Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Carnival of the Mobilists #55

This weeks carnival is being hosted by Eli Dickinson over at FierceDeveloper - well worth a look.

Friday, November 24, 2006

BBC looking to commission

I spent yesterday morning listening to folks from the BBC New Media and Technology team talking about what the BBC are doing in mobile, and more to the point how you get to talk to them if you want to be part of that.

Getting there involved a horribly early start but eventually I staggered in to the Corinthian in Glasgow for a very welcome coffee and pastry at 0830. The event is one of the series of "Creative Breakfast" events run by the Research Centre - very media centric. As far as I could tell we were the only full on mobile company in the room.

No major surprises on the WAP side - though they did mention they are working on starting to recognise the returning user and customise the layout of the portal according to what is known of their interests. Old hat on the web but not happening very much on mobile yet.

They are still very interested in messaging and think there is plenty of mileage left in SMS services. They mentioned on nice one where you txt "art" to 81010 and get pushed into the correct part of the BBC Power of Art portal based on your location. Simple and effective.

Video is obviously a major area for them - typically based on 30-90 second clips - used both for clips, made-for-mobile mobisodes, and promotional materials - all in support of mainstream TV programmes so far.

Data charges are obviously a major issue for them when it comes to video clips - and they are clearly a little sensitive on the subject. Currently all they can do is stick up warnings on the download pages - until the operators catch up and deal with the issue.

They are also experimenting with using 3G video calls to both deliver video as a stream, and also to capture viewers comments and opinions for use on air.

They were at pains to point out (especially given it was mainly a room full of independent TV producers ;-) that they didn't have resource to commission mobile material as an adjunct to traditional programming - and that would have to be negotiated in the existing commissioning process.

They do however have budget to commission specifically new media based content - though it must involve more than one media - can't be absolutely purely mobile. Anybody interested should go in via their commissioning site.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Flat rate for data now the norm?

I think most folks in the mobile media business would agree that one of the key inhibitors for uptake of our content and services are the unpredictable nature, from an end user perspective, of data charges.

The apocryphal story of the early adopter with their new 3G phone making heavy use of "free" video clip downloads for the first month and ending up with a bill 10 times larger than normal is I suspect going to figure almost as much as the "crazy frog" subscriptions fiasco when we come to look back on the unnecessary barriers this industry has thrown up in front of mass uptake.

Three's announcement of their new X-series, if a little short on detail at this stage, is a very encouraging step towards the "norm" for mobile data access to be broadband style flat rate under some set of fair use conditions.

This is the second operator to go in this direction in the UK - with T-mobile being the leader in the space with their "web-n-walk" series. Vodafone do have a flat rate data tarif but it is very expensive and aimed at business users - more or less irrelevant in the consumer space.

Now I don't for a minute expect this to be a panacea, this is Three after all, as nicely captured by Carlo Longino over at MobHappy. I fully expect it to be bound up in fairly restrictive "fair use" caveats which plenty of folks will trip over - but it is a great step in the right direction!

There are a lot of other interesting oddments in the announcement - not the least the endorsement of free skype calls and IM - both of which are no doubt aimed to show up the restrictive nature of some of the entry level "web-n-walk" terms of use - but the fundamental here is that flat rate data for the consumer space is going to be the expected norm in very short order - which will benefit all of us.

This will certainly be key for the uptake of richer browser based services on mobile - as enthusiastically pointed out by Ajit over at Open Gardens!


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

What is a Mobile Operator anyway?

Last night I went along to Mobile Monday in London for the first time - an interesting and well organised event hosted in Google's offices at Victoria.

Amongst the many interesting things discussed, and which I will probably return to in future posts, Ajit Jaokar made a specific prediction that the role of the mobile operator will in time become primarily one of data transmission - "the pipe".

This is in marked contrast to what I heard from Orange, who at their partner camp expressed the view that they would "never be just the pipe, there isn't sufficient value there", and that instead they would focus on being aggregators of services.

This fundamental tension between the operators and the service and content providers isn't new, though now some sufficiently large and well resourced organisations are joining the latter group to make the outcome less of a foregone conclusion.

Also, with the operators no longer simply providing connectivity to mobile devices, but spreading out into wired Internet and digital TV etc, their fundamental strength of control of the cell sites could potentially become diluted.

Will be interesting to see how this one plays out ....

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Free mobile calls/txts if you are young enough!

In an interesting disruptive development in the operator space Blyk have announced they will be rolling out a purely ad funded MVNO across Europe - starting in the UK mid-2007.

While the concept of using advertising to cover the costs of mobile services is now generally accepted, and has neat parallels with commercial television, this is by far the most adventurous step in that direction I have come across.

The idea is that their subscribers (16-24 year olds only) all sign up to receive some degree of advertising, giving that magic 100% opt-in to keep the marketeers happy.

It will be very interesting to see the details as it rolls out, and to see how the traditional telcos react! Especially those for whom that age range is core.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Orange - mobile operator or something else?

Much of last weeks Orange partner camp was taken up with them telling their partner community about how they were now (or at least in the medium term) in the business of competing with the likes of Google, Yahoo!, and MSN.

At points the buzzwords were flowing thick and fast - "convergence", "web 2.0", "user generated content", etc. Some concrete progress to with the impending launch of their Pikeo location aware photo site. Also plenty of nice ideas somewhat further out for 3rd party mashups able to include various mobile network enablers such as billing, location and presence.

Given all of this I was quite surprised to read that in a slightly bizarre twist Orange have today announced they are closing down their one established bit of web community real estate - smartgroups.

So the question is what do Orange really want to be - a mobile telco or an Internet company which uses its control of various access routes (ISP, digital TV, mobile) to bring users to its various sites and services.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Orange Partner Camp

Just outside sunny Cadiz finding out about the world according to Orange. It is pouring down outside!

The opening "pow wow" was very Hollywood and gung ho stuff for the Orange faithfull. Interesting snippets were on ...

  • the Orange "next" programme which covers convergence both in terms of telecoms and broadband (the unik fixed/mobile thingy) and also in terms of services with a view to social networking and user generated content. The "web 2.0" buzzword was rather overused.
  • Their content people seem very focussed on apps on one hand and mobile TV on the other. Looks like in their eyes simpler content is yesterday's news. A very aggressive target of $400m of mobile content sales across the group for 2008 was mentioned.
  • The Access (PalmSource as was) linux based software platform was being pushed very hard as the new third way in "container" devices - but then again they had stumped up to be platinum sponser!
Overall feels a very successful event - all 450 places allegedly taken and feels that way. Plenty of interesting folks to talk to! But more on that next time ...

Friday, October 20, 2006

The first post!

As seems to be the fashion these days I plan to keep a blog of all those interesting little snippits I trip over in the course of my work.

Will I keep it up, and will anybody read it? Only time will tell!