Did you know about Vodafone’s Flipfont app? No, I didn’t think so; it seems to have gone more or less unnoticed. Well, it allows you to – listen to this – customise your phone frontpage. Woah! How cool is that? The downside? Well, you need to pay £1.99 for the pleasure, per screen! I don’t think so… And, apparently, (now) so does Vodafone. Amidst the iPhone/AppStore rage and the “revelation” that UI might actually matter to people, they seem to have realized that changing a font will not necessarily change the uptake of consumption to new levels. And because they cannot have the iPhone (although it has the Blackberry Storm, which is performing much better than the initial damning reviews would have suggested), they will launch their very own app store, or so they said (if you read Dutch, that is; how nice that we have a Dutch blogger amongst us who translated it for us).
“If you think of three players, China Mobile is very strong in China; it’s a big country. Vodafone is very strong in Europe, Africa, India. Verizon is very strong in the US.“If these three companies could work more closely… in the management of customers, procurement and service creation, we could be unbeatable, quite frankly.”
January is MIDEM time (even though, sadly, I cannot go this year), which means that music dominates the news. In an interview, the EVP of Universal’s eLabs, Rio Caraeff on the revenues of Universal Music Group that:
“about 40 to 45% of our overall digital business is coming from mobile channels like Verizon and AT&T. [...] On much of our frontline pop or R&B or urban releases [...] we’re seeing mobile comprising 20-45% of the [overall] revenue for those artists.”
“The consumer doesn’t want a mobile-only experience – they want an all-digital multi-platform experience. They want to consume their music on their mobile handset [and] on PC and other online platforms. Partners like Verizon and AT&T wanted to have multi-platform online experiences as well. [...] Now at Universal, we don’t have a mobile business. We don’t have an online business. We just have one multi-platform digital business.”
And the winner is… China Mobile. Hard to guess, huh? Some research shows that the Chinese carrier’s brand is worth $30.79bn. Vodafone and Verizon took the other spots on the podium. The top 10 is below (courtesy of the good folks at telecoms.com). And for some (by now a little outdated) comparison for how they rank amongst other industries, see here.
|China Mobile||China Mobile||China||Asia||30,793|
|3||Verizon||Verizon Communications||US||North America||20,382|
|7||NTT DoCoMo||NTT DoCoMo||Japan||Asia||14,871|
|10||Sprint||Sprint Nextel||US||North America||9,661|
Flash maker Adobe isn’t tiring on bringing out news these days: this time it announced the “Open Screen Project”, in which it is partnering with a plethora of mobile industry giants, namely ARM, Chunghwa Telecom, Cisco, Intel, LG, Marvell, Motorola, Nokia (see also here re Microsoft‘s Flash competitor Silverlight), NTT DoCoMo, Qualcomm, Samsung, Sony Ericsson (see also their initiative to marry J2ME and Flash here), Toshiba and Verizon Wireless as well as major media players such as the BBC, MTV Networks and NBC Universal.
It said “the project is dedicated to driving rich Internet experiences across televisions, personal computers, mobile devices, and consumer electronics. Adobe said it would open access to Flash technology, accelerating the deployment of content and rich Internet applications (RIAs).” This will include:
- Removing restrictions on use of the SWF and FLV/F4V specifications
- Publishing the device porting layer APIs for Adobe Flash Player
- Publishing the Adobe Flash Cast protocol and the AMF protocol for robust data services
- Removing licensing fees – making next major releases of Adobe Flash Player and Adobe AIR for devices free
Adobe says its Flash Player reaches over 98% of Internet-enabled PCs and more than 500m mobile devices today. It now expects more than 1bn handsets to ship with Flash technology by the end of 2009 (this means a year faster than previously forecasted). Flash technology is used to deliver vector graphics, text, interactivity and application logic, video and sound over the Internet. Currently, more than 75% of broadcasters who stream video on the Web use Flash technology (YouTube will be a big contributor to that number).
Following my many posts on mobile Flash (see e.g. here and here), this now looks like a real assault on the medium. Given that Flash reduces developer cost (less porting because of vector-based graphics) means it is a likely boost to the content industry: more and richer content at lower cost. Could this be it?
A while ago, I blogged about a cool new site French company Mobitween had launched, namely on user-generated games. Now, the good folks are a bridgehead in mobile Flash (they had their fingers in the code more or less from day 1). So, where is Flash Lite today?
Here’s the install base numbers as recently released:
Flash has the great advantage that its graphics are vector-based and therefore scalable. This means that most of the porting nightmare that contributes to 30-50% of the cost of mobile games, etc would fall away. Nice thought… It would make the whole commercial model of mobile games dramatically rosier. And it appears to be gaining traction: e.g. does Adobe make Flash Lite available on Verizon phones (and I’ve been told – confidentially – of one publisher having recorded more than 2m Flash game downloads on there already).
Flash is particularly good for casual games, which is, as everyone close(-ish) to mobile games knows, all the hype for the (small) mobile screen, and rightly so, as it is normally easier to adapt a casual game to the screen limitations (not even starting to talk about processing power) that are inherent to mobile phones. A natural fit, huh? Just look what Mobitween and their users have come up with! And I don’t even get started on Atom/Shockwave (read an interview here) and all the others out there…
Is it then that we only need to wait until Flash Lite (finally) reaches the mass market? On the web, Flash hurt Sun‘s Java badly. Will the same happen on mobile? Or will Sun be smarter this time, and make sure that its currently dominant position will be reinforced by making it easier for developers to publish on their platform? The jury is out…
MoCoNews points us to an article reporting about some noteworthy stuff on the usage of the revamped ESPN Mobile (you will recall that the full-blown MVNO they had tanked horribly and the service was then re-launched as a mobile internet destination). They (well, not they but “an executive briefed on the data”) said that for one 24-hour period, ESPN’s wireless NFL section, with 4.9 million visits, topped the PC NFL section’s 4.5 million visits. And that’s impressive!
In the same article, M:Metrics was quoted to point out that it was convenience that did the trick, and this is of course where the data might be a bit distorted (it might not be but it’s unclear): ESPN Mobile is available in two flavours. ESPN MVP is exclusively to Verizon high-end data subscribers who get it for free. So this basically supports the case that the mobile internet will become a fully-fledged “competitor” to the “old” internet once bandwidth and cost for bandwidth will be similar to the internet proper; and that is not a big miracle, is it? The normal ESPN Mobile is available to anyone but may be subject to data charges. It would be interesting to know the shares the two sites/apps have in the above data.
But I don’t want to divert from the fact that 4.9m mobile hits inside 24 hours is great by any measure. Sport is a wonderful starting point for mobile internet usage anyway as it is so time-sensitive (it is not really the same thing to record a live game and then watch it hours later after the city is steeped in the team colours already) and people all over the world are so passionate about their favourite sports and teams. Great stuff, surely!
Verizon‘s U-turn continues: the carrier now announced that they would support the Android OS promoted by the Google-led Open Handset Alliance. This comes only days after Verizon was met with a lot of raised eyebrows after it declared it would open up to handset manufacturers, service and application providers. Upon the launch of Android, Verizon was amongst a select few that were visibly reluctant to support the initiative, reportedly for fear of impinging on their customer base by not being able to control the user experience.
This move may well be an attempt to prevent Google from bidding in the 700 MHz spectrum, the auction for which goes ahead tonight: Google may not see the necessity to bid just as aggressively if it can basically fall back on an OS-agnostic carrier as it can then continue doing what it does best, namely sell ads. The proximity of the dates may indeed point into that direction.
Verizon Wireless had created the most profitable U.S. cellular business by tightly restricting the devices and applications allowed to run on its network. However, its management apparently now came to conclude that it was time for a radical shift: this will have been out of fear to be isolated in a niche when the rest of the market was overrun by new, more powerful devices as well as media empires old and new both of which would bring a richness of offerings mid-term that Verizon could not have supported within the constraints of its tightly-controlled environment.
It may also have thought that opening up would help them to keep growing while containing costs; probably a bit of everything. That last bit is of course one of the reasons that led many partners to throw their weight behind the various OS campaigns that recently appeared to have picked up pace: the LiMo Foundation, C-based Nokia-owned OS Symbian and the Sony Ericsson and Motorola-owned UIQ (in which Motorola had just acquired a 50% stake; see here) will also be driven by the OEM’s attempt to contain cost. Unified OS make mass production much cheaper (and the famously robust Linux kernel also will allow stability whilst being flexible enough to allow enough flavours to keep every marketing and UI expert happy, too).
Everyone coming to their senses? Oh, brave new world.