Month: April 2009 (Page 1 of 2)

The Others: Where Android, Symbian & LiMo are

The title of this post is not meant in any way derogatory but with all the hype about the iPhone it is sometimes easy to forget that we are talking about a niche product that will probably remain a niche product (albeit a powerful and cool one!). In the rest of the world (feature phones aside), a few consortia are fighting for the open-source market, which is – let’s face it – a considerably larger piece than the small premium segment served by Apple.

So, where were we? There is the LiMo Foundation, which is onto establishing a mobile Linux standard. There is the Symbian Foundation and there is Android, a Linux-based OS from the Open Handset Alliance led by Google. One by one then:
LiMo Foundation

LiMo boasts a membership based comprised of the Who’s Who in mobile. Powerhouses from around the world like Vodafone, Orange,
Verizon Wireless, NTT DoCoMo, Telefonica, SFR, TIM and SK Telecom, Samsung, NEC, LG, Panasonic, Huawei, Motorola, and ZTE (and quite a few more) are all in there. LiMo has released an SDK a while ago. Now though, they decided that enough is enough and that the world should know that their OS was actually making headway. In 2009, there will be new handsets based on LiMo’s s
tandards released by Orange, Telefonica, Vodafone, NTT DoCoMo, SK Telecom and Verizon Wireless. Now, that’s a statement. Non-phone devices are in the works, they say…
There are already more than 20 LiMo phones out there (without very many people having realized it). They include such mundane devices like Motorola’s U9, ROKR EM30, ROKR Z6 and ROKR E8 as well as the RAZR2. Panasonic and NEC pboth produced a whole raft of devices for NTT DoCoMo. See here for a list of available phones.
Symbian

Symbian of course is coming from a differen
t mould: having been (co-)owned by Nokia for, like, ever, there are already over 200m devices running on its OS. After going open-source, they are working on consolidating the sister formats S60, UIQ and MOAP(S) now into one. Membership-wise, they’re not doing badly either: they target to having more than 100 members by year-end. Membership with them is only $1,500 p.a. It remains to be seen to what extent they will extend their handset footprint beyond Nokia though. Little has been heard so far…
Android

Both foundations felt compelled to state their cause, also in response to Eric Schmidt’s continued mantra that 2009 will be very, very strong for Android. The Open Handset Alliance had gone off to a well-publicized start with the T-Mobile G1. They recently announced that it had sold 1m devices (regarding which some people pointed out that Apple shipped as many iPhones on the first weekend), and are now gearing up more devices for launch (Vodafone got its hands on the HTC Magic). Samsung, LG, HTC and Sony Ericsson have all announced Android devices this year, and the first Samsung (I7500) has just been officially confirmed.
Multiple Membership
Wait a minute? Samsung? Weren’t they part of the LiMo foundation? Well, yes, and that is part of the problem: a lot of the big players have their fingers in all the pies (and why should they not?). This is favouring Apple since they are a single organization producing hardware and software. It could also be argued that it is favouring Android because Google throws so much marketing and PR behind it. However, maybe not. The big OEMs and the big carriers all work according to their own agenda. And this might very well be a very different one to Eric Schmidt’s: to an OEM, production cost, stability and versatility without impacting standardization are key. To a carrier, a lot will (also) ride on the ability to customize the handset so as to give it a distinct branded feel. Less PR from someone like Google makes it easier to them to focus on their own brand.
So: rock-solid, clean code, transparent and clear SDKs, no hidden hooks will mean that a lot of the feature phones that create the vast majority of handset sales (even if sales of the “classic” J2ME ones had been declining in 2008 when compared to smartphones) will quite possibly see a larger and larger move towards the open platforms. It makes it cheaper to produce and, with Apple having given the world the app store idea, content should flow in sooner or later. They “only” need to keep the standards, well, standard!
The iPhone is of course looming large, and it is the one device that has shown the old school of the telco world how 21-st-century marketing can impact market perception and sales. They have also all realized that this might actually be a very good thing, hence the eager discussions many are purported to be having on getting their hands on the next generation. However, last time I looked, the streets were not full of Porsche Boxsters either. Quite a few Hyundais, Fiats, Peugeots, BMWs, Volvos, well, you get it…

Why an iPhone Deal with Verizon Wireless would be Cool

Today, interesting reports surfaced (or re-surfaced?) according to which Verizon Wireless and Apple are in discussions about bringing the iPhone to the former. However, because Verizon runs on a CDMA network and Apple has only ever supported GSM, commentators reckoned that this deal might be for Verizon’s next-generation LTE network. And this is when one can start dreaming…

To recap: Verizon will be amongst the (if not The) first tier-1 network operators rolling out the next generation of wireless networks under the LTE standard (see here for more on this). Under LTE, unprecedented wireless bandwidth will be available, comparable (or exceeding) what households in Western and Far-Eastern countries have in their homes today. But then you would have it of course wherever you are (well, if the respective technology is installed).
Due to the immense speeds, a lot of people think that the first big change will be on the (computer) broadband side of things: no need for wireline access if the speeds are the same and you can actually wander around and through town and always be with your provider. Simplicity, ease of use, bliss of connected life.

When it comes to mobile handsets (previously known as phones), the iPhone is of course (and despite the heckling by its many critics) arguably the most successful multimedia device known to man (so far). To marry this with these speeds? Ah, what would await us (see here for earlier thoughts). The iPhone (if they can fix the battery life) would be perfectly suited to bring the new lush wireless life to the masses (albeit first to the more affluent ones): rich graphics, innovative inputs and the fairly unique form factor would show the opportunities off rather beautifully and could hence aid to avoid the post-3G hangover where people asked themselves why on earth they should get 3G phones: there was nothing much to do with them (other than being able to make “faster” phone calls…).
The most common uses would arguably be music and apps with the latter being even more successful than the former: it is estimated that iTunes took 6 years to record 6.8 bn downloads; the App Store did 1 bn in only 9 months (or 1.3bn p.a.), which would equal 7.8 bn in 6 years if no further growth would occur. Anyway, with 1.1 bn downloads p.a. not being too shabby either, let’s take both, so what do we get?
On the music side, it would either mean quick and high-quality downloads or, more likely (?), streamed music. The same applies to the VOD and movie segments.
On the apps side, LTE would arguably push the envelope into two directions: (1) high-end, graphically rich games, and (2) ultra-connected social games that seamlessly bridge media platforms. Now: both types had their advent on the iPhone. Speak to any number of high-end games makers, and they will tell you that their life became much easier since the iPhone was there. Look at products like EA’s Scrabble (with full Facebook integration), Playfish‘s games (coming from the other end, i.e. from Facebook to iPhone), etc and you have the foundations laid here, too. With LTE, all this becomes mass-marketable to a much higher extent. And this would be real fun!

Carnival of the Mobilists #171

I missed the last one due to travel and dodgy Internet connections whilst on the move, but this week’s Carnival of the Mobilists is – as usual – unmissable and unmissed. It is being hosted by Abgail Adams on their Catalyst Code blog, and you will find it here. This week’s edition boasts lessons for toddlers to be learned on the iPhone, social networking going mobile, and a – daring – outlook on the (economic and social) aspects blogs in the year 2025. And now head over for some inspiration!

Social Mobile Convergence in Gaming

At the European Mobile Media Conference earlier this week in Prague I gave this presentation on social mobile convergence in gaming, which I thought might contribute a little to de-mystifying this conundrum of buzzwords.

Have a look, tell me what you think…

Opinions on LTE

The Opinions in Mobile project asked this week about our thoughts on LTE. Having recently had the pleasure of speaking at Alcatel-Lucent’s 4G Symposium at CTIA, being members at their ngConnect programme and with general curiosity (and excitement), this is something I find quite interesting. Head over to read what some of the industry leaders are saying It’s here.

Image credit: http://www.watblog.com

Mobile Games on Twitter

Birds (sic!) do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it, and now even Oprah (have you been there before her? Check here)… so: what about mobile games companies tweeting? Now, there’s many of them already out there (see list below) but how much sense does it make (that it makes sense for your business I demonstrated recently)?

Looking at a few of them, you’ll find anything from very 20th-century in-your-face selling (probably not so efficient) to enlisting (or trying to) followers to help in everything from game design, logo colours to community components that should go into the next iteration of the website. And it is in the crowdsourcing where I see a bit of potential: most mobile games companies are fairly small, and money to spend on sophisticated research, focus groups and what not is scarce or AWOL. If one can draw on the opinions and insights of friendly followers to learn about their (the consumers’) preferences, this is surely all good. Since Oprah is on there now, too, there is even a chance that your followers will not only be fellow industry professionals…
Although, even to the industry, Twitter is as powerful a tool to the mobile games people as to anything else (maybe with the exception of the global car-wash industry – everyone who’s been to CTIA Wireless will understand the reference): it is a great channel to get the message out to people who matter to you (and who actually show that they care by following you), which puts trade marketing (even if not in the strict sense of the word) onto the list on why you should do it.
So here’s a (surely incomplete – please excuse and feel free to add!) list of mobile games companies who tweet:
Gameloft: @gameloft
Connect 2 Media (yes, that’s us): @connect2media
Oasys Mobile: @oasysmobile
Hands-On Mobile: @handsonmobile
Digital Chocolate: @dchocgames
I-Play: @iplaymobile

Tag Games: @taggames
Fishlabs: @fishlabs
Gamevil: @gamevil
Distinctive Developments: @distinctivegame
Lemonquest: @lemonquest
Oh, and I’m out there as @vhirsch

123 Play at Metro

123 Metro could be the name of the latest Major League Soccer franchise but it signifies a neat deal that 123Play, a service that wraps mobile games with ads free to end users, has just struck with the newspaper mavericks from Metro (they’re the guys with the free newspapers; see here for UK and here for the [seeming] inventors of the concept).

I like this deal a lot as it is so natural: Metro is a very successful advertising-driven medium and it ties in extremely well with 123Play’s model. Seamless, simple, very neat: anecdotally, a lot of people play games on their mobile when they have time to kill. Likewise, a lot of people read Metro when they have time to kill, namely when they commute on public transport. One challenge will of course be that there is no mobile reception in the London tube (or most other undergrounds for that matter) but the overall concept should work.
Disclosure: my company works with 123play.com (although I don’t think this post will bring me front-page coverage on Metro…).

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