to worry about DRM or which media player is on my phone. I imagine it synching with my contacts and calendar in the same way. I imagine it could link into my home computer remotely and stream/download any photos or music I may have forgotten to take with me. I can imagine the hardware, but not the services (e.g., games, dating applications). If they would sell services, I would hope that I can browse and buy online.

In the end, we are probably not going to know until they want us to know.

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CATEGORIES: Wireless
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February 16th, 2006

NBC Olympics Alerts … Or Not

I signed up to get alerts from NBC for the Olympics. I signed up for both email alerts and text alerts. I provided my phone number and carrier. I want to know when there are medals won by US athletes and I want to know when events are going to be on TV. The email alerts arrive in my inbox steadily. I am yet to receive one SMS message with the requested information. When I signed up online, they didn’t tell me that there were additional steps or that it wasn’t available through my carrier. Besides, it’s SMS – not as if they have to format the content for my screen. ???? In an industry struggling to connect with people and fans on the “third screen,” why can’t they make this work?

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CATEGORIES: Wireless
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February 13th, 2006

Mobile Valentine’s

Verizon had a press release last week stating that their customers sent 20 percent more SMS text messages on 2/14 than on average.

Our data show that using text messages to flirt and get dates is equally popular among teens and adults … especially 15 year olds. Guess once you learn to drive you can actually go meet your date. There are a lot of new and interesting applications/services out there that will allow you to find people (can select men or women) near by who share your interests. Check out Meetro, Zogo, icentric, Small Planet and Match.com. Most of these are still regional, but the idea is interesting. Some will plot the actual location of “matches” on a map for you while most will let you pull up pictures and profiles of registered users.

I’ve got a report coming out very soon on mobile communities that will address the prospects for these businesses in more detail.

Separately, Alltel is driving to drive usage of picture messaging with their sweepstakes. “All” one needs is an Alltel camera phone and the Fujifilm postcard application. That’s “all” one needs. It’s hard to believe that it’s 2006 and operators still have to run campaigns of this type – that it’s not open across carriers. Fun idea – including the sweepstakes, but difficult when it is so constrained. Alltel has 10 million subscribers (order of magnitude). When I mulitply that number by the percentage of mobile subscribers that we show using MMS, sending photos to friends from their phones, or posting pictures to web sites or other properties to be viewed by friends …., the number of potential participants becomes very small.

I do like Verizon’s pink Razr phone … very hot (pink). But at $249 and a two year contract, what would I do next year? or for Halloween?

It’s all fun, but I think I’m to have to tap into my teenage focus group for some ideas on how they are really using their cell phones on Valentine’s Day.

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CATEGORIES: Wireless
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February 1st, 2006

Microsoft Mobile Marketing – Follow-on to last blog

I just received an email from Microsoft as a result of clicking through on their mobile banner ad on USA Today’s mobile news site. I submitted my email address. [And, if I didn't mention in my last blog, when I clicked through on the Microsoft ad, I had no way of returning to the USA Today site. ????] Anyway, Microsoft sent me a “text” email (no HTML) with what looks to be exactly the same text as they presented to me when I clicked through on their banner ad on my cell phone. They included a URL, but it wasn’t an embedded link. There was an embedded link to unsubscribe.

No new information. They didn’t leverage the fact that I registered through a cell phone. No product information. Really poor execution by some entity here. They may not have paid much for the ad … but CPM’s I’ve seen for mobile banner ads have been fairly high. Mobile marketers need to do better than this – this experience as is is ca. 1999 on the Internet … but we’ve learned so much since then ….

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CATEGORIES: Wireless
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February 1st, 2006

Mobile News & Advertising – USA Today

I was checking out USA Today’s new mobile WAP site today on my LG 9000 on Verizon’s network. (WAP is somewhat reasonable with QWERTY + EVDO). I liked that there were headlines on the first page with links through to stories. Lead story was on the postal worker in California. I liked that there were photos. I liked that it was formatted for my screen. Lead story was nine pages long – each had to be loaded individually. Story on Chelios being selected as captain of USA’s Olympic Ice Hockey team was only three pages. Raises the issue of whether or not content should not just be “formatted” for the small screen, but whether or not it should be written for the small screen.

There was an itsy-bitsy (sp?) banner ad from Microsoft Office at the top of the screen. I clicked through out of curiousity. There was a text ad – pretty short. They asked me to fill in my email address in this small blank box. Good thing I had a QWERTY keyboard. I like that they are connecting the cell phone to the web. Will let you know what comes of it.

Regarding the site, we all know that not many people are using WAP today, but the number is growing. My mother is a huge fan of USA Today and reads it every day. I didn’t see a link to the daily Sudoku puzzle though. Anyway, my mother doesn’t know that her phone can link to the Internet. That said, I think it’s great that USA Today is out there with a mobile portal and they are getting it included in carrier portals. Page views are low in number today, but they will grow over time. Great time to be learning. It won’t be that long before a much larger number of mobile subscribers will have handsets with network access that makes this a reasonable experience.

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CATEGORIES: Wireless
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February 1st, 2006

Kajeet – an MVNO for Parents and Kids

Kajeet – a prepaid wireless service provider targeted at kids and parents. Will be interesting to watch this one (MVNO?) evolve. Most adults make purchasing decisions based on price and coverage. Coverage should be good depending on choice of partner. Can price with a prepaid model beat letting your kids use extra minutes in your monthly postpaid bucket? I will be writing a piece later this spring dedicated to how parents are making purchasing decisions (cellphones + mobile subscriptions) for their children. Stay tuned.

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CATEGORIES: Wireless