Archive for February, 2010

Notes from Wireless Technology Forum SIG on Mobile Video, Feb 11 2010

(from our Atlanta desk)

I attended the Wireless Video SIG organized by Wireless Technology Forum, Atlanta on Feb 11, 2010 at Goizueta Business School, Emory University. The title was :

“Mobile Video : New Horizons, New Possibilities”

Here are the notes from the SIG :

Panelists :

David Barnette, Regional Vice President, Clearwire

Craig Kirkland, CNN Mobile

Dr. Nikhil Jayant, Executive Director, GCATT

Mark Nagel, Mobility Video Services, AT&T Mobility

Susan Schedel, Director, Business Development, FLO TV (Qualcomm)

Clay Garrett, Director of Visual Design, N4D

Moderated By : Dr Benn Konsynski, George S. Kraft of Business Administration, Goizueta Business School, Emory University

Overall – an excellent session on Mobile Video arranged by Mobile Video SIG Chair Caroline Dunn and Ashok Kumar.

Dr Konsynski started off with saying that there is a tidal wave of mobility and also of video. There exists a confluence of each. Moreoever, UGC (user-generated content) and other actors are confounding these influences. There is also a strong pursuit of standardization in this space.

David Barnette – Clearwire :
Clearwire leading 4G space in United States. Clear (Clearwire markets its 4G wireless service under the brand name “Clear”) is present in 27 cities covering 30 million people. Clear finds that usage for its service is increasing rapidly. Users are moving double the bandwidth compared to first generation network that they had. As they say : “If you build it, they will come”.  David says that Mobile experience with Clearwire is not about dropped calls (dig at traditional wireless operators :) but rather can you take a video while driving and not dropping the signal. Clear is judged by video apps and not really voice. “does it pass the hulu test?”.

Davind mentioned that typical phone customers are on 3G but have no expectation for video for 3G. This is not the case when these consumers adopt 4G and WiMAX. Clear thinks that video will become standard expectation with consumers in due course and then the 3G networks just won’t suffice. Price structure is crucial for marketing mobile video. In future you buy bandwidth on Wireless and voice is just one of the many apps offered on the wireless channel.

Consumers – most devices and networks are designed for 3G svcs. But Clear is evangelizing with consumers and manufacturers that new age services and products need to be designed for 4G.

iPhone has opened lot of eyes. Clear is excited about the potential of Mobile web. Clear considers itself as an ISP and not as a wireless carrier (interesting !).

Dr Konsynski asked Clearwire about extraordinary innovations once the WiMAX network is in place. Clear executive said that it is normal everyday things which will have better capacity and pricing on 4G network. On business side, Clear gets requests (from enterprise customers) for high speed business apps in places where it is normally difficult to reach using the older networks.

Craig Kirkland – CNN Mobile :

Craig said that CNN (United States’ leading news network and TV channel) is bullish on mobile and in fact quite excited about it. Short and longer videos both will succeed, eventually, CNN feels. They say mobile video is in experiment stage right now. Their iPhone app is the most successful so far. It has video clips and streaming videos of major events (eg Haiti disaster reporting). CNN sees lot of challenges as well. Craig used to work at Alltel before (and so has a carrier perspective as well). CNN Mobile is  excited about the device evolution. But CNN is concerned about mobile network quality. They are hoping the WiMAX LTE solves the network issue (indeed- a customer does not care whether it is LTE or WiMAX, Customer only cares about what experience they get). CNN Mobile also worries about discoverability challenge on app stores. CNN Mobile team focuses on discoverability a lot.
Craig said that CNN Mobile believes in net neutrality, even though a small set of users hog a a majority of the bandwidth.

Dr Konsynski says that Prodigy example (remember that now defunct high-flying ISP of the 90s) shows that if you throttle network for a small set of users, you can damage experience of your larger user base. So have to tread carefully in network throttling practices when managing high volume data users.

CNN has lot of internal resources dedicated to Mobile effort.

Dr Nikhil Jayant – GCATT :

Dr Jayant has an extraordinary background in academia and corporate. He said that he wanted to recognize the underlying core technology of Signal Compression. He said that signal compression was a great enabler to transfer CD-quality music and other things. Video is even more compressed signal. Video signals are compressed today by factor of 100 to 1.

Mobile TV factor compression today is sometimes 200 to 1 and 300 to 1. Dr Jayant expects 1000 to 1 video compression in his lifetime. He says network is fine but services on that is key. Video has the potential to become even more exciting in the next 5 to 10 years.

Mark Nagel – Mobility Video Services, AT&T Mobility :
Mark said that AT&T is focused on consumer and consumer experience. First mobile video app from AT&T stable was MobiTV in 2006. 3-4 frames per secs. You had to buy a $20 Data plan to get MobiTV. MobiTV was popular. Now they have a more advanced product from Qualcomm (called FLO TV) and it costs 9.99 per month. Nickelodeon is their most popular show on the mobile TV channel. He said that consumers still need to find the right app – consumer awareness about Mobile TV is the biggest issue right now.

Susan Schedel, FLO TV, Qualcomm :

The carrier partnership is most crucial for Qualcomm to popularize its innovative FLO TV service. They are trying to understand TV on the Go. MediaFLO (the network operated by Qualcomm for its FLO TV network) has high usage per day per user. FLO TV was started 5 yrs ago. They started with carrier partners like AT&T and Verizon. They have wholesale relationship with the consumer so far. Now, Qualcomm is also introducing direct-to-consumer channel called “Personal TV” sold via Best Buy or Amazon (in my personal opinion, they face stiff competition from Apple iPad TV channels in near future). They have a dedicated device for Personal TV.  Eg parent does not want to provide a phone to a kid but can give a Personal TV device. They are also working on backseat vehicle TV (personally, I think Qualcomm and Apple are on a competing path in 5 years – probably the reason why Apple did not choose SnapDragon processor from Qualcomm for their iPad device). They are also developing TV for the Android platform also.

FLO TV has DVR type capabilities as well as interactivity on roadmap for a user to stop, record and do catch up television.

Clay Garrett, N4D :

N4D is about 3D imaging. Focused on content. Volumetric rendering like catscans, weather etc.
Trying to solve headaches in watching 3D etc (think Avatar). As a content firm, they want to know about network viability and compression to allow them to deliver the content to consumers reliably.

Dr Konsynski – stretching the capabilities is important. Clay said that brain and eyes can cause issues eg in the recent blockbuster Avatar, 3D people said that content felt as if coming out of the screen can cause headaches and nausea. So, N4D is working on cutting-edge technology trying to make it easier to consume this 3D content.

CNN – iReport (user submitted video content on CNN) is popular with all audience ages even though CNN originally assumed that only youngsters would be interested.

Clear – Maximum adoption for Clear service in Atlanta area is in the midtown (think young, urban audience in townhouses and condominiums rather than suburban family crowd). It seems that the lifestyle pattern is more important to predict user adoption rather than age profile for such services.

Dr Jayant – Quality of Experience is key as Craig pointed out. eg Healthcare over broadband may be a big factor for success of broadband.

David (Clearwire) said that in few years Internet traffic and video traffic will become one and the same thing.

Audience question – Why will WiMAX succeed (when most major carriers are touting a LTE future) ?

David (Clearwire) – speed to market is important. WiMAX is available today with users. He said that Clearwire is aware of LTE but he says that they have spectrum positions. They say LTE and WiMAX are very close and feel that there may be dual mode devices and networks in the future. Eg combined LTE and WiMAX base stations and devices are alredy being built.

Audience – all said and done, what about mobile battery life?

Mark Nagel – FLO TV is broadcast-only technology and so battery experience is not really that bad.

CNN Mobile – battery issues bother them but the CNN exec agreed that consumers still want cool thin phones, regardless of battery issues.

International issues :-

CNN – have a large International operation. In general, they merged international and domestic products together. There are different subsets for both and there are pros and cons abroad compared to the US environment.

Dr Jayant :-
What consumers expect abroad in different parts of the world could be different from USA. Willingness to pay and Broadband policy may influence growth in other nations. Eg Finland declared recently that broadband is a birthright (::) (wow – won’t fly in the USA).

Mark Nagel (AT&T) – Rich experience in iPhone compared to before. Opening up new models and apps.

Dr Konsynski – why did qualcomm go direct to consumer ?
Mark Nagel (AT&T) downplayed that question. He said that AT&T is not competing with Qualcomm for Mobile TV. Bigger issue is consumer awareness.

Clay (N4D) – 3D has bad rep. But Avatar kind of experience may help popularize it and make it more consumer-friendly. Consumer education about 3D needs to be increased.

Net Neutrality :- (tough one)
Clear – flexibility is key and it is imp that people can push and pull content freely.

Mark Nagel – AT&T is open (ok!). Network is precious and have to manage the network using innovative techniques.

Dr Konsynski provided a killer line : If Content is King, then Context is Emporer.

Dicoverability, search, context :-

CNN – discoverability is about people making aware of their mobile app and moving across CNN properties.

Mark – trialing of apps is useful for discoverability but too many apps make it difficult to innovate in this area. Too many apps is a good problem to have ultimately. Somehow discoverability issues need to be solved via some innovation.

A fabulous panel discussion on Mobile Video set up by Wireless Technology Forum, Atlanta. Thanks to Caroline Dunn and Ashok Kumar of WTF.

February 25th, 2010

9 Upcoming Tablet Alternatives to iPad

There’s has been and still a lot of hue and cry about iPad, future of media after it has arrived etc. etc. etc.

But, other player’s in the market are also not keeping mum and watching the launch in complete silence. They are working on their own versions of the tablets, launching of which is just around the corner. So let’s take a look at some of those too…

hp-slate

 

This HP slate will run windows 7.

 There are 8 more. See all here.

February 22nd, 2010

Tablet app? There’s an investment fund…

iPhone developers like ngmoco and Booyah have benefited from investment from Kleiner Perkins’ iFund in recent times. Now there’s an equivalent seed fund for iPad developers.

In fact, AppFund is targeting startups developing applications for all tablets, not just Apple’s.

It’s the work of CNET and E! Online co-founder Kevin Wendle, and MusicNation and Original Signal co-founder Daniel Klaus.

The company wants developers to start submiting proposals now to participate in its first round of funding later this summer.

AppFund will make investments between $5,000 and $500,000, depending on the complexity and potential popularity of submitted applications.

(Source: ME)

February 18th, 2010

M2M Represents Opportunity for Mobile Operators

There will be approximately 412 million machine-to-machine (M2M) mobile connected devices in the marketplace by 2014, according to a new report from Juniper Research Limited.

Although the M2M device market is immature and fragmented with small players, Research says device manufacturers have been focusing on M2M for some time and component costs have significantly come down in the last 18 months to two years.

Leading M2M Industries:

  • Connected buildings: site and building management, monitoring and security.
  • Mobile connected smart readers.
  • Consumer vehicles with onboard M2M systems.
  • Commercial telematics: mobile connected vehicles.
  • Healthcare – monitored individuals.

February 15th, 2010

Polarbit’s one million Ovi game downloads

Sweden’s Polarbit says its (mostly free) games have been downloaded one million times for Nokia’s Ovi storefront.

Titles currently available are Iron Sight (£3.00), Raging Thunder (free), Armageddon Squadron (free), WaveBlazer (free) and ToonWarz (free).

Polarbit says its Fuse middleware has enabled it to optimise the games fully for the Nokia Game API, which is part of the company’s multi-platform publishing strategy.

(Source: ME)

February 13th, 2010

Bubbly mobile voice blogging service launched in India

US firm Bubble Motion has launched a new mobile voice blogging service called Bubbly, which claims to be a voice-based Twitter for handsets.

Users add voice messages to the service by dialling a shortcode then speaking. People can also follow users on the service, much like they would on Twitter, getting SMS alerts when there’s a new voice-blog to listen to.

Bubbly is launching first in India, where Bubble Motion has signed up various celebrities to get the service off to a running start. Bubbly’s beta has already signed up 150,000 users there.

Bubble Motion is rolling the service out elsewhere via partnerships with mobile operators, who it’ll work with on the recording and storage of voice messages, as well as SMS notifications and billing.

“The launch of Bubbly delivers a new, exciting way for people to connect socially on mobile phones with the power of voice,” says president and CEO Tom Clayton. It’s expected to launch in Europe and the Middle East this year, following the Indian roll-out.

February 11th, 2010

Facebook tops the global downloads charts

Social networking tool tops global, UK and US charts.

GetJar has been working with the social networks for some time to direct visitors on its mobile site to its downloadable applications.

In fact, six of the top 10 apps in the GetJar global chart are from the Social & Messaging category – namely Facebook, eBuddy, Numbuzz, mig33, Snaptu and qeep.

(Source: ME)

February 9th, 2010

Targeted ads seemingly off-limits on the App Store

There may be trouble ahead for iPhone apps and mobile ad networks looking to make use of location-based advertising.

In an ‘App Store Tip’ posted on iPhone Developer website, Apple appears to have nixed the idea.

“If you build your application with features based on a user’s location, make sure these features provide beneficial information,” says the tip.

“If your app uses location-based information primarily to enable mobile advertisers to deliver targeted ads based on a user’s location, your app will be returned to you by the App Store Review Team for modification before it can be posted to the App Store.”

(Source: ME)

February 5th, 2010

Attended the Wireless Technology Forum SIG on Mobile Apps

Last week I attended the Wireless Technology Forum (Atlanta) SIG on Mobile Apps on 04 Feb at the Ravinia Club, Atlanta. Excellent presentation by the Speaker Mickey Haynes, Sr Architect, Mobility Solutions at the The Home Depot.

Topic was : 2010 – the year of Mobile Commerce

Here are main points from Mickey’s presentation :-

2001-2002
Mickey was doing mobile commerce at Motorola and Symbol. And people used to laugh at it deriding Mobile Commerce as a nascent area. Mickey has been at the Home Depot for 6 months. He has worked at UPS and Microsoft in the past. His role at Home Depot – develop Mobility solutions for the customer facing technology and associate facing technology.

These technologies are setting the foundations for mobile commerce at the Home Depot and its 8500 associates in the corporate managed devices.

Mickey said that about a third of people carry two mobile devices. For the Home Depot viewpoint, Mickey focused on the cust facing tech.

He mentioned that Home Depot had created a little iPhone app before the Christmas for a store finder application.

Mobile commerce would have been faster if people could develop it faster. Developers and app providers are restrained by the complexity of mobile development.

Now some predictions per Mickey :
Mobile money :-

2015 – phone may replace wallet. – mobile payments will take off

2020 – credit cards  and paper receipts are gone. Mobile phone performs these functions.

Real time control of money via budgeting software eg giving money permission to kids. When the allocated budget runs out, the mobile wallet kicks out the kid from purchasing.

Security will allow complex transactions not possible before using the mobile phone. Devices will be connected to people and vice versa. Devices will become free.

In not too distant future you would not have to replace your mobile device just as in case of a gaming console.

In store shopping :- in 2020

In store mobile commerce and out of store mobile commerce will both be very prevalent and working in conjunction. Stores will become showrooms just for trial. Cust will have a self-guided shopping experience. Cust will be able to buy from Amazon after scanning a product using the camera of their mobile phones. Store assocs will get better access to competitor info out there.

Retailers need access to web svcs. Customers will access sore systems using barcode scanners in phones and NFC tech. Today NFC is just beginning and camera for barcode scanning has to improve for mass adoption of NFC tech.

Customers would be shopping from their cars, from the beach or whereever they are. Collaborative shopping social networking will influence shopping and customer buying decisions. Gaming consoles like XBox and augmented reality rooms will help customers figure out what to buy and what to custom build as to the products they want.

One would be able to walk thru a room, snap a button and calculate room size. Network device and smart sensors will fundamentally change everything.

Cars, appliances, pets everything will have a wireless chip.

Tech in 2020 :-
Everything is a PC. Phone is a PC and vice versa.

Most tech and data is hosted in a cloud.

Only size of device and input method is different.

Very high speed wireless data everywhere.

5G or 6G tech by 2020

2010 is just the beginning of mobile commerce. The main year of mobile commerce will be in near future.

Today :-
What does retail look like this year :-
Retailers are ready to invest in Mobile but do not know where to invest. Looking where ROI is. Retailers experimenting with Mobile apps. Eg one app has seen 10k downloads but for the most part, retailers are still experimenting.

Every retailer will have an iPhone app sooner or later.

Readiness level – business process for mobile commerce exists (since it is somewhat similar to the business process for online commerce).

Ecommerce is still going strong. Mobile developers are hard to find and very few good mobile developers in market.
By end of year most retailers will have some sort of mobile strategy in place. Whether Right or wrong strategy, only time will tell.

Vivotech scanners being put in stores by Home Depot at some of their stores. These are NFC enabled. Fastpass is a kind of NFC device today but it is not a smartcard. Still much smarter NFC tech going in phones and coming in stores. Phones will charge the payment on the phone. And digital receipt will be delivered to the phone. Nokia has announced that by 2012 all their phones will have integrated NFC.

Barcode recognition is another way for mobile commerce. 2D barcodes are required for barcode recognition.

Shoppers – are doing product research. People expect to be able to buy stuff on their phones. Problem is Mobile Ecosystem readiness.

Many stores have shipping capabilities. But advanced shopping capabilities are lacking via the mobile channel. Eg take picture of barcode and get product info is not easy as most handsets do not have fine cameras to read micro barcodes. Also NFC tech is missing.

Cust want centralized app. So shopping mall app is needed so that one can shop multiple retailers and receipt app is just an integrated version for all retailers in that centralized shopping app.

Cust will not want to download so many retailer apps. Retailers cannot develop apps for each platform. Trying to keep up with each platform will be hard.

Write once run anywhere platforms exist. But these cannot do sophisticated stuff today since they do not use native capabilities.

Html5 may allow standardization but these will still not take are of utilizing powerful native phone capabilities.

Carriers –
They are willing to do mobile commerce.
Readiness – somewhat ready.
By end of year. Cariiers will have some sort of bus model to share revenue with retailers eg kindle revenue sharing with publishers. Some carriers my offer their own Mobile commerce solns.
Carriers will start figuring out how to charge the sales to phone bills.

Many carriers preparing for 4G. All 4 big carriers in the USA are ramping up for this. Lot of this development is in the backhaul.

Phone makers :-
Smartphones are big sellers but expensive which is keeping people off. Replacement of smartphones is the main issue. A family often looses a phone or damages it.

New OSes or software devl tools to make it easy to write mobile apps.

Software and Svcs companies :-
Most firms are new to mobility so lack of proven comprehensive offerings with proven capability.
Need complete end to end soln which reaches consumers also.
Need complete enterprise soln. Retailers will produce offerings if customers buy – the latter is the one lagging a bit.

Smart phoe mkt :-
Still brand new
Msft will have win mo 7 soon.

It will become easier to develop mobile apps. Device makers will need complete channel soln to make mobile commerce mass market.

Mickey thinks that the best firms will integrate mobile with the rest of their tech ecosystem.

Android and BlackBerry will become popular. Consumers will become tired of all these apps on the App Store so mobile shopping malls and mobile wallets will develop.

Overall excellent presentation by Mickey. Thanks to Steve Bachman and Richard Yates, co-Chairs of the Mobile Apps SIG at the Wireless Technology Forum, Atlanta for setting up this fine session.

February 4th, 2010

Mobile Conclave’10 comes to an end…

The Mobile Conclave was organized by CellStrat and Amity Innovation Incubator at Amity University campus in Noida on 22nd Jan 2010. The conference saw dignitaries from the mobile industries presenting their views, optimism and apprehensions on future of mobile advertising and VAS. The conclave was kick-started by Vivek Singhal (CEO, CellStrat), he presented the facts and trends prevalent in recent times in the mobile industry in India and abroad.  Vivek was followed by Milind Pathak, Vice President of Comviva who talked about various key issues and aspects facing the Indian Mobile Media environment and service providers.

The first panel deliberated on “Mobile Advertising in India: Today, Tomorrow and Beyond”. The main debate happened around the point that mobile penetration is almost ten times the penetration of internet and substantially more than any other form media, but can mobile as a media can be compared to other traditional advertising medium- TV, radio and print. The panelist were not very judgmental on future of mobile advertising because of some hindering factors like small screen size, low speaker fidelity and penetration of high end multi media phones. The successful role of 3G services are what everyone is looking out for which would for certainly enhance the multimedia experience of the consumers and that would give the much required fillip to the mobile as an important advertising medium. Currently the new advertising media contributes to only 1% of the total advertising pie, which for certain is going to increase, as per the panel members.

The second panel had their discussion focused on “Mobile Value Added services”. The panelist had representatives from VAS producers and mobile service providers. It was interesting to know that there were around more 200 VAS services available in the market, but far too less are subscribed, mainly it’s the ABC (Astrology, Bollywood , Cricket)  trio which have succeeded, so the mobile service providers have to look out for ways to promote the other Value-Added Services which are more relevant for the consumers to subscribe. M- Commerce which includes mobile banking, mobile money and mobile payment was agreed upon as one of the VAS services which have a lot of potential in the market. Mobile social aggregation was also touted as one service which could become popular amongst the mobile trendy younger generation.

The third panel debated the Mobile Web and Mobile Apps ecosystem in India. The panel said that while the West has seen the likes of venerable iPhone create a robust Mobile Apps environment, Indian market is still to mature on this front due to lack of 3G services and high-end handsets. Two panelists from top GPS firms (MapMyIndia and SatNav) listed the opportunities in mapping apps in India and recognized the lack of mapping data in the Indian context. The panel agreed that Mobile Apps is the future of Mobile growth in India especially in the urban segments and India-focused App Stores are now being announced. The speaker from Spice Digital Vinish Kathuria announced the Idea Telecom App Store developed by Spice. All panel members agreed the Western Models like the Apple App Store need localized apps to take off along with high-end smartphone growth before the apps space will become a bigger market in India. But all agreed that this phase is round the corner with 3G spectrum to be conducted soon and several home grown App Stores in the process of being launched now.

The next panel was on VC and Angel Investing in the Mobile and Telecom space. As expected, the audience had plenty of questions on what the VCs are looking for in the startup space where they would like to invest. All the Venture Capitalists were stressing on one point :- however innovative the idea is, if it is not scalable to at least pan- India level or a large enough scale, then it’s fairly hard to attract investors – VCs are looking for scalable viable models which have been proven to some level of success at least. “A man and a plan” strategy without a working prototype and no customers typically will not see investors who want to invest in the venture.

February 1st, 2010


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