Month: March 2009 (Page 1 of 3)

Conference: European Mobile Media

On 22/23 April, the glorious city of Prague will play host to the European Mobile Media conference. The event will cover the entire spread of the mobile media sector from content (games, music, TV) through to advertising and marketing with a focus on – what a surprise – monetization. There’s a great line-up of speakers, including mobile advertising guru Russell Buckley from Admob, agency heavyweights Jonathan MacDonald (Ogilvy) and Mark C Linder (WPP) as well as one of the industry’s brightest analysts, Peggy Anne Salz (mSearchGroove) and, last but not least, yours truly.

The spice will hopefully added by the combination of executives from the production, publishing and distribution side with their counterparts from network operators with a large number already confirmed to attend.
Come along! Prague in spring is wonderful on its own. And a good conference won’t spoil it.

Off to Vegas: CTIA Wireless 2009

On Monday, I shall be boarding a plane to visit Las Vegas for the All-American wireless love fest that is CTIA Wireless.

I will have the great pleasure of discussing the next generation of mobile entertainment services under a 4G LTE environment with executives from Samsung, Walt Disney, Atlantic Records, Buzznet and others. Alcatel-Lucent, who recently won a tender providing the infrastructure to Verizon Wireless for roll-out in early 2010, are hosting the respective 4G Symposium.

And otherwise? These are exciting times across a wide range of industry segments: network infrastructure and ultra-high bandwidth, the coming of age of smartphones and their widespread take-up as well as the respective changes for the content industries which can now offer services people could only be dreaming of a few years ago. Stay tuned!
Get in touch if you want to meet up during the show. Best to drop me an e-mail at volker (dot) hirsch (at) gmail (dot) com.

Carnival of the Mobilists #166

This week’s Carnival of the Mobilists is hosted by the formidable Caroline Lewko at WIP Jam. I am very happy to note that my latest post on Apple’s growing relevance as a gaming platform is included in last week’s line-up. For the remainder, there’s stuff on LiMo (for some background on where they came from see here) and some very worthwhile piece on mobile marketing amongst much more. And now go to read it here!

Apple's Gaming Platform

I wrote about this topic a couple of times already (here and here) but here‘s an interesting update/summary. The gist of the argument remains, only the numbers got better: Microsoft’s XBox has sold 29 million units, and that is fairly respectable (in particular when you consider that people regularly fork out $30 and more per game). Apple however (Mr Gates, I hate to say it) outsold its dear competitor by selling more than 30 million iPhones (and, well, iPod Touch).

The hardware install base is fairly similar then. There are two differentiators (besides the price point as per above and the fact that an XBox is not so portable nor meant to be): 1) Apple took a lot less time to get there, and 2) there are more than 25,000 applications for the iPhone, of which about 1/4 are games. That’s a lot!
And with its fairly awe-inspiring iPhone 3.0 update (more here or watch the entire keynote), one can now also add in-game micro-payments to the mix, which enhances the flexibility of billing models beyond anything its console or handheld rivals have on offer. Add to this the points raised in my earlier posts and the neat additions to the new iPhone SDK (use music stored on the device in the game, in-game voice chat, push notification waking up an app, stereo Bluetooth, etc, etc) and we are hopefully to see yet another wave of innovative, intelligent implementations of this. It is pretty cool indeed!

Twitter Can Save Your Business or How Virgin Media uses Modern Customer Service Tools (off-topic)

This is not strictly within the realms of topics I normally cover in this blog but it certainly deserves wider notice.

We run a game development, publishing and distribution business and, just before Christmas, moved offices. Our ISP is Virgin Media, part of the Branson empire that bought erstwhile ISP NTL a while ago. Virgin was quite forthcoming to accommodate our move and were, I’d say, happy that we would stay with them. They needed – or so they said – 6 weeks to make the full switch but told us to accommodate us with a DSL line in the interim. Whilst this is stretching for the HQ of a digital company, it was only for a short time so, hey, roll with the punches…
Then we were told that all would actually take “a little” longer. A little became end of May 2009; this would have been nearly 6 months from our office move. Impossible! Software engineers, deployment teams, sales force, marketing, project management all over a DSL line? Our worst nightmare!
That Friday night, after I had heard this – fairly solemnly delivered – verdict of the Virgin customer service, I vented my frustration on Twitter, namely by addressing a tweet to Sir Richard Branson, entrepreneur extraordinaire, customer service evangelist and face of Virgin. Sir Richard was at the time, I believe, on an around-the-world trip with his various Virgin airlines…

Then the power of Twitter, ordinarily available only to the digital and real-life celebrities with North of 25,000 followers, also showed its might to me: inside 12 hours, I had direct messages via Twitter from the MD of Virgin Media and their Sales Director for the business division of which Manchester is part. By Sunday I had their mobile numbers and arranged for a call with the MD on Monday morning. By Tuesday, we had a tentative date (20 March), which was then bettered to 17 March. And as of 1pm of that day, our business was, well, back in business (the engineer delivering the router et al was actually a full half hour early). Within 15 minutes our IT manager, sys admin and my good self were peppered with careful inquiries from various sources within Virgin asking if all was in order. Wow!
Besides this being a nice war story, it does show what Twitter can be used for: Virgin Media will have identified a need to address the – anecdotally very poor – customer service levels of the NTL business they acquired. Now, one could of course (and rightfully) claim that I should not have needed to go to one of Britain’s most successful entrepreneurs to get a response from somewhere in the bowels of this organization. On the other hand did they manage to demonstrate in exemplary fashion the passion and dedication they have: I mean, an MD of a large ISP twittering you on a weekend? Impressive.
Whilst this does not solve the root of any general customer service issues Virgin Media may (or may not) have, it does allow their management to manage change from the top, and it does – whilst not replicable (at least not through MD treatment) – allow them to accelerate sensitivity and awareness for such issues within the organization whilst displaying (and in a convincing fashion) their will to improve (and don’t we all happily fall for a show of good will and effort!).
The only question that remains is whether Sir Richard has a Twitter Manager or if he actually forwarded my tweet to his lieutenants himself… I do thoroughly thank everyone involved there; a great example of how it can work, a great showcase on what Twitter can do to help your business, faith restored!

Carnival of the Mobilists #165

The latest Carnival of the Mobilists (No. 165 already) is out and dancing over at VisionMobile. My post on Microsoft’s app store initiative and why (or why not) it might succeed is included, too. It is not the only interesting post though, including one claiming the app store will fail! So have a look and check it out here!

Games Pulsating Through One Platform?

Here’s one that nearly slipped through the (well, at least my) net: according to a recent press release, the Eclipse Foundation is set to unveil a unified development platform. It is said that some major players, including Nokia, RIM, Sony Ericsson, IBM and Motorola have joined this initiative already though Android and – predictably – Microsoft and Apple are notable in their absence.

The concept is oh so simple: a developer goes to the site, downloads the platform and is ready to rumble. The platform (called Pulsar) would pull together vendor-specific SDKs and off you go. It is clearly geared to tackle the fragmentation of the many, many handsets to be addressed when publishing to “mainstream” mobile phones.
At present, it’s an initiative (as there have been so many) and the presence of industry heavyweights does not always guarantee their success. I am (cynicism coming with age…) cautious over black box approaches (remember Tira Wireless?). I would love to see this succeed but let’s see what it comes to…
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