Archive for September, 2007

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September 28th, 2007

Another Innovative MVNO Falls (Disney Mobile)

Disney announced yesterday that their wireless service will be shut down at the end of the year. It’s too bad (though not surprising) to see them go. Many of their services and offerings to families (parents and kids included) seemed to really hit the mark.

Like many other MVNO’s, they faced an uphill (and costly) battle to acquire customers in an environment in which wireless subscribers mostly care about quality of network (where MVNO’s by definition can’t differentiate) and perceived value (low cost minutes and data plan) are the most important factors for subscribers when selecting a provider. Too few (though an increasing number) view other services or entertainment as key criteria in selecting a provider.

I keep wondering when or if carriers will adopt the strategy of brands within their larger brand. With as many MVNO’s as have been launched, it’s clear that media companies want more than the carriers are offering now in terms of platforms/technology/services to support their efforts to engage with their consumers in the mobile environment. MVNO’s are too costly. Incumbents are offering too little.

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CATEGORIES: Wireless
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September 19th, 2007

3G Google Phone – Why Wouldn’t They?

Ok, so 2/2.5G chips are cheaper, 3G isn’t available everywhere, hard to make a phone that works in multiple countries, carriers may be cautious about the type of deals they are signing on their best networks – there are a list of reasons.

But, if revenue is derived from page views, searches, email, etc., why wouldn’t you want people surfing as quickly as possible? We’ve seen it with computers and broadband vs. dial-up – with few exceptions, broadband users do more things and spend more hours online than dial-up (i.e., slow network) users.

See this DigiTimes article.

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CATEGORIES: Wireless
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September 19th, 2007

Mobile Ad Networks Posting Real Traffic – Admob

Admob released some real numbers around their traffic today. They are closing in on delivering 1.5 billion ads per month. More than a third of this traffic is in the US. Some of the growth has been organic while some has been driven by adding partners to their ad network. It’s impressive either way.

Some of the challenges advertisers face when evaluating new mediums include the ability to understand the impact of their advertising along with the audience they are reaching. Admob has published some interesting numbers that demonstrate that they know who their audience is (beyond the expectations of a web property given the content) as well as who is browsing. I suspect there is a lot more data where this came from. This is good news for advertisers and the industry – a better understanding of who is being reached will help drive growth in the industry overall. This kind of transparency and detail can be hard to get in nascent markets.

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CATEGORIES: Wireless
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September 18th, 2007

Disney MVNO’s Prospects

Disney’s CFO mentioned that the MVNO was having some challenges. (See Silicon Alley article)

I don’t think there is a lot of news here. Going in, I’m sure that they knew there would be a lot of challenges and scale + customer acquisition would be a challenge and they would need to commit to the venture for years to see it pay off. One of the other factors not mentioned in the short piece was network effects. There are many emotional reasons that parents give for getting cell phones for their children with cost making it an easy decision in the end – bundled minutes, bundled messaging, etc. One of the challenges is – once kids are old enough to be heavy users (and attractive to carriers), parents tend to put them on family plans. It’s younger children that more typically fall into the category of being on prepaid plan.

Disney Mobile has launched a number of very innovative services that really hit the mark in terms of what parents want.

For these reasons, it would be sad to see them disappear after such a short time period. They seem to be doing a good job of acquiring customers – it just takes time.

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CATEGORIES: Wireless
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September 18th, 2007

Location-Enabled Search

Sprint announced (see Fierce story) the launch of GPS-enabled search today with Microsoft (Tellme acquisition). Tell me signed a deal with AT&T prior to their acquisition by Microsoft. GPS adds a new layer to the solution. It’s a good step forward for Sprint – takes one step out of the process for consumers. Moreover, directory assistance is one of the most commonly used services on cell phones and voice is the preferred medium to date.

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CATEGORIES: Wireless
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September 13th, 2007

Shopping with my Phone

I haven’t had a chance to try Sprint’s new service, but I will. (see Wash. Post article)

We haven’t seen consumers demanding this service much yet, but with more devices with full browsers, larger screens, and access to faster networks, it is only a matter of time. While the adoption is low today, about four times as many cell phone owners (that we’ve surveyed) say they are interested in the service as have used it so far. That’s good news for the industry.

Once these shopping applications are paired with detailed inventory and promotions, it’s easy to imagine that consumers will be drawn to such services – especially for sale items or those that will “expire” (e.g., concert tickets for this evening).

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CATEGORIES: Wireless
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September 12th, 2007

Google’s Mobile Adwords

Google laying out a timeline, policies and FAQ for their mobile Adwords seemed to be the big news of the day. (See Fierce/SearchEngineLand article.)

I have a few reactions to this.

First, it was inevitable.

They’ve been running trials since late last year, and it was only a matter of time. I like that they are giving advertisers a transition time to see how it works. Google is one of the more popular destinations for mobile browsers.

There are a number of things I’m a bit uncertain about (and are likely in upcoming versions:

  • Information and services needs on cell phones can be different than those on computers. I’ve run tests before to see if mobile search results are different from computer search results (and they should be in many cases). If I search for “Crest toothpaste” online, I probably want information about the product. If I search on my phone, I may want the nearest location selling the product. How this is going to be managed is still unclear to me.
  • One of the primary inhibitors that we often discuss in relation to mobile advertising is the need for a “landing page.” If an advertiser is going to have a text link or banner ad on a cell phone, they also need to have an appropriate landing page or site in the case that the user clicks through. I’ve seen this executed well, and I’ve also seen this executed really poorly. I think this is still an open issue with the Google service. On one hand, they create some form of a landing page – this is a good thing. On the other, it may not be the landing page the advertiser wants. I used their emulator (of sorts) to test a few URL’s. There were disclaimers at the top stating (basically in so many words) that there could be different information/presentation at alternative URL’s.
  • The ability to target by location is one of the compelling aspects of mobile. If this component isn’t already present, hopefully it will be soon for their cell phone Adwords as well as those on their sponsored Wi-Fi networks and eventually WiMax networks.
  • Another open question I have is the value of the search terms in this format online vs. mobile. As an advertiser, do I pay more or less for the mobile terms?
  • Lastly, according to our executive surveys, most advertisers aren’t ready to use mobile search. In fact, a minority use mobile search and not many more plan to use it in the upcoming year. I question whether or not this should be opt in or opt out given current levels of interest from advertisers. Perhaps getting advertisers to try mobile search will help drive adoption. Under this scenario, the “opt out” could play in favor of the mobile search industry.
  • OK, and one more question … can an advertiser use mobile search only? And is there enough inventory available for local advertisers? How much inventory is there for “pizza + 94118″? Oh, and does this work with their text-based service? or just the browser version? or application?

It’s a good first step, and I’m sure we’ll see improvements as demand for the service develops. It’s a great time (i.e., usage still fairly low) for advertisers and media companies alike to be experimenting and learning.

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CATEGORIES: Wireless
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September 10th, 2007

Gphone? Maybe …

Here’s a link to an article that I wrote for RCR Wireless this morning.

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CATEGORIES: Wireless
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September 6th, 2007

Blast from the Past … Iridium

I just saw this article posted on FierceWireless. (points to FT). The irony is that this is a business that the modern cell phone nearly killed (I actually thought it had. I mean, I knew there were still a bunch of satellites orbiting the earth, but didn’t know there was still a wireless service play).

In theory one should not consider sunk costs when looking forward, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that investors paid only $25M for 66 satellites that Motorola and Co. spent $5 billion putting into space.

Among a host of other problems the service encounter, cost/size of handsets, cost of service and in-building coverage were a few of the more prominent ones. Competing services/technologies were also an issue. Basic physics haven’t changed so it’s hard to believe that all of these problems have been solved. Will be an interesting one to watch especially in light of the fact that new, high speed terrestrial networks (e.g., UMB, LTE, WiMax) are in the works.

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CATEGORIES: Wireless
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September 5th, 2007

99 cent Ringtones from Apple

Among the many announcements Apple made this morning with the roll out of their new ipod line up and Wi-Fi iTunes store (see my colleague Michael Gartenberg’s blog), they are also adding a custom ringtone maker to iTunes (iTunes 7.4). For 99 cents, a user can create a custom ringtone up to 30 seconds long from over a million participating songs on iTunes. Steve Jobs did a demo today – looked very straightforward and easy to do as things always are with Apple and the end-to-end experience they provide. Wow.

I posted a blog back in January when they first launched the iPhone. I wondered about the roll of the carrier. I wondered about mobile content – would there be any? Would third-party developers create games for the iPhone? Who would sell the mobile content as there appeared to not be any AT&T portals/UI on the phone. We begin to see some of the answer now.

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CATEGORIES: Wireless