Friday, November 21, 2008

A Future of Mobile?

Among the many interesting presentations at Monday's Future of Mobile conference in London was a wonderfully provocative short presentation by Helen Keegan of BeepMarketing telling us that there may be no future for mobile!

For the details see her blog on the subject, but in short she presented six key issues that need urgently to be resolved ...
  1. The tech rather than the users are the focus.
  2. Silly, unpredictable, and often downright scary tarifs and charges. A regular moan of mine!
  3. Apps and services created by geeks for geeks - what about normal folks?
  4. A culture gap between mobile and web folks.
  5. Western cultural focus of the industry.
  6. The key purpose of the phone - to communicate - is being lost.
While I perhaps won't agree with every detail of what she says the vast majority of it is really stating things that are so "obvious" that it is amazing how little it is taken into account in the design and creation of mobile devices and services.

The fundamental need for communication will ensure there is a future for mobile - but how well the industry deals with the issues above will decide how painful or otherwise it is!

PS. Latest carnival is up on the Mippin blog - and I got a mention!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Beem mobile payment - a fad or the future of cash?

I should come clean straight away and say I do struggle to understand why I might want to make day-to-day payments using my mobile phone - but then I am nearly 40 and so perhaps I am missing the point ;-)!

I was interested to see the new payment service from Beem which was announced recently. This so far allows users to pay for pizzas and taxi rides from some providers in the London area by sending txts from their mobile phone.

Their business model is Oyster-like in that the user's Beem account is charged up via debit card payments whenever it falls below a minimum and so Beem will generally be left holding a credit balance on which they can earn interest. They take fees from merchants as well but these are allegedly significantly lower than for more conventional payment methods.

Unfortunately the whole service is based on users interacting by sending structured SMS messages. Very paypalmobile-esque.This leads to two significant issues:
  1. The user error rate will be very high leading to large support costs and loss of user confidence.
  2. There will be significant moble messaging costs associated with operating the service.
This strikes me as being an almost ideal example of how not to do a mobile payments service. With this sort of service user confidence is everything!

Looking a little more broadly it will be interesting to see the progress of the ongoing convergence between travel passes and contactless payment mechanisms e.g. the barclaycard+paypass+oyster combination card. Perhaps in due course it might make sense for these to converge with the mobile device? I remain to be convinced.

Monday, November 10, 2008

OS aspects of Android start to appear?

One of the big disappointments of what has been written about the T-Mobile G1 so far is that the email client appears to be pretty poor unless you happen to use Gmail - probably a showstopper for me since non-gmail email is one of my core on-phone activities.

I was interested and reassured today to come across the k9mail project on Google Code. This project is based on a fork of the actual email client source code from Android and is working to improve it in a number of ways.

Early days - but great to see that OS self help cycle starting to kick off on a phone platform!

PS. Latest carnival is up over at ubiquitousthoughts.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Tidal flow --> Data --> Fruit & Vegetables!

Intrigued to see the Guardian article describing a planned data centre in the north of Scotland backed by Morgan Stanley.

The Pentland firth area has huge potential for tidal power generation but the problem of how to get all that power (plus that generated by the extensive wind and wave resources of the area) from such a remote area down to where it is needed in the central belt of Scotland and beyond has yet to be solved convincingly.

This plan takes the opposite approach and moves one of the key power consumers in the modern economy close to the renewable energy supply. It is after all much easier to provide reliable data connections to a remote location than large capacity power transmission. As a side effect it also brings jobs to the area.

All very worthy so far but there is also an intriguing twist in the tail is mentioned on the main contractor Atlantis Resources' site. The heat generated by the data centre will not just be vented to the environment as normal but will be used to heat the adjacent Mey Selections greenhouses on the Castle of Mey estate.

What an all round excellent idea!

PS. The latest carnival is up over at mopocket.