Yahoo seems to make the first move in the mobile race with Google I blogged about earlier. Today news leaked (?) out through the Wall Street Journal that a Yahoo branded mobile phone is underway to the market, apparently for the US only initially: "SBC executives said the SBC-Yahoo phone, which will be manufactured by Nokia Corp., is expected to be available as soon as early next year and will cost $200 to $300. Operating on the Cingular Wireless network, which is co-owned by SBC and BellSouth Corp., the phone will also be an MP3 player, a 1.3 megapixel camera and will have a removable memory card." So let’s see now how long it takes for Google to announce a counter attack. If they want to outperform Yahoo, their phone should be manufactured in Taiwan by HTC based on Google’s specifications, support WiFi (enabling surfing on the San Francisco city network Google is bidding for), have a QWERTY keyboard like the Treo 650, cost less than $200 and become available in Europe simultaneously… Looking at Yahoo’s product announcements lately (widgets, RSS etc.) it almost looks as if they spot Google’s next move and then ensure they come with a product announcement earlier. I can imagine Yahoo nor Google wants to be portrayed as a follower in the current combat.
Update: goes without saying that both phones would sport new mobile advertising functions of course! Like a SIM-lock for Google AdSense ;-)
Last night I took my son Koen to the Champions League match AJAX – Arsenal. It was a birthday present we still owed him. After we had settled ourselves in the ArenA stadium for the match to start, SMS messages started to come in, from daughters Merel and Fleur and good friend Ronald. In fact Ronald was the one who introduced me to this mass hysteria last year for the first time, when he kindly invited me to the annual AJAX – Feyenoord match. It was fun watching the game with Koen, while at the same time exchanging SMSs with 3 people. By messages going back and forth, we actually found out more about players since we lacked the technology couch-potato-watchers at home have. So halfway the match I thought it would be fun to send a MMS of Koen with his live comments from my Treo. Shooting the picture and preparing the MMS went well, sending it not quite. After several attempts I got error messages saying that delivery could not be completed ("but we’ll continue trying"), I guess due to either missing handset settings of the receiving phones or compatibility issues between the different mobile networks. So I decided to send the picture as an email attachment from my phone. It took several minutes before it arrived with Merel and Ronald, but it worked fine. MMS-Email: 0-2. Despite all the camera phones, MMS has not come off the ground. I think mobile operators are probably better off investing money in getting email accepted as a mobile application than MMS. The Blackberry success illustrates the potential market. True, the tariffs are not at a premium like MMS. Here in the Netherlands MMS is offered at something like 40 Euro cents per message, while email is billed per KB. However, faster end-user adoption of email is quite likely to make up for the lower tariffs. Uhh…and what about AJAX – Arsenal? AJAX was defeated with 1-2, due to sleepy players in the first two minutes of the match, an unfair penalty and last but not least an arbiter who needs some basic football education This last piece of opinion comes from still famous Johan Cruyff, who watched the game instead of his mobile phone.
Phone camera’s already "outsell" regular digital camera’s, but mobile operators notice hardly any difference in their mobile data ARPU. How come? A lot of research has been published already about the root causes: complexity of the service, user interface, costs of a MMS, lack of a killer application etc. Seems that users actually have become quite creative in using their mobile phone camera for day-to-day applications that do not require any network connection:
- Remember where you parked your car
- Record the opening hours of that new store
- Document your favorite haircut
- …and many more household applications can be found here at 43 Folders
With all those new applications and tariffs for mobile data coming down, there must be hope for the telco’ s of this world that at some point in time people will want to share that offline creativity with their remote friends and family. Slow adoption from a mobile operator’s perspective, but compare the progress made since those good old days of the first black-and-white camera’s!
There’s growing speculation in the Valley about the next move(s) of Google. Although it’s a "public" company since the IPO, its business directions are still very secretive. So people are turning towards cold war behaviour, when we used to analyze the Kremlin’s (lack of) actions in great detail as it was the only information available. Here’s what some Google watchers are saying and concluding about where the company seems to be going:
- While dominating PC based search, Google also wants to become the mobile search czar for the 2 billion mobile phone users.
- BusinessWeek discovered that the company quietly acquired Android Inc., the 22-month old start-up ran by people coming from mobile device maker Danger, known for the SideKick smartphone (made famous by Paris Hilton when she lost it…)
- Buying dark fiber to connect antenna’s to support a WiFi or cellular network?
New Gmail accounts are now tied to US cell phone numbers if you want to use the new GoogleTalk instant messenger client
- SilliconBeat reports that Google appears to have acquired a company called ZipDash which offers maps and traffic info for your mobile phone
- Raising $ 4 Bln. to make an acquisition of a mobile or wireless company, according to SilliconValleyWatcher because mobile phones tell your location and location is "everything" for advertisers, Google’s biggest customers
- Using the $ 4 Bln. to put up a nationwide (USA) WiFi network, GoogleNet, according to Om Malik
While it’s not yet entirely clear what Google’s plans are, there are a few others interested in this mass market, including Microsoft with its Windows Mobile phone platform and not to forget Yahoo!. Yahoo’s COO Dan Rosensweig said: "the mobile Internet industry is at a "tipping point." As mobile use continues to grow, more customers will want access to their Yahoo! services." Rosenweig also claimed, "The Internet has become essential. The industry is ready, and mobile usage is exploding". Earlier this month Yahoo head-hunted Nokia’s Christian Lindholm, known as the godfather of the Series 60 platform user interfaces, to head up the Global Mobile Products division at Yahoo.
So what are Google and Yahoo up to? Introducing a WiFi based mobile phone and network? Applications that run on a Linux mobile phone and pull you towards their portal or search engine? A Skype kind of solution for low cost calls based on VoIP? Interesting times for consumers, mobile phone companies and Google watchers!
Got myself the Treo 650 today, a so-called smartphone: mobile phone and organiser in one. Why? Because my mobile phone contract was at its "end", KPN has a very compelling offer subsidizing the purchase, I like these kind of gadgets and because I am in the process of establising a mobile venture so need to know what’s going on first hand. Hmm, enough justification for this toy I guess. The KPN package does not only contain the Treo, but also TomTom navigation software, a Bluetooth headset and a car cradle. What more does a man want? Well, a good price for my Sony Clie TH55 that I have put on Marktplaats for sale. Put the Clie up for sale last night, first offers arrived but are not attractive enough. Meanwhile I need to spend some time on getting my Calendar and Contacts data transferred to the Treo and synced with Outlook. Few hickups, other than that I hope it will turn out to be a smart move.
Media Republic announced a new gizmo for your mobile, Eccky. Sort of a tamagotchi that you treat, feed and maintain interactively through MSN and your mobile phone. Having a soap on your mobile like Jong Zuid or FanTesstic on your mobile is one thing, this is the next. Interesting to watch whether there is a market for it among the "12 to 21 years youth". Still to go live.
Indeed, the display of your mobile phone has its limitations. So why not build a projector into your GSM? But first let’s get the built-in hard disc, MP3 player and navigation to market. And let’s do a complete overhaul of the user interface to deal with this increasing complexity.