by putting services at a zero-click distance to the user and pushing services directly to the front screen.
Think push notifications to a J2ME feature phone. Abaxia works with carriers and OEM to optimize the interface across multiple devices from different suppliers, which seems an apparent benefit to carriers as it will allow them to make their on-device brand communication consistent throughout the handsets available through them. That an OEM should then buy the company could therefore surprise…
And as to the use of idle screens? Hm, I am not totally convinced: an idle screen is, well, idle. I may be tempted to jump to it if an app sends me something from a friend (because, hey, it’s a friend in need) but I am not sure if the same attention can be garnered from the latest and greatest service offer from your operator. This is however what Abaxia claims it excels in. According to its website, the company helps
to drive not only data revenue but [...] to recover failing voice ARPU and secure advertising ARPU.
And here, well, show me the money. I have yet to see a convincing solution for this, and I am not sure if an attempt to capture the idle screen is the way to go.
However, when it comes to interface improvements, it might just work. So all might not be lost. And, in any event, congratulations to the teams at Abaxia and HTC!
The mobile version of Tetris, the iconic game published by EA Mobile, has now clocked up in excess of 100m paid downloads, cracking a landmark that is arguably miles ahead of everything else. This in itself is to be lauded.
However, in the press buzz around this incredible achievement, I have not seen anyone reminiscing on what brought this franchise to EA Mobile, and the deals leading up to that are something not to be sniffed at either, so here’s to the people who made an audacious move in 2005 when they bought Blue Lava Wireless, the Hawaiian studio run by Henk Rogers (who is also the CEO of Blue Planet Software, which still controls the rights to the game), together with a 15-year license to the mobile game for a rather breathtaking $145m ($137m + c. $8m non-recoupable license advance to the Tetris Company in which Blue Planet Software holds 50%).
The company at the time was Jamdat who some people described as the only company ever to go public on the back of a bowling game (Jamdat Bowling was one of the first run-away successes in the mobile space). Jamdat had just floated on Nasdaq in a $86m IPO (here’s the original S-1) with its market cap at the end of the first day of trading standing at $439m (up 45% from opening). They had struggled a little outside North America (as per their S-1/A nearly 80% of their revenues were North American) and were hence pondering to leverage Tetris’ global appeal to grow their markets outside the US. And how well they did!
At the time, however, few people thought the transaction would amortize ever. This might have been besides the point since the amortization for the original Jamdat shareholders came soon by the $680m acquisition by EA but few people (me included) had thought that the mobile Tetris property could yield a positive ROI (in isolation) on the back of, effectively, one game. This is naturally grossly simplifying since the lever of Tetris into carriers Jamdat did not reach prior to that provided incremental growth across the portfolio but the fact that it appeared to being an extraordinarily rich deal remained.
I do no longer have my numbers on what was needed to provide a satisfactory return but, over the 15-year license term, I believe it stood somewhere around $225m. With 100m paid downloads, EA may very well be there already – and this after only 5 years or so (this is again a simplification since there were of course sales prior to the acquisition).
I therefore tip my hat to Mitch Lasky, Jamdat’s former CEO and now a General Partner with Benchmark Capital (his very enjoyable personal blog is here), who had the foresight and/or luck to score this deal and I bow before the success of Tetris!
Nokia has announced that it will acquire “certain assets” of Hamburg-based mobile software firm Cellity, these “assets” being its people and technology. Cellity’s current offering, an “address book 2.0″, which promises to connect and consolidate a user’s contacts and messages across mobile phone, social networks, etc into one inbox. It also offers a dashboard to manage this. However, this – the company’s current – service is said to be discontinued. So what is Nokia buying then (besides the very talented people)? My best guess is that Nokia would want to use the technology to ease consolidation and interaction across a variety of their handsets’ and services’ (including Ovi).
Good on the good folks of Cellity. Let us wait what it the result will hold in stock…
MVNOs seem to be seeking the shelter of big incumbents. Or is it the other way around? Incumbents buying the brands built by MVNOs and internalizing cost along the way? I suspect it is the latter but the economics would work either way…
Anyway, along these lines, Bell Mobility, the Canadian incumbent carrier, announced today that it has acquired Virgin Mobile Canada (or rather the half it did not own already) for Can$ 142m. This follows the acquisitions of Virgin Mobile UK by NTL and Virgin Mobile Australia by Optus. And, continuing the above theme, Bell also announced that Virgin will continue to operate under its own “unique wireless brand with special appeal to young Canadians”. There you have it.
There have been press reports (in German) according to which Vodafone is pondering an acquisition of T-Mobile UK. The reporting paper, FAZ, is not only fairly conservative but also the most prestigious German newspaper, so there would appear to be some substance in this.
The paper reports that the board of Deutsche Telekom, the owner of T-Mobile, was facing increasingly critical sentiment on its UK investment: they are said to have sunk a painful £13bn into the UK arm since their acqusition in 1999. Investment bank Sal Oppenheim’s estimated sales price of €4.5bn would at least ease some of that pain.
The UK market is hotly contested and one where a lot of the large international conglomerates are represented, namely with Vodafone, Telefonica/O2, France Telecom/Orange and Hutchison Whampoa’s 3. The strong competition would also appear to ease concerns of merger control restrictions (Vodafone would become a clear market leader in the UK): they could argue quite reasonably that there was more than capable competition in the market besides their acquisition.
Vodafone CEO Colao is apparently interested in acquisitions. T-Mobile suggested though that it is very early stage. Stay tuned…
Consolidation in the mobile marketing space: German mobile marketing group YOC, a publicly listed company with revenues in Q1/2009 of c. €6m announced it has acquired Bluestar Mobile, the people known to British readers as the guys behind all the wonderful girls of the Sun on mobile (and, no, they also work with others such as the Guardian, Motorola or Bacardi). No price was disclosed. However, since YOC trades in the prime segment of the Frankfurt stock exchange, it will have to provide some details of the transaction in due course…
YOC is a giant in the German mobile marketing market (the vast majority of its revenues comes from its home market) where it runs campaigns for a lot of the marquee brands, including Mercedes, Sixt, Walt Disney, Coca Cola, T-Mobile, Sony, etc. However, its international revenues were rather small: its biggest foreign market was the UK with €400k revenues in Q1. Bluestar, which had built a nice business (according to YOC’s PR “profitable from inception”), will nicely add to YOC’s activities.
It seems the two follow virtually identical business models – full-service mobile marketing firms that run everything from concept, planning and execution of campaigns via inventory management and ad-serving solutions to creation and operation of mobile internet portals.
When you look at YOC’s share price, the strategy appears to work: whilst the German small-cap index dropped more than 40% in the last year, YOC’s stock rose by nearly 20%. All good then!